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The Peaks of Lyell

We spent 3 days filming rock in Tasmania. Queenstown is the fulcrum, the hinge, the core and kernel of 100 years of Tasmanian history. Surrounded by national park, world heritage and impenetrable wilderness, it is a diminishing town; caught briefly between wild riches (what was) and emptied pit (what will be), with the fourth temporal state – what might have been – haunting us, as usual.

Driving anti-clockwise around Tasmania naturally grants 8 hours of landscape breathing, but it’s the repeating stories of the vanishing town and the collapsing industry, and the hole in the ground like an inverted tower of babel, which persist across the world. The story of the Mt Lyell mines is an institutional study of the sort to outrage: such inefficiency, such recklessness of ethics and economics! History books haven’t been written like this since the single narrative was overturned, but what a single narrative it is.

Here is an excerpt, describing the assured belief of ‘what will be’ held by the reckless Tasmanians of the end of the 19th century:
If we winnow the grain from the chaff and the comments of independent engineers from the loud boasts of stockbrokers, it is reasonable to assume that most Tasmanians thought that their west was one of the richest mineral regions in the world. Cautious men thought that Queenstown might hold 40,000 people within a few years; others pictured a great city stretching from Queenstown to Gormanston, down the Linda Valley and across the King River; and the sober man, who pictured Gormanston as a beautiful city with tramcars running down streets lined with skyscrapers, was not howled down…. One journalist, writing in hundreds of British newspapers in November 1897, even claimed that ‘Mount Lyell has been endowed with a golden history without parallel in the annals of the world’.

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2 Comments

  1. ferg wrote:

    Wonderful writing, captures it all.

    Friday, June 27, 2014 at 8:10 pm | Permalink
  2. meg wrote:

    I want to read your book. Write it please!

    Sunday, June 29, 2014 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

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