Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mount Isa

Wednesday 13 - Saturday 16 June

We have spent the last three days in Mount Isa, giving ourselves a break from constant travel, and taking in the sights. Mount Isa is a city of over 23 000 people and has a lot to offer. The town is dominated by the mine, which is confined to one side of the Barkly Highway, while the residential and business sector is located on the other side.  The first mine began in 1924 and after World War II it boomed, with post-war immigration making it a very multicultural society. Today, its Irish Club is the largest outside Ireland.
Mount Isa and its mine

Our first surprise was the actual positioning of the town – it is situated in the centre of a substantial hilly region. After travelling for some time through essentially flat country it was a shock to see well wooded hills. They are the first substantial hills we have encountered since we left the Flinders Ranges more than two weeks ago. Our second surprise has been the temperature. It has been over 30 degrees each day – quite a shock to our winter acclimatised bodies. It’s cool at night though.

There are quite a few touristy things to do and see here, so we tried to fit in as many as possible. They offer underground mine tours, but they are quite pricey, so we opted not to do one. The Information Centre offers a number of displays including an outback garden, which was a bit neglected, a display of fossils from Riversleigh, a major outback Queensland fossil source, and an exhibition of local history and events. All of the exhibits are well produced and interesting.
Lagoon in the Outback Park
Carnivorous fauna re-creation at Riversleigh. Ancestor of either kangaroos or wombats
Crocodile skull
Compare a modern platypus skull with the fossilised ancestor

The biggest problem came with one of the displays of communication technology from the past. In it there was a radio the same as David’s family had, a phone the same as our family had when I was a child, a box Brownie camera the same as Mum had and a couple of other items. We aren’t ready for our childhood items to be museum pieces yet.

Technology of the fifties and sixties now in a museum!

Two destinations are unique to Mount Isa. An underground hospital was built(??) during World War II after the Japanese bombed Darwin. It was funded by the mine and fitted out with all the paraphernalia a hospital of the day might require in case Mount Isa was bombed. After the war its entrances were sealed and filled in, complete with equipment, and the hospital was forgotten and unknown until an excavation in the 1970s. Since then it has been restored by mine volunteers, and looks today as it would have in wartime.  It was quite a fascinating place to visit, and of course it was cool underground.
The operating table, embedded in the floor
and a birthing table with stirrups

The second unusual building is the Tent House. Although closed and in need of restoration it is quite unusual. Because of a housing shortage tents were supplied for accommodation. They were upgraded to have a solid roof built above the tent, and the bottom half of the wall is corrugated iron lined. They eventually had electricity supplied. The tent house is the only one remaining, but they used to be quite common.

View of the interior of the tent house. The canvas blinds on the exterior are in poor condition

We also took a drive to Lake Moondarra, which supplies Mount Isa’s water. It was completed in 1957 by Mount Isa Mines who provided much of the initial infrastructure for the town. It is very large, and is a popular spot for recreation, especially in the summer. A park nearby also had a flock of peacocks, about 20 of them, which kept us amused for a while.

A small section of Lake Moondarra

A pelican patrolling the lake 
Another view of the lake
Immature male peacocks strutting about
An "Up Yours" moment

By the time we leave we will have had four nights at Argylla Caravan Park, but now we are definitely ready for some more bush exposure again.   
So farewell from Kenneth, the Mount Isa mascot.
The irreverent Kenneth

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