I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Monday, February 02, 2015

My Year with Bluestone: Human Glances

Funny how you can ride, walk, or drive past a familiar landmark for years, and then when it's gone you can't remember what was there.

I was walking past this enormous building site the other week and was marvelling at the scale of the hole in the ground; the large backhoes and the piles of big bluestones being dug out of the earth. I couldn't photograph the whole site, so here's a video overview:


I spoke to the man guarding the entrance to the site, and asked him what was here before. A textile workshop, he said, and then I remembered the Charles Parsons building. Joel's school sometimes used to run sausage-sizzling fund-raisers when they had textile sales.

Here's a historical image from google maps: it was a low rise brick building.

Now they are building a block of apartments, of course, with a deep car park. So they are now digging far deeper into the ground than they have dug before, and these big bluestones are now seeing the light of day, and the human gaze for the first time in thousands of years, since they were first carried here in the volcanic flows. (There were active volcanoes in Victoria 7000 years ago, and for up to millions of years before that: I don't yet know enough about the timing of particular flows.)

This is a familiar workaday sight now in the inner city, as manufacturing sites become residential ones. They are sorting bluestone from shale, and will be breaking up the bluestones for use in roads and railways, I guess, unless they salvage some boulders to sell for gardens and decorative use.

I watched as a huge machine scooped up a load of huge stones and shook the tub vigorously, shaking free the dirt and smaller stones, and dumped the boulders into another big truck. It rained a lot yesterday, so the stones on the left have been washed clean; while those on the right have been dug up this morning:

The man also told me that when they sold the factory, there were a hundred women working there, who lost their jobs. Migrant women, I think he said, but they might also have been second and third generation Europeans? He gave the impression that it was a kind of sweat shop, but the company is a decent size, and one hopes these workers would have had some protection from labor laws. Though I can imagine that was not always the case.

Time capsules here, then. The original volcanic flows, the modern factory, the temporal lag of the old-style textile industry, depending on manual labor, all now exploded into this vast cavity...

And a postscript: they are digging up the tram tracks along Swanston St this morning. I couldn't help notice that the digger they are using has a pointy bit about half the size of this one they are using to dig up the compressed volcanic stones, and loosen them from their ancient resting place.  It's a sight that is utterly ordinary, and utterly momentous to me:


1 comment:

winkieg said...

Here you will find an attachment for google earth showing eruption points:
There is also a report on this subject:

I am fascinated by many of the land form changing lava flows that occured. On google earth, a nice example of a flow that filled a valley system can be seen at the quarry 2km west of Ondit, particularly in it's southern section.