Days 34 – 37, 12-15/6/2016 Charters Towers, weather unsettled
There is so much to do in this town, so much to see and many colourful waves of history to absorb.
Situated a little over 100 kilometres inland from Townsville this was cattle country until 1871 when a 12 year old Aboriginal boy named Jupiter Mosman found a nugget of gold when retrieving his prospecting party’s horses after a lightning strike. The unusual name is an amalgamation of the name of the then Gold Commissioner W.Charters and Towers Hill at the foot of which the nugget was found.
Ten gold reefs were to be mined extracting 200 tonnes of gold in the 45 years of mining operations. In its heyday Charters Towers was the second largest city in Queensland with 30,000 residents and they could not imagine that the gold would ever run out. They called this place ‘The World’, because of its self-sufficiency and anything in the world could be obtained here. They built the grandest buildings possible and even had a stock exchange. Share trades took place here every day at 4pm to the delight of all and results were telegraphed to London and Brisbane. Through their diligence they extracted the equivalent of $12 billion worth of gold from the bowels of the earth.
But this town has had more than gold in its colourful history. When World War Two broke out the children from the boarding schools were sent to Townsville on the coast. An airbase was established and 15,000 American airmen moved into the school lodgings. Nowadays the schools are back in business and the town is a bustling rural hub for the cattle industry and tourism is attracted for the history and architecture.
In our time here we do a self drive tour of the district, we take a walking tour of the town and we accompany our new caravan mates ‘The Sugars’ on a tour of the World War Two American (or as our guide Bill calls them Yank) air base relics. In the scrub behind the airport runway there’s a Compass Swing. What appears to be a large pad of concrete is a circle marked in the degrees of a compass. This was used to reset the compasses of the Liberator bombers when they arrived from the US. Not far away we find targets that were used for recalibrating guns. We have lunch in a pub whose specialty is a parmie called the Clive Palmergiana. I go down on my knees in the museum trying to learn more about deep shaft quartz mining. The Sugars give us a sound walloping at a game of Klop in the park. I go inside The Venus Gold Battery and learn how gold was extracted from the quartz. We visit the Burdekin Weir. Erica our town walking tour guide put me onto an historian who found the location of my uncle’s house.
The caravan park puts on a camp oven pizza and beer tasting night followed by an exhibition by World Champion whip cracker Nathan Griggs. The next night it was bangers and mash and more whip cracking in between bucketing showers of rain.
What a stay. Our new mates The Sugars were very hospitable. We’ve learnt how to move a two storey weatherboard pub from one street to another without dismantling it, how a compass was reset on a Liberator bomber after it had flown across the Pacific, but we didn’t learn who put the rubber snake on the police station roof. What a town!
Towing Kms: 0
2021 Note: Is it any wonder that I get a little excited by mining. My Great grandfather, his two brothers and a cousin left the coal mines of Wales for a new life in Australia. He mined for gold in the Victorian goldfields, his cousin ran the Bealiba gold battery, one brother threw himself down a mine at of all places Happy Valley and Uncle Rees came north to Charters Towers where no doubt his mining experience was invaluable. He became a mine manager of one of the most successful mines in Charters Towers the Day Dawn Block and Wyndham. He died unexpectedly in 1891 after taking ill whilst on a steamer returning up the coast from a trip ‘to the south’.
The Clive Palmergiana? Clive Palmer is a somewhat colourful Qld businessman, mining magnate and sometimes politician.