Marble Bar (W.A.)
Marble Bar is a town and rock formation in the Pilbara region of north-western Western Australia. It is well known for its extremely hot weather.
The hottest town in Australia
There are a small number of towns in Australia whose names have such a potency and such a power of association that they automatically conjure up images. The name ‘Marble Bar’ is synonymous with mining, isolation and, most importantly, heat.
It is known as ‘the hottest town in Australia’ a fact which is still recorded by the Guinness Book of Records. For 161 consecutive days to 20 April 1924 the temperature in the town never dropped below 100°F (37.8°C). This record still stands after eighty years. During all the time that records have been kept the temperature at the town has never dropped below 0°C.
Located 1476 km north of Perth on the Great Northern Highway, 192 km south-east of Port Hedland and 173 metres above sea level, Marble Bar does not fit the preconceptions most visitors have of it. If you imagined a reckless mining town in a barren wasteland with dirt streets and exhausted people standing outside a rather forlorn corrugated iron pub, then Marble Bar is nothing like that.
Marble Bar was named after a local deposit of mineral first thought to be marble, but which later proved to be jasper (a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz).
It crosses the Coongan River about 5 km west of the town and is clearly signposted off General Street, beyond the Government Buildings. The jasper is at its best if you splash some water over it, but note that it is illegal to fossick or cut jasper at this location. However, a section has been set aside on the road to the old Comet mine for rock enthusiasts.
In 1894-95 the Government Offices (now a series of National Trust listed buildings) were constructed out of local stone with corrugated iron roofs and elaborate stuccoed window dressings. Located just west of Sandy Creek on General Street they are the most impressive set of buildings in the town.
Typical of mining towns they were constructed at a time when the prospects for the town were such that major civic buildings seemed appropriate. It was around this time that the population of the town rose to 5000 as miners poured in hoping to find wealth in the region. For some their dreams became reality. At Shaw’s Falls the 333 ounce ‘Little Hero’ nugget was found. Shark Gully was the location for the 413 ounce ‘Bobby Dazzler’ and in 1899 the 332 ounce ‘General Gordon’ was discovered.
Several large gold nuggets were discovered as a result of the goldrush. The 333 ounce Little Hero nugget, the 413 ounce Bobby Dazzler and the 332 ounce General Gordon nugget were all found in the goldfields around the town.
Marble Bar sprung up as part of the gold rushes to the Pilbara in the late 1880s. The gold which had created a rush to the Kimberleys had all but disappeared and the fossickers and prospectors headed south seeking the elusive metal. Gold was actually discovered near Marble Bar in 1891 by Francis Jenkins (he is remembered in the name of the town’s main street) and two years later the settlement was officially declared a town.
The goldrush was shortlived. The huge discoveries on the Eastern Goldfields and in the Murchison at places like Coolgardie, Kalgoorlie, Day Dawn and Cue were enough to see prospectors abandon their diggings to head for the greater rewards which lay to the south.
Marble Bar has an arid climate with very hot summers and mild to warm winters. The town set a world record of most consecutive days of maximum temperatures of 37.8 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit) or more, during a period of 160 such days from 31 October 1923 to 7 April 1924.
Things to see:
The Swimming Pools
Marble Bar was named after a local deposit of mineral first thought to be marble, but which later proved to be jasper (a highly coloured cryptocrystalline variety of quartz). It crosses the Coongan River about 5 km west of the town and is clearly signposted off General Street, beyond the Government Buildings.
The watering hole below the Bar is a popular swimming area for locals. Both the Marble Bar Pool and the nearby Chinaman’s Pool are suitable for swimming and picnicking. The latter was named after the Chinese market gardens which were once established here by Chinese migrants to the goldfields.
Coppins Gap/Doolena Gorge
Safe swimming, scenic sights and shady picnic areas can also be enjoyed at Coppins Gap and Doolena Gorge.
Comet Gold Mine
The only significant remnant of the town’s gold mining past is the Comet Gold Mine, located 7.5 km from town via the Hillside-Marble Bar Road. The mine opened in 1936 and operated continuously until 1955. It allegedly boasts the tallest smoke stack in the Southern Hemisphere (at 75 metres). Today the Comet is a museum and tourist centre with a diversity of gemstones, jewellery, rocks, minerals and local history on display.
The Museum is open everyday from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. and underground mine tours commence daily at 10.00 a.m. and 2.00 p.m.
Beyond the Comet Mine the road winds through the dry landscape. In the desert can be seen the Corunna Airfield, built in 1943 as a long-range base for attacks on the Japanese-occupied islands of the Indonesian archipelago.
Those with a 4WD can also visit such scenic spots as Glen Herring Gorge and Carawine Gorge.