Thursday, 18 July 2013

Mount Mulligan

The final stop on our little weekend adventure was Mount Mulligan.
From a distance the mountain dominates the horizon but up close it dominates the landscape, drawing attention and making you feel, for want of a better word, small.
It is 18km long and rises 400m above the surrounding landscape making it around 10x the size of Uluru although it is nowhere near as well known.

Mount Mulligan is located on Mount Mulligan Station a 28 000 hectare working cattle station inland from Cairns that welcomes visitors. There a few things that make Mount Mulligan a notable location. Firstly it is the oldest dated site in Queensland for Aboriginal habitation. Secondly it is part of the Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories apparently being the home of the Rainbow Serpent. With its mammoth size I can see the connection. Lastly, and the reason we visited, it used to be home to a coal mine and town.

Coal was discovered within Mount Mulligan in 1907. In 1911 the Chillagoe Company started developmental works for the Mount Mulligan site with a railway being completed in 1914. The mine finally started full scale production in 1915. By 1921 the mine was producing 20 000 tonnes of coal per year and the surrounding town was home to around 300 people.
Our Mount Mulligan 'date afternoon' included going to the pub, the picture theatre and a cafe.

1921 was a tragic year in the history of Mount Mulligan Coal Mine and the mining history of Australia. On the 18th of September 1921 at 9:25am there was an explosion within the mine that killed all 75 miners underground at the time. It devastated the town killing approximately 1/4 of the entire population of the area or 1 out of 3 adults or 1 out of every 2 men. 40 women were left widows and 83 children were left fatherless. It is considered one of the most horrific mine disasters in Australia and the greatest land disaster in Queensland due to its impact on the community. For 5 days after the explosion a search and rescue took place recovering 74 bodies. When the mine was reopened 4 months later the remaining missing body was discovered. 
We found the ventilation shaft and mine entrance among the rocks at the base of Mount Mulligan.

After years of hardship and lack of profit the mine was closed in 1957 and the surrounding town was abandoned by 1958. It turns out that there was another explosion not long before that which is one of the many reasons along with the development of hydro power that the mine closed. All that is left now are the remains of some buildings and some recently erected signs giving street names and a way to identify the location of certain buildings. You can also see a ventilation shaft and view part of the main mine entrance. The main entrance was harder to find but you could smell it before you saw it. Oh boy did it pong, strong with the smell of some type of gas and the heat radiating from the opening was surprising.
I think Mr Sparky's fav finds were the electrical shop and power station well that is other than the mine itself.

It is hard to imagine a thriving town in this rocky, hard area covered in hardy wattle trees. If it wasn't for the chimney, house stumps, bricks, remains of the power station and water works, the gutted bathroom facilities and the coal dust covering the tracks you wouldn't believe it had even existed.
I know people moved to Mount Mulligan for the mine but what I can't see is why no one stayed (well I can because it was isolated and there was no work). It is such a beautiful area. I wanted to move right in.

Until the explosion in 1921 Mount Mulligan didn't have need for a cemetery so land had to be chosen and numerous graves dug. The majority of graves visible within the cemetery hold the date 1921 with some families losing multiple members. It really touched the heart seeing the names and loss.
Again nestled among the graves of adults mainly killed in mining accidents were the graves of young children and babies who barely had a grasp at life and whose graves seemed to be fenced with what may have been their sleeping place, their cot.

Today Mount Mulligan Station has many camping spots easily accessible from the road as well as a main camping area along the edge of a dam. Our plan was to camp overnight but unfortunately the 'Bull Catcher' had other ideas and started up a persistent rattling, clunking noise. After searching in the dark it was decided to be nothing too major but also decided that heading back to Cairns was the safer option in case the car decided to really chuck a sickie. Good news is that in the light of day it was nothing major and easily fixed but will need more permanent repairs at a later date.
I hope to go back again and explore some more as well as take a tonne more photos ... I think my poor point and shoot has done its dash.
Hopefully our next camping adventure is a camping adventure, although I did really enjoy our day in the bush.

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 There are plenty of legends to do with Mount Mulligan and its mining disaster so if you are interested have a read here.
There is more on Mount Mulligan Station here.
There is more on Mount Mulligan Coal Mine here (some information is different to what I have posted, mine is from a sign at the site).


  1. Wow, really interesting place. Thanks for sharing it :)

  2. Thanks, it was interesting but I wish we'd had more time.


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