Tuesday, 26 February 2013

The Savage River Mine, as seen from space

Tom Ellison rightly pointed out that the Savage River Mine is a significant item on the landscape of western Tasmania. Few mines stand out like this one does. First, here's the blank Google Maps view of Tasmania.

Copyright Google 2013 - detail from Google maps - See if you can find the Savage River Mine from space...

Can you see the Savage River Mine? Probably not in this shot without help, but in fact, yes you can. Most of the other blots on the landscape are clouds, but the one shown below is in fact the Savage River mine.

See, you CAN see the Savage River Mine from space, easy!

Here it is in somewhat close-up.

Savage River Mine

I really hope they don't want to do this to the whole Tarkine. This mine is already there, sure. But it's not inconsequential. I don't mind a small mine, especially when they're mining really expensive stuff, like gold, and diamonds, platinum, weird rare-earths that are absolutely necessary to speed up the NBN.... No, these are mainly going to be cheapo strip mines, taking out easy "surface"* iron ore. I suspect they are incompetent fools, who will damage our environment and then nick off, leaving us with their debts, mess and damaged people. Meanwhile we, and many small businesses, will have invested heavily based on the stupid promises of people like Brenton Best and Bry-Bry the Halfwit. Oh yes, and the so-called liberal party.

They claim they just want to carve off small bits. Let's understand, they are mainly mining iron ore. This is a very cheap metal. It is at historically astronomic prices, because China wants a lot of it. The Chinese have been over-estimating their economic activity for reasons related to the structure of their political system. (Yes, it's not quite at Hare-Clark standards.) They have also been recently a little spooked by their inability to breathe underneath the smog produced by their rapidly-expanding industry. When they work all this out and the mines close, we will (as usual):

  • have some more toxic holes in the ground that have to be fenced off so nobody intelligent can see them;
  • have paid someone to take away some more of our resources;
  • be left with unemployed miners; (Actually, most of the employees will have moved here from interstate, and they will just leave and go to work somewhere hotter. If someone from the NW Coast would like to dispute this, please feel free to try to get your local unemployed taken on in any of these mines. Most of them won't go and work there, and this will be proved by the unemployment rate on the NW Coast barely moving even if all these mines get up.)
  • be left with the debts to the government that the now-defunct companies cannot afford;
  • be trying to clean up forests, beaches and creeks that are full of the crap their inadequate anti-pollution arrangements allowed to escape;
  • be able to see their failed mines from space; AND, bizarrely
  • still be trying to attract rich, nature-focused tourists who are increasingly sceptical about our credentials as purveyors of nature and beauty.
*I think they're talking about stripping only 40m of the dirt. ONLY!

Sure, let's make the most of some of our best mineral resources. However, I'm pretty sure the Tarkine isn't in this category. There, we will provide a few jobs for a few years, and be left with a damaged and abandoned wasteland. There MUST be a way to identify some really worthwhile mineral deposits AND to avoid any further damage to the large areas of rainforest and coastline that have become so well known and are starting to attract so much attention from overseas.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The winter of our discount tent?

On the tent platform at Kia Ora, I found this quote on the instruction plate for setting up tents. I have previously mused on this, having first seen it long ago in Wild magazine. I'm probably mishandling someone's copyright here, and if so, I'm happy to remove, but this is a very funny cartoon and I think it's worth having it available. Given the quality of the tents some people carry on the Overland Track, there's some relevance here.

Cartoon by Ian Gunn. From Wild magazine, page 27 of Issue 25, Winter 1987.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

Through the Never Never - 15th January 2013

The next stage of the walk was to get to the Overland Track Hartnett Falls via the Never Never. I hadn't done this before, and in fact while checking the various suggestions online about how to walk it, I came across the view that it wasn't worth doing and just seemed to be on people's "bucket lists". Maybe! However, it still seemed interesting enough, and off I went. I had plenty of advice from various publications and online.

