YORKE PENINSULA—Where Beauty Cloaks Industry

Sat 24 Jun 1939, The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954)

YORKE PENINSULA is generous to the tourist, offering beauty and knowledge to the casual traveller who cores to leave the beaten track. In this vast area you may learn about your State in a pleasant manner, for here industry and beauty walk side by side —industry lending beauty a fulle meaning, beauty cloaking industry in unusual guise.

In settled areas and cropping up in unexpected places, you will find nourishing enterprises in their heyday of production, side by side with ghosts of industries long dead.

Primary production, of course, forms the backbone of the peninsula's economic structure. The good earth has yielded, and is still yielding, rich profits. Woolly blankets of the future gambol with the lambs; woollen wealth Is apparent on all sides—in the rich green paddocks, ! beside the road, at the shipping centres.

The prosperous influence of good wheat crops is visible down the peninsula's entire length. At busy port and lonely centre khaki-colored stacks await the coming of the ketches to carry the grain to the markets. Wheat production weaves an ever-growing pattern across the whole scene. New acres are cleared, new tractors make the day noisy, new trucks hurry with their loads to the ports. This is a phase we know too well; we are apt to overlook its beauty. But this is one phase only, and there are others whose beauty cannot be overlooked. Ghosts linger on the peninsula, and a retrospective imagination can call them out and walk with them back through an eventful past.

At Moonta, once famed copper centre and origin of many a "Cousin Jack" legend, the sightless eyes of the empty miners' cottages mournfully survey the great dumps built by their former inhabitants. Mineral industry is dead at Moonta, buried in the dumps and shafts; the dust that blows in summer shrouds the ghosts of miners and straining bullocks. But there are left-overs from that era: the Cornish dialect survives, and at Moonta one can still buy the famous pasties that are well on the way to becoming legendary. There have been other mining ventures on Yorke Peninsula, and you can't help thinking that, to the tourist, these industries, dead now, offer more of romance than in the days when they flourished. The fact that many of them are found in lonely, isolated places lends color. The silence surrounding them makes you ponder on their heyday, weaving in imagination a lively pattern of what might have happened.

Between Port Vincent and Stansbury, where the red cliffs frown down on the waves that break eternally on the silver sand, cloaking the ancient rocks In a gossamer gown of spray, the openings of the alunite mines are like livid wounds in the cliff-face. Blood-red is the clay formation of the adit walls, shot through with the pristine white of the mineral seams, ragged, irregular streaks of chalk-like substance that show clearly, even in the gloom of the inner tunnel.

The failure and consequent closing down of these mines was due to the fact that alunite was shipped from Germany as ballast in such huge quantities that soon it became cheaper to buy than to mine, and this field, for which so rosy a future had been predicted, became one of the State's many ghost fields."

But not all the peninsula mineral industries are dead. Further down the coast at Cline's Point, cement centre, the sounds of activity can be heard for quite a distance. Travelling the cliff road that follows the lazy curve of the bay four miles below Stansbury, you may hear a muffled explosion, and see a curtain of ochre-colored dust sift into the air as portion of the cliff-face crumbles before the power of gelignite.

All is ordered confusion here. No sooner have the rocks stopped rolling and the dust curtain lifted, than the men are clambering precariously about the cliff, barring down loose rock. The staccato rattle of poppet-drills wakes echoes as the larger rocks are holed for charges: the giant electric shovel bites into the debris, lifting a ton in its jaws at each mighty dip; the crusher grumblingly chews at the iron-hard rock, reducing it to pebbles that are carried out on a rubber conveyor belt to the ship waiting at the jetty's end.

In the city a cement works is just that, interesting perhaps, but prosaic. Here it is vastly different. The rock is composed of fossil shell, and in the men's quarters are fossil cowries, and even sharks jaws, perfectly preserved, that must have lain in the rock for centuries.

The green waves in the bay break ripplingly on the Jetty piles, and spill themselves on the beach in a deep undertone that forms a constant background of sound for the noisy activity which is synonymous with the operation of the cement works at Cline's Point.

Still further down the coast is Wool Bay, centre of the lime industry, symbolised by the picturesque tower rising 100 feet above the beach. Almost in its shadow fishing cutters ride lazily on the waves, and fishermen sell live fish from the wells of their dinghies to visitors leaning on the jetty rails. Blue sea stretches like rippled silk to its meeting with the sky; ochre-colored cliffs march away along the coast in rugged, colorful array.

Perhaps salt lends the Peninsula more beauty than any of the other industries do. In winter the lakes are silent sheets of water mirroring the scrub that frames them in a setting of green, but summer works its miracle of transformation. Gangs work in the blinding reflected light from the snow-white surfaces of the larger lakes, where a tremendous depth of salt is left by the receding water. Trucks that go snaking out across the lakes, empty, return laden with pink-tingen crystals. The loads are dumped on the heaps which grow higher and higher.

All over southern Yorke Peninsula these conical heaps can be seen from afar, in scrub and open country, throwing back the rays of the sun in gleaming while fire that brings an ache to the eyes. Edithburgh. once famed as the Peninsula's salt centre, is quiet now. More, then two hundred gleaming lakes in this area yield but a fraction of the white wealth once scraped from them. Fifteen years ago Edinburgh was the metropolis of the industry, but a slump in production followed due mainly to the operations at Port Price of a plant which evaporated salt from sea water much more economically than the commodity could be scraped from the lakes. During the first year of the operation of this plant Edithburgh dropped 7,000 tons in production.

For years the industry languished— the total output of the lakes dropped from 24.000 tons in 1927 to 8.400 In 1932. But the salt is still there, and the optimism, end hopes are still high for the staging of an industrial come-back.

On the rugged "Lower End." where to all appearances the nature of the country has changed little through the centuries, one may drive for hours over vast stretches without seeing sign of human occupation. It is a last frontier of the Peninsula's remnant of its once prolific fauna. Here kangaroos abound among the thick scrub, and emus still stalk majestically across the clearings.

But even here industry has built a monument. Come upon unexpectedly after a drive from Pondalowie and the rugged grandeur of Reef Head, Inniston is something of a surprise. This isolated centre, with its neatly lined rows of workmen's homes, was once the heart of the gypsum Industry, but today the old "plaster works" are a mass of crumbling masonry and rusting iron, and Stenhouse Bay is today the gypsum centre.

Some miles out of Inniston, at the gypsum deposits, great grey heaps or the crystal-like substance form symbols of the industry. There are thousands of tons of gypsum spread over many acres, and the efficiency and organisation of the industry would do credit to a city enterprise.

Motor trains carry the mineral to Stenhouse; motor trains run on narrow rails around the deposits; steam shovels bite hungrily into the gypsum, for here is industry on a large scale industry that has brought life to lonely places and finds employment for many men in this isolated centre.

by a Correspondent