mercredi 25 avril 2012

The goldfields - Kalgoorlie Boulder

Back on the road again! This time heading north into the golden outback to discover the goldfields and its mines.

The landscape changed drastically. Red dry land with afew euycalyptus here and there. We drove for miles along long straight roads, that never seemed to end, only crossing a road train here or there (enourmous trucks that can mesure up to 54m long).
Massive road train!

The ajoing towns of Kalgoorlie and Boulder were at the heart of an incredible Gold Rush in the late 19th century, which has left a wonderful repository of gloriously extravagant architecture, which sits cheek by jowl with the scale and innovation of 21st century miningfter Paddy Hannan stuck gold here in 1893 in WA’s vast Outback, one area soon became known as the ‘Golden Mile’, the richest square mile of gold-bearing earth in the world, and the entire state was transformed.

Streets paved with … gold?
In Kalgoorlie’s early days, its streets were paved with a blackish spoil from the mining process called ‘tellurides’. When someone realized tellurides contain up to 40% gold and 10% silver, those streets were ripped up in a big hurry. The city fathers had paved the streets with gold and didn’t know it!

The O’Connor Legacy
Charles Yelverton (C.Y) O’Connor is one of WA’s heroes. He was appointed Engineer-in-Chief for WA in 1891, a position he held until his death in 1902. His first significant success was the creation of Fremantle Harbour at the mouth of the Swan River. This was against all current advice, including that of England’s top marine engineers, who recommended the building of an offshore jetty. O’Connor knew this would be subject to damaging storms, and instead took the option of blasting the rock bar at the river mouth, opening up what had remained WA’s main port for over 100 years.
The project for which he is justly most famous is the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Gold had been discovered in the 1890’s in the arid hinterland of WA around Kalgoorlie, where the lack of water was a major problem – whisky was said to be cheaper than fresh water. C.Y. devised a daring and challenging scheme to build a reservoir neat the coast and then pipe the water some 560km inland. It would be one of the world’s greatest engineering schemes of the era, and required new techniques for the construction and laying of the pipes, as well as the building of eight pumping stations in mostly remote, uninhabited locations.
The sceme, and C.Y., were subjected to massive criticism and doubt, which finally wore him down: he committed suicide a year before water finally flowed into Kalgoorlie. The Goldfields Pipeline has celebrated its centenary and has been expanded so that it now feeds some 8000km of pipe throughout the interior.

Today, the city of Kalgoorlie-Boulder (pop. 32000) has lost none of its zing, nickel mining is important here, and gold still holds great appeal.
We spent the day wandering around the town. The city had retained most of it’s original gold-fueled architectural extravagances, such as towers and turrets, and wrought-iron lace verandas and balconies. 
It’s like stumbling onto a Western movie set: the broad streets are large enough to turn a camel train, and countless bars (some with skimpy dressed barmaids) enjoy a roaring trade as they did in the 1890’s, serving young miners with often more money than sens. 
We did go to have a drink in one of these saloons, but as it was early afternoon we saw no skimpies!

In the evening we went to visit the Superpit.
Just outside Kalgoorlie, where dozens of head frames and chimneys were once starkly silhouettes against the skyline earlier in the 20th century, there is now an enourmous terraced hole: the Super Pit. Australia’s biggest open-cut gold mine, it is unbelievably massive: 3.5km long, 1.5km wide and 360m deep. The empire state building would almost disappear inside it! 
It makes giant dump trucks (which carry 225 tons of ore apiece) look like ants!

For the night we drove 15km to sleep at a free campiste next to Lake Douglas. Very peaceful and calm (exept for someones caravan’s generator).
Having fun with flash lights!

Le Carnet de Voyage
(cliquez sur les images pour agrandir)

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