Monthly Archives: June 2024

Day 56 – Monday, 17 June 2024 – Mt Isa to Camooweal

The main roads in Mt Isa are fairly wide which makes it a nice drive through. It harks back to World War 2 when the rail link from Townsville stopped at the Isa.

A supply link between the Mount Isa railhead in Queensland and the North-South Road, running from Alice Springs railhead to the Birdum railhead in the Northern Territory, was first proposed by the Main Roads Commission (MRC) in October 1940 during the formation of the North-South Road – the Stuart Highway.

Initially a road was planned across the Barkly Tableland from Newcastle Waters to Camooweal, using MRC road plant returning from construction of the North-South Road.

However, the project was shelved until March 1941 when the Army advised that approval had been given for immediate construction of a road by the most direct route from Camooweal to Tennant Creek – named the Barkly Highway in 1944.

The Queensland section of the Barkly Highway has been realigned, widened, resurfaced and upgraded in recent decades. Bypassed sections of the wartime road remain, including reinforced concrete low-level bridges, such as at Spear Creek north of Mount Isa. At Camooweal the former MRC workshop and Army bore are still in use.

By early 1941 a road had been surveyed. Clearing and forming the road commenced from Camooweal in April and the initial cut of 283 miles (455 kilometres) was completed by late July.

To assist travellers, bores were sunk at suitable sites to overcome the lack of surface water over the last 200 miles (320 kilometres) to Tennant Creek. The work of gravelling soft and sandy sections of the road continued throughout 1941. At the same time the existing track between Mount Isa and Camooweal was improved by the MRC as a State project.

In late January 1942, owing to the sudden strategic importance of the link for the Pacific area, the War Cabinet approved the construction of the whole of the Mount Isa-Tennant Creek Road as an all-weather road, together with the provision of further bores for water supply at about 10-mile (16 kilometre) intervals.

The work was underway by March. The difficulties of dry, sandy country and heavy wear on machinery were compounded by almost continuous military traffic, which for some months during 1942 amounted to a thousand heavy trucks a day in addition to light vehicles.

Reinforced concrete and steel bridges were completed across the dry watercourses and the first enrolment of men on the job into the Civil Construction Corps (CCC) was made in August 1942. Later, 400 CCC workers were replaced by 540 internees of the Civil Alien Corps. (More info later in the story).

The Australian Army unit responsible for supply between the Mount Isa and the Northern Territory railheads was the Mount Isa Maintenance Force (MIMF).

A staging camp was formed opposite the Mount Isa railway station early in 1941, then a second camp and a Bulk Issue Petrol Oil Depot (BIPOD) was established at Camooweal. A third BIPOD and camp was established in the Northern Territory at No.3 Bore, later known as Frewena.

Meanwhile the first US ordnance units began arriving in Mount Isa to set up trucking depots and workshops. Many of the transport convoy drivers were African American troops.

Early in 1942 the MIMF was replaced by the 2/109 Australian General Transport Company (AGTC). The unit operated from Mount Isa to Larrimah (Birdum) and return until late 1942, transporting everything from ammunition and petrol to army personnel, rations, building materials, machinery and finally bitumen for road sealing; while enduring long driving hours, heavy choking dust, high cabin heat and the impact of road corrugations.

Due to the impossibility of maintaining the gravel road surface under the concentration of heavy traffic, bitumen surfacing commenced in January 1943 after a plant was established at Mount Isa for the manufacture of bitumen emulsion.

A further emulsion plant was erected at Camooweal and later in the year the Mount Isa plant was dismantled and transported to the North-South Road.

A number of road camps were formed by the MRC, including the 114 Mile Camp, during sealing of the road between Wooroona Creek and Camooweal. The workers slept in prefabricated huts and the concrete bases from these huts are still visible.

Bitumen surfacing was completed by the MRC in May 1944 and the road was handed over to the Department of the Interior which undertook the continuing wartime maintenance of the project.

The project workshop at Camooweal continued to operate until January 1945 to service works at the Camooweal aerodrome and to repair road plant. The workshop served for a time as a garage and service station during the post-war period.

The Civil Alien Corps was controlled by the Director-General of Allied Works in which refugees and enemy aliens between 18 and 60, not serving in the defence forces, were directed to serve.

These men were employed on important projects or works and made a valuable contribution to the war effort. They worked on such projects as railway maintenance and road construction in various parts of the Commonwealth, did excellent work and gave satisfactory and loyal service.

I keep finding rabbit holes to go down!!!

The part of the Barkly Highway we are travelling today is signposted to advise it is a High Crash Zone for 115 kilometres, and then you can add in the likelihood of meeting a kangaroo or two on your journey.

Thankfully, we made it safely to Camooweal and arrived there at 12:20pm. This is the first of several places where you cannot make a booking, but is the first in, best dressed scenario.

The caravan park is quite large and is located behind the Hotel. It is to the bar that you go to pay once you have chosen the site you want to occupy for the night.

We were all set up by 12:39pm so now it is time for a cuppa before finalising the last of the photos for the website.

Day 55 – Sunday, 16 June 2024 – Mt Isa

We woke up about 9:00am and had our showers etc then went up the street. Russ wanted some things from the Pharmacy, and then the plan was to go to Woolworths and Coles – neither of whom were open!!!

We ended up finding a very small Foodworks Store that was in a dubious location, but I could get some water and milk. They didn’t have anything else on my list, so fingers crossed we have enough of things to get us to Katherine. Life might be interesting for goodies, but food is taken care of.

After that we re-fuelled the car and went back to the van.

When we arrived there were birds flying around, and horses across the fence in the paddock, and other birds that Russ reckons are a Babbler – three of them.

