The Island of Ghosts

Eaglehawk Neck dog

It is a mid-winter evening at Eaglehawk Neck, the sliver of sand and scrub that connects the Tasman Peninsula to the rest of Tasmania.

A solitary dog walker haunts the beach. All life appears as silhouettes in the creeping blue gloom.

At the old Dog Line, there are distant echoes of the crazed, half-starved beasts that once guarded the road from Port Arthur, chained in a row on land and sea, ready to alert the sentries to any desperate convicts attempting to cross to freedom.

Like Cerberus, they stood at the gates of Hell to keep the living out and prevent the damned from escaping.

Only one building remains from those desolate times, the officer’s quarters. Inside the old hut, layers of time are peeled back like wallpaper. The lights flick on and off as history is illuminated – for a brief moment – and then dimmed, as if an invisible hand is playing with the switches.

The past seeps up through the wooden floorboards with the cold. I am the only person here now, sharing this space, but I am not alone. I force myself to linger, listen, see my breath made visible in the air, and then head, too quickly, for the exit.

Tasmania in winter lays bare its deserted beaches and empty roads. There are no crowds but in their place the ghosts come rushing in, filling the silence with whispers and murmurs.

During the day, they lie up amongst the trees, out of reach along the peaks and around the rocky shores.

But as night comes, they descend to slip past the dogs and cross the narrow isthmus between the living and dead.

 

 

Posted in Places.

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