As we drive into Mount Isa, the world's largest city, named so due to the city limits extending over 40,000 sq klms and the main street being 188klms long, the first thing that grabs our attention is the tall mining stack that is 266m high. (873ft) Mount Isa mines for copper, lead, silver and zinc. A multi-cultural and dynamic city in the Queensland outback, there is a thriving population of about 25 000 in town and 36 000 out of town on properties and in aboriginal communities.
CITY LOOKOUT shows you a constantly changing view across this outback oasis. It is easier for me to understand the beginnings of Mount Isa since I have read an interesting history book. I can really appreciate what the first settlers endured without water and suffering from the extreme heat and weather conditions.
THE UNDERGROUND HOSPITAL was built by the miners during the war in 1942 to prepare for Japanese bombing. In 1959, the present day hospital was built and the underground hospital was renovated in 1977 and now opens for tourists from April to September from 10.00am to 2.00pm. Closed during the wet season.
HARD TIMES MINE lowers you down 1.2 klms so you'll experience something special. Your tour guide who has worked as a miner for most of his life, will kit you out in over-alls and cap lamps. He will tell you interesting tales of the old days while you are descending in the Alimak Cage. You can get up close and work the air-leg drill, and also feel the earth rumble when the blast face is fired. Tours run 7 days per week but bookings are essential.
PAPER MAKING is demonstrated at the Mill, Arilla Paper, which is located at the Old Mining Museum in Shackleton Street and you can watch Indigenous women weave their magic with local grasses, trees, reeds such as buff grass, spinifex and river gum leaves.
THE RIVERSLEIGH FOSSIL CENTER in town has some very interesting finds of fossils dug out of the nearby fossil fields. Tourists are able to share landmark discoveries with their resident Palaeontologist on a daily basis. These fossils are found on a cattle property about 250klms north-west of town. From 1983, the beautifully preserved remnants of thousands of inhabits such as giant pythons, marsupial lions and carnivorous kangaroos have been excavated from limestone rocks that are 10 to 15 million years old. Opening Times: 8.30am-5.00pm daily. Lab tours Monday to Friday 10am & 2.00pm (Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday)
THE ROYAL FLYING DOCTORS CENTER can offer you an insight into this essential flying service. It offers vital care to the injured or seriously ill among the population scattered over 500,000 square klms, as well as regular clinic care to remote regions and inter-hospital transfers. This service has been available from Mt Isa since 1964, and is on call 24 hrs per day, 7 days per week. Pilots must be able to land on anything from roads, dirt strips and paddocks. Doctors and nurses must be prepared to conquer any conditions to get to their patient. Location is 11 Barkly Highway, Mount Isa. The Center Opening times are Monday to Friday, 9am – 5pm. Entry by donation.
FRANK ASTON MUSEUM has great history underground too, and features exhibits of the local Indigenous people. There is also a lot of old mining gear and flying doctors radios and a huge crocodile skull. It is not only a museum, but also has a long 65m tunnel, with five smaller chambers and a large 100sq metre chamber, which was mined into the hill under the one of the town's early reservoir tanks. The museum features a simulated Aboriginal camp showing tribal customs of the district. The Frank Aston Museum can be found at Shackelton Street, Mount Isa. Opening times are daily from 9.00am to 4.00pm.
CLIMATE in Mount Isa is worth knowing as the cooler months are between April and September. The summer heat can be very stifling as day temperatures can reach over 40degrees Celsius. The city has two types of summer weather, hot and dry or hot and wet. The city rates 9.5 hours of sunshine a day and the annual rainy of 437 mm tumbles down in the 50 wet days a year. Summer night-time temperatures severely ever fall below the mid-twenties. The winter dry season will usually find the skies colored a brilliant blue, with daytime temperatures in the mid-twenties and pleasant nights averaging 12.5C. The lowest winter temperature recorded is 2.5C.
There are many other sights to see when you visit Mount Isa. It is also home to the second largest rodeo in the world, held every August. I find the history of Mount Isa to be so interesting and heart-rendering for the early pioneers with their exploits and adventures often leading to illness and death. They are truly exceptional people to be invited.