Roger Riordan: Trip to Kings Canyon 1960

We didn't really feel the trip was underway until we left Port Augusta, although by then we add been travelling for several days. The Woomera Rocket Range was still operating, and we had to follow the Transcontinental Railway past Lake Hart, where we paused to examine an abandoned saltworks, to Kingoonya, where we finally turned north. From then on the country was pretty bleak. There had been some years of droughts, and there was very little green vegetation, although we occasionally passed patches of flowers, where there had been a thunderstorm recently.

The next interesting stop was at Coober Pedy, where almost the only building was the store/garage, and almost everyone else lived underground in old mines. There was not much activity in Coober Pedy,but there were a number of active mines at 3 Mile Field. The girls found a spot where a miner had camped, and collected lots of chips of opal which he had discarded while he was cleaning up his specimens. When an American girl visited us years later she proudly came home from a shopping expedition with an expensive brooch which was very little bigger than some of the chips we had collected from the rubbish!

We watched one mine operating. There were one or perhaps two miners down below, and another on the surface with a petrol driven winch which was used to haul the spoil (and probably the miners) up in an old 44 gallon drum. When he brought up a bucket he would trundle it over to the edge of the spoil heap, and then tip it over the edge. A very primitive canvas windsock supposedly provided the miners with fresh air.

Roadside stop


Coober Pedy

Opal mine

Cattle Station

Lake Hart

Lake Hart

Opal mine


Round the fire

 © Roger Riordan 2004-2019