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"A Living History"
New Australasia Mine No.2
On 12th December, 1882, miners working the night shift at New Australasia Mine descended 250 feet down the shaft then 2,000 feet to the working face. At 5.30am without warning the wall of the reef drive burst from the pressure of water that had accumlated behind it from the Australasia No. 1 Mine.
In the minutes that followed some of the miners were able to get to safety, however 27 workers were trapped. In the following hour the trapped miners made at least two attempts to get out of the air pocket in which they were trapped. Unable to escape the men made their way to jump ups, areas that had been cut into the mine to allow the men to "jump up" out of the way of the mine trucks. For almost three days the three engine drivers from the mine ran the engines at over 10 times their normal speed, in an attempt to lower the water to save the trapped men. A special train was sent for from Melbourne with equipment to dive into the water. This equipment was borrowed from the H.M.S. Cerbrus along with competent divers.
After the initial accident word spread quickly to the township of Creswick and people rushed to the site to await news. On December 15th, 1882 the rescuers finally were able to reach the unfortunate men. Sadly 22 men perished, but fortunately 5 survived. At 2 pm this day over 15,000 people lined the roadway between the mine and the cemetery to bid farewell to the 21 men. Mr. Gower quietly being interred at the Ballarat New Cemetery. Over 4,000 people were in the cortege, as the first one made it to the cemetery gates the last one was leaving the mine. Every mine in the district was shut so all could attend the funeral, the whole town was also closed and everyone attended the funeral.
Many reports have been written of these last hours and some are recorded in a booklet produced by the Creswick Museum titled "Diary of Disaster".
The mine site can be seen by travelling approx 2 kilometres along the road toward Clunes and following the signs.
Mining was a dangerous game. As an occupation it provided the chance of a windfall - but moreso the chance of going broke. It also provided a risk to your health and well being. The dreaded Miners complaint "silicosis" was responsible for untold numbers of early deaths while many miners were killed in action so to speak in their mines. Indeed in 1882, 71 miners were killed in mining accidents in Victoria alone - and unfortunately one accident claimed 22 of them under the ground at this site due to a flooding incident on December 12th.