On my way back to the van with the camera the neighbour next door stopped me to ask about my hair. She was very impressed with the colour scheme and, as she also has hair almost my colour silver, thought she might have a go at getting her hairdresser to try it. While this conversation was going on she was standing under the awning ironing!!!

Once back inside I arranged Russell’s computer on the table and turned on the footy. What a thriller. Collingwood amazes me with its determination to never give up. North Melbourne played heroically but couldn’t hang on in the end. However, there are definite signs of good things to come from the group of young players there. I then finished going through the photos which are now ready to put up on the website, which Russ will do when we get to Camooweal tomorrow.

Day 54 – Saturday, 15 June 2024 – Mt Isa

We woke up about 9:00am or just before and I opened my birthday cards and sent thank you texts to those who had wished me a happy birthday.

After my shower I headed up to the laundry – $5 a wash load. I had it out on the line under the awning before we took our leisurely drive around Mt Isa and environs, and it was dry by the time we had returned – two and a half hours later.

We discovered the Duchess Road Camel Yards. From an article in the ABC News – Apparently, a paddock of camels on the edge of Mount Isa has mirrored the popularity of sunflowers in the outback as tourists and locals head out to take photographs and feed them carrots.

The camels are part of Paul Keegan’s network of hundreds of the animals agisted on several properties, some of them more than 400 kilometres away from Mt Isa city.

Mr Keegan spends most of his days laying tiles, and admits the camels are more of a hobby.

“I’ve been brought up with livestock. Since I was a kid, we had horses and ponies,” he said. “I saw the camels about 30 years ago, thought they were characters, and it’s just grown from there.”

“Some of the camels here you couldn’t come near them because they were wild. Now you can put your hands all over their heads because of the attention they get,” he said.

While Mr Keegan had been enjoying the appreciation for his camels, he hoped the more landholders would look at them for woody weed control.

“I’ve been lending quiet camels to graziers to take the flower and seed off the [prickly acacia],” he said.

“There are hundreds of camels out there that aren’t getting used, but if the camels were there you would have a lot less prickle bush.”

After the camels we headed up to the Mt Isa Lookout which is very tourist friendly except when you are trying to get photos of all sides of the water tank as they have not left a wide enough skirt around it and then they have put an awful chain link fence around it which also gets in the way of good photos. But the birds on the tank were beautiful.

Commissioned in 1960 the Mica Creek Power Station (MCPS) solely provided Mt Isa and the Northwest’s power needs for 54 years before the nearby Diamantina Power Station (DPS) was opened in December 2014. The MCPS was originally coal-fired with conversion to natural gas completed in 2000.

It was powered with twelve turbines of various sizes that generated a combined capacity of 318 mega-watts (MW) of electricity. After 51 years, MCPS was shut down and put into cold storage.

Diamantina Power station is a combined-cycle gas turbine electric plant and was developed by APA Group and AGL Energy at a cost of $570 million.

Siemans Energy supplied two blocks each of one steam turbine, and two gas turbines and two heat recovery steam generators.

Construction began in 2012 and operations commenced in 2014 with a generating capacity of 328 MW when combined with the adjacent Leichardt Power Station and Thompson Power Station.

The Diamantina PS managed power for residents and mining needs of Northwest Qld in conjunction with the Mica Creek PS. Once Mica Creek was cold storage the Diamantina PS became the only major generator on the Northwest Power System.

We then went out to Lake Moondarra, about fifteen kilometres outside Mt Isa. It is considered a very popular spot for families with fishing, birdwatching and water sport activities.

We stopped in one place (there were not a lot of places you could stop, and the road was a narrow two-way traffic winding along the edges of the lake).

We were well entertained by a couple of Rainbow Bee-eaters, some ducks, Kites, mudlarks, willy wagtails, White-necked heron, Egrets, and Australian Grebe and an Australian Pippet – a new one for us.

The Leichardt Dam construction began in 1956 and was completed in 1958 at a cost of 1.7 million pounds. A local competition to name the dam was held in the 1960s and was won by Danny Driscoll. It officially became Lake Moondarra, whose Aboriginal meaning is “plenty of rain and thunder”.

Our neighbours must have understood that we didn’t like their music or the radio (I closed all the windows on that side of the caravan to diminish the noise somewhat) as they have turned their volume down. Russ is taking me out to the Red Lantern Chinese Restaurant for take away (as I do not have the patience to sit there and wait for service). We will also order some take away for the freezer as our next scheduled stops are in the middle of whoop whoop.

Day 53 – Friday, 14 June 2024 – Mt Isa

We were going to have a lazy morning but woke up at 8:30am. Our neighbours on one side insist on sitting out under their awning with either the radio or music playing. I am really not a Johnny Cash fan!!!

Russ, as most of us know, has an amazing nose for smells. I think both he and Mum Cox can smell things that I can’t even imagine. So, whilst at Cloncurry he complained about the terrible smell. We checked the fridge out and that was okay. In desperation we decided to put the duo concentrate into the grey water tank and give it a good clean to see if that helped.

When we left Cloncurry, we stopped at the dump point and emptied the grey water tank and Russ said he could no longer smell anything, so life was good. However, when we parked at Mt Isa, he thought he got a whiff of the sulphur smell once again and was annoyed he couldn’t find what was causing the problem.

It wasn’t until we got to the tour of the Mt Isa Underground Hospital that all was explained. The walls and ceiling underground had been built with Gidgee Tree trunks. Gidgee Trees are a type of Acacia and their nickname, when flowering (as it is at this time of the year) is the Stinking Wattle. Problem beyond our means of solving so it can be shelved.

