Monday, March 14, 2011

I thought I'd pay Cockatoo Island a visit over the weekend. It's one of my favourite parts of Sydney. The last time I went, there was a big art festival going on and the place was crawling with people. This time, it was mostly empty, which, in my opinion, is how a place that was a prison until it was shut down due to abhorrent conditions and is now maintained in an exquisite state of disrepair should be seen.

This is in the industrial sector of the lower island. During the late 1800s and throughout the early 20th century, the island was used for shipbuilding. Buildings were added to the original foundry and blacksmiths' shops built by the convicts.

The barracks are up on the plateau. This building was used as a mess hall after the prison shut down, when the island was home to an industrial school for orphaned and neglected girls and a reformatory for young women. There was also a training ship for homeless and troublesome boys anchored just off the shore. This arrangement didn't last long.

The guardhouse is visible out the back end of the mess hall. If the prisoners revolted, the guards would be able to lock themselves in there and fire through holes in the walls. This part is in ruins today. The area next to it is where the most villainous of convicts were lowered into underground dungeons.

What I like most about Cockatoo Island is that while it could be fixed up and converted to shops, galleries or offices, and despite the fact that it hasn't, neither has it been fenced off, stamped with 'no trespassing' signs and left to decay. It's been left as a testament to Sydney's flawed history and people flock to see it.

And most amazing of all, I just made it through an entire post about a derelict island without mentioning corpses or zombies or bloodthirsty, vengeful convict ghosts.

Oops. Almost.

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