The government in long-suffering Perth was in raptures when gold was discovered at Southern Cross in 1887. In one of the world’s last great gold rushes, the next few years drew prospectors from other states – and other nations. Some 50 towns immediately rose up in the Eastern Goldfields, but the area’s population dwindled along with the gold itself, and these days Kalgoorlie-Boulder is the only real survivor. In diminished towns, prodigious structures from early last century still stand unwavering in the heat. The region is fascinating to explore.
It was a harsh life on the goldfields. Enthusiasm, or greed, sometimes outweighed commonsense. Diseases like typhoid ran through mining camps. Inadequate water, housing, food and medical supplies led to a dusty death for many.
The 1903 Golden Pipeline brought water to the goldfields, stretching 560km from the Perth foothills. It was a lifeline for the towns it passed through and filled Kalgoorlie with the sense of a future, with or without gold.