Holtermann and his Nugget

 

Holtermann and his nugget

Holtermann and his nugget - (circa 1874-1876 - photograph by American and Australasian Photographic Company)


Bernhardt Otto Holtermann, a Taurean, was born in Hamburg, Germany, on April 28, 1835, the year of the Goat.

As a young man he left Germany in 1858 to avoid military service and arrived in Sydney, via Melbourne, on January 20th 1859. After several months working as a waiter at the Hamburg Hotel in King Street he met a Polish miner named Ludwig Hugo Louis Beyers. They both went to Hill End to prospect for gold in the Tambaroora area.

In 1861 they formed a partnership mining a claim at Hawkins Hill called the Star of Hope mine. After five years, and with little success, Holtermann was forced to undertake a variety of occupations in order to hold his claim. Through his business acumen and character he had become the licensee of the All Nations Hotel by 1868 and married Harriett Emmett in Bathurst on February 22th the same year. On the same day Ludwig Beyers married Harriett’s sister, Mary.

Some rich veins of gold were found in the mine in 1871 but were quickly exhausted. The following year one of the mines eight owners sold their share to Mark Hammond. He believed that the existing shaft would produce nothing and that a new one to the West would be more productive. No-one believed him. Without authority from the other owners he sealed off the old shaft and started a new one where, within a couple of weeks and despite the angst of his fellow workers, a rich new vein was discovered.

Tip of nugget

Tip of the Holtermann nugget at History Hill in Hill End

Hammond sold his share in the mine shortly after this discovery at a substantial profit thus missing out on the bonanza uncovered by the last blasting of the night shift at 2am on the 19th October, 1872 – a “veritable wall of gold was revealed”.

The largest single mass of gold ever recorded was brought to the surface where it was photographed with Holtermann who was mine manager at the time. It became known as Holtermann’s Nugget. It was reported to have contained 3,000 ozs of gold. Before the nugget was crushed, along with all the other ore, Holtermann chipped the tip off the nugget as a souvenir. Holtermann would have had no idea that in the future his great grandson, Harry, would sell many of his personal effects to History Hill at Hill End. Among these artifacts was the tip off the world’s largest nugget that Holtermann had souvenired over a century earlier.

An entry in the mine day book a few months later recorded that an even larger nugget was found containing an estimated 5000 ozs of gold. It was reportedly broken up underground by the miners to avoid the huge effort of having to bring another mammoth piece of rock to the surface in one piece only to see it broken up at the battery. However the *Topics of the Day* on page 2 of the South Australian Advertiser of Monday, 17th February 1873 quotes an article from the Hill End Observer and Tambaroora Herald of the 5th of February which describes the discovery of this second mammoth nugget and how it was raised to the surface. It remained on display for a week or so before being sent to the battery. No photographs were taken as Beaufoy Merlin and his equipment were elsewhere.

Holtermann stained glass window

Holtermann's stained glass window

Holtermann left Hill End a very rich man to pursue his many passions including photography and politics. He built a Victorian Free Classical mansion in Lavender Bay with a large square tower overlooking Sydney Harbour. He commissioned a round stained glass window 45cm in diameter for the tower which portrayed himself standing with the nugget that had changed his life.

It was from the top of this tower that a magnificent panoramic photograph of Sydney was captured, on three huge glass negatives weighing 27kg each, by Charles Baylis. In 1876 Holtermann took this masterpiece to the US Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia to promote Australia as a destination for immigration. A copy of this panorama can be seen today in the corridor of North Sydney Council’s Customer Service Centre at 200 Miller Street along with a comparable panorama taken from the SHORE tower in the 1970s. After Holtermann’s death his mansion was bought by Sir Thomas Dibbs who, in 1888, sold it to The Church of England. It is now part of SHORE at North Sydney. The tower was bricked over in 1934 but the stained glass window is still extant and is housed in the foyer of the school library.

holtermann_grave

Holtermann's grave at St Thomas' Rest Park in Crows Nest

Holtermann died on April 28, 1885 (his birthday) after a long illness and was buried in St Thomas’ Cemetery, Crows Nest. Also buried with him is his wife, Harriet, and some of their children and relatives. A brief reading of the inscriptions indicate that Holtermann’s life was not without its personal tragedies. He was a truly remarkable man who was ahead of his time in both thought and action.

Any discussion about Holtermann would not be complete without an acknowledgment of the efforts of Keast Burke who discovered the treasure of 19th century photographs produced by Holtermann, Merlin and Bayliss. From this important collection, found locked in a garden shed in Chatswood in 1951, Keast and his wife, Iris, uncovered most of what is known of Holtermann, Merlin and Baylis today.

In 1973 he published his book, “Gold and Silver ; An Album of Hill End and Gulgong Photographs from the Holtermann Collection” which remains the best reference on this subject. An excellent site, dedicated to Keast Bourke, which contains historic details of Holtermann, his associates and the role that photography played in the 1870’s in Australia can be found on Keast Burke’s website.