The Gidgee Tree is a very slow grower, but the trunk is incredibly dense. They had a small log on the tour, and it took me two hands to lift and I immediately put it down as quickly as I could safely do so.

Today is not as warm as yesterday was. We were to be onsite at the Underground Hospital and Museum before 10:30am. We were greeted by Natasha at the Reception desk (out on the verandah) who is training to be a volunteer tour guide.

We were told to wander freely around the museum precinct of the house while we waited for everyone to arrive including our tour guide who, when she arrived, introduced herself as Susie Talks-a-lot. Her real name is Susanah but she didn’t provide a surname.

The tour was very informative and most unusual.

In 1942 during the early years of the Japanese advance, and after the bombing of Darwin Hospital, the Mt Isa Medical Superintendent, Dr Ryan, discussed with Vic Mann, who was the Superintendent of Mines, the need for an available air raid shelter for patients as Mt Isa was considered to be a prime target for Japanese bombing.

With assistance from Mt Isa Mines supplying materials and volunteers under Wally Onton this group worked tirelessly to create an E shaped structure into the hill and fitted out as a full emergency hospital.

It took the volunteers, many of whom were on their own spare time, two weeks of back-breaking work with dynamite and shovels to build the tunnel, and a further four weeks to put in the supports and roofing of timber. The floor was crushed rock.

As history would have it, there was no need to use the facility for this purpose, although during the war emergency drills were carried out regularly when the Nurses would move patients into the underground hospital whatever way was possible.

Those patients who were unable to be moved the 100 yards along a cut bush path uphill were placed under beds and tables with a mattress placed over the top of the furniture where they lay.

After the war, and before air conditioning was available the night nurses would use the beds in the tunnel for rest as the area was cool and dark.

The entrances to the underground hospital were covered in, and a manhole was placed on the top of the hill where the air shafts were situated. Over time real life impacted most people and its existence was mainly forgotten.

It wasn’t until the new hospital was being built next door to the old one that the tunnels were once again found after the excavation for foundations caused a collapse at the entrance to one of the tunnels.

In the tour itself we were seated on the long benches inside the hospital and were watching a short video. It was masterfully done. They had a young woman dressed as one of the nurses from that time period and she told the story of the hospital from the point of view of the war years.

They incorporated two boys who supposedly found the manhole over the air shaft and climbed down the ladder. They found everything of the emergency hospital still there in cupboards, and all the furniture – beds, bassinets, bed pans, crockery with the Queensland Hospitals emblem on them, and medicines and medical equipment.

According to this story they had a wonderful time using it as their own secret cubbyhouse, until a fire they lit got out of control and caused lots of smoke to billow lout the air shafts. This meant that the residents of Mt Isa, along with the fire department, all converged on the location to make this incredible discovery.

It sounded absolutely great while the video ran. I think, somehow, that it has been added to for the tourists as no where could I find any history of this nature in the official line.

What is mentioned is that in 1997, after the discovery during construction, the people of Mt Isa banded together and decided that it should be historically catalogued before it was restored. The University of Queensland sent a party to the Isa, and everything found was catalogued. Many of the items are now in the Museum itself, but they left the furniture and some of the catalogued items in the underground hospital for the tour.

When the restoration was being discussed it was found that there were no plans or details on record so old photos were used to restore the original structure which had been struck by vandals on numerous occasions, and the water and foam used in the fighting of the fires had also caused problems with the old timbers.

Once again Mt Isa Mines provided materials, and volunteers set out to complete the work needed.

The northern leg of the E which was the area impacted by the new hospital construction was not restored, only made safe. However, it can still be viewed from the long end of the E during the tour visit.

Mt Isa’s name is attributed to John Campbell Miles, who discovered deposits of silver lead ore in 1923. He named one of his leases after his sister, Isabelle.

After the Underground Hospital was finished, we were encouraged to go and visit the Tent House which is adjoined to the Museum site. The Fairweather Tent House was donated to the Mt Isa Underground Hospital and Museum in 1977. It was relocated to its present site in 2014.

On the way back to the Museum we walked beside Natasha of the guide trainee variety who asked about my hair. She was interested in the two-colour scheme and was wondering if it might be possible for her to do something similar. Her hair (possibly Islander and early twenties, at a guess) is down past her shoulders and is in braids, coloured green (because she can) and she told me it took four hours with two people doing the braiding for her hairdo. Some people are devoted.

Everything in Mt Isa in the early years (and possibly still today) centres around the Mt Isa Mine.

The history of the hospital and tent houses are also much of the mines’ history.

In 1929(six years after the mine was leased) land was granted in Mt Isa for a hospital. It consisted then of a two-room galvanised iron hut and had been transported to Mt Isa from Duchess.

One room was the living quarters for the doctor, and the other was used as consulting room and surgery.

This hospital was made by joining canvas over wooden beams (photo) and there were six tents used as wards. Each tent has two canvas stretchers. The conditions were not ideal but well utilised for ten weeks.

Mt Isa Mines Ltd offered the house, formerly used by a Geologist, as a public hospital. It was located at the north end of the mine – Mt Isa city grew up around the mine itself.

The offer was accepted and on 6 September 1929, and patients and staff were transferred to this building. It had free lighting, water, free repairs, a septic tank and solar hot water. This building is now the Museum attached to the Underground Hospital.

Employees at the mine contributed 1/- (one shilling = 10 cents) per week towards the maintenance of the hospital.

A permanent hospital was found, and it was purchased for 400 pounds. It was the Hampden District Hospital and available after the Hampden Cloncurry company at Kuridala ceased to exist in 1928 and people left the area. This township was located 65 kilometres south of Cloncurry. Today, only 500 plus people still live there.

