The Ghost Town – Mary Kathleen

It is interesting that a ghost town can take on a life of its own even though there is nothing there. Mary Kathleen in the Cloncurry Mineral fields, in my opinion, is one of these. Grey Nomads have made it a camping area. The owner of the land allows this as long as there are no open fires lit. The old town site now only consists of concrete slabs and roadways. Apart from the nomads that camp it is home to a herd of cattle.image


Mary Kathleen is located in the Cloncurry Mineral Fields about 56km due east of Mount ISA on the Barkly/Flinders Highway. The turn off is on the left is partly sealed and slowly deteriorating. Even though the buildings of the township no longer stand, the roadways and concrete slabs of once existing buildings still remain. It was once a thriving community of 1000 people in what was considered a very tranquil picturesque area.

The discovery of ore was the result of some three months of intensive prospecting by a syndicate of eight ,headed by Messrs Clem Walton and Norm McConachy in 1954. It was by chance that the syndicate discovered the ore body. By pushing a theory that uranium was present uncertain rock formations close to Cloncurry several Of their expeditions led them to the Mary Kathleen area. During one of these expeditions at ruck broke down in a dry creek bed and while waiting for it to be repaired one of the syndicate members switched on his Geiger counter, which immediately gave higher than normal background readings.

In July 1954, two days after the discovery ,the leases were pegged out and the deposit named Mary Kathleen  in memory of Mr McConachy’s wife who had died a short time before the discovery.

In late 1983 the contract for uranium oxide was filled and it was decided to close the mine and disband the township due to the oversupply of uranium on the world market. Operations ceased in 1984 and the township auctioned off.


A Worthwhile Way to Spend Some Time

On Christmas day 2014 a fire that had previously been contained flared up at Creightons Creek about 10 kilometres from the town of Euroa

Location of Creightons Creek, Victoria
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As chance would have it, we were looking for somewhere to stay for a few weeks before pet sitting for our daughter and our annual sojourn to Bright. I had been looking at the BlazeAid web pages and noted that a camp was about to open at Longwood, not too far from the recent fires at Ruffy and Creightons Creek. We immediately contracted the Camp Coordinator and made the necessary arrangements.

BlazeAid was born out of the 2009 Black Saturday fires when there was a need to quickly rebuild fences. Kilmore East farmers, Kevin and Rhonda Butler, were among those whose fences were burnt. Needing to quickly secure their 1,500 sheep, they sought assistance from family, friends and local volunteers to help rebuild their fences.Within a week, the fences were completed – a task that would have taken them months to do on their own. Grateful for the assistance they received, Rhonda and Kevin decided to try to help a few others with their fencing.

Thus, BlazeAid was born.

We had worked with BlazeAid up in Queensland last year. We spent a month on Cannington Station. This was different, we would be at a central camp with other volunteers. Being just after Christmas, we were the first volunteers at Longwood, several others arrived in the days following. The first team went out to clear fences on a property at Creightons Creek on 30 December. The temperatures in those early days were in the high 30Cs, but all in all over the next week we took out the burnt boundary fences and one of the internal fences. The terrain was described as undulating. There was certainly variety.

The reward for doing this was priceless. The property owners could not thank us enough. The hugs as we departed were emotional. I am really a softy and tears rolled down my face unashamedly. It felt good to have helped.


Linda and Maurie Rolling up a fence

Linda and Maurie Rolling up a fence


It’s not flat around here , is it?



The team enjoying country hospitality




Persons at Work


Dinosaurs and Hughenden

Friday 27th July

Continuing to follow the Kennedy Developmental Road for another 120km we entered the town of Hughenden.


As you enter the town you come across Mutt, a replica of a Muttaburrsaurus, as the brochure says “Dinosaurs are alive and well in Hughenden”. The visitor information center has a lot of information about prehistoric finds in the area including a bird-footed dinosaur, a Hughenden sauropod and a flying creature named an Anhanguera. There are even sculptures of dinosaurs on the wall and roofs of various buildings around town.



We were particularity impressed with this one that is named “junkosaurus.” The  story is that a local artist scoured the local tip for bits and pieces as well as embedding fossils in to the border of the work. The work is displayed on the outside wall of the library.


Not wanting to travel any further we registered to stay at the car park of the local Showgrounds alongside the Flinders River. This river is the longest in Queensland, but this is hard to believe at this time of the year .

Next to this camping site is a Coolabah tree which was blazed by explorers Frederick Walker and William Landsborough on their search for Burke and Wills. The tree is undergoing treatment in an effort to sustain its existence. If treatment is successful some of the bark can be removed to reveal the original blaze marks. There are bollards near the tree that contain a replica of the original blaze marks.

