Dark tourism intrigued me once I saw an advertised tour of the nuclear accident ravaged Ukrainian city of Chernobyl in 2008. I didn’t end up going, but always wondered how bizarre it’d be.
What is Dark Tourism?
According to dark-tourism.com, dark tourism is considered to be “travel to sites that are in some way connected to death or disaster (or at least something in one way or another “macabre”)”.
- Have you ever visited a place that is macabre or disturbing?
- What made you want to go there?
Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and death camp is prime example. A death camp is not exactly a setting to be taking selfies.
Battlefields, war memorials, and memorials where are disaster occurred are common places we might consider going to visit. Most people go there to pay respects to the fallen and to get some small sense of the place and what took place there for historical purposes.
However, there may be a dark tourist element of the associated death and destruction that fascinates people.
Gallipoli, for example, despite the sadness at the loss of so many lives and the military outcome is a place of pride for Aussies and Kiwis.
Over the past two weeks I have been watching Dark Tourist on Netflix.
David Ferrier, the New Zealand journalist who presents the documentary, goes to Medellin, the home of Pablo Escobar and interviews Escobar’s chief hitman. He visits Fukushima in Japan where there was an earthquake and a tsunami, resulting in the nuclear power plant exploding in 2011 and despite the government declaring the area safe, the radiation is still high.
Ferrier approaches his travels as an investigator rather than a supporter. He has a laid back quizzical attitude who does ask the question “why do you do this?”
Check out the official trailer:
Ferrier explores some pretty incredible places, where the culture or custom around death is vastly different to our western way of interacting with death. He visits Toraja in Indonesia, which he describes as a “zenith” for dark tourists. Here he witnesses the official death and of a dead man, or a “sick person” who had been “resting” for 2 years and the celebrations (some may say brutal ritualistic animal sacrifices) that follow. Not to mention the “spring cleaning” of long dead corpses.
Our culture protects itself from death, or as Ferrier says, we are “sanitised” from it. Other cultures, either through custom or religion embrace and celebrate it in ways that seem extremely odd to us.
As part of the documentary series, Ferrier participates in some very weird and depraved events. In others, he tests the boundaries of what was possible without going through with the act.
In the US, tourism of Jeffrey Dahmer, Charles Manson Family and JFK’s assassination is very popular – clearly there is a big market.
Is there anything wrong with dark tourism anyway? It’s just a phrase. It’s still tourism. Is it even a moralist question? Who is to judge?
Dark Tourism in Tasmania
Watching Dark Tourist got me thinking, are there any dark tourism opportunities in Tasmania?
During its time as Van Diemen’s Land, there would have been dark tourist potential for Tasmania.
Many dark events took place here; the blatant genocide of Aboriginals by the British, the brutality toward convicts at Sarah island, and perhaps Port Arthur Penitentiary?
If there was any interest in the Port Arthur Massacre, it would present as dark tourism. Thankfully, there are no maps of where the shootings occurred available to the public to encourage it.
I think though, if you are dark tourism connoisseur and looking at exploring Tasmania for solely that purpose, Tassie may not be at the top of your list.
Come and escape here anyway. It’ll brighten your day.