The building was disassembled by removing the roof, with partitions removed in sections and the floor was cut into three parts. It was the re-assembled at the Hospital Reserve in Camooweal Street in Mt Isa.

The dis-assembled parts were carted to Selwyn siding and railed to Mt Isa. The labourers involved in the transportation of the building made five trips to and from the two towns – each return trip being twelve hours.

It was finally established and running in Mt Isa by September 1931. The screened verandas provided wards. Other buildings from Kuridala were brought and set up as an isolation block and quarters for Nurses and Sisters.

The Tent House were originally long narrow buildings with canvas walls and roof. Over time iron roofs were erected and supported by a light-weight timber frame. The air space between the canvas roof and iron roof material assisted in keeping the tent’s interior cool, as well as providing protection against the weather.

These houses were the first accommodations for the early mine workers. Solid board or ripple iron walls were often added (and later incorporated into their design) as a dust control measure.

The tent house is an excellent example of the innovative use of materials to suit extremes of climate in an isolated locale.

A total of 179 tent houses were built by the Mt Isa Mine company between 1932 and 1952. Many families were born and grew up in these buildings.

Most of the tent houses were demolished by the early 1960s and had been replaced with more modern buildings. A number of the houses were built privately on the ‘town’ side (as opposed to the mine side) where the original houses were located).

The population growth of Mt Isa was rapid from 1926 to 1930 and this caused acute housing shortages. In 1929 there were hundreds of tents housing railway and construction workers sprawled between the town and the mine. Often huts had walls made from beaten out chemical drums from the mill, ant bed floors and corrugated iron roofs.

Ant bed floors were made from termite mounds of clay and termite saliva, which, when mixed with water, created a durable floor in tropical climates.

The settlement of Mt Isa Mines was built by the company on its leases for its own men and was a planned and self-contained town which was approachable through a valley guarded by a gate keeper.

Leslie Urquhart was the creator of the company town. His policy sprang from his experiences in Russia, and he realised that, in a region with a harsh climate and a reputation for industrial unrest, The employee’s welfare was an essential investment.

This policy of providing extensive accommodation for employees was regarded as an interesting experiment. It was not the norm for 1929. By the middle of that year, 50 cottages for workmen and seven staff had been completed, along with a reticulated water supply and septic tank installation. (Water reticulation systems are water distribution networks which have to be collected and then treated before it is distributed to the consumer.)

A self-contained staff house with 21 bedrooms, reading and dining rooms had also been completed. Five dormitories each to accommodate 40 single men, and a mess hall to serve them were in the course of erection but owing to a rapid increase of work at the mines, temporary accommodation capable of housing 400 men was erected.

The growth of the community continued to present problems for company management during the years between the World Wars as there was difficulty financing housing developments.

The 1934 Director’s Report commented; “A portion of the community consists of 600 tents which were erected in 1930. These were in a bad state of repair and after representations by the employees in this section, the company agreed to furnish the material for converting these to temporary houses. The employees, co-operating among themselves, furnished the labour”.

Mt Isa Mines is a mixture of open cut and underground mining methods. The Cooper Mine is over 1980 metres deep. Mt Isa Mines has four mine sites in the region and provides work for over 3,200 employees.

After the Tour we went back to Woolworths and picked up some groceries. We took them back to the van and had a cuppa. Then we tootled off to the Hairdresser so I could have a haircut – thank goodness. The cut is fine (Russ had to take a bit off the left-hand side that was too long, but otherwise the curls are still there.

However, I reckon if you put Caitlin (my hairdresser) into a room with Jeannie, Stefanie, Janelle, Mum and me, I still think we would find it hard to get in a word edgewise. Man, that girl could talk. And Russ was happy to chat with her. She would stand with strands of my hair in her hand and would gesticulate with the hand holding the scissors. I felt like say – cut the damn thing and get on with it. I am never taking Russ with me to the hairdressers again. I do have to say that she knew how to cut curls, which is sometimes a lost art for some hairdressers.

When that was finally finished, we headed out to Harvey Norman to buy a Lens Cleaning Kit as my lens keeps getting specs of dust on it. I believe this might be because my camera doesn’t have a mirror which stops the dust in other types of cameras.

Day 52 – Thursday, 13 June 2024 – Cloncurry to Mt Isa

Let me just say that there are a lot of planes that fly in and out of Cloncurry.

We set the alarm for 8:30am and awoke to another sunny day with the temperature heading towards 30 degrees. We left the caravan park at 9:58am. The Exit gate is supposed to be opened at 8:00am each morning but it wasn’t, and we had to backtrack very carefully along the pathways to go out the Entrance gate.

We drove through beautiful, rugged hills and not many plains, and the countryside reminds me of the McDonnell Ranges outside Alice Springs.

I don’t know if I have written this before, but I have just realised that the large towns and cities we have been travelling through do not have many (or any) buildings higher than three stories. I suppose it has something to do with cyclones and floods.

I read Foreigner for most of the way as it was a short drive today. We arrived in Mt Isa shortly after 11:00am and wondered what the check-in time for caravans was, as they all seem to use different systems. However, we were okay and as I has already paid online our check-in was fairly quick.

It didn’t take us long to set everything up and we had a cuppa before putting out the awning. We are at the back of the park so did not have any traffic noise, but once again, lots of aircraft. We also did not have any shade on this site and the air conditioner worked for a couple of hours during the afternoon.

The nights get nippy rather rapidly once the sun goes down, and there are two doonas on the bed still, plus electric blankets.

Later in the evening I got a text from Jeannie saying that I should open the link that Stefanie had sent me – so that’s what I did. Apparently, there is an internet site where you can request a player from any AFL team to send a special greeting to someone, but you do pay for the service which is fair enough. Not all AFL players are available and not all the time, so you have to keep an eye on your time frame.