Gold Coast Harbour Town Armillary

Gold Coast Harbour Town armillary sphere

Harbour Town armillary sphere


The last place I expected to see an armillary sphere was at Harbour Town on Queensland’s Gold Coast. It just proves they make great decorative additions to almost any situation. The image of an armillary sphere represented the height of wisdom and knowledge during the Renaissance and it still carries that legacy today.

The word armillary is derived from the Latin armillae meaning a bracelet. The sphere is made up of several concentric rings (or bracelets) set inside one another which collectively represent an Earth centred view of the celestial sphere.

Armillary spheres were developed by the Greeks and were used as teaching aids to help visualise the movement of stars and planets in the heavens as early as the 3rd century BCE. Larger and more precise machines were also used as observational instruments. The Chinese had also developed simple devices as early as 4th century BCE. These developed in style and complexity over the ensuing centuries culminating in the construction of the Honcheonsigye armillary in 1433. This is the only astronomical clock from the Joseon Dynasty in existence today.

The Persians and Arabs improved even more on the armillary and developed other astronomical instruments such as the astrolabe. More refinements occurred during the Renaissance particularly by Tycho Brahe (1546-1601).

Harbour Town armillary sphere

The armillary sphere at Harbour Town on Queensland’s Gold Coast is a major sculptural element within the complex. It is set on a column in the middle of a compass laid out on the ground which is divided into 360 degrees. On this are indicated directions and distances to major cities around the world. It has quite a “Hard Rock Cafe” feel to it with the word LANE in prominent orbit around the outer sphere.

The sphere is inaccurate as the rings representing the polar circles and circles of the tropics are all equidistant from the equator ring when they should be 23.5 degrees from the poles and equator respectively.

Harbour Town Traders Lane

Harbour Town Traders Lane armillary on the Gold Coast

Garden Armillary

Garden armillary sphere

Garden armillary sphere

There is no easier way to add some style and class to a landscape than with the addition of a garden armillary sphere. The image of an armillary sphere represented the height of wisdom and knowledge during the Renaissance and it still carries that legacy today.

An armillary sphere is a representation of the celestial sphere that was used to describe the motions of the stars and planets across the sky. The word armillary is derived from the Latin armillae meaning a bracelet. The sphere is made up of several concentric rings (or bracelets) set inside one another which collectively represent an Earth centred view of the celestial sphere.

Armillary spheres were developed by the Greeks and were used as teaching aids to help visualise the movement of stars and planets in the heavens as early as the 3rd century BCE. Larger and more precise machines were also used as observational instruments. The Chinese had also developed simple devices as early as 4th century BCE. These developed in style and complexity over the ensuing centuries culminating in the construction of the Honcheonsigye armillary in 1433. This is the only astronomical clock from the Joseon Dynasty in existence today.

The Persians and Arabs improved the device even more and developed other astronomical instruments such as the astrolabe. More refinements occurred during the Renaissance particularly by Tycho Brahe (1546-1601).

A description of the garden armillary and more photos can be found on this page.

Garden armillary sundials

Another form of garden armillary is a sundial. Usually it is simply two open rings set at right angles to each other with a rod (or gnomon) running down the central axis which casts a moving shadow along the horizontal ring section as the Sun traverses the sky. It is important to align the gnomon with the southern and northern celestial poles so that its axis will be parallel with the north/south axis of the Earth.

Below are some photos taken during construction showing the ring orientation.

Armillary sphere construction

Fitting the tropic rings of the armillary sphere

Aligning the meridian and horizon rings of the garden armillary

Aligning the meridian and horizon rings

Pania of the Reef – Napier

Pania of the Reef - Napier

Pania of the Reef - Napier

On a recent trip to Napier in New Zealand to admire the Art Deco buildings of the city I discovered this famous statue known as “Pania of the reef”. It is located in the park by the seawall opposite the Masonic Hotel.

The legend of Pania

On the base of the statue is a brass plaque. The inscription on the plaque reads;

“PANIA OF THE REEF”

“An old Maori legend tells how Pania, lured by the siren
voices of the sea people, swam out to meet them.
When she endeavoured to return to her lover, she was
transformed into the reef which now lies beyond the
Napier breakwater.

To perpetuate the legend the Thirty Thousand Club
presented this statue to the city of Napier – 1954″


The statue of Princess Pania is a nice nod to Maori culture

Fred Astaire Dance Prop

Dance prop cane

Fred Astiare in full flight


Watching Fred Astaire make a dance prop seemingly come to life in a scene is testament to his imagination and skill as a performer. A dance prop is in important element in any film or theatrical production and there was no greater exponent in the art of using them than Fred Astaire. He was able to bring the most mundane objects to life in his dance routines. Who can forget him partnering with a hat rack dance prop in “Royal Wedding”?

Dance prop cane in “Blue Skies”

One of the most ubiquitous props in theatre is a walking stick or cane. Here is a clip from “Blue Skies” in which the cane dance prop takes on a life of its own in the deft hands of Fred Astaire. How the cane flies from the floor into his hands remains a mystery to me however his tap dancing still demonstrates the pure talent that was Fred Astaire. Long takes, minimal cuts and the clever use of a dance prop cane and mirrors make this clip a joy to watch.

This Youtube video can also be found at “youtube.com/watch?v=IFabjc6mFk4”.

