Tuesday, 25 July 1995

AUC 1995 - Dot MIne Tour

My cough, sniffle and occasional low grade temperature had reached the point where action had to be taken to investigate my sinuses. Our hosts at the caravan park were able to direct me to a private practitioner and within the hour I was at the chemists waiting for a antibiotic to cure infected sinuses. Sue was justly proud of her diagnosis! The net affect of lack of sleep and a blocked head was enough to knock me out for a large part of the day and we all took it easy - although the children might not agree with that statement, given they spent about four hours doing school work.

Chris was a revelation. He had his head down the whole time as he worked through and completed his Science work and then the start of his unit on Japanese. Sarah and Samuel spent most of the morning wasting their time through writing sessions which were less than satisfactory. The reward Chris achieved, come lunch time, bought howls on anguish from the younger two students and a smile of satisfaction at a job well done, from Chris.

Chris and I spent long sessions on the guitar during the afternoon, although the standard of the play from Dad was well short of that set by Son. However, we received the plaudits of the female owner of the caravan park and nods of approval from all the passers by.

Ego enhanced, I left for the car wash area - a stony rectangle with an attached hose. For the use of the
water, I was charged 50 cents ! The car had been unclean since the first mud splattered it in the driveway as we left home, so it was high time the combination of dirt and mud from two states and one territory be cleaned away and the original surface revealed.

This done, we had Kangaroo mince hamburgers and walked to the waiting point for the mine tour we were undertaking for the evening. The tour to the Dot Mine, owned and worked by Col Bremmer, was a night time tour which was to include a cuppa and yarn under the stars. It came as highly recommended by the caravan park proprietors. We were told, that if we were lucky, we might be there on a night when he makes his famous fruit cake.

A short bus trip north to the Warego turnoff and then wes tfor a few km and we bumped and rattled across the entry road. As we approached the mine, a string of lights snaked up a short, sharp hill, away from a camp structure consisting of galvanised tin and tubular steel pipes.

Col's Camp - as he described it - was a shade roof, table and chairs and an open fireplace where billies were already beginning to heat the water for the promised cuppa. Our host met us as we alighted from the bus - "Hi, I 'm Colin." - and bade us to sit around the fire. He then gave us a short history of the development of gold mining in the Tennant Creek area. The gold here, was the last major find of gold in Australia and happened well after the gold rush days of the 19th century, in the early 1930's. The other major difference of the gold in this area, was it was found in association with
ironstone, whereas all previous gold in Australia had been found with quartz.

This particular mine had been operated by a German chap called Werner and he dug shafts and mined
gold here from 1932 to 1935. At the completion of his time here, he took up other mining interests, but always with the intention of returning. As he was set to return in the late 30's, he was interned for the duration of the Second World War and his death in the middle 1940's prevented his return. Werner had lived here with his family - wife and children - and had worked with at least one other man to dig the horizontal shaft which chased the lead into the hill and the eventual, vertical shaft which sought to further his fortune. Ultimately, he mined only $600 worth of gold from the mine, which would have hardly covered his expenses.

The current owner - our host Col - had taken up the lease "some time back" but gave away any hope of great financial gain from the mine when the leads he was following turned out to be false. He failed to mention the mine produces - by my estimate of the people he said pass through it - six times the amount of money each week, poor old Werner had reaped from it in three years! He had struck the motherload, indeed! It only goes to show, you don't have to swing a pick to be a
successful miner; it just depends on the richness of the ore you can access and in the Northern Territory, the tourist dollar is the richest vein imaginable.

After donning hard hats and being further equipped with $2 hand-held torches, we went in groups of eight - for safety reasons - through the Dot Mine. It consisted of small shaft which went ten metres, horizontally, into the side of the hill, to a thirty metre vertical shaft. The top of this shaft has a raised platform over it and ventilation shafts lead off in one direction and another horizontal shaft follows a lead in another direction for ten metres. The vertical shaft cannot be accessed: that is, unless you fall through the rather exposed holes which are on either side of a short ladder which descends a metre to to the second horizontal shaft!

In this second horizontal shaft, a bat was nesting against afar wall. The adults in the party were
suspicious of the ultra still bat. He could have been tired from his day asleep in the cave ...in fact, he could have been stuffed!

That was our mine tour. Ten minutes and twenty metres through tunnels which were about three quarter normal height and we were back out among the stars at the top of the hill. The tunnels are lit by twelve volt lights which are fed by a battery at the top and bottom of the hill and charged during the day from solar energy.

Down the hill at the camp fire, billy tea was being served by Col's offsider. This was a brew in which
spoons would have been free standing, but I had it straight and black ...just to prove what a man I was. I was still picking tannin off my teeth the next morning !

Before Col's return, we were assisted in our developing knowledge base of the local area by the erstwhile assistant - "ask him anything," said Col ... as long as we asked questions which would fit into his set patter. Col arrived back from the last of the groups he was taking through for the evening and sat himself down among his audience. He all but ignored any questions which were put, retold us the history of gold mining in Tennant Creek - presumably in case we had missed it the first time - and then told us three excellent poems by Will Ogilvie.

Ogilvie was a bush poet who wrote poems in the second half of the last century. They were evocative
descriptive pieces about men and women and their lives on the land.

There was no doubt this was the best part of the evening.

Exactly at 8:30 pm, he stood, thanked us for visiting him in his camp and being interested in his mine and bid us farewell. As a visitor, I felt inclined to ask why I had to pay for the privilege, but I would have embarrassed the crew.

This cloud had only drizzle ... no silver lining.

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