Anyway, the link opened to a video of Mason Cox sending Jeannie a 70th birthday greeting and thanking her for being such an avid supporter of both him, and the Collingwood team.  Stefani had organised it for Jeannie and was a bit worried that it might not arrive in time for her birthday tomorrow as you need to allow two weeks from your request to delivery. Mason got it just -right and Jeannie was gob-smacked. A wonderful birthday present on a special birthday.

Day 51 – Wednesday, 12 June 2024 – Cloncurry

We slept in this morning until 9:00am. It was wonderful. In fact, I don’t think I moved at all during the night.

The weather in Cloncurry is much warmer than previous places (other than Townsville) and I believe it may stay that way now until we get much further south in Northern Territory.

After breakfast we went to the local pharmacy so I could get my scripts dispensed, and then we took a very long journey (roadworks and detours abounding) to finally arrive at the Puma outlet for the cheapest diesel – seven cents cheaper than that available in town.

We then took a side trip to the Lookout and the murals on the water tower (photos) and on to Chinaman’s Dam (photo). The beautiful mural on the water tank is titled Above and Beyond. It represents Cloncurry township through passing times.

Two local children stand proud above the land paying tribute to the rich and diverse history which came before them. The girl holds a paper plane paying tribute to the Royal Flying Doctor Service which was born in Cloncurry and transformed rural health in outback Australia. Unfortunately, they need to add another three metres to the side of the hill if you want to get a good photo of this, but it is lovely.

Across from the girl stands a proud Mitakoodi boy, looking out across the vast landscape and up towards a sacred Wedge-tailed Eagle – Kurrathilla – the eagle hawk.

Around the other side of the tank you can find the Cloncurry Parrot – Cloncurry’s own ringneck.

When we got back to the van Bruce let us know that the house was now settled, and they have the keys. I think the first job on his list was to install decent locks on the doors (of which there are many).

Further on during the afternoon I addressed the issue of housework – I loathe housework, but unfortunately, it has to be done. Russ generally does his bit also, but today it was my turn.

Cloncurry has a rich history in mining with the discovery of copper in 1867 by Ernest Henry. He is still considered the ‘father of Cloncurry’ and his Great Australia Mine boasts remnants of its heyday including Qld’s oldest water jacket smelter casing and Cornish boilers.

Cloncurry is centred in the Northwest Mineral Province which covers approximately 375,000 square kilometres of area rich in minerals such as copper, phosphate, gold, zinc, silver and lead.

In 2016 the mining sector accounted for 25% of employment in the Cloncurry Shire. As of 2022 there are eleven working mines in Cloncurry.

Chinaman Creek Dam sits on an old gold mine that was covered to allow the construction of the dam in 1994. The dam takes advantage of water flowing from Chinaman Creek and the Cloncurry River. It is a picturesque spot with picnic and play facilities, and the sheds have murals of local birds (photo).

The Mary Kathleen Mine was discovered in 1954, opened in 1958 and is now a ghost town which was home to over 1000 people. The first commercial shipment of concentrate was produced in 1963 – a contract for 4,082 tonnes of uranium oxide to the United Kingdom Atomic Energy Authority.

The mine closed in 1963, re-opened in 1974, and closed finally in 1982 when it was considered mined out.

Day 50 – Tuesday, 11 June 2024 – Richmond to Cloncurry

We needed to be up early this morning so that we could see the Kronosaurus Korner before we headed off to Cloncurry, so the alarm went off at 7:00am. We packed up fairly quickly and vacated the park at 8:15am. We cannot get into the display area until it opens at 8:30am.

The caravan park here overlooks a lake, and it is really well set out in the typical herring bone pattern that works for everyone. It is a shame we are not staying longer this time as there is still lots to see.

As we were about to take photos of the Kronosaurus out the front a bunch of elderly tourists arrived, and I had to wait as they – slowly – got themselves organised and ready for their group photo in front of the Kronosaurus. Patience is a virtue.

I finally managed to get my shot and Russ hammed it up a bit by putting one leg inside the mouth of the construction.

We watched a short video that gave us the overview of the displays (with the seniors) and then went out into the display area to see what it was all about.

In some respects, this is a better area of information than other dinosaur stops, especially for children, who are encouraged to take their parents out to the fossil digging area and look for some fossils of their own. They are supplied with the kits they will need for the job. Many tourists have enjoyed this activity and found fossils that are displayed in the centre.

We left Richmond at 9:30am after going to the supermarket and buying some milk and some Magnum ice creams (for later today).

I read to Russ during the drive and there were lots of areas of roadworks where the speed limit went down to 60, and on a few occasions, down to 40, so it was a leisurely journey.

Russ had asked me to read the latest episode of the diary, but it was not available offline on his phone so I went back to the Foreigner book until we could fix it, which we did at Julia Creek.

We stopped at Julia Creek to have lunch and to stretch our legs, and when we resumed our journey, I read the diary before returning to the Foreigner.

Another four caravans pulled in behind us as we were checking in, and while we were setting up, we were passed by another Brilliant Caravan. The lucky people have the latest – Queen Cobra – and it has a pull-out pantry, for which I am green with envy. This is their fourth caravan, and they are madly in love with the Brilliant going so far as to say it is the best and easiest to tow.

As well as our adventures with the overtaking lane yesterday Trevor and Ann said they had had their own adventure with the on/off switch to the battery that assists Trevor with his Parkinson’s Disease. All was resolved after a visit to the hospital and Trevor is tired but okay. Alison, on the other hand, has sent a message on Facebook to the manufacturers to advise them that they need to change the design of the battery as it is not easy to use in its current format with two different on/off switches.

