Track Cutters: During the 1980s I occasionally worked for a small contractor who was commissioned by the Bureau of Mineral Resources to provide tracks for mineral exploration. The walking tracks were cut as gridlines for later use by geologists, to map minerals in the south-west of Tasmania.
Exploration in South West Tasmania can be pretty difficult and expensive. Track cutters cleared of vegetation as s a necessary prelude to geological work in the western forested areas. Dense undergrowth and ‘horizontal scrub’ make this a back breaking task.
The track cutters were flown in by helicopter from Queenstown, to work solidly for ten days whilst living in bush camps. Our first landing was at Point Hibbs on the coast due to lack clearings in the forest where a helicopter could land. We backpacked all our equipment, included chainsaws, fuel and axes 15 kilometres to the start point, where we set up camp.
Each day we would cut over 1km of track, and on a good day we might manage 1.5 kms. Towards the end of the 10 days we were walking 20kms to and from work whilst still cutting around 1 km of track.
One of the tasks on the first trip was to build a helipad to reduce walking distances for the next crew coming in. Finding a suitable landing wasn’t easy and after much deliberation Peter decided that an old Myrtle tree had to be felled to make way for the helipad. I counted the rings and it was over 500 years old, a sad day indeed to see such a majestic tree laid waste for a landing pad. I took a small piece out that fitted in my pack and it became a kitchen chopping board for 20 years, and for the last 15 years it has served as my fish cleaning board.