Mobile Phone Tower Disguise

Disguised mobile phone tower

Mobile phone tower palm tree

A mobile phone tower is not an attractive addition to any landscape. They are littered about our cities and suburbs with very little consideration of their aesthetic appeal. Where they are located is governed primarily by technical considerations. A mobile phone tower can however be disguised so that it becomes less of an eyesore.

A mobile phone tower disguise

There are many examples of ingenious ways to disguise a mobile phone tower, some more successful than others. In Dubai, where cost seems a secondary consideration in every facet of life, how else to hide a mobile phone tower than by disguising it as a palm tree!

Admittedly the fronds look a little on the dry and shabby side but overall it works quite well – even though its the only palm tree that height for miles which makes it stick out like a mobile phone tower.

The Moroccan Minaret Jamour

A minaret jamour sits on top of the tower adjacent to a mosque which is used to call Muslims to prayer five times daily. This tower is called a minaret. In Morocco the tower (minaret) is square with a spire on top which has a number of spheres attached. This spire is known as a jamour and it can symbolise the sun, moon and stars or the four elements – earth, wind, fire and water.

The minaret jamour

In addition to the spheres, a minaret jamour can have a crescent moon on top, a five pointed star (representing the five pillars of Islam) or a combination of both. The crescent moon atop a minaret jamour indicates that the calendar in Islam is based on the lunar cycle and not the Gregorian calendar as used in the West.

Here are some examples of the Moroccan minaret jamour illustrating the different styles.

Minaret jamour with single sphere

Single sphere jamour seen on the Road of 1000 Kasbahs

Minaret jamour with two spheres

Two sphere jamour in Fes

3 sphere minaret jamour

3 sphere jamour on the Hassan II mosque in Casablanca

Four sphere minaret jamour

Four sphere minaret jamour in Rabat

3 sphere minaret jamour with crescent moon

3 sphere jamour with crescent moon in Casablanca

3 sphere minaret jamour with star and crescent moon

3 sphere jamour in Fes with star and crescent moon

Chinese Cloisonne Enamelware

Example of cloisonné enamelware

Example of cloisonné enamelware

The Chinese have been making Cloisonne enamelware since the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368). The name comes from the French “cloison” meaning “partition” or “dividing band”. A pattern is made from wire or thin copper strips which is attached to a metal base. The resulting partitions, or cloisons, are filled with enamel and then fired in a kiln. This process is repeated until the cloisons are filled and then the surface is polished smooth. The object is then plated with gold which stops the exposed metal from tarnishing.

Beijing cloisonne enamelware factory

No trip to Beijing is complete without visiting the Beijing Enamel Factory which is the largest producer of cloisonne enamelware in China. You are taken on a fascinating guided tour of the processes involved in creating cloisonne enamelware. After being educated in the finer points of the process you are led (surprise surprise!) to the vast showroom of cloisonne enamelware which is simply breathtaking. I resisted buying but feasted on the beauty of the merchandise.

Step 1 – Making the pattern
Firstly small copper strips are cut and bent into shapes according to the particular design. These strips are then glued to the copper vase with gum. You can see the gum in the closeup photo of part of the design. After the design has been laid out flux is applied and when the vase is heated solder flows around all the joins and fastens the pattern to the vase surface.

cloisonne enamelware copper strips

Cutting and shaping copper strips

cloisonne enamelware strip glueing

Glueing the copper pattern

Detail of glued copper strips

Detail of glued copper strips

Step 2 – Applying the pigments
Next artists fill each cloison with coloured pigments according the the design. These come in a multitude of colours and shades. The vase on the right is ready for firing with its first application of enamel pigments.

Pattern after soldering

Pattern after soldering

Lots of pigments for the pattern

Lots of pigments for the pattern

Vase with first pigment layer

Vase with first pigment layer

Step 3 – Firing the vase
The objects to be fired are placed in a kiln and heated until red hot. The pigments melt and are drawn into the cloisons by capillary action and meld with the metal. The left photo shows the red hot vases when removed from the kiln. When they have cooled (right) the colours of the pigments can be seen.

Glowing red hot just out of the kiln

Glowing red hot just out of the kiln

Colours become apparent as the vase cools

Colours become apparent as the vase cools

Step 4- Filling the cloisons
Steps 2 and 3 are repeated several times until the cloisons have been filled with enamel.

Adding more pigment to the cloisons

Adding more pigment to the cloisons

Applying pigments finished

Applying pigments finished

Step 5 – Polishing
The vase is held firmly in a special lathe and various grades of abrasive blocks are used to smooth the surface. Once the operator is happy with the finish the vase is removed revealing the brilliant finish.

Polishing the vase

Polishing the vase

Finished vase ready for gilding

Finished vase ready for gilding

The last step, which our guide said we couldn’t see because it was a secret process (duh?), was to gild the vase with gold to stop the exposed copper from tarnishing. Electroplating would be expensive and messy so, knowing that the Chinese are masters of mass production, I would say they use the electroless process of gold plating which simply involves immersing the object to be plated in a chemical (albeit toxic) solution for a few minutes. The gold adds the finishing touch to the completed item.