It is a bit of a shock to our system here as the temperature is 30 degrees.

After getting settled for the evening we had an early tea and watched the replay of the King’s Birthday match between Collingwood and Melbourne.

The caravan park is really lovely, but it is very big. They cater for the people working in the mines and there are lots of bungalows and cabins, and they even have a section of the park where they provide accommodation for the people who work in the park. Also, the washing and drying machines are FREE!!!!! I took advantage of that and got the towels washed and dried in no time at all.

Back to the goodies of Richmond as I work on the photos. Marlin’s Beastie (photo) is a sauropod discovered by Marlin Entriken in 1996 on Toronto Park Station near Richmond. The bones on display include the ulna, radius, metacarpals and phalanges – very similar to the bones found in the human forearm. The humerus, or upper arm bone was destroyed by a coolabah tree which had grown between the other forelimb bones and the shoulder girdle. The sauropod belongs to a large group known as Titanosauriformes which are some of the world’s largest known dinosaurs.

Wilson is one of the best preserved Platypteryguis specimens in Australia and was discovered by the Wilson family from Wiseleigh in Victoria – hence he was nicknamed Wilson in their honour. It received worldwide media attention in 2014.

Seven-year-old Amber selected the spot to dig at the Free Fossil Hunting Site 1 with her parents, Tony and Lisa, and her brother Darcy. They found a puck-shaped vertebra hidden under a rock and further digging uncovered other vertebrae, jaw bones and teeth.

Over a dozen volunteers were needed to lift Wilson out of the ground. Once inside the laboratory at Richmond’s Kronosaurus Korner dentist tools were used to remove excess rock from around the skull, and this process took over four months to complete.

The Kronosaurus is a name with mythical savage origins. It was a powerful predator, so it is only fitting that it was named after a fierce Greek Titan, Kronos. Legend states that Kronos was guilty of many brutal acts, including overthrowing his father – Uranus – and castrating him with a sickle.

Kronos was married to his sister, Rhea, and they had several children. Most of the children were eaten by Kronos at birth for fear they would overthrow him.

Rhea was devastated over the loss of the children and tricked Kronos into swallowing a rock instead of the newborn son – Zeus.

As an adult Zeus freed his siblings from his father’s stomach and helped overthrow Kronos.  A very grisly story. One of the sons who had been eaten by Kronos was Poseidon.

The word ‘kronos’ means ‘lizard’, and the Kronosaurus belongs to the Pilosauridae – a group of large reptiles with long heads and short necks.

The Kronosaurus queenslandicus is 10-11 metres in size and was first discovered in 1899 by Andrew Crombie, however, our specimen was found by Ralph Thomas in 1926 from Army Downs Station near Richmond.

Bitten and Broken (photo) is a fossil of the Eromangasaurus and was collected in several pieces on different occasions. The small skulls (small being relative) are rarely found as fossils. They would often detach and drift away from their slender necks during decomposition. The skulls were also easy targets for predators.

The posterior piece of this skull was collected by Ted Noonan near Maxwelton and was donated to the Geological Society of Qld.

The anterior piece of the skull was collected by Doctors Ralph Molnar, Tony Thulbon and Mary Wade in 1976. This piece was registered with the Australian Museum, where Dr Alex Ritchie recognised that it belonged to the same specimen as the posterior piece. In the photo of the cast, you can see how the two pieces fit together.

Pseudofossils are inorganic objects, markings and impressions that have been mistaken for fossils. Dendritic crystals look like branches of fossilised plants but are mineral deposits that have precipitated from water seeping through cracks in rocks.

Pseudofossils are then referred to as ‘leaverites’ by fossil hunters. This is a slang term used to describe an insignificant rock and is derived from the phrase ‘leave ‘er right where you found ‘er’.

Moon Rocks (photo) are rounded limestone concretions and are an unusual feature of the Richmond landscape. They formed by the accumulation of calcium carbonate rich sediment around objects – shells, bones etc – on the bottom of the Eromanga Sea around 100 million years ago.

They are rounded in shape due to natural chemical processes during formation – not as a result of weathering from wind or water. They vary in size, and some are as small as golf balls while others are as large as cars.

Although moon rocks are not fossils, they can sometimes contain fossils featuring exceptional preservation.

Shipworms are wood-boring bivalves. Some sections of petrified wood from Richmond contain shipworm tunnels. Shipworms are still alive today and although they resemble worms, they are actually highly modified clams.

Like other clams they have shells composed of two valves which are very small and are located at the front of elongate bodies – hence the name worm.

Free-swimming shipworm larvae often settle on decomposing wood. Once attached, their bodies undergo dramatic changes, and they use their hardened valves to bore tunnels. They digest wood particles with the help of symbiotic bacteria in their bodies.

While they start life as males, they can switch back and forth between genders and are able to fertilise their own eggs.

Shipworms have created billions of dollars’ worth of damage to wooden wharf pilings and ships around the world. Christopher Columbus abandoned two of his fleet due to shipworm rot. He also carried shipworms back in Europe in his remaining vessels where they became major pests.

Cooyoo Skull with Bite Marks (photo) is a skull found in 2008 near Richmond by David Goodman and Wayne Rhodes. Research revealed indentation on the bone covering the gills. They are arranged in a pattern indicative of a bite mark from a predator.

The lack of bone growth around the wound suggests that the Cooyoo died after the attack.

An interesting fact to ponder – About 100 million years ago when much of Central Qld was under water, covered by a vast inland sea, the area was globally positioned about where Victoria’s southern coastline is today. Obviously, there was a lot of movement in the tectonic plates since then.