Junction Lake panorama, with the Mountains of Jupiter behind - 15th January 2013

From Junction Lake, the track is easy to follow around the north shore, and on to the steep descent next to Clarke Falls. The sidetrack is short and obvious, and the base of Clarke Falls is probably always cool to chilly, being hidden from the sun for much of the time. It would probably be a great hideaway on a very hot day. The track continues quite obviously from there. I did this in warm dry weather, after a dry spell. I encountered almost nothing that could be described as "scrub" and only a few short sections that resembled "mud". I suspect there are some parts of the route that flood in wet times, and this would be more tricky. There is a GPS track available online that pretty much matches the obvious pad through the entire length of the Never Never, with occasional times when the track is indistinct. Again, when the track is wetter, the route may be less obvious.

McCoy Falls, worth a look - 15th January 2013

There is a good campsite on the south side of the river, on an obvious grassy area with what amounts to a ford next to it in the river at low water. I met a large group heading east who had camped there and loved it. This is about 400m (as the currawong flies) east of McCoy Falls. they said the scrub between there and McCoy Falls, on the southern bank, was yucky, better to go further towards McCoy Falls. There are several crossing points, including one that looks like a "track". I didn't see any really good trees across the river right now for use at high water. As has been pointed out online, don't rely on trees that were reported by others. They get pushed aside or downstream. There is one nasty tree down right across the river at a high level, but it is scrawny and has lots of sticky-out limbs which will be a pig to cross. I think this was reported by one writer online. Another tree that has been identified online as previously usable appears to have moved and now has a good 8-foot gap between it's southern end and the southern bank (at very low water), through which, no doubt, a huge amount of water now flows when the river is in flood. When wet, the whole thing would be a smooth, rounded skating-rink anyway (Frank!)

The Never Never, on a nice day - 15th january 2013

The Mersey River, quite close to its source, in a dry spell - 15th January 2013

I would think most people would have to cross at points where the river is wide and low when it was flowing strongly here. I just paddled across, although predictably the river was slightly deeper than the top of my boots. There seem to be plenty of shallow crossing points in the kilometre above McCoy Falls, and in fact again above Hartnett Falls, but not having seen the river in flood here I couldn't say whether it is always or often fordable with safety.

McCoy Falls with low flow. getting to this point may be tricky
or dangerous at times of high flow - 15th January 2013

I had a good look at McCoy Falls and continued on to Hartnett Falls. Chapman says the scrub persists for most of this distance, but actually the bulk of it is an easily followed pad through myrtle forest, some buttongrass and a very small amount of scrub and occasional mud patches. Don't know what route he took.

I emerged at Hartnett Falls, and while I was trying to turn off my GPS, with which I had tried to record my route, I was accosted by some bozo who wanted to interrogate me about the battery life. Please, can I go back into the Never Never? I actually found it was relatively easy, but then this was summer, after a dry patch, on a lovely warm-but-not-too-hot summer day. People were swimming at Hartnett Falls. It was certainly worth doing. There was an enjoyable feeling of silence and remoteness in the Never Never, but I can see that if you did this on a rainy day at the end of a wet winter, the experience might be wholly different. Perhaps even more exciting, although you'd have to have the right perspective..

The view from the top of Hartnett Falls,
where people were swimming - 15th January 2013

I was advised that there is a good pad down the northern side of the Mersey to Hartnett Falls, and in fact in the myrtle forest above Hartnett Falls this looked to be the case, as seen from the southern bank. People do cross on the rock bar above Hartnett Falls, although I checked it, and it is quite slippery. I suspect it could be death-defying in high water. It is further suggested that you can continue on the north bank below Hartnett Falls, down to below Fergusson Falls, where you can cross the river on the boulder that has fallen into the gorge. It is described as "airy".

