Eyes are glued to the screen as you follow the harrowing story of the mine disaster and rescue that took place just a few metres away in April 2006. And now you can experience it for yourselves…You worm your way along a narrow concrete pipe, just like the miners did when the earthquake triggered the mine collapse. Popping up through a gap in the pipe you see a replica of the tiny cage where miners Brant Webb and Todd Russell waited fourteen long days for rescuers to reach them.
■ The accounts of the heroic efforts of the rescuers. The kids may not want to read these, but you can tell them the salient points.
■ The walkway that leads to the old grubb shaft. At the end you’ll find all sorts of noisy old machinery – the kids can have a go at working pump rods, a waterwheel and a battery stamper.
■ The observation platform where you can view the working mine right next door. You might see the miners going up and down the shafts into the ground – it was in a similar shaft that the miners were trapped, one kilometre under the earth.
■ The Life and Times display. Have a go at weaving a rag rug, riding in a vintage wheelchair, writing with a quill and trying on old-style clothing.
■ The opportunity to try out a whole range of old machinery – look for the yellow hand symbols. The kids will love sorting and packing apples with the apple-grading machine and making phone calls using a 1950s public telephone and switchboard.
■ The hologram of a mine – a captivating re-creation of the real thing.
■ The model working mine where kids can wind the cage up and down.
■ The gold mining activity, where kids can have fun mucking around with mud, water and a pan (or cradle) – and find shavings of ‘gold’.
In the late-19th century, Beaconsfield was one of the richest gold towns in Tasmania with over 50 working mines. As time passed, the mining technology became uneconomical and mines closed one by one. From 1914 to the early 1990s they all lay silent. Then the price of gold increased, technology improved, and the mines reopened. The mine you see operating next door produces thousands of ounces of gold every week.
■ Allow a couple of hours to view the museum. The disaster and rescue exhibit is only one of many interesting and highly interactive displays.
■ After watching the rescue video, keep your eyes open when walking around town. You just might spot one of the heroes featured on screen.
■ You can buy a Tamar Triple Pass which includes entry to Beaconsfield Mine and Heritage Centre along with Seahorse World and Platypus House.
■ Much of the museum is out of doors, so dress appropriately.
■ There is no cafe on site, but there are cafes nearby and there’s a park over the road with picnic and barbecue facilities.