Wind fences

Posted by John Pickard on

With rare exceptions, Australian rural fences are to limit movement of animals. But one fence was erected to limit wind - a wind fence.

Sarah Island

Less well-known than the penal settlement at Port Arthur, the eight hectares of Sarah Island in Macquarie Harbour (Tasmania) were the site of a convict settlement from 1822 to 1833. Conditions - constant cold, windy and rainy weather exacerbated by poor accommodation and food - led to harsh discipline, and a well-deserved reputation as a hell-hole. 

The island was cleared for the necessary barracks and administration buildings, and a ship-building yard. However this exposed the island to the howling gales of the roaring forties. The solution was a network of "wind fences".

The wind fences

Wind fence erected around the ship-building yard, Sarah Island. (Detail from William Buelow Gould (1833) North east view of Macquarie Harbour. Image V6B/Mac H/2. Digital: a928222. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.)

The fences were tall paling fences, most likely of easily split Huon Pine which was logged on the adjacent mainland of Van Diemen's Land, and used in ship-building.

After the penal settlement was abandoned in 1833, any salvageable wood would have been scavenged from the fences, and the remainder left to rot in the forest which gradually reclaimed the island.


These stumps at high-tide level are part of the remains of the extensive wind fences on Sarah Island.

Wind fences in Patagonia

The plains of Patagonia are notorious for incessant gale-force winds screaming from the Andes. Northern Tierra del Fuego offers a similar climate. There are virtually no trees to provide shelter, so estancias are sheltered behind wind fences up to 6 m high, secured with wire rope.

Wind fence sheltering Estancia San Julio (Tierra del Fuego, Argentina).




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