Hartnett Falls - 15th January 2013

The top of Hartnett Falls is a nice place for lunch after a sojourn in the Never Never. I took about five hours with some photography, and a couple of satisfied sits to enjoy the scenery. While I was there the ranger arrived. Curses! "You're familiar" he says. I agreed, and told him he had met me in December at Pelion Hut, where he told me off for camping on the group tentsite. He obviously worked out I hadn't been at Kia Ora, so we discussed my day's walk and possible future plans. We had a good chat about the lack of mud in the Never Never at that time. After a quiet think, he informed me that my (possible future) plans were a bit naughty in terms of the strict summer-season Overland Track rules, a fact I had wondered about. Anyway, I agreed that I would consider my movements, and he left me to it. Nuff said. I can't possibly promote my next bit of walking, so you will see me somewhat magically move to Pelion Hut, from where I will climb Paddys Nut! There may be some unexplained photographs taken from the vicinity of Kia Ora hut, at some undefined date in between... I'm wondering what I'll be doing wrong next time I see the ranger. (Greg Rubock, cover your ears.)

Saturday, 16 February 2013

Lake Artemis and the Mountains of Jupiter - 14th January 2013

From Junction Lake the plan was to walk to Lake Artemis, then climb onto the Mountains of Jupiter. These are an "Abel", although they are basically a large plateau with multiple peaks. The highest point is actually less than a kilometre from Lake Artemis.

The Abels, Volume One describes the walk, although its description of where to head away from Lake Artemis wasn't very specific - "From a suitable point on the shores of the lake...". Mabel from Warrnambool, met at Junction Lake, reckoned the best spot was above where the little promontory sticks out into Lake Artemis.

Lake Artemis - 14th January 2013

Lake Artemis is reached by crossing the river (this is the Mersey River, although quite small at this point) behind the hut. Predictably there's a tree fallen down along the steep line the track takes up the slope, but once you've found this it is quite easy to follow to Lake Artemis. The track is quite rough in places, but not too bad. At Lake Artemis you can easily reach the shore where the track heads out onto the aforementioned promontory, and camping would be good here. In addition, I think Mabel was right, the scrub isn't too bad above the promontory, although the lowest slopes are thickest, and you need to pick a lighter spot to head off.

The Abels helpfully says to "push through the scrubby slopes", and indeed they are. The slope is generally steep, but as you get higher some rocky outcrops enable you to avoid spending the entire climb in the scrub, although you also have to find your way around the small cliffs these present. Once on top, you need to work out which is the highest point, but it is indeed the spot height on the 1:25,000 Du Cane map. This has the height as 1326m, although The Abels records it as 1320m. With a small amount of work you can find the highest point.

The views are great, and I've provided photos to show them off. The highlights are the peaks of the southern Overland Track and Lake St Clair area. Of particular interest was the view of Mount Ida and Mount Spurling.

Mount Ida seen from the Mountains of Jupiter beyond Lake Payanna,
Mount Spurling and Lake Riengeena,  a view not usually acquired.

Lakes Eros and Merope, with the Du Cane Range arrayed in the background,
as seen from the Mountains of Jupiter.

Mount Rogoona and Lake Myrtle from the Mountains of Jupiter.

Mount Gould and The Minotaur from the Mountains of Jupiter, with
(I guess) The Guardians behind.

Lake Artemis in the foreground below the Mountains of Jupiter.
Cathedral Mountain to the right, with Mount Ossa and Mount Pelion
West in the background.

And a stitched panorama taking in the views from roughly Southwest (Mount Gould) to Nor-Northwest
(Convent Hill I believe). I've got the photos for a 360-degree one as well when I find the time.

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Lake Myrtle, Mount Rogoona and Junction Lake - 12th and 13th January 2013.

I specifically wanted to be able to walk through the Never-Never and return via the Overland Track without having to use two cars or other forms of transport. This seems to be most easily achieved by commencing a walk up the Lake Myrtle Track and returning via Lees Paddocks, giving a road walk of only 2.5km at one end of the walk.

The Lake Myrtle Track is shown on the Cathedral 1:25,000 mapsheet, and is described in Chapman's Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair book. The carpark is 200m past Juno Creek, 7km from the turnoff for the Walls of Jerusalem. There is parking for maybe 5 or 6 cars, depending on how well it is done.

