Sydney has some nefarious and idiosyncratic history. Nowadays it’s presented with a shiny, modern patina of progress. Although little more than a century ago the story was less chirpy and cheerful and more like a bad episode of Survivor.
1. Cockatoo Island
This island has a somewhat grim intriguing history, matched by its demeanor – a menacing and spooky looking naval outpost. Originally there was a prison here, then a reformatory school for girls, a naval college for boys, and finally a shipbuilding facility. Nowadays, Cockatoo Island has undergone a cultural renaissance and is home to regular cultural events including the Sydney Biennial and Film Festival. Photos below courtesy of Hasitha Tudugalle.
2. Fort Denison
Before white settlement, this place was known by the Eora people as Matewanye. Fort Denison was once a creepy marooning point for convicts, left to fend for themselves with little water or food. Known as Pinchgut by convicts, the story of struggle was showcased in a 1959 film Four Desperate Men, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Fort Denison has well and truly moved on though, and is now a swanky reception venue.
3. Bare Island
This barren island has always struggled with its identity. Located 30 metres from the coast of La Perouse; predictably Captain Cook christened this place Bare Island because of its dry soil. He then used it as a sentry point for ward off invaders. The crumbling old fort on the island was decommissioned a century later in 1902. After this Bare Island was briefly a retirement home for war veterans, before being handed over to the NSW Parks and Wildlife Service. Nowadays its known for the great snorkelling on the surrounding reefs.
4. Rodd Island
Formerly a factory, scientific research facility and training base for the US Army during WWII. Nowadays Rodd Island can be hired out exclusively for functions at $1,250 per day or non-exclusively for $7 per person.
5. Goat Island
This island was originally used as a naval storage facility. Then as a sandstone quarry manned by convicts. One unfortunate convict Charles Anderson aka the ‘Tattooed Seaman’, was chained to a rock on Goat Island and had to fish from there in order to survive. More recently the island was used as a set for the Australian TV series Water Rats.
Walsh Bay looking towards Goat Island, no date. Image Source