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Jun 29, 2008

Hi all – its time to clear my brain of all the stuff that has been piling up since my last blogalong, so another marathon effort is due.

Previously I was putting out a weekly news bulletin on whaling and other oceanic conservation issues, but the bulletin that gave me concise links to the news I had noted has ceased.

The news, however hasn’t ceased.

If you would like to catch up, have a look at the ‘daily news’ threads in the Whale Call Café -  http://www.care2.com/c2c/groups/disc.html?gpp=7516&pst=887543

#14 is the most recent, but #10,11,12 and 13 daily news threads, found in the archives, have around 100 news items each.

Further Wadalba reports have also been released, # 28 and 29, covering the 2020 summits and more are available here –

http://www.whalecall.org/index.php?page=improving.htm


Today I am at Beechworth in Northern Victoria.

It has been a 1700 kilometer drive from Wadalba via Lightning Ridge to Beechworth through the center of New South Wales, following the inland river systems to the Murray river

Water at lightning ridge comes from the great artesian basin, is extracted with bores, and is hot and mineral.



The free to use hot bore baths at the ridge are a must for a visit.

Healing properties of this water are renowned, but the Great Artesian Basin is now testing positive for phytoestrogens and antibiotics, on top of the agricultural chemicals that have leached into the underground basin.



The quirkyness of lightning ridge, the home of Black Opal, can be seen in this pic of the local bottleshop

Mining for opal here started in the early 1900’s –



This is the first legal mine at the ridge, commenced in 1908.

On the drive south from the ridge, at Forbes, I came across the sheep yards in full usage for an auction – as this area is a sheep/wheat growing region, I expected a few sheep, but not the 25,000 that came in for this auction.



As you can imagine, the result from industries of this type is water pollution, so I stopped, took a few pics, looked for signs of obvious animal cruelty, then drove south to the other side of town, only to find a swamp full of dead old growth trees.


It looked healthy at casual glance with bird populations using the tree hollows and branches for nesting, black swans and ducks on the water, with numerous smaller bird species utilizing the reeds at the edges –


but the initial appearance is deceiving. Excessive nutrients have made the edges and calmer areas of the lagoon poisonous with thick layers of blue green algae – enough for council to post warning signs not to use or go in the water.

Gumtree Swamp is its name. A man made swamp initially constructed for town water use, killing old growth trees, and creating a watery wasteland.

Driving south again, over the Murray river, and to Beechworth, looking for the next spot of clean potable water. I found some on the ground – it hadn’t had the chance to hit the dirt to absorb the toxic residues of gold mining –



A gumleaf, high in essential oils, allows water to float in droplets on the tough skin of the leaf –

 

Beechworth is a heritage town, with a rich history of gold mining. Chinese, Welsh and others made an impact that still stands and can be seen in the town.

It also has the claim to fame of being the town where Ned Kelly, notorious Australian Bushranger was put to trial and sentenced to hanging for his ‘crimes’

 

This granite mountainous area  provided much gold for the emerging colony, and much of it was hard rock tunnel mining.

Alluvial gold was present, and still is present in the Beechworth Gorge and Woolshed Creek.

The pic below is Woolshed creek – already polluted water from livestock coliforms, and high levels of arsenic and other associated minerals.



The holes in this creek regularly produce pannable gold.



The lengths gone to, in order to preserve a historic feel in the town, extend to the local garage – this is the town’s flat bed tilt tray tow truck.



In a museum in town, I found this horse drawn hearse, built in Beechworth in the 1800s. Seeing this really made my day –

In the 1950s, my dad had a radio repair and manufacturing shop in Rutherglen, about 30 miles away from here. When possible, I went with dad to the shop, which he visited weekly – I was an inquisitive kid, so it was no surprise I was to be found on many occasions playing in the yard at the rear of the shop. This yard was owned by the local garage/service station, and had a big open shed straddling the rear boundary. In this shed was a variety of cars, trucks, and a horse drawn hearse. The hearse was covered in chicken droppings, and hen nesting spots, but beneath the dirt I saw a magnificent piece of craftsmanship.

Over the years I often thought of this vehicle, and wondered what had happened to it.

In the mid 1980s, I revisited the spot to look for it – there were houses there, and the shed was gone.

Today, I found it again – in the 1990s, the national heritage org put out a call for carriages and knowledge about them, in order to create a museum – carriages and horse drawn vehicles came out of the woodwork in droves, and someone donated the hearse to the collection.

It is now back where it came from.

Then I was due for another surprise.

The museum was in the premises of a hundred year old soft drink and brewing factory, M.B. – Murray Breweries.



When I was a kid, I drank their softdrinks and cordials, knowing it was from Beechworth, but not much more.

Well the company is still in production, and all the water they use comes from a spring, and has done since the factory was started. A 20 foot well had been dug through the hard rock, lined with bricks that look Chinese in manufacture, and this well is still in operation.

The water in this well comes from Mt Hotham, underground through the Snowy Mountains, and emerges pure and free from pollutants.

Fresh clean water, and still the same as when it was found.

And I was drinking it 60 years ago.

Ok, that’s enough for now – while I was at Beechworth, I went on a ghost tour at Mayday Hills Asylum, now a Latrobe university campus – amazing – a report and pics in the next blogalong –






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Posted: Sunday June 29, 2008, 1:21 am
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Boris Branwhite
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All, ALL, Australia
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