Strahan is certainly a pretty place:
However, the room was a disappointment and we were not sorry to leave it.
Only a short journey to Cradle Mountain, but we stopped at a place called Zeehan to visit the West Coast Heritage Centre. Zeehan, like so many of the towns in this area, got its prosperity from mining originally, and there have been boom and bust cycles for the last hundred or so years. This was a bust period and the town is scruffy, rundown and rather depressing.
As a result, I was expecting little from the Heritage Centre. I could not have been more wrong – it was mind-bogglingly good. The most extraordinary collection of ore samples and crystalline deposits I have seen anywhere, together with a truly comprehensive record of the vast amount of mining of heavy metals that has occurred in these parts. Copper, tin, lead, silver, cadmium, manganese, iron, a bit of gold, and even such exotics as osmium and iridium. One mine at one stage produced nearly 50% of all of Australia\’s tin, for example. As a graduate chemist, I found all this absolutely fascinating. Jean was more interested in the crystalline patterns and shapes that were much in evidence.
One such mineral is crocoite, found only in a very few places, but is relatively abundant in Tasmania. For interest, it is lead chromate, and is a beautiful colour. Plus, it is the mineral ore symbol for Tasmania.
Historical records and photographs abounded. There was, for example, a rather harrowing video about a fire in the Mount Lyell mine in 1912, in which 42 miners died, but 50 were rescued after 5 days of incarceration. The rescue effort defied belief in terms of its logistical difficulty.
There were many other displays, particularly of old mining artefacts, but one which really took the eye was the Gaiety Theatre. This was built in the late 19th century when Zeehan was at its height, seating 1,000 people. It is still perfectly preserved and is on its original site. A real delight, and still hosts the odd public performance.
The amount of detail and sheer information presentation was overwhelming. We spent over 2 hours here, happily pottering around.
Time came to leave, and we continued on our way to the Cradle Mountain Hotel. The road was reasonably straightforward, and went through some very nice scenery, but maybe not quite as spectacular as I was expecting. Trees – lots and lots and lots of trees.
However, the hotel looks to be a belter. After 4 nights of gloomy and shabby rooms, it was a real lift to the spirits to have a great one for a change:
Very nice meal in the hotel restaurant, so things are looking up. We\’ve even found the guest laundry! These things are important, you know…..
Hopefully a relaxed day tomorrow in a very nice venue, with some walks and wildlife in prospect. Cradle Mountain is one of the icons of Tasmania, and we hope to find out more tomorrow.
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