Friday, 18 August 1995

Tennant Creek Gold Stamp Battery

Tennant Creek
Larimah, Daly Waters, Dunmarra, Elliot, Renner Springs (Stuart Highway) 575 kms

In order to maximise our time at Alice Springs and Uluru, Sue and I had revised the itinerary so we would have two long driving days from Mataranka, until reaching Alice Springs. This also meant we avoided some of the dodgy places where at which we may have had to stay if we continued with the original plan and only travelled between three andfour hundred kilometres in the day.

Given we had seen everything we wanted to see from Tennant Creek north, on our way to the Top End, this seemed a reasonable change of plan. It would also put us in Alice Springs for a Sunday ride on the Old Ghan Railway. Therefore, we faced up to the 575 kilometres which stretched before us to Tennant Creek with a stiff upper lip and the resolve to do as much as we could prior to lunch, therefore making the afternoon an easier task. This we did, with an early start (7:50 am) and excellent driving conditions, allowing lunch to be taken south of Renner Springs.

Conditions were hot and our roadside stop had no shade and we allfelt the heat and dry, driving wind. It was a perfect example of the value of air conditioning in the modern motor car. This was something Sue and I reflected on in our post lunch drive into Tennant, inspired by radio reports of the WWII vets who had reenacted their transport driving feats offfty years ago, by driving in a convoy from Alice Springs to Darwin.

The drive was completed at 3:30 pm, and we had the dome up in twenty minutes and were headed back into town for house keeping chores.

Our change of plans gave us the opportunity of visiting the 5:00 pm show at the Government Gold Stamp Battery. We had missed this on our northward visit to TC, owing to Sarah being ill. The facility is located on a hill to the western edge of TC and was established in 1935, when the government saw a need to service the small miners of the district, supplying a means by which they could crush and process their ore. The ten stamp battery - the number referring to the number of stamping heads which crush the ore - was the third such government battery established. The current building had been established when the original one had literally shaken itself apart from the constant thumping of the stampers.

Our tour guide, Jill, had a keen sense of humour and enlivened what could have been a dry tour, with many witty stories of events tied to the battery and the gold rush in general. She had an excellent technical knowledge of the installation - so much so, I didn't have to correct her once - and we were impressed with the manner in which the 90 minutes of the tour was organised. We saw all stages of the process, from the dumping of the ore, through crushing, secondary milling and smelting to form the gold bar. She had one annoying habit of finishing every anecdote with a heavily accentuate "very ...." but in the end, the kids were anticipating each it and Sarah, in particular, thought it hilarious.

Tennant Creek
A small, but informative museum completed the official part of the tour, but I used the vantage point on the hill to record a great sunset over TC, with banks of cloud adding to the orange and reds of the hills. $16 well spent!

Back to the camp and dinner in the camper's kitchen, with a few funny yarns and relaxed, family fun for all members of the crew.

Our evening was disturbed by three drops of rain which sent the adults scurrying for the tent fly at 12:30 am and Sam's tossing and turning in restless, fitful sleep.

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