Working in the Tanami
Bush work in the Tanami Desert
I once worked as a field assistant in the Killi Killi hills B, not too far from Giles weather station run by a young couple those years. We were doing exploration work in the Tanami for Mt Isa Mines. Two Geologists, a driller and offsider, a cook and one field assistant.
I had just landed in Perth a couple of months previously and had run out of money in Alice Springs. I went to the Employment Offices next day, had an interview in a Motel that evening and was on a Land Rover going north-east very early the next morning, with no field assistant or Outback experience.
I was travelling with the two Geologists who came to town for fresh supplies and to employ an extra body in the team.
We took the road to Marble Bar and veered off on a new track made by this team to a camp between some outcrops in the Killi Killi hills.
Our camp toilet was a 44 gallon drum with the bottom cut out, placed over a hole in the ground with a half hessian cover on the south side for a bit of privacy towards the camp. We called the toilet Cape Kennedy because we kept forgetting how soon that tin heats up in the sun in the mornings. Funny how high you can jump when you go sit on hot tin just after breakfast.
I remember seeing smoke on the eastern horizon one morning and everyone in the camp was getting edgy. I never experienced Australian fires, and could not understand that a few clumps of spinifex on the sand and some small trees could threaten us.
We cleared all flammable stuff around the camp for a very wide firebreak. We dug a hole for ourselves away from the vehicles, moved the water trailer near the hole ready to wet the hessian we were going to place over ourselves, and placed our 44 gallon drums of water as a barrier towards the fire. We waited another couple of days until the fire got to us and it passed us without too much heat or smoke or drama.
It was while the fire came past that someone remembered the detonators we left in a shallow cave next to the camp. I was slightly disappointed it didn't go off, being the one with the least experience of explosives...
We drilled and also blasted small shafts in the bedrock, taking the rubble out with a home-made winch and bucket. I remember sitting behind a 44 gal drum with rocks falling all around us. Now I realise how stupid we were to be that close to the blasting.
Dingoes would come and sit at the edge of our camp in the evenings. If we went into the tent and came out with a gun they would quietly disappear. Put the gun away they would re-appear.
We sometimes drove many, many kilometers from our bush camp to go have some fresh tucker cooked by the lady the Giles guy convinced to leave France and live in the outback.
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