By Tony Forsyth
If you ever get your hands on any of Queenslands Geological Survey publications that date back to the turn of the century and beyond, many make for very interesting reading. If you look at any of the present day equivalents, they dont have the same appeal. Todays publications mostly resemble a scientific text book, full of (to the layman) unintelligible tables, borelogs and text. They are written for an audience of mostly highly educated professionals in the big mining arena.
80-100 years ago things were quite different. The audience then also included battlers, gougers, tributers, prospectors and would-be diggers. Many of them were uneducated, using their brawn to swing a pick and pay their way. They humped their swags from rush to rush, chased rich surface lodes, or tramped overland in search of a quick pound or two. They needed their guide books written in a language that they could easily understand. The guides were also a tool of the Government, used to open up new territory to prospectors. If they could entice enough fossickers out into the bush, they may just have struck another Gympie or Charters Towers to enrich the state coffers.
The authors of these publications also in many cases tackled more than just the geology of the areas concerned. Some were explorers, geographers, anthropologists and mineralogists all wrapped into one. Their commentary comes out as a personal record of their observations and as a help to a fellow traveller and fossicker. It is hard to imagine the lot of the authors (and fossickers) of last century. They did not have the luxury of four-wheel drives, refrigeration and bitumen roads when they went out prospecting. On foot or horse-back, over dry inhospitable perhaps unknown country, with few maps, carrying all their provisions, their prospecting trips could last for months on end.
With this in mind here are a couple of excerpts from reports written last century. The first is by Robert L. Jack, Government Geologist for Queensland in 1895 who is credited with discovering the Great Artesian Basin (and with it our huge inland water supply).
This, on what is now is a major highway route only 100 years later!
Sydney Skertchly, the Queensland Assistant Government Geologist in 1897, wrote a report titled "On the Geology of the Country round Stanthorpe and Warwick, South Queensland". Again the writers style is of a diary, full of anecdotes, and his impressions of the surrounding countryside. On explaining why one portion of his notes are quite light on, he remarks:
But these times did have their compensations - like being the first collectors to tread a gully. Skertchly continues with commentary about Spring Creek and its tributaries -
Later, he has a few home truths to say about topaz :
Little has changed in the past 100 years! The Department of Minerals and Energy has a reference library open to the public on the 5th Floor of 61 Mary Street, Brisbane, where these and many other publications can be viewed.