Mount Rogoona from the north end of Blizzard Plain - 12th January 2013

The track climbs steeply onto the plateau through forest, emerging on button grass covered Blizzard Plain across which the track is followed to Lake Bill, with views to Mount Rogoona. This lake has a little gravel beach, and a short sidetrack takes you down to the shore.

Lake Bill, with gravel beach - 12th January 2013

The Lake Myrtle Track continues around the eastern side of the lake, climbing the hill a way in dry forest, before descending and crossing Jacksons Creek which flows out of Lake Myrtle. A relatively gentle climb near the creek to Lake Myrtle ensues, where good campsites are found on the grassy plain north east of the lake. Mount Rogoona makes an impressive sight from here. I camped here for the night, and went on to Mount Rogoona and Junction Lake the next day. The lake surrounds have been devastated by fire in the past, and the skeletons of pines and eucalypts are very obvious.

Campsite at the northeast end of Lake Myrtle, Mount Rogoona towers above - 12th January 2013

I was taken with the echo of the shape of Mount Rogoona seen in the dolerite boulder here - 12th January 2013

The track climbs to a saddle on the northeast of Mount Rogoona, where the mountain can be climbed as a sidetrip. The point is obvious - it's where the track starts to descend again. I'm not sure how to describe this off-track walk, as there are cairns that can be followed from both ends. They don't meet up, and neither cairned route appears to follow either the paths recommended in guidebooks, nor the easiest line. As a result I had an interesting meander across this plateau. There are also two noticeable descents into valleys on the way. Can I suggest that you read both Chapman and Volume 1 of the Abels, and find your own way there. I was adequately furnished with directions, map, compass and GPS, but I can see the possibility for the directionally-challenged to head down the wrong hills if they were to find themselves on the plateau in cloud. I would suggest you not even bother with this mountain if it's cloudy. One strategy is to put the coordinates for the summit (obtained from the Cathedral 1:25,000 map) into your GPS and use the Go-To feature. What you will find is that the cairn on the actual summit is visible from some distance, eventually giving you something clear to aim for.

Panorama of Lake Myrtle from the summit of Mount Rogoona - 13th January 2013

I got moderate views, and they were actually very useful for me in starting to make sense of the topography of this area I haven't walked in before. There is a great view down onto Lake Myrtle, which I have provided above as a four-shot panorama. The mountain has been burnt in the past, and the little tarn has a display of pine skeletons as a result.

Burnt pines, tarn on Rogoona plateau - 13th January 2013

Returning to the track, there is a short steep descent to Lake Meston and the hut there. This hut is similar to the one at Junction Lake. They are both quite rustic, but provide welcome shelter in poor weather. Neither is very animal-proof.

Beyond the hut, the track undulates a little to pass along the lake and onwards to Junction Lake. The track does become less distinct, and I have to admit I followed a wrong track at some point nearing Junction Lake, necessitating a short off-track excursion to bring myself correctly to the hut.

Here I met three senior lady members of the Warrnambool walking club who had been on an off-track extravaganza, in the rain, across Chinamans Plains, through the Ling Roth Lakes, up onto the Mountains of Jupiter and finally back down to Junction Lake via Lake Artemis. They were slightly crazed, but were off to Chalice Lake the next day to visit the Cathedral Mountain environs. I will be watching their website for their trip report. Meeting them was very useful, as I obtained some intelligence on the following day's walk to Lake Artemis and the Mountains of Jupiter.

Central Plateau Trip - Around the Mountains

I will put up a few separate blog posts to relate a trip I did recently, starting and finishing in the upper Mersey River valley. I won't be necessarily recommending it, as I discovered that a small part of my itinerary wasn't in line with the strict rules about where and when you can walk upon the Overland Track. However, along the way I went to several places I hadn't been before and climbed three new mountains, so all up it was quite worthwhile. Posts are: