58 – Alexander Pearce – Cannibal: Part 1

Alexander Pearce was one of our more notorious convicts, and one of very few convict escapees from Macquarie Harbour, who survived attempting to reach the settled districts.   As the last man standing from the eight that absconded together, his survival was only possible because he resorted to cannibalism.

In Part 1 we look at his background, and what lead him to be shipped to Sarah Island, a place of harsh secondary punishment, attempting an unlikely escape.  We consider the terrain and conditions they had to face and consider his fellow escapees.

(52 mins)

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Macquarie Harbour
Frenchmans Cap path
Horizontal Scrub (UltraHiker)
Hells Gates at Macquarie Harbour entrance (Wiki)
Aboriginal Nations Tasmania [UTAS]
Cannibal Run for Australian Geographic (Australian Hiker)
Kelly Basin site (GoogleMaps: DaltonGreens)
Hell’s Gates – Paul Collins: probable escape route of Pearce (See Ref listing)

Podcast recommendation: 

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is a quizzical look at some of history’s quirkiest moments. Mikey Robins, celebrated Australian comedian, and historian Paul Wilson discuss the cock ups, the mishaps, the bizarre twists of fate that have changed the course of mankind – sometimes tragic, sometimes comical, sometimes just plain stupid.



COLLINS, Paul. 2002. Hell’s gates : the terrible journey of Alexander Pearce, Van Dieman’s land cannibal. 2002. South Yarra, Vic. : Hardie Grant Books. ISBN 978-1-74064-083-1.

BOYCE, JAMES. 2010. Van Diemen’s Land. Carlton, Victoria: Black Inc. ISBN 978-1-86395-491-4.

HUGHES, ROBERT. 2003. The fatal shore : a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787-1868.  London: Vintage. [Accessed 30 April 2022]. ISBN 978-0-09-944854-9.

MORRIS, SIMON. 2009. Trekking Tasmania: When driven by hunger. Australian Geographic. 29 June 2009. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://www.australiangeographic.com.au/travel/travel-destinations/2009/06/trekking-tasmania-when-driven-by-hunger/

LIBRARIES TASMANIA. Convict Record: Alexander Pearce. [Accessed March 2022]. Available from: https://librariestas.ent.sirsidynix.net.au/client/en_AU/all/search/detailnonmodal/ent:$002f$002fNAME_INDEXES$002f0$002fNAME_INDEXES:1424923/one?qu=Alexander&qu=Pearce

AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STUDIES,  2021. Map of Indigenous Australia. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/map-indigenous-australia

CLARKE, MARCUS. 2016. For the Term of His Natural Life.  Classics series. The Text Publishing Company.  ISBN 978-1-925355-65-9.

Horizontal Scrub. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://www.utas.edu.au/library/companion_to_tasmanian_history/H/Horizontal%20Scrub.htm

IUCN Red List, 2022. Wikipedia. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=IUCN_Red_List&oldid=1080355531

PEARCE, ALEXANDER. Alexander Pearce – Confession of murder and cannibalism, 1824 (Text).  [Accessed  March 2022 a]. Available from: https://acms.sl.nsw.gov.au/_transcript/2014/D32666/a1650.html

PEARCE, ALEXANDER. Narrative of the escape of eight convicts from Macquarie Harbour in Sep. 1822, and of their murders and cannibalism committed during their wanderings. Curio. [Accessed March 2022]. Available from: https://www2.sl.nsw.gov.au/archive/curio/exhibit/431/index053a.html?from_collection=2&page=10

PEOPLE AUSTRALIA. Biography – Alexander Pearce – People Australia.  [Accessed March 2022]. Available from: https://peopleaustralia.anu.edu.au/biography/pearce-alexander-31474

West Coast Tasmania. Wikipedia. 2022. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=West_Coast,_Tasmania&oldid=1080629052

Macquarie Harbour Penal Station. Academic Dictionaries and Encyclopedias. [Accessed May 2022]. Available from: https://en-academic.com/dic.nsf/enwiki/611573

Mt Sorell 2015 Mar | Natureloverswalks. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://www.natureloverswalks.com/mt-sorell/

Alexander Pearce. Wikipedia. 2022. [Accessed  March 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Alexander_Pearce&oldid=1070864595

Lagarostrobos. Wikipedia. 2022. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Lagarostrobos&oldid=1065752806

AUF DER HEIDE, Jonathan et al. and ENTERTAINMENT, Madman, 2009. Van Diemen’s Land (DVD). 2009. [Collingwood, Vic.] : Distributed by Madman Entertainment.  https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/36715924?keyword=AUF%20DER%20HEIDE

JONES, Callum J. Macquarie Harbour Penal Station: A Short History – Tasmanian Times. [Accessed May 2022]. Available from: https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/07/macquarie-harbour-penal-station-history/


Music & other links:

  • Intro/Exit music modified from: ‘Grand Canyon’ by LÃHSTANA DAVID [CCFM Music]
  • Music snippet:  A Tale they wont believe in Hobart – Weddings Parties Anything –  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILnvtUirHr8

Loddon Plains pic: https://timbo.id.au/Frenchmans%20Cap

Frenchmans cap path pic:  http://thelongwaysbetter.blogspot.com/2018/12/frenchmans-cap-tas-lyell-hwy-to-lake.html

UltraHiker pics: https://www.theultralighthiker.com/2022/03/05/south-west-track-tasmania/

RAABUS, CAROL and RHEINBERGER, JOEL. In the footsteps of Alexander Pearce – Australian Broadcasting Corporation. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2009/04/14/2542777.htm

ROWLAND, Michael James et al. and ENTERTAINMENT Roadshow, 2009. The last confession of Alexander Pearce. 2009. Australia : Hopscotch Films : Roadshow Entertainment.  https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/35116563?keyword=rowland%20The%20last%20confession%20of%20Alexander%20Pearce

ABC, 2009. The last confession of Alexander Pearce. [Melbourne, Vic.] : Request TV.  https://trove.nla.gov.au/work/35532430?keyword=abc%20The%20last%20confession%20of%20Alexander%20Pearce