A thriving outback town THE LANDSCAPE AROUND the outback town of Broken Hill, in far western NSW, is celebrated for its post apocalyptic appearance; but in 2010, once in a century annual rainfall broke a decade long drought and the area is now so lush it looks more like heaven.
People who understand this country say it will be like this at its exuberant best for another two years. Dying or thriving, this desert fringed, semi arid environment speaks of Australia as nowhere else, luring painters, photographers and filmmakers from across the world. Its principal feature is the vast scale of the largely flat landscape. Spurred on by record rainfalls, inland Australia's plants and animals have been furiously filling in the details, rapidly growing and reproducing as many generations as possible before the harsh climate once again puts life on hold. "Droughts and flooding rains it's the classic boom and bust ecosystem," observes Paul Seager, the far west's operations coordinator for the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS). Then it's 'add water and stir' and suddenly there are hectares of Sturt's desert peas." When dry, much of the soil hardens and cracks under a baking sun colouring it vibrant red. But for now it's largely hidden beneath a carpet of hardy foliage. It's mostly saltbush there are more than 20 species around Broken Hill and largely appears grey green; in some places, however, the saltbush species known as bluebush dominates, and the cover is a steely grey blue. Animal life boom in Broken Hill In response to local rains and warm temperatures, pulse like explosions of Australian plague locusts have been swarming, stimulating food chains across the region. The insects are eaten by reptiles and mammals, which, in turn, are food for birds of prey. These include the wedge tailed eagle, which soars high above the plains outlet burberry on rising thermals. Paucident planigales tiny nocturnal marsupial inhabitants of inland floodplains are booming in Kinchega National Park, 100 km south east of Broken Hill, in response to the locust bonanza. burberry tote outlet That's good news for the barking owl, a threatened predator of small mammals, found around local billabongs. The 'trademark' outback animals have become more conspicuous, too. Long trains of emus dads with up to 20 chicks in tow are showing dangerous tendencies to meander across hypnotically long, unswerving roads. Large mobs of kangaroos reds, western greys and euros looking muscular and well fed, are also abundant. Outback landscape of inspiration While the explosion of life is spectacular, the feature that visual artists most love about this country is its much vaunted light. It's been of professional interest for three decades to longtime resident and retired photographer Doug Banks. The former burberry official site usa marine engineer travelled the world as a merchant navy man but gave up the ocean 55 years ago for a Broken Hill girl. The family of wife Bev were among the earliest immigrants to the area, arriving during the 1880s with other hopefuls from the English counties of Cornwall and Devon, and southern Wales, chasing new lives inspired by legendary mineral riches. "I missed the sea for about two years," Doug admits. "I used to tell myself lies saying, 'Just over that hill, that's where the sea is'." But he soon found much to appreciate about his new home. The area's extraordinary light effects, says Doug, are a product of latitude and climate. While it's usual for summer official website of burberry temperatures to reach the mid 40s for days on end, humidity rarely climbs above 15 per cent. "That's why the light's so amazing," he says. "You feel as if you can grasp great handfuls of it out here; it's so vivid and bright and crisp." Destination Broken Hill: middle of nowhere Geographically, Broken Hill is pretty much as close to the middle of nowhere as a large Australian town can be: it lies 935 km north west of Sydney, 725 km north west of Melbourne, and 420 km north east of Adelaide. Culturally and historically, however, this sprawling desert home of about 20,000 people is at the hub of the Australian heartland known as 'Outback NSW'. "We're at the centre of everything and the middle of everywhere!" Doug happily volunteers. The continent's oldest human remains were found a few hundred kilometres to the south east, in Mungo National Park, within the Willandra Lakes Region World Heritage Area (see AG 44). And the park provides a continuous 40,000 year record of the occupation of Australia by Aboriginal people. Early European history is also extensive here. Some of Australia's most important early explorers traversed the region, including Charles Sturt. In 1844 he crossed and named the Barrier Ranges in which Broken Hill is located. Broken Hill's rich history The striking wildflower that grows prolifically out here after rain Sturt's desert pea bears his name. Burke and Wills famously camped in 1860 about 100 km south east of Broken Hill, on the banks of the ephemeral Lake Pamamaroo, now full after a dry decade. They stayed at the Maiden Hotel in the nearby Darling River outpost of Menindee the first permanent town on the river. And their loss is linked to a local, William Wright, manager of the huge pastoral run that in 1967 became far western NSW's first national park Kinchega. A 19th century inquiry into the explorers' demise found Wright's delay in taking supplies from Menindee to Cooper Creek contributed to their deaths. From the 1860s, pastoralists established huge sheep flocks for wool production in the area, contributing on a grand scale to the proverbial sheep's back upon which the early Australian economy rode. It's indicative of the industry's scale that 6 million merinos and merino crosses passed through the historic woolshed at Kinchega immaculately preserved in the national park during its century of operation.
It was, however, minerals silver, zinc and lead that saw Broken Hill established, and a rich mining heritage endures to this day. It's evident in the architecture: from humble miners' cottages clad with corrugated iron on the town's south side, to grand hotels and emporiums that mark early economic boom times along the wide main thoroughfare, Argent Street. But, running parallel to that street, the most striking visual symbol is the massive mound of mining waste from a century of digging a hundred metres high and kilometres long.
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