Friday, 13 April 2012

Glow worms and coal on the West Coast

Last night after dinner we headed to the north side of Hokitika to the glow worm dell. This small hidden dell just a 100 or so metre’s from the main road is home to untold glow worms that glow in the darkness primarily to catch food and secondly to attract a mate during the breeding season. We needed torches to see our way up the path but the signs advised shining lights downward so as not to disturb the glow worms or they stop glowing. What an amazing sight of hundred’s of these little blue glowing dots across the rock face. On our way out we spotted another couple of glowing eyes, that of a pair of Opossum's ( or Possums for short) that had come out looking for food. These animals are naturally nocturnal and are rarely seen in daylight.

Believe it or not this is a road/rail bridgeBelieve it or not this is a road/rail bridge north of Hokitika.

Today we left Hokitika for Blackball, a small mining town just east of Greymouth. This little town is steeped in history as being the birthplace of Communism and Unions in New Zealand. It also has a hotel which was formerly known as the Blackball Hilton which has had a legal wrangle with the Hilton hotel chain overseas over copyright of the name. What a fuss about nothing.

Formerly the Blackball HiltonFormerly the Blackball Hilton

The union business came about when mine bosses insisted on the miners only having 15 minute lunch break where all the other mines allowed 30 minutes. Strikes,sackings, and a general country wide support eventually led to the start of the Labour movement and the beginning of the welfare state we enjoy today. At the present time there is an exhibition being held in the town spelling out the full history of this towns claim to fame. There is also a wheel of honour to all the workers killed in the workplace since 1990 and listed on the wheel are the names of the miners killed during this time.

Wheel of remembrance at Blackball of workers and miners killed since 1990.Wheel of remembrance at Blackball of workers and miners killed since 1990.Pike River Mine Disaster MemorialA memorial stone to the 29 miners killed at Pike River Mine has also been erected

After taking in all this history we were pointed in the right direction to see what is left of the old mine which closed during the 1950’s. Apparently the mine suffered badly with flooding and became unviable. The State Mining Company opened up another mine just across the valley.

All that remains of the air pump supplying air into the the Blackball mine.All that remains of the air pump supplying air into the the Blackball mine.

One of the towns streets is very straight and wide which is where the aerial rope cableway carried the coal from the mine to the railway yards. Eventually the railway was bought closer to the mine and a different method of transportation was put into place.

The last visible remnants of the Blackball mine.The last visible remnants of the Blackball Mine.

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