Arrived in Lightning Ridge after a very long ride on the wrong side of the road. A real mining town where the people are so friendly and everyone knows each other. It is truly out in the outback of Australia. A very small town and so much history and stories of the miners who have occupied this land since the early 1900’s. In the middle of all this history I would be remiss not to mention that my cousin Len Cram is smack dab in the middle of it all. Len is the worlds most authority on Opals. He has written many books and has extensively documented the history of mining opals in Lightning Ridge. Len arrived in Lightning Ridge in 1961 and found the opal bug.
Len picked us up the first day and took us to two mines and showed us around town as well as his home. Although 85 and a mind like a steel trap, you would think he was 40. Len has been educating us on everything to do with Lightning Ridge the black opal capitol of the world. We have spent several hours in mining camps where mountains of dirt have been pulled from the earth to create large caverns, in search of the perfect gem. He is very entertaining as he can tell one story after another and they are all interesting. I have taken photos of some of the mining camps and some are well known. We also had time to visit what we call in America a flea market. A tourist had recognized him passing through and stopped him to ask for his autograph. I enjoyed photographing that. Len has a friend Ron Canlin who owns a mine and offers tourist tours to The Black Hand Mine. Because Len knows Ron very well he got Ron to give us a private tour and we had no idea what we were about to see. Ron not only owns the mine but is a fantastic artist who has created a gallery of carvings in the walls of the sand stone mine 100 feet down. He has sculpted in the walls everyone from Mother Theresa, Jesus Christ on a cross to King Tut. He has rock stars, movie stars and Disney characters and anyone else you can mention. It is a continuing work in process and Is already gaining notoriety. It has just been awarded the #2 of the 20 attractions in the outback. If Lightning Ridge had a In and Out Burger we might think of moving here.
Lance in front of our little cabin.
Flea Market in its last week of tourist season. Many people selling odds and ends and plenty of opals.
Live music from a seasoned Aussie
Len was spotted in the crowd and asked for his autograph. Len was happy to do so.
Getting ready to go down in to our first mine.
Len’s home that he built with help from his brother Ted Carm.
This is all the largest opal archives. There are documentary tapes, many interviews with important finds etc. Shelves and shelves.
A gift for my son that I am bringing back from Len. Len has been able to grow opals with creating an environment and what they are made of. These are one of his home grown experiments.
This is Ron Canlin the artist and he isn’t done yet.
Lance giving Ron a new idea of adding “The Thinker.”