Something would be missing if, when looking from the Farm Cove shore area to Port Jackson, Sydney’s natural harbour, one would no longer see this small island with the fort. An “islet” whose rocks once rose 25 metres (other sources indicate only 15 metres) out of the water. The aborigines called the island Mat-te-wan-ye or Muddawahnyuhs, which means rock island. As early as 1788 , when the First Fleet had just landed, the British colonial force used the rock island as a special convict housing facility. However, it is not known whether the experience gained at that time was later used in the construction of Sarah Island in Tasmania.
The “first resident” of Steinarrest was a cake thief who, classified as a “dangerous offender”, was brought to the island. And he was soon joined by further non-reforming and allegedly dangerous prisoners. They eked out an existence in the provisional accommodation. So the prison island soon got another name . “Pinchgut” it was now called among the convicts and also among the white settlers. One can translate the term with ” to tie up the stomach”. Because of the very small daily rations, consisting of bread and water, not a few of the prisoners starved to death.
The next inglorious mention of the island was in 1796 , when the body of the hanged murderer Francis Morgan was left “dangling in the air” for three days as a deterrent and also as a warning to newly arriving convicts.
In the early years of the 19th century, the island was almost completely worn away:
Sandstone was needed to build Circular Quay
Twenty-four soldiers and an officer were billeted in the fort:
And gunpowder was stored in the former cells
What remains is the loudest clock in the harbour! Since 1906 a cannon fires a shot every day at 1 pm, which is a reliable time control for the people of the town and the skippers. At the same time, a golden ball drops down on the signal station at the observatory.
Only for a short time, during the 2nd World War, the noon shot was suspended in order not to frighten the Sydneysiders unnecessarily.
Since 1930, Fort Denison has been managed by a clerk who continues the records of the tide change made since 1800 .
Today, Fort Denison is part of Sydney Harbour National Parks and a popular wedding venue for Sydney lovers, as well as tourists and day-trippers. Visitors can enjoy a cannon museum, a bell tower, a working tide gauge, beautiful views and also a cafe where you can have a good breakfast.
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