How I got interested in opal mining

I was young and I thought I was strong in the early part of the 60s, I had a job on Nockatunga Station as a mechanic but did all sorts of jobs.

I had read a bit about opals and I thought I would one day have my own mine. Now Nockatunga was around 3500 square miles so there was a lot of places for it to hide.

One day I was out at a tank pumping water to fill the turkeys nest and I had a few hours to wait. I see a line of interesting hills in the distance so off I went.

Now my old Mum always said that I would only find opal if it had a chain on it and I walked over it. Anyway that’s what happened, I was walking up a creek scratching about and there was a chip of opal lying there waiting for me to pick it up.

It wasn’t very big about the size of my small finger nail. I thought “well there is more there somewhere”. It was a nice white stone with green flecks from memory, looked good to me.

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I took it home that night and offered to share it with Mum. I put it on a stone and hit it with a hammer. I didn’t read the bit about you can’t hit opal. I ended up with a small amount of powder, bloody idiot.

So the first chance I got Mum and I went back to the spot armed with a crowbar I could hardly lift. It was 40 degrees and no shade so Ed starts to dig.

About half an hour and I had a hole about one foot square and about 3 inches deep.

I threw the crowbar in the back of the van and said to Mum “if there is opal down there it can bloody well stay there”.

My first lesson.

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I settled down to raise my family and get out of debt and then years later I had another poke about in the hills. I really didn’t worry about the opals I just wanted to be out in the west as the dry air suited my lungs.

I finished up poking around Yaraka, Jundah, Vergemont, and west of Longreach and soon realised that everyone was using 30 tonne excavators. So much for my little crowbar.

I have a few funny coloured stones to line the garden edge with!

Tell us: have you ever done opal mining?