Legends from our own lunchtimes

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Prelude to the tunnel

While yesterday I made mention of being at the top of our climb, I perhaps deliberately left out the bit about the tunnel.   In order to continue our travels in the same direction, before we can go down we must go through the bit of mountain that remains.   There is a tunnel to assist us in this process and it's one with a bit of history.

It is of course old enough to have been hand dug, to have been opened when ships were without mechanical power and instead relied on gangs of men lying on their backs and "walking" along the tunnel roof and sides.  Hundreds of tons would be moved through the three kilometre darkness in this manner in a trip that took up to six hours.    

About the time in the Antipodes that Eyre was stumbling around a great red rock and pretty much before "Queensland" even existed, someone invented steam engines and someone else got the idea of putting one in a tug, and towing the ships through the tiny tunnel to speed up the process a bit.  I'm not sure if that is the point in time when carbon monoxide was actually discovered, but whether that was the case or not, on the tug's inauspicious maiden voyage or at some time later (I'm not sure), at least one crew member succumbed to smoke inhalation.   Perhaps not a disaster of Titanic proportions, but not a promising outcome none the less.

Fifteen years or so later, acting swiftly to avoid further fatalities, the tug was replaced by an electric one, which went on tugging ships through the tunnel for another hundred years or so, before being retired in the latter part of the twentieth century, to be displayed for posterity  in it's very own tunnel-like shelter, deliciously constructed of cardboard tubes and bizarrely designed by eminent Japanese architect Monsieur Shigeru Ban.

Now with no more than a few pleasure boats a day passing through, the tunnel is deemed safe for us to traverse under our own "steam".  

Perhaps our Mr P will provide any following boat with an experience a little akin to the smoke-filled tunnel of a century ago.

Well it's Saturday, what better day to ponder the details of one's surroundings? 

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