Friday, 17 May 2019

Mount Isa to Richmond

After Mount Isa we backtracked to Cloncurry, which we had just driven straight through earlier.  This time we would have a bit of a look around.


Cloncurry is a much older town than Mount Isa, being established in the 1860s.


The Post Office Hotel looks rather substantial and replaces an earlier building that burnt down in 1932.


The old council chambers are overshadowed by a shiny new gallery, library and civic centre to the left of the picture.


The CWA building looks nice and tidy.  It was used as a hostel for expectant mothers in its early days.  What a wonderful service that must have been for women from outlying areas.


There are two museums in town.  The first is John Flynn Place which is all about the history of the Royal Flying Doctor Service, Inland Mission and, to a certain extent, the School of the Air.


The Reverend John Flynn established the RFDS, wanting to create a "Mantle of Safety" for those who lived in the remote parts of Australia.  The RFDS was established in Cloncurry in 1927.


There was information about the early planes and how they could reach the patients.


The Dodge Ute is the same as the one that John Flynn drove around the outback.  They had to be well prepared and a bush mechanic to boot.


This is what the early medical kits issued to stations looked like.


It helped if you could explain to the doctor where it hurt.  They still use this diagram now.


Traeger invented the pedal radio, which was an incredible breakthrough in outback communications.  He travelled around installing these and their aerials for many years.


There is also an art gallery named in honour of Fred McKay.  He was also a pastor for the Inland Mission.  I remember hearing him talking to Macca on Australia All Over in the 1990s.


There were a few quilts.  This one by Helen Godden.


This signature table cloth was made in 1913.


This one to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Cloncurry in 2017.


And this one for the centenary of federation in 2001.


The second museum is more general.


They have Robert O'Hara Burke's water bottle.


This is a tree marked by Burke and Wills that used to be just outside the site of Cloncurry.


They had a well laid out display of sewing bits and bobs.




The railway ambulance was used from the late 1940s to the late 1960s,


This contraption was used to roll corrugated iron.


As we travelled east from Cloncurry we noticed many creek crossings had evidence of flood debris from the incredible flooding in February.


Some was very high in the trees.  There were also some cattle carcasses in the paddocks.  There were a huge number of stock drowned in the exceptional floods.


We had lunch at the free camp at Julia Creek.  This town was one of the worst affected by the February floods. We noticed that Blaze Aid were still signing up volunteers to assist with repairing fences and other works still required in the aftermath of the floods.


Despite the recent floods the pasture in this area is browning off.


The railway runs beside the road and there has been a lot of remedial work carried out.  Very necessary, as much of the product from the Mount Isa Mine is railed to Townsville.

The weather was quite warm and of course, our air con in the ute decided it doesn't want to work.  A little disappointing in a vehicle just over a year old.  We'll get it sorted when we get home.  Meanwhile we will go the old fashioned way with the windows wound down.  At least we don't have sticky vinyl seats.


Our destination for the night was Richmond to stay for a couple of nights.

Mount Isa

Mount Isa was as far north west that we were going this trip.  We had reached our destination.


We settled into our caravan park on the edge of town where we had a nice rural outlook.  The evening light.


And the sunrise.

As we knew nothing very much at all about the town we booked ourselves onto a two hour City Highlights bus tour. It was a fantastic introduction to the area.


Of course, the first traffic lights we had seen since Parkes were red.


Our little bus took us all over town, telling us the history and pointing out various features.  I have next to no photos of Mount Isa as there was too much reflection in the windows.

We did notice that there are next to no old buildings in the town.  That is because there was nothing here until the 1920s.  In 1923 a fellow was prospecting for gold when he found a rock which he thought looked like lead ore.  He took it Cloncurry, the main town at the time, and had it tested.  Yes, it was lead.  He staked a claim, as did about a hundred others.  No one was making a great fortune from their claims, so they joined forces with some Cloncurry businesmen and Mouth Isa Mines was formed.

The initial housing was mainly in tents, then tent houses (more on them later) and then in the 1950s and 60s prefab metal houses, many of which are still used.  Over time, all the old houses have gone, and the mine demolished many close to the mine to create a green buffer zone.

The population these days is about 22,000.

So, to the mine.


It is huge.  They mine and process mainly copper and lead, and to a lesser extent silver and zinc.  About 2,000 people are employed.  The concrete lead smelter chimney is 270 metres tall!


The sulphur from the red and white copper chimney is captured and turned into suphuric acid.

They are very conscious of emissions and have air quality control measuring points throughout the city.  If the wind starts to blow the smoke towards town the smelter has to go into a shut down mode.

After our tour we went to find some lunch.  It was really hard to find a nice little local coffee shop.  We could chose from Maccas, KFC, Hungry Jack, Dominos, Pizza Hut, Zambrero or Coffee Club.  Finally we found a nice healthy local one, where we had a tasty lunch.

Mount Isa is definitely the commercial centre of the north west of the state.  Not only are there lots of fast food outlets, there are the first Coles and Woolies we have seen since Parkes.  There was also Best and Less, Rockmans, Supercheap Auto, Harvey Norman, BFC and Bunnings.  I didn't see a Spotlight. Every second building seems to be some government department or other.

We were pleased that the weather had started to warm up again, getting into the high 20s.  More like we had expected.


After lunch we visited the Underground Hospital Museum.  The main building was relocated from the old hospital.  A matron started collecting obsolete equipment which is now housed in this building.


The main attraction, though, is the underground hospital.  In 1942, after Darwin was bombed by the Japanese, the people of Mount Isa were a little concerned, as they weren't all that far away, and the mine could be a significant target.  It was decided that an emergency hospital could be created by tunneling into the hill behind the hospital.


This was carried out by voluntary labour from the miners in their free time.  The mine donated the timbers etc for shoring it up.


It was built in the shape of a capital E, with three entry points, a section for storage, a general ward, children's ward and makeshift operating theatre.  There was an emergency exit ventilation shaft as well.

There aren't  a great deal of records in relation to the hospital, as it was not driven by the government or the military, rather the local community.


They held several practice drills, but fortunately, it was never required to be used.  

After the war, it was sealed up and pretty much forgotten about until the late 1990s when it was restored and opened to the public.


On the same site there is the last surviving Tent House.  These were built by the mining company.  They had either timber or earthen floors, the walls and roof were canvas over a light timber frame.  The canvas walls could be opened as windows. Over the top of structure, but completely separate, was built another light timber frame with a corrugated iron roof, which helped cool the house.  They were a long narrow building.  Over time, they often had either timber or ripple iron added around the bottom of the wall to help control dust.

This house consisted of three rooms across the front and has ripple iron around the bottom.  There has been a lean to addition to the back comprising a long kitchen and a bathroom, which in turn has a separate toilet added to that.


This house was lived in until the mid 1970s, and was known to be well cared for with a nice garden.  Many of the inclusions today came from the home.







I loved this embroidery.


They even provide a pattern sheet for the crochet rug on this bed.  Very thoughtful.

By then we were about museumed out, so headed to the town lookout.


These sign posts are always a bit of fun.


The mine certainly dominates the town.


Each August Mount Isa hosts the largest rodeo in the southern hemisphere in these grounds.


Along the side of the carpark there is a series of murals.


Very appropriate.


A bit of fun.


In the evening we went back up to the lookout, as we had heard it is good to see at night.


Yep, definitely worth visiting in the evening.

We enjoyed having a look around this interesting town and will now start heading east for the next leg of the journey.