Day 122 – Friday, 23 September 2022

I didn’t sleep very well last night, and the bite is actually a stye, or more precisely, a chalazion (where the infection site is on the underneath of the upper eyelid).

We headed out on the other side of the Mingenew (pronounced Min-en-ew) on the Midlands Road to see the area between Three Springs and Morowa.

We stopped off at Yandanooka to inspect the stargazing site, which was interesting, but there were no wildflowers, just very large quantities of Cape Weed and Patterson’s Curse. I don’t believe I have ever seen such a large infestation of these two weeds.

Yandanooka is an Aboriginal name first given to a nearby water source. Its meaning is fairly flexible and can be ‘water in the hills’ or ‘plenty of hilly country in sight’, which is true in both cases.

The variations suggest that the original inhabitants of this area recognised its appeal – as did the early European settlers who quickly

saw the potential of the rich red soil of the river flats and appreciated the aesthetic beauty of the surrounding hills.

Thomas Whitfield was the first European to settle here, arriving in 1854 to take up a large pastoral lease and build a seven roomed homestead for his family, which is still in use today. (No, it is not open to the public unfortunately.)

Later in the 19th Century the area became known for several small copper and lead mines, both east and west of the rail lines. Agricultural settlement began in earnest during and after World War 1, when the district was one of many to host a ‘soldier settlement scheme’. The first returned servicemen arrived in 1919, and in all, about fifty farms were settled in this way during the following three years.

Sadly, some farms were too small to be viable, and many of the former soldiers were carrying either physical or mental scars – sometimes both -and life was tough for them and their families. Despite this, the soldier-settlers who came to Yandanooka are acknowledged to have made a great contribution to the community.

A caring and close-knit community developed with the focal points being the hall and the school.

The hall was initially a project of the local Returned Soldiers League (RSL) and was opened in 1923. It served as the community’s first school room for many years, and also as the local church. It remains the heart of this small community today, even if Yandanooka has now faded as a township.

After that we went onto the gravel back roads, which I can truthfully say are often smoother rides than the bitumen roads.

We stopped at Three Springs for a look-see, and they have lovely murals on the walls of the buildings near the Public facilities.

For millennia before the arrival of European settlers the area was part of the country of the Amanya people, who lived intimately connected with the natural world around them.

Lieutenant George Grey and his party passed through the area in 1839, and seven years later the Gregory brothers explored the area on a Government sponsored trip seeking new stock runs.

During 1867, while surveyor C C Hunt was undertaking a road survey he arrived at this spot and on his plans, at the place where the town is today, he recorded the words ‘The Three Springs’ because of the presence of three springs nearby.

The name began to appear on official maps from then on. In 1872 John Forrest surveyed a water reserve of the same name about one kilometre east of the town centre, yet strangely, when the surrounds were thrown open for agricultural selection in 1906 it was under the name ‘Kadathanni Agricultural Area’.

Soon after that the first families took up residence on their chosen farms and by 1910 the town was well on the way to being established with school, post office and railway station.

In 1908 the town was officially gazetted as Kadathinni, and it did not officially become Three Springs until 1946, although most of the locals had always called it that!

We had lunch by the roadside just out of town where I found several new flowers to photograph and following lunch, we headed northeast to see the Talc Mine, an amazing and unexpected sight.

WA’s first talc mine is located 1o kilometres east of Three Springs on the road to Perejori. Talc is also known as soapstone, and it was discovered here in the 1940s by a farmer who was drilling for a well.

The mine is now the largest in the southern hemisphere, and the second largest in the world, with an annual production that exceeds 240,000 tonnes.

Mining began in 1948, underground at first before switching to open-cut in 1960.

In underground work a machine called an ‘air leg driller’ bored holes for explosives and the shattered blocks of talc were then loaded onto box-like wagons and – mostly – winched to the surface on narrow-gauge rails. If the winches were out of commission the boxes were pushed by a team of miners to where it could be lifted out.

Drillers spent most of the day underground about forty metres, and many of the workers at that time were recent migrants from Britain or Europe.

Since the first mining the pit has grown and grown yet again. It has also moved as areas are mined out and back filled.

As of 2016 the current pit was over 1,400 metres long, nearly 500 metres wide and 75 metres deep. It is estimated that at the present rate of mining the ore body will last another forty years.

The talc rock is a soft white-to-green rock with a greasy feel, and aside from its well-known use for baby powder and other cosmetics, it is also found in items as wildly varied as animal feed, automobiles, chewing gum, fertilisers, paint, paper, plastics, tyres and ceramics.

Olive tree growers use it in processing the olive oil while orchards and vineyards use talc-based products to prevent sunburn and reduce heat stress.

At least 15,000 years ago cave dwellers were using talc in paintings and the Chinese were using it in glazed pottery by 600AD. The car you drive contains about 8 kilograms of talc related product in it.

