Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

History Revisited - rumblings create new volcano stories

"Perhaps the most mysterious thing .... is that the explosions and shakings all appear to proceed from,,,,"

This is another one of those mysterious New England stories. Some, like the Emmaville black panther that sent thrills up our spines when we were kids, are highly unlikely. Others I just don’t know. This is one such story.

Georges Mount lies to the east of Bundarra in the Basin Nature Reserve.

On Saturday 19 January 1907, a Uralla Times headline read “Are our Volcanoes Extinct?”, a headline intended to send delicious shivers up its readers’ spines.

“It is popularly supposed”, the paper began, “that, whereas in the dim, hoary past, Australia was the centre of a vast volcanic activity, all have long since become perfectly extinct.” Not so, says the paper: ”the best regulated theories are apt at times to be set astray, especially those theories appertaining to natural phenomena; so that, after all , we must not be too cock-sure as to the utter absence of volcanoes”

The paper goes on. ”On the contrary there is a stretch of wild precipitous country on the western edge of the high Guyra Tableland which ever and anon gives indisputable evidence that something is wrong with the works below -- something which tends to the theory that the ancient Guyra - Bundarra Volcanic System formerly one of the most active in Australia , is not entirely dead.”

So much of our tourism material is just so boring. The Uralla Times was under no such strictures. It had a readership to thrill.

“The neighbouring country from whence the subterranean explosions periodically proceed,” the paper explains “is known as the Basin. This “is a wild gorge through which flow from the high lands beyond large Creeks George’s and Laura. In places these creeks are separated only by a narrow wall of rock , so that one can stand on the “razorback” and throw stones into either stream. Limestone caves and dark crevices in the rocks abound in the locality , some of them evidently having been utilised for years as a marsupial cemetery , judging by the big accumulation of bones.”

Look at the language. Do you want to visit?

Perhaps the most mysterious thing, the paper reports, is that the explosions and shakings all appear to proceed from a hill at the head of the basin, what we call George’s Mount.

Are these stories true? I don’t know. But like all good stories, there is an Aboriginal legend to go with it.

According to the Bundarra web site, a big old blackfella, the head of a powerful mob, started to fight with a huge kangaroo. Neither could conquer, so they rested and then started again.

The rumbling is the angry voice of the blackfella and the thumping and shaking of the surrounding countryside is caused by the kangaroo beating his massive tail on the ground.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 26 June 2013. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because the columns are not on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013


Michael said...

The idea that a dormant volcano may one day erupt always fascinates. There are boffins who will happily attest to the possibility. Makes a good yarn from time to time.

Jim Belshaw said...

Too true, Michael. Like Mount Gambier. Nice to hear from you.