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OUR AUSTRALIAN LETTER., Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
OUR AUSTRALIAN LETTER.
(From Our Melbourne CoRBKapoHOEHT.
Melbourne, July 3. VICTORIAN POLITICS. Victorian politics are being conducted in a serene and practical manner which betokens either the storm which succeeds the calm or the speedy despatch of business by the Legislature and a comparatively short session. The Government have got their first proposal of importance passed in certain amendments to the rules of procedure, modified from their original form, but still calculated to be of use in securing a better method of legislation than has prevailed in the past. The Legislative Council are now engaged in the consideration of an amendment to the health laws of the colony, and the Assembly are debating with a good deal of interest a measure Intended to reconcile two Acts which have been passed for the control of the Civil servants by & non-political Board, thus doing away with the grievances with which particular members of the Service have worried Parliamentary representatives during the past few years. Things may be reckoned to go on very smoothly until the tariff comes to be considered, and it is not likely that the Government will then leave themselves open for attack by any large section of the House. The present Administration have a happy knack of gauging in what direction the majority of members are inclined, and make their plans accordingly. Having given offence to the farmers in refusing to increase the stock tax, there is little doubt that an effort will .be conciliation by increasing the duty on grain. This step will affect the interests of New Zealand farmers, for hitherto most of the oats consumed in the colony have been obtained from them. A deputation of horse owners waited on the Commissioner of Customs recently to urge that there should be no increase of the duty, as horse feed is already too dear ; but while they _ got some sympathy an indication was received as to how the Government would be likely to act. The Commissioner assured the deputation that the matter had not yet been considered; but at the same time led it to be understood that the farming interest was regarded as paramount. He turned a deaf ear to the representation that the climate of Victoria seemed less adapted for the growth of oats than other products, and that the farmers had turned their attention to the cultivation of hay in preference, and expressed the opinion that additional protection might enable the whole of the wants of the colony to be provided for locally. In response to the desire of the farmers, a stop has already been put to the practice of gristing wheat in bond, although the objections to such a convenient arrangement seem to be of a fanciful description. THE SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENT.
The Playford Ministry having been called upon to resign through the carrying of a no-confidence motion, the following new Government has been formed for carrying on the affairs of the colony of South Australia Chief Secretary and Premier, Dr J. A. Cockburn; Treasurer, Mr F. W. Holder; Attorney • General, Mr B. A. Moulden ; Commissioner* of Crown Lands, Mr T. Burgojne ; Commissioner of Public Works, Mr J, H. Howe; Minister of Education, Mr J. H. Gordon; Member of the Executive Council without portfolio, Dr Campbell. It may be mentioned that the last two gentlemen are members of the Legislative Council, and Dr Campbell’s office has not been in vogue since 1863. Parliament has been adjourned until the 16th inst. THE CI.EF.E COUJEBY CATASTROPHE. There is nothing of a satisfactory character to report regarding the mining catastrophe at Newcastle. The work of the rescue party has been almost wholly neutralised by the continuous fulls in different parts of the mine, and the chances of recovering the bodies of the eleven miners that are entombed are remote. The fact that in a day and a night the rescuers were only able to clear three of the twenty five yards of stuff that has to be removed before the spot where the men were supposed to bo is reached shown how difficult the work of excavation is. Tire obstacles in the way of progress are almost insurmountable. They appear in the shape of boulders and large masses of falling earth, and occasionally work is impeded by the heavy stone frames previously constructed to enable miners to get the coal. His Excellency, Lord Carrington, accompanied by the Minister of Mines (Mr Sydney Smith) and members for the district, made a visit to the mine and descended the pit, encouraging tho rescuers in their work, and afterwards visited the homes of the bereaved families.
