Sunday, July 28, 2019

Day 2 — Fri 16/8/2019

A very chilly morning greeted me as I left the hotel early and headed for the local McDonalds to get a quick breakfast.  Then it was off west and south some 60km to Whyalla.  Once the jagged Flinders Ranges are left behind, all the hills / mountains assume a standard appearance.  They are table-top flat  of varying sizes.  All the way to Woomera the same type of elevated land to be seen.  The explanation I was given is that areas of very tough sediment formed on the sea bed millions of years ago when the great inland sea covered all this area.  Once the sea receded, water and wind erosion got to work on the landscape, but these “tough” layers protected the softer material under them and so they survived as hills and mountains with a completely flat top.  Today modern technology intrudes and natures art work.  Atop many of them will be found wind farms or tall electricity transmission towers, spoiling the natural environment.

A town of some 20,000 persons, Whyalla hugs the western shore of Spencers Gulf.  In the past it was a major shipbuilding centre, although no relics of that past can be found now.  It is also known as “Steel City” because of its major industry steelmaking.  That has recently been a troubled story too.  BHP were set to close the industry down when a UK based billionaire purchased the ailing business.  Sanjeev Gupta (Indian by birth) is resurrecting the city and the plant giving hope for a solid future.  The steel works occupies a strip of several km along the shoreline.  Each step of the steel-making process has its own major set of buildings / plant, all linked by roads and rail.  The process is totally self-contained.  Coal from NSW is processed into coke, using oxygen manufactured on site as well as water recycled.  Iron pellets from Iron Knob together with scrap metal are super-heated with coke to form molten steel.  This is then shaped, rolled and cut into various product.  Iron ore is also exported from here.  The big bulk carriers have to anchor several km out to sea because of the shallow gulf waters.  Barges are loaded at the plant jetty and transfer the loads to the big vessels.

I enjoyed a 90 minute mini-bus tour of the steel works.  The guide was an excellent educator.  Unfortunately we were not allowed to exit the bust at any stage, so I missed seeing some aspects of the operation I would have liked to see.  Back at the Tourist Information Cent re I then lined up for a guided tour of HMAS Whyalla which is enshrined there.  It was the first ship built in 1941 by the new BHP shipyards for the WWII war effort, and one of 4 minesweepers built there.  After the war it was decommissioned and worked around Port Phillip bay as a maintenance vessel.  When time. Came for it to be scrapped, the Whyalla locals put up $5000 to buy it .. then had to find another $150,000 to move it and mount it back where it was built.  They are presently doing a lot of maintenance work on it.  W e were able to climb all over it, and again had an excellent guide to give commentary and answer questions.  There is a fine maritime museum also on the property.

A prominent hill overlooks the city and the foreshore, named by Matthew Flinders as the Hummock when he visited here on his voyage around Australia.  I spent a little while there taking some photos and enjoying the vista.  A bite of lunch in the Main Street.  Like so many towns of this size, every second our third shop in the Main Street was empty.  The town does have some excellent parks and sports facilities.  Happily the massive industry the city relies on doesn’t seem to cause any problems with smog or other pollution.

After lunch I retraced my way back to Port Augusta, then turned north on the Stuart Highway towards Alice Springs.  Not so far today, with Woomera my target 200 km away.  Stopped at a delightful rest area for a break about the halfway mark, called Range View.  It was located on a ridge, and one had a spectacular view of the many ranges to east, south and west.  The highways here are in excellent condition, speed 110 kph mostly. Just set the cruise control and let the Pajero eat up the km.

Reached Woomera at 4 pm, and was happy to have a short nap.  Dinner in the hotel restaurant tonight.  Will explore the local scene in the morning and head to Coober Pedy in the afternoon.

Today’s photos can be seen Here

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