The 2019 monsoonal event occurred in the gulf country and northwest Qld, where record breaking rainfall fell from late January to early February. This was the result of an active monsoon trough and a slow-moving low-pressure system over the northern tropics.

Many of the previously drought affected regions, including Richmond and Julia Creek, recorded massive totals. At the Richmond Post Office, they recorded 498.4 mm of rain in seven days, and many of the outer properties received in excess of that number (photo).

The photo outlines the most significant peak at each of the river height stations in the Flinders River catchment. The historical significance of this peak is also provided.

The secondary peaks recorded during this event were nearly all records along the Flinders River, and the immensity of this deluge was further underscored by the widespread damage, and also that the extent of the flood was visible from space. The photos on the website are photos of photos so the quality is not always top mark, however, it certainly gives you an insight to the event.

Day 49 – Monday, 10 June 2024 – Pentland to Richmond

The Apostle birds and galahs visited this morning before we left. I did throw out a bit more wild bird seed, I just love listening to the squabbles of the Apostle birds. They are so cute.

It was very quiet overnight and the coldest we have experienced so far. We had all the doonas on and the electric blankets in an effort to get warm.

We left the Pentland Caravan Park ay 9:45am. The sun was shining, and the temperature had gone from five degrees up to a very pleasant 20 degrees. The other people who had arrived left shortly before us.

We had the scariest moments ever today and I don’t remember ever being that scared before. We were behind a very wide load and communicating via UHF with the pilot cars who advised us when we would be able to pass.

This occurred near White Mountain National Park, so it was hilly terrain. The roads are in fairly good condition surface wise, but very undulating.

We got the go ahead to pass and Russ began to accelerate, and as we passed the wide load we were going downhill at 118 kilometres per hour. Thank heavens for the ESC or we would have become caravan statistics. Not only did we think we were goners but so did the driver of the wide load.

The caravans ESC (Electronic Stability Control) actually saved our bacon by braking the van in slow increments, but we did have the van moving erratically from side to side for what felt like eternity.

We were able to pull over at Burra Head Lookout to check the van. Surprisingly everything was okay including the Starlink lying on the bed and the electric fan. One towel fell off the back of the seat onto the floor, and we had to take care when we opened the cabinets once we had booked in and set up the van for the night.

After the adrenalin rush had passed and we had regained our breath and some sanity Russ said he had been driving with his eyes closed during the incident. He was joking thank goodness, but he did say he was hanging onto the steering wheel with a death grip – which it could very well have been.

In future I think we will just wait.

When we got to Hughenden, we refuelled the car and had lunch. As we approached Richmond, we saw a cut of a dinosaur and below it was the words – ‘Uthinktheysaurus’ – and I thought it was quite clever.

By the time we had finished setting up it was time to turn on Kayo and get ready to watch the Big Freeze and the Collingwood versus Melbourne game on the King’s birthday weekend. The Pies won so I am a fairly happy camper. However, my footy tipping is not going great, and I only managed one right winner out of the eight games.

Day 48 – Sunday, 9 June 2024 – Charters Towers to Pentland

We woke up before the alarm went so got up at 8:00am. It is another beautiful sunny day with a light breeze. It is certainly cooler than in Townsville.

There were other vans moving out today as well as us. Kaye and Bruce had already left for more cleanup at the house.

It was not a long journey today, so we arrived at Pentland at 10:30am. We drove into the caravan park and the sign said to ring the hotel. The first time I did it rang out, soI was able to finish the chapter before trying again.

Daniel answered this time and advised us to pick a spot wherever we liked, and he would debit my credit card. We had the park to ourselves for a while before another caravan moved in. And there are tenants in the cabins from the look of it.

After we had set up and were relaxing the most wonderful event took place. We were enjoying our cuppa when we heard the birds outside. I got the wild bird seed out of the cupboard and ventured out to be confronted by Apostle Birds – 31 of them. They were two different families if the squabbles are to be believed.

Next the three magpies flew in, and I went inside to get a small amount of mince steak – too much is not good for them. Whilst feeding them a pied butcherbird decide to join the party, a noisy miner and a pied currawong who decide to sit on the metal strut of the awning about two feet away from me and who caught the mince I threw at him/her.

Next came the galahs. Most of them stayed away in the shade of one of the bushes, but one very brave galah also joined the party. I will need to purchase more wild bird seed when we get to Cloncurry. It was a magic moment in the afternoon, and a very noisy affair.

When we retreated back inside the van there was a lot of singing by several of the birds.

Day 47 – Saturday, 8 June 2024 – Townsville to Charters Towers

We woke up at 8:00am with the children screaming next door. We had our showers and packed all our stuff back in the car before heading out to do the rest of our shopping.

We always shopped at Castletown when we lived in Townsville so that’s where we headed once again. We went to Coles for Date and Walnut Loaf and Lightly Fruited Sultana Cake.

We went to Big W, and I got the last four cans of Jarrah Vienna coffee that were on the shelf. I may end up having to ration myself before we get to Darwin for more.

We then went into the very large Woolworths (who didn’t have any Pana di Casa and the baker informed me they were making changes to the shape of the loaf!!!!! – how dare they??) and got the rest of our groceries for the upcoming week.

I went into the Reject Shop for dishwashing liquid, and we were on the road back to Charters Towers by 10:00am.

I once again did some reading to Russ while we travelled and we reached the caravan park at 11:48am, after a short photo stop at Macrossan Bridge across the Burdekin River, which actually has water in it still at this time of the year.

Macrossan Bridge was constructed in 1971 at the height of 13.4 metres above the riverbed of the Burdekin River. 1946 is the highest recorded flood level at 21.8 metres at the site of the bridge (photo).

We unloaded all our purchases and sat down to have a well-earned cuppa.