Mr T. Carrington, the artist of the * Australian Sketcher, 1 who has been on a professional visit to the scene of the disaster, gives the following particulars of the position of affairs above and below ground : The Hamilton pit, where the catastrophe occurred, is three miles and 1-half from Newcastle, and the depth of the main shaft sunk here is about 180 ft or 200 ft. From the bottom of this shaft to the spot where the entombed men were working is nearly a mile and a-qu&rter, and it is reached only after a brisk underground walk of some twenty minutes. Here are found the relief party at work upon a task which is recognised by most people upon the spot as little better than hopeless, The fall of earth is estimated to cover a total area of about sixty acres, but amongst it are enormous boulders, some of them weighing 200, 400, or 500 tons. These the rescuing party have simply to go right through. There is no possibility of going round them, and in order to penetrate them in the quickest way only a 4ffc drive is being put in. This allows but two men to work at a time, but the shifts are so arranged that not a moment is lost night or day, and the men engaged are always comparatively fresh and strong. The shifts are six hours instead of eight hours, as customary, and there are six men in each shift. Two of them, armed with heavy hammers, work away at the face of the rock for a quarter of an hour, when they throw down their hammers and make way for the next two men, who are relieved in turn after another quarter of an hour by the last two men of the shift. No implements but hammers are used ; picks would be useless against such material ss has to bo coped with, and no one would dream of venturing to fire a shot in the mine. As the relief operations progress the pine all around is “ working ” or “ creeping ” (as the men call it) badly, and there is imminent danger to those engaged. Material from the roof is continually falling to the rear of the workers, and two men in each shift are pretty constantly at work loading trucks with the loose stuff in order to keep the road open. To make matters worse, the cracking and “creeping” will every now and then bo varied by a terrific report, telling that a fresh fall of half an acre or so has taken place in some other part of the mine. The men work in discomfort as well as danger, for it is very wet, and the lamps they carry on their hats illumine as dismal a scene as could easily he imagined. It may be mentioned that in this mine there is no foul air, so naked lights are used instead of Davy lamps, The lamps look much like small coffee-pots in shape. They are filled with oil, and the wicks protrude from a kind of spout. Every twenty yards or so that the drive advances, what are called “ pigstyo chocks ” are put in as supports to the ground above. These are lengths of timber some 14in in diameter, which are laid flat and piled crossways one upon the other until the roof is reached. In spite of every precantion, however, the men are again and again driven back by fresh falls. They perhaps bore through a good deal of loose stuff, which is no sooner accomplished than its removal allows another huge boulder to slip into the cavity. It is then necessary to splinter a way through this, and so the work progresses but tediously. At the time of Mr Carrington’s visit the working party were about 14ft through a big sandstone boulder, and had in all penetrated some 25ft through rock and soft material. The average rate of progress, if no check occurs, is about two yards for each shift. One very grim ceremony which Mr Carrington describes he calls “ smelling for the dead." Every few feet that the drive advances the men stretch a canvas over the face and secure it at each corner. This is to shut out the air that sets np from the entrance of the drive, and which the men believe would prevent them scenting any remains, human or animal, they might be
approaching. One ct the working party then puts hia head behind this canvas screen, and eudeavoro to detect any odor that may exude through the fissures of the rock. To show how entirely hopeless the miners themselves are of rescuing any of their comrades alive, three colfins were sent below days ago, and remain there awaiting the first bodies recovered. At the pit’s mouth there have been no wailing and lamentation since the actual occurrence of the disaster, but one pathetic sight is to be witnessed day after day. Each morning three women, whoso husbands are among the unfortunates entombed, arrive on the spot with their children, whom they have already dressed In black. They bring with them flowers and baskets containing their lunch, and there they remain until nightfall, seated upon a log, and gazing down the pit’s mouth. As the men who nave formed the shift below reach the surface the first to accost them are these three patient watchers, who ply them with inquiries as to the progress of the work, and receive always the same cheerless answer. The wife of one of the entombed men has a firm conviction that her husband will turn up in safety, as he has been in several mining accidents before, and it is impossible as yet to make her realise the truth. She has gone so far as to assure her children of their father’s return shortly, and they run out to meet the clergyman as he goes his rounds and inform him that “ Dad has not come back yet.” Lord Carrington personally visited the mine last week and remained below for nearly a couple of hours, afterwards paying visits to the bereaved families. It was noticeable that as he drove away the men refrained cheering him, but simply lifted their hats silently in farewell.
OUR AUSTRALIAN LETTER., Issue 7954, 9 July 1889
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