Tuesday, September 22, 2009

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills

Or at least there was in the 1850’s and ‘60s.
Last weekend on our way back from the Yarra Reservoir, we stopped off to have a short walk. Just a short way from the road is a tight bend in the river that swings around a spur of rock.

At least the river used to go around. In the 1860s a group of miners got together and blasted this tunnel through what was known as “The Little Peninsula” to divert the river. This is the outfall.
As you can see with the river low (partly due to the drought and largely because of the reservoir upstream) it easily fits through the tunnel. Even before the building of the dam upstream I suspect the river would have easily rushed through here.

From the 1850s to the 1860’s there were a series of gold rushes in the then fledgling Colony of Victoria. These had a profound impact on Australia and Victoria. The Australian population tripled in a decade while that of Victoria grew by seven fold.
Badly managed growth, revolutionary ideas brought by those fleeing the 1848 European revolts and a colonial government bent on extracting as much as it could lead to discontent. From this discontent stemmed the most significant armed uprising in Australian History: The 1854 Eureka Rebellion.
At a meeting on Bakery Hill at Ballarat the miners raised the Southern Cross Flag and an oath of allegiance was sworn: "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly by each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties."The miners then built the Eureka Stockade to defend the road from Melbourne.

The rebellion was quickly crushed by the Police and the Army, an action that caused 42 casualties. The public outcry at the inept handling of the affair led to the adoption of virtually all of the miner’s demands over the next few months.

Interestingly, the Southern Cross flag that flew over the stockade is taken as a symbol of liberty by most sectors of the Australian community today. While the Southern Cross still features on Australia’s flag.
Anyway I am straying from my point, which was the “Little Peninsula Tunnel”. During the gold rushes a number of discoveries were made in the Yarra Valley near Warburton and Hoddles Creek. Much of the gold found in the area was alluvial, so here the miners hit on diverting the Yarra from this bend so they could explore its bed for gold.

How much gold they found here is unknown.
This piccie shows the upstream inlet crossed by a bridge that leads to a nearby picnic area. The tunnel is about 30 metres long and from here with the river so low you can see through to the other end.So there it is, the light at the other end of the tunnel!


Lisa said...

Thanks for the Australian history lesson! I know ridiculously little about the history of your country. So if you could just throw in a little history lesson in every post, that would be wonderful.

Brian, the old man said...

I agree with Lisa, I appreciate the history lesson of Australia. I know very little of the history there and I do enjoy reading about it. This is an excellent article on the subject. Thanks!

Al said...

Hi Lisa and Brian,
thanks for the comments and you are both welcome.
Al the history professor huh?
I wonder what Uncle Harry would think?

I think all countries are inclined to teach their own history at the expense of international history. On one level that can be a good thing, you should have an understanding of of your own country.
But history in schools can get parochial, for example Australian school curriculum focusses too narrowly these days. My youngest did units on Aboriginal history every year in school, not until she studied ancient history did she even look at history outside Oz (in Year 11 the second last year of senior high school).

Wendy R said...

Dear Al

I too enjoyed learning a bit of your history. I love these intricate tales that somehow nail an aspect of national character. As I was reading this I could see the bones of a novel. Or even better, a film. And I loved the metaphorical opportunities of your image of the 'light at the end of the tunnel',
As for the problems of the history curriculum - don't get me started. Same here: incoherent; reflecting teachers' own degree or post graduate studies; seen as content and narrative (easier to teach...) than a method, an approach to evidence that can apply to the study of any period of history - thus liberating the kids from the teacher's perspectives. There, you did get me started...
By the way (or should it be a propos?) I got hold ot the Pausanius book you recommended on travels in ancient Greece. Ejoying it. It will be useful for this present novel. Even if it isn't I am still enjoying it.
Thanks for this nice post

Wendy R said...

PS TRied to put the Splash award on my blog but couldn't dislodge the image...wx

Al said...

Dear Wendy,
there was a 1949 movie starring Chips Rafferty. A but jingoistic and outdated today. There is certainly still plenty to mine for fiction.
Curriculum is a very sore point for me as well, there is a lot of rhetoric about teaching children the skills to be "life long learners", but it is with most schools and many teachers simply rhetoric.
I am pleased Pausanius is working out for you.