Burning Mountain

Burning Mountain

Featured Image: ‘Burning Mountain’ (Wingen). Gratefully acknowledge the source in ‘The Convict Valley’ by Mark Dunn. (SLNSW PXA 3819) Published by Allen & Unwin 2020

This is a highly significant cultural totem for the Aboriginal Tribes of the Hunter Valley as far as Newcastle and involves the use of ochre.

The Leyland brothers reported on Mount Wingen in the first episode of their travel programme, Ask The Leyland Brothers:

The Aborigines named the mountain Wingen, which means ‘fire’. Their explanation of the origin of the burning mountain was that one day, a tribesman was lighting a fire on the mountainside when he was carried off deep into the earth by The Evil One. Unable to escape, he used his fire stick to set the mountain alight, so that the smoke might warn others to keep away.

The underground fire is estimated to be at a depth of around 30 m (100 ft.) It is estimated that the fire has burned for approximately 6,000 years and is the oldest known coal fire.

European explorers and settlers to the area believed the smoke, coming from the ground, was volcanic in origin. It was not until 1829 that geologist Reverend C. P. N. Wilton identified it as a coal seam fire.

The fire is generally moving in a southerly direction at a rate of about 1 m (3 ft) per year. The combustion has caused soil discolouration and an uneven ground surface in the area