Soapstone, whose technical Latin name is Steatite, is commonly found in regions throughout the world. It is very soft rock and can be used for carving. The statue of Christ in Rio de Janeiro is carved from Soapstone.

It is also a good thermal insulator and, when used in construction, it is suitable for both interior and exterior applications.

Because it is resistant to heat, scratches, stains and bacteria, and because of its beauty, durability and ease of care it is often usedas a countertop material.

It is a metamorphic rock composed primarily of the mineral talc, with varying amounts of chlorite and other minerals. It was formed possibly millions of years ago and most often, is formed at convergent plate boundaries where broad areas of the Earth’s crust are subjected to heat and directed pressure and combined with the infusion of mineral-rich water and other liquids.

While we were at the mine we saw some very pretty butterflies, definitely not know to us. However, they earned the name of flutterbys because they sat still on any service long enough to focus for a photo.

From the talc mine we took several different back roads heading towards Morowa, a town in the Mid-West region of WA, located on the railway line between Wongan Hills and Mullewa.

The name Morawa is an Indigenous Australian name; it probably derives from the Morowar, the local dialect’s word for the dalgite (rabbit-eared bandicoot or bilby). The name was first used on maps of the area in 1910, in reference to a rock hole.

When the railway was being planned in 1913, it was decided to locate a siding at the location, and the name Morawa was chosen for it. The Lands Department then decided to establish a townsite there, and Morawa was gazetted in September 1913.

In 1921 the Railways Department decided that Morawa was too similar to Mullewa and requested a name change. In response, the town’s name was changed to Merkanooka in January 1922. However, the Railway Department did not rename the siding, and in June the town’s name reverted to Morawa at the request of the townspeople.

In 1932 the Wheat Pool of Western Australia announced that the town would have two grain elevators, each fitted with an engine, installed at the railway siding.

It is primarily a farming town, and the area supports a range of farming activities including wheat, sheep, cattle and sandalwood. The town is a receival site for Cooperative Bulk Handling.

The biodiversity of rangeland around Morawa has been reduced by land clearing, changed fire regimes, feral pests and weeds but pastoralism still remains an important characteristic of the region.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (formerly CALM) has undertaken a biodiversity survey of the area encompassing Morawa. Sporadic ranges of hills are separated by large areas of land, and many have evolved their own unique endemic species and biological communities. Some of these are associated only with the Banded Ironstone Formation rocks that are targeted for iron ore mining.

Due to renewed international demand for iron ore, and dramatic increases in prices being paid, the iron ore deposits around Morawa have attracted interest from junior mining companies. Midwest Corp has

spent several million dollars on infrastructure including roadworks to, and weighbridge facilities at, Koolanooka Mine.

5.1 million tonnes of haematite iron ore were taken from the Koolanooka Hills mine between 1966 and 1974.

Up to May 2006 it has been trucking out haematite fines (<6 millimetres particle size) left over as waste from the 1966–74 Western Mining iron ore operation. When the export to China of these several million tonnes is complete, Midwest Corp plans to exploit further haematite discoveries on their leases (pending environmental assessment and approval).

Substantial quantities of magnetite ore are also understood to exist on their holdings. Mount Gibson Mining also holds mining tenements at Koolanooka South, with reserves of magnetite ore.

The Karara Mining joint venture between Gindalbie Metals and Chinese steel producer, Ansteel, has substantial holdings 85 kilometres east of Morawa. The low-grade magnetite iron ore is processed on site to produce a high-grade concentrate for use in steel making.

Magnetite concentrate from the mine is hauled to Geraldton on a narrow-gauge spur off the Mullewa to Northam rail line. The tracks from Karara to the junction at Tilley siding, 3.5 km north of Mullewa, were laid with dual gauge sleepers.

There are two schools in Morawa, the K–12 co-educational Morawa District High School, and the WA College of Agriculture – Morawa, an agricultural co-educational college with boarding facilities, for students in Years 10 to 12.

Former Western Australian Premier, Carmen Lawrence, attended the Morawa Convent School.

While we were at Morawa I went into the IGA and grabbed some yoghurt for Russ. The store is a much larger one than the IGA at Mingenew.

Along the back roads before we made it to Morawa, we encountered several patches of wreath flowers on the roadside verges.

After the township we headed back towards the caravan and called it a day. The sun was shining, a gentle breeze was blowing, and the fresh air was wonderful.

We had fish and chips for tea. Carol from the Caravan Park does the cooking on Friday night.

Russ did some investigation of our photos and has found we have taken 49,849 photos. We have placed 1.509 of the very best aside for Mum to see, and these have been uploaded to the website. All in all, we have averaged 405 photos a day between the two of us. We have been busy.