The Underground Hospital

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July 16th 2021
Published: July 18th 2021
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We paid a visit to the old Underground Hospital located behind its modern counterpart. When WWII saw the bombing of Darwin and Townsville in 1942 there was a very real threat that Mt Isa could be another target for the Japanese. Pre-empting such an attack, it was quickly decided that an underground hospital should be carved out of a shale hillside. It comprised 3 tunnels all linked by a fourth 20mtr long corridor, forming an inverted E, and had separate male and female wards as well as a maternity/birthing ward. There was also allowance for a surgical theatre should the need arise. Complete with water, electricity and telephone it took volunteers (mainly off duty miners) just 15 weeks to excavate and form up, but thankfully it was never used for its intended purpose. It did however offer nursing staff trying to escape the 45-50oC summers a much cooler and refreshing 30oC place to sleep and they would often move pregnant women and newborn babies and their mothers into the chamber. Two of the tunnels and the connecting corridor have been shored up in recent times to allow for tourists to safely walk through, but the third tunnel has been left as is and sits behind a steel grill.

The Beth Anderson Museum is in the old maternity hospital adjacent to the underground hospital and displays an array of antique medical equipment. Beth Anderson was one of the Matrons of the hospital in days gone by and it is her own collection of memorabilia that is on display in both the underground hospital and museum.

Within the grounds of the underground hospital sits one of the Tent Houses that populated the mine side of the Leichardt River. The tent community was established by the Mt Isa Mines company in the 1930’s to accommodate the growing population. Hundreds of these canvas houses, some with corrugated iron walls, sprung up and would be home to both the single men and families alike. An open shed frame would be built over the rudimentary structures allowing for ventilation and to keep the sun off.

Late in the afternoon John spotted something on the roadway of the caravan park. Closer inspection revealed it to be a yabby – we think it may have been some intended bait that escaped!

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