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The hottest town in Australia
There are a small number of towns in Australia whose names have such a potency and such a power of association that they automatically conjure up images. The name 'Marble Bar' is synonymous with mining, isolation and, most importantly, heat. It is known as 'the hottest town in Australia' a fact which is still recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. For 161 consecutive days to 20 April 1924 the temperature in the town never dropped below 100°F (37.8°C). This record still stands after nearly seventy years. During all the time that records have been kept the temperature at the town has never dropped below 0°C.
|Located 1476 km north of Perth on the Great Northern Highway, 192 km southeast of Port Hedland and 173 metres above sea level, Marble Bar does not fit the preconceptions most visitors have of it. If you imagined a reckless mining town in a barren wasteland with dirt streets and exhausted people standing outside a rather forlorn corrugated iron pub, then Marble Bar is nothing like that.
|It is basically a very modern mining town. Older mining towns (Coober Pedy and Andamooka in SA and Yowah, Qld for example) are characterised by a sense that they have been thrown together in a very haphazard way with poorly constructed streets, no curbing or guttering, and houses built from materials which were available at the time. There is little evidence of this in Marble Bar which has a neatness and tidiness which is decidedly modern and quite attractive. There are, for example, a number of attractive modern houses in the town and even the famous Ironclad Hotel (named by American miners after the Ironclad boats which moved up and down on the Mississippi during the American Civil War) now boasts an air-conditioning system which ensures cool air with cool drinks.
|Marble Bar was named, somewhat inaccurately, after a unique bar of jasper (a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz) which crosses the Coongan River about 5 km west of the town. It is clearly signposted off General Street beyond the Government Buildings. It is illegal to fossick or cut jasper at this location but a section has been set aside on the road to the old Comet mine for rock enthusiasts.
|The area near the Marble Bar is a popular swimming area for locals. Both the Marble Bar Pool and the nearby Chinaman's Pool are suitable for swimming and picnicking.
|Marble Bar sprung up as part of the gold rushes to the Pilbara in the late 1880s. The gold which had created a rush to the Kimberleys had all but disappeared and the fossickers and prospectors headed south seeking the elusive metal. Gold was actually discovered near Marble Bar in 1891 by Francis Jenkins (he is remembered in the name of the town's main street) and two years later the settlement was officially declared a town.
Government Offices, National Trust listed buildings in Marble Bar.
|In 1894-95 the Government Offices (now a series of National Trust listed buildings) were constructed out of local stone with corrugated iron roofs and elaborate stuccoed window dressings. Located just west of Sandy Creek on General Street they are the most impressive set of buildings in the town. Typical of mining towns they were constructed at a time when the prospects for the town were such that major civic buildings seemed appropriate. It was around this time that the population of the town rose to 5000 as miners poured in hoping to find wealth in the region. For some their dreams became reality. At Shaw's Falls the 333 ounce 'Little Hero' nugget was found. Shark Gully was the location for the 413 ounce 'Bobby Dazzler' and in 1899 the 332 ounce 'General Gordon' was discovered.
|The goldrush was shortlived. The huge discoveries on the Eastern Goldfields and in the Murchison at places like Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Day Dawn and Cue were enough to see prospectors abandon their diggings to head for the greater rewards which lay to the south.
The town has been immortalised in the very funny, but sadly, little known poem The Man from Marble Bar by Victor Courtney.
Satan sat by the fires of Hell
As from endless time he's sat,
And he sniffed great draughts of the brimstone's smell
That came as the tongue-flames spat;
Then all at once the devil looked stern
For there in the depths of Hell
Was a fellow whom never a flame could burn
Or goad to an anguished yell;
So Satan stalked to the lonely scene
And growled with a stormy brow,
'Now, stranger, tell me what does this mean?
You should be well scorched by now.'
But the chappie replied with a laugh quite new;
'This place is too cold by far
Just chuck on an extra log or two
I'VE COME IN FROM MARBLE BAR!