Blue Lake Myths and Legends
1. Is the Blue Lake bottomless or have people always know the depth of the lake?
2. Did Adam Lindsay Gordon really jump on horse back over the craters edge and down into the lake?
3. Was the crater once formed to make a giant cooking oven?
4. Is it true birds do not fly over the centre of the lake? (take a close look next time you are at the lake or ask one of the locals).
5. Is the surface lower than the Central Business District of Mount Gambier.
Why the lake changes to blue is the biggest mystery of all. This question is best answered by your tour guide from Aquifer Tours as you wander past the scenic gardens, through the heritage listed pumping station and then down to the lake’s surface via the lift inside the original well shaft.
The Gordon Monument
The poet Adam Lindsay Gordon spent about 13 years in the South-East, first as a police trooper, then as a horse breaker, and finally, for a short time only, as a state politician.
His holiday cottage, Dingley Dell near Port MacDonnell, where he spent his happiest times, has long been a popular tourist attraction.
Many people are also familiar with the Gordon Monument, standing since 1887 on a stony ridge above the road between the Leg of Mutton and Blue Lakes, the scene of Gordon’s Leap, subject of so much argument as to its exact location, nature and date. It seems likely, however, that in the winter of 1864, on the day after Gordon had been beaten in the 26-jump Border Handicap Steeplechase around Mount Gambier, he was riding near the Lakes with friends when he decided to do something no one else would dare emulate. He jumped his mount over the four foot fence at the edge of the road down to an eight foot wide ledge on the steep side of the Blue Lake, with a 250 foot sheer drop yawning below. He is then said to have turned his horse and jumped back to the roadway. A friend of Gordon’s stated that he trained his horse to jump at all angles, but whether the super-horse who performed this feat was Red Lancer, Red Cap or Modesty, we will probably never know.
The Blue Lake Wall and Rook’s Walk
The building of the high stone wall for ten chains along the Bay Road by the Blue Lake, near the Gordon Monument, was the single most important result of the Great Working Bee of November 27, 1918.
The Mount Gambier Improvement Committee had begun its planning two months before – the Great Wall was almost over, and people wanted to do something for the town. On a local public holiday eight hundred men of the Mount Gambier district from all walks of life gathered in Commercial Street at 7 a.m. A convoy of motor vehicles ferried them to the Lakes, where they were organised with exquisite efficiency to complete, almost in a single day, the 10-14 foot high stone wall, together with three wooden look-outs, over the Leg of Mutton, Valley and Blue Lakes respectively. Over a thousand visitors and school children came to cheer them on, two bands played, and doctors stood by to receive casualties. Three hundred dauntless women provided the multitude with meals.
Over the next four months the Committee and smaller groups of enthusiasts finished off the stone rest house and the planting of lawns and shrubs. The president of the Committee responsible for this extraordinary effort was Mr. Arthur Rook, licensee of the Mount Gambier Hotel from 1907 until his premature death in the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919. The path along the bank at the top of the wall was later named after him – Rook’s Walk
The Blue Lake Pumping Station
Meticulously cared for, both inside and out, the old Blue Lake Pumping Station perches gracefully on a ledge 150 feet above the water level in the crater. The attractive cream dolomite building with pink dolomite quoins was built in 1884 and extended in 1909.
In 1922 the chimney of its steam plant was taken down when the latter was replaced by electrical power and finally, in 1973, alterations were made to the interior and a verandah added. The attractive finials on the roof are reproductions of the originals.
The reticulated water supply for Mount Gambier became a reality in 1883.
It is said that sources other than the Blue Lake were at first suggested – the Valley Lake and even Lake Edward at Glencoe. The scheme chosen involved the building of an underground reservoir at Keegan Drive (still in use, though other storages have been erected), which received the Blue Lake water through pump jacks operating in an eight foot diameter shaft inside the dolomite building.
In 1922, in response to increasing demand, these jacks were replaced by electrically driven centrifugal pumps set in a building at the water’s edge. Since 1971 the primary pumping units have been mounted on a steel floating platform which can allow for a 15 foot rise or fall in the lake level, and the secondary pump units are on a concrete slab at the edge of the lake. The new pumping arrangements were officially opened in 1975. The old Pumping Station still contains the control board and electrical equipment and also has a museum display of some picturesque old equipment, the piece de resistance being a Venturi flow meter about twice the size of a grandfather clock.
The original eight foot shaft now houses a lift which enables the men working the pumps to avoid the negotiation of 120 feet of steps, and a tunnel runs from the shaft to the edge of the lake. Incidentally, the pumps are now fully automatic.
As long as rain continues to fall on the aquifers of the county of Grey, as long as pollution can be kept within limits and provided always that the volcano remains asleep, residents of Mount Gambier should be able to count on the eight thousand million gallons of rather hard but good quality water in their natural reservoir. Blue Lake water also has the priceless element of mystery, for no one has yet advanced a truly adequate explanation to account for the miraculous change from grey to aquamarine to brilliant sapphire blue that occurs each year between November and December and delights us all through summer.
