FRIDAY 11 MAY ARKAROOLA
We seemed to have adopted a pattern of one walking day, one driving day. Today was another driving one, but John needed to refuel Truck first at the Resort’s garage – $1.50cpl.
We headed west from Arkaroola, with the two vehicles.
First stop was not far, only about 5kms out, at the Bolla Bollana ruins. There had, briefly, been a copper smelter here, in the late 1870’s.
The most obvious remaining feature was a conical structure which was probably a kiln for making fire bricks for the smelter structures. It remained fairly intact. There were, in fact, lots of old bricks scattered about the ruins.
A straight channel in the ground may have been some kind of underground flue, connecting the smelting furnace with the chimney that would have been there. We presumed it had collapsed in on itself.
Bolla Bollana was in a valley – at the moment with a dry creek bed. There was a waterhole nearby. This presence of water, which was scarce near the actual copper mines further north, plus nearby timber, explained why the smelter location was here, rather than at the Daly and Yudnamutana mines.
Copper was mined throughout these parts, in the latter part of the 1800’s. It never ceases to amaze me that such deposits were even ever discovered in such remote and inhospitable parts, let alone mined. Mining companies were formed, came and went – often with little return and considerable loss to those who were shareholders. Places like Yudnamutana were such a huge investment, in terms of human effort and suffering, for – often – so little return.
We wandered around the smelter site for a while. Apart from the kiln and channel, there were a few piles of stones/bricks about. This was not all due to the ravages of time: parts of the structures were demolished to be used elsewhere.
The original intent was to smelt the copper from a number of small mines in the surrounding ranges – the Freeling Heights. However, the smelter was not particularly successful, only managing to process a small quantity, and it was superseded by a new one built at Yudnamutana, after a process was developed that was not as reliant on timber (for charcoal) and water. Then the whole lot were superseded by the shutting of the mines!
The structures that remain are interesting. There would have been a small settlement, too, of workers and families, maybe some sort of store.
I found the scattered mallee type trees here, really interesting, with their upper coloured branches.
Next stop, another 12 or so kms further on, was at Wheal Turner – again, the remnants of a copper mining operation, this time on a hillside. There was an ore crushing plant here too. There were foundations of buildings evident.
Then it was on again, seemingly further into the wilds, to the extensive ruins at Yudnamutana, at the edge of the Freeling Heights.
The drive in here was a really pretty one, the track winding through valleys, often fairly open ones, but then passing through narrow gaps where creeks had cut through ridges. Were we so inclined, and had there been the motivation of no vehicle access, this would be a great track to walk.
The remnants of what was a fairly intensive and spread out mining operation are spread out over several clusters here. But the main focus was the former settlement at Yudnamutana, centred around at least four old mines and a smelter.
A few kms further around there had been a number more mines, making the Yudnamutana smelter an obvious choice. The task of carting ore to Bolla Bollana – in the days of horse and cart, would have been really onerous.
At Yudnamutana were parts of buildings, old mine boilers, and a most interesting, forlorn cemetery, where there had been some restoration work done.
The most intact head stone there was for a James Greenwood, who died in 1903, after he broke his leg whilst down a mine shaft. He could not get out of the shaft unassisted, and so died down there. His body was found some ten days later. Another marker was that of a woman shot by her husband.
We spent several hours wandering about here, and had lunch too.
The Yudnamutana copper field was mined from the 1860’s, but was rather stop-start, due to frought and water shortages, mining companies running out of money, and the general difficulty of the remote area. In 1910, a smelter was built here, but some sources indicate that it was never actually fired up. Mining ceased in 1912.
We noticed signs of fresh pegging in places around Yudnamutana . Looking for uranium?
On the way back to camp, detoured a short way to visit NooldooNooldoona Waterhole. Try saying that three times!
This waterhole was one of several that were, essentially, deeper places in the creek beds, that held water long after the creeks had dried up. As such, they are vital to the wild life of the area.
There was very little water in this one. It would be worth a return visit after decent rains, whenever that might be.
Yellow footed rock wallabies hang out in the rocky surrounds. I was surprised how fat the ones we’d seen in the area to date, were.
Another campfire night. The skies were clearer than they had been for the past couple of nights – we could see a lot of stars. It was not as cold, either, surprisingly, given the clearer skies.
September 5, 2020 at 10:47 pm
An insight into the importance of copper deposits to the SA economy in times gone by.