What a great tour we had today of four working opal mines in Andamooka!
Some people camping near us in the Andamooka camping park, arranged for a local miner to show them his and his partner's mines and they were so generous as to include us.
A freebie undertaken for the pleasure of helping others and as a contribution to the tourist activity of Andamooka.
This was no ordinary tourist, mine tour! Our host, Doc, along with Marlene, one of his partners in this rather extensive hobby, took us first to a vertical shaft, 55 feet deep, with several drives at the opal level. Between them they explained the workings of the mine and the plans for it's expansion and the proposed direction of the main drive. They're heading toward where some good finds have been made in the past.
Then we went to three open cuts, all different, which revealed some old shaft workings from the early days of opal mining at Andamooka.
Two of these cuts had the beginnings of tunnels dug into the face of the cut, one of which we entered. It went underground for about 10 metres and bore the marks of the bobcat used for the excavation.
Our final visit was to a good noodling spot. One of our companions found a worthwhile opal, which spurred everyone on, hoping for similar success. By day's end, he'd had it cut and polished and valued at $850.
But it's not up for sale. It will be hung on a chain for his wife to wear, a great memento of their trip to Andamooka opal field.
As we prepared to travel between the first and second mine sites, Doc gave us a sobering warning about open shafts. He said we'd see a cross on the way. It's a memorial to a good mate.
A group of men were quite drunk one night and went in a car up to the opal diggings. There was an argument, Doc's mate got out and the others drove off. Doc's mate walked backward and fell into an open shaft, 60 feet deep.
Any opal stories of your own to tell? Then give us a hoy in the comments box below. Be great to hear from you!
Photography Notes - Inside the Mine Tunnel
The light was of excellent quality but as you would expect, fell off dramatically into the mine.
My camera handles ISO1600 reasonably well so I chose this speed and a large aperture, about f5.6. This gave me down to 1/5 second shutter speed on Aperture Priority, in the back of the tunnel.
Scarcely enough shutter speed, even with such a wide angle lens, used zoomed out to F13. But you'd be surprised what a man who doesn't drink or smoke can do, allowing for a couple of shaky images.
The monopod would have been a great help but I didn't take it, not expecting to actually get inside a mine tunnel.