The next morning we drove the 70km to Porcupine Gorge National Park. This park is often called Australia’s “Little Grand Canyon”. I really do not see any resemblance other than both have been carved out over millions of years by water. From the campground there is a 1.2km walk down to the bottom of the gorge.


Once you are at the bottom of the gorge you cannot help but marvel at the power of nature.



At the widest section of the gorge stands the Pyramid, a monolith of multicoloured sandstone rising above the floor of the gorge. and shaped as the name suggests.



We camped overnight at the gorge before returning to Hughenden for a few days.


North West Adventure – Part II

As you drive into Queenstown town centre, the major focal point is the railway station.  This station is part of a tourist investment to recreate the train line between Queenstown and Strahan. The original railway was built in 1861 to transport copper to the port of Strahan. The West Coast Wilderness Railway runs twice daily. The route goes through the King River valley and climbs to Dubbil Barril on a 1:16 rack and pinion track system. The return trip is by bus.  We watched the train leave before driving the 40km or so to Strahan.

The conversation between the engine driver and the motor cyclist went along the lines of:

MC:”When I grow up I want to be an engine driver, but my wife says there is no chance.”

Driver: “of growing up or being an engine driver”

MC: “she says growing up”

My immediate thought: We never grow up, our toys just get more elaborate or expensive.





We continued the drive arriving in Strahan a little after midday. A visit to the harbour found us booked on an afternoon 5 hour cruise with World Heritage Cruises. This was not expected, but as we subsequently found out there was demand from a bus tour operator.

The boat that would take us around Macquarie Harbour was a catamaran, Eagle.

Our boat for a 5 hour cruise. If we get blown out of the entrance, the next stop is South America.

Interestingly, Macquarie Harbour is more than twice the size of Sydney Harbour. It is only accessible via a small entrance (75 metres wide) named by convicts as Hells Gates.


Hells Gates - Entrance to the Harbour and to the dreaded convict settlement on Sarah Island

Bass and Flinders passed it by, thinking it was the mouth of a river. James Kelly found his way into the Harbour in 1815 and noted the rich stands of Huon Pine.  For 12 years between 1822-33 it was a dreaded convict penal settlement celebrated in the Marcus Clarke book For the Term of his Natural Life.

There were two things that stood out on the Harbour:

The tannin colour in the wake of Eagle

T The first thing was the colour of the water. This was a brown colour rather than the normal blue. This colouring is caused by tannin leaching out of the peat substrate upon which certain vegetation communities (such as buttongrass, tea-tree scrub and rainforest) grow.





The other is the number of fish farms.  These farms stared in 1990 with 40 ton . The now produce in excess of 15000 tons per annum. The major fish harvested are Atlantic Salmon and Brown Trout.

Next stop was Sarah Island. Nearly all traces of settlement have disappeared from the island, however The Round Earth Company conduct walking tours around the island telling stories of events on the island. Our storyteller, Janelle, certainly made the stories real as well as entertaining.

Sarah IsIand was named by James Kelly in 1815 after Sarah Birch, wife of the doctor who financed the expedition.

Sarah Island could be compared to Devil’s Island. It was set up as one of the first places in the British Penal System to use ‘behaviour modification’ techniques to root out moral depravity of the criminal classes. Hard labour, cruel and vicious punishment and the deprivation of all contorts in a harsh and fearful landscape made Sarah Island a please to be dreaded. For 12 years this penal settlement served as a warning to anyone attempting to buck the system.

Leaving the Island the boat headed for a quiet cruise up the Gordon to Heritage Landing, an elevate boardwalk through the forest. On the cruise up river, we enjoyed a buffet dinner. The walk through the forest was similar to the walk at Geeveston. The Huon Pines here were in excess of 400 years old. There was on fallen tree, still growing that had been aged at 2000 years old.  We were certainly gobsmacked.

Nearly 700 years old.

Huon Pine was logged in and around Macquarie Harbour during the convict period and from 1860 until 1964 when cutting of the timber was prohibited. The captain of Eagle showed a DVD on the trip back to Srtahan The Oldest Living Tasmanian: Huon Pine, if you get a chance to watch it, we can thoroughly recommend it. The history of these timber cutters known as Piners is  incredible.

And so our day ended with walk back to our van. Just before the weather turned. The wind sprung up and during the night the rain cam bucketing down. This was to continue well into the day as we proceeded up the coast to our next stop.