Bruce and Kaye had access to their new place even if they couldn’t get inside it yet, and they were doing a lot of cleanups. Bruce told us that the number of bottles and cans he found in the grass was mind boggling, and Kaye talked about all the palm leaves that had fallen into the swimming pool and had been left to decay on the bottom. There work entailed a few trips to the tip.

The caravan park was full once more, but the laundry had been vacated so I took the opportunity of changing the sheets and doing the washing – hopefully that it would dry before nighttime fell. There were a couple of items, mostly socks, that I had to hang up inside overnight, but the rest was folded and put away before we went to bed.

While I did the washing Russ went and got fuel for the car and stopped to take some photos outside CT.

The signs out there start by saying – Welcome to CT, a place affectionately known as ‘The World’.

The Traditional Owners are the Gudjala people. Historically the rich country and permanent waters supported a significant indigenous population prior to European settlement. The Gudjala people today remain an important connection to our past, present and future.

CT’s modern history began in 1871 after the discovery of gold on Towers Hill. The community that subsequently prospered has become one of Australia’s most important pioneer cities.

The gold was discovered by an Indigenous boy named Jupiter Mosman who was working for prospectors Hugh Mosman, John Fraser and George Clarke. It triggered a northern gold rush and a migration boom. (One wonders what the real story is here and how the young lad got the surname of one of the prospectors, but I have not been able to find anything to clear it up.)

The population swelled and CT became Qld’s second largest city with more than 30,000 residents. The site where CT stands today was grazing land, and the city became known as ‘The World”. (photo)

The name stuck because of vast international migration and the vibrant shopping available in Gill Streett. Anything could be bought here, including Chinese herbs, vegetables, imported porcelain from London, and let’s not forget all the shovels and picks for the miners.

It was reputed to have the best of everything – hospitals, education, mining, housing and retail. Incredible fortunes were made, and lost, at the CT Stock Exchange.

The Stock Exchange had a modern telegraph connection to global markets, raising much needed capital for the local deep reef mines. Such was its success that in the first year of opening the average value of exchange sales surpassed 217,204 pounds – equal to $34,720,00 pounds today or $66 million plus in Australian dollars.

At the height of the mining investment boom, the Exchange had 60 or more gold mining companies listed. Members had private trading opportunities daily at 10am and 12 noon, six days a week.

At 8:00pm in the evenings, up to 1000 people would cram together for the public call – known as the ‘calling of the cards.’

Many people stood from afar to watch the frenzy and listen to the commotion as a social outing – no mobile phones thank heavens.

In 1892, London proclaimed CT as the richest and most important gold mining district not only in Qld, but the world.

Today, three gold mines continue to play a crucial role in sustaining the region. Together they provide jobs for close 1,000 people, as well as creating an industry for many local businesses.

Ravenswood Gold directly contributes over $250,000 to the local community through support of local organisations, donations, sponsorship, tourism development and events. It employs 350 people and utilises the goods and services of over 700 north Qld businesses, and provides medical services, town maintenance and local improvement projects.

Pajingo Mine has 200 permanent employees and 200 contractors and is leasing 6.000 hectares of land.

Thalanga mine produces other ores beside gold – copper, lead, zinc and silver. The copper concentrate is sold to Glencore at the mine gate. The lead and zinc content are trucked to the Port of Townsville where they are sold to international markets through Trafigura – a commodity trading company. The gold is sold on the domestic and international markets.

In total they employ 160 workers and contractors.

The Northern Miner newspaper was established in 1872 shortly after the gold discovery. It was promoted as the most important and influential daily newspaper published in Qld, outside the capital.

The daily could be purchased for one penny per copy, while the weekly edition sold at sixpence per copy.

Testament to its popularity it outlived several other newspapers in the region and survived the downturn in gold mining.

The history of women in CT is inspiring. They led the way in landmark roles such as state members of parliament, aldermen, mayors, newspaper editors and more. Many of their stories are still untold today.

Hope Charteris (born Elizabeth Anee Brown in December 1888) became a world-famous soprano.

Elizabeth Esther Plant was a timeless campaigner for charitable causes. Long before age pensions were introduced, she established the CT Benevolent Society in 1886, looking after cottages for the elderly.

She also organised a children’s hospital which continued for some years and during World War 1. She was one of the leaders of the Red Cross Society’s war effort.

Jane Black established the local branch of the Country Women’s Association (CWA) and wrote a book in 1932 on the North Qld pioneers. She strongly advanced women’s interest, needs and concerns.

Poppet Heads (Photo) were tall, vertical structures that stood over a vertical mine shaft supporting the winding mechanisms for the hoppers to extract rock, dirt and gold bearing ores on the downward sloping reefs. They dotted the gold fields and close beside them were the prominent mullock heaps of loose dirt and rock extract.

Some mines reached a depth of 1200 feet (365 metres) as they followed the gold bearing quartz reef. Investing in a mine shaft and poppet head cost about 50,000 pounds.

Many of these shafts are now recorded on the Qld State Heritage Register.

Established in 1899 the School of Mines was a highly regarded technical institute teaching geology, mining engineering, metallurgy, mineralogy, mathematics, surveying, assaying and chemistry. It existed before the University of Qld.

From 1874 to 1987 CT was known as a major Qld educational centre with many established schools.

The CT School of Distance Education was established in 1987 and was the first distance education school in Qld teaching students state-wide, nationally and internationally. Their motto is ‘Distance is No Barrier’.

Graduates of the many CT’s educational establishments are finding success across Australia and around the world today. We went across to have a drink with Kaye and Bruce and to say goodbye until we meet again in Darwin in a few weeks’ time. They are returning to finish the packing and to make sure their rented place is nice and clean.