The Gambier Limestone, which underlies much of the South-East of South Australia, was deposited when the sea covered a large part of the southern Australian landscape more than 15 million years ago. It is rich in the fossil remains of small marine animals and shells, and even contains rare shark’s teeth. The limestone can be broadly divided into an upper bryozoal limestone and a lower dolomite unit.
In relatively recent times, a series of volcanic eruptions blew holes through the limestone, and formed structures known as maars’ at Mount Gambler. These consist of a rim made of ejected basaltic material resting directly on Gambler Limestone. The Mount Gambler volcanic complex is one of about 17 eruptive sites in the South-East (Fig 1).
The Blue Lake has formed in the largest of the volcanic craters (Fig 2). It is an exposure of the water-table which occurs naturally within the Gambler Limestone which is exposed as white strata in the sides of the crater. Recent work by the CSIRO involving dating of sediments from the lake bottom indicates that it formed about 29 000 years ago (Leoney et al., 19951, whilst Robertson et al. (1996) and other workers have determined that the volcano may have formed as recently as 4500 to 5000 years ago.
THE BLUE LAKE CAR VAUXHALL 30/98 – CHASSIS NO. 0E297
We would like to thank Mr. LINTON MORRIS for the following information
click on any photo for a larger view
This car was one of the last 30/98 Vauxhalls produced, its year of manufacture being 1927. Its early history is not entirely clear. During the first three years of its life, it seems to have been registered in the Midlands and by 1930 had found its way to a London motor dealer, Mr. Jack Bartlett. Together with a number of other late model 30/98’s, it was advertised for sale in The Motor and Autocar of that period.
These advertisements attracted the attention of Mr. John Dutton from Anlaby Station, South Australia, who was then present in England studying at Oxford University. He was an excellent sportsman, a member of Magdalene College, and in fact rowed in the College first eight at Henley in 1928. His other great interests were competition cars and he subsequently purchased the 30/98, together with a supercharged Monliery MG for the sum of £300. He was to race in the Australian Grand Prix at Victor Harbour in 1936 in the MG and with this particular 30/98, he captured the Australian National RC Speed Record over a distance of one mile on Sellick’s Beach South Australia on 2 February 1935. A photocopy of the record certificate is attached.
The car was extensively used by Mr. John Dutton for both transport and competition and he frequently competed at Sellick’s Beach and also the Pewsey Vale hill climbs. Whilst in the Duttons’ ownership, the ear was nicknamed “Bloody Mary as the main body of the car was blood red in colour although the mudguards were black.
John Dutton used the ear for daily transport as well as competition. On an evening in February of 1936, the car was involved in an accident which caused its near fatal plunge into the Blue Lake at Mount Gambier. John Dutton was thrown clear of the car as it rolled some 300 feet down the very steep wall of the lake, and he survived because his body was caught by a lone thorn bush which stopped him following the car into the water. He sustained severe injuries and was not expected to live. This incident triggered what was probably one of the very early medical rescues by aircraft. A biplane was flown from Parafield, landed at Anlaby to pick up Emily and Dick Dutton and later fly them to Mount Gambier, transporting John Dutton to hospital in Adelaide. He was many months making a recovery from spinal and internal injuries.
I have obtained what seems to be the most accurate version of the incident from the author, Geoffrey Dutton, who was of course John Dutton’s younger brother. He wrote me a letter in these terms:
“John told me that it was a wet night and he was going back to his property “Burleigh . The vet, drunk, came around the bend on the wrong side of the road and forced John over the edge. Fortunately the Vauxhall had no hood and John was thrown out. Apparently the vet went on to Mount Gambier and had a couple more drinks at Jens Hotel before mentioning that John had gone over the edge.
Geoffrey Dutton also described in a letter how his brother John watched as the car sank into the waters of the lake and rotated with its headlights still on, leaving an eerie lemon light before the battery failed and it plunged into the depths in darkness.
When the ear was moved from the lake in March the following year, it was noted that the clock had stopped at 2.40 a.m. and it is assumed this established the time of its descent into the lake with absolute accuracy.
Following the salvaging of the car, it passed through many hands and has a continuous racing history in western New South Wales and in Victoria. It ultimately ended in the custody of Mr. R.W. Jervies of Wallaroo South Australia.
I purchased the car on 4th June 1993 from Jervies and drove it back to Sydney in July of that year. The car at that time had an Australian sporting body from the scuttle to the rear and mudguards off a 1440 Vauxhall. A decision was made that it should be completely restored to the original specifications. This involved the fabrication of an ash frame which was covered in hand-formed aluminium to absolutely exact Velox specifications. In the course of this, all the original body parts which could be used were preserved. It is to be remembered that the bonnet and scuttle were really the only parts which survived the lake damage and its subsequent use by a large number of owners.
The engineering re-construction was undertaken under the expert supervision and guidance of Mr. Donald Wright of Highs Road, West Pennant Hills and the car is now finished in precisely its original colour. I was fortunate in being able to consult Geoffrey Dutton and Robert Hood in respect of the colour of the car as they both remember it clearly when it was in John Dutton’s ownership.
4th August 1995