A novella by
Richard W. Holmes
104 pages, $18.00 cover price
Release date: 2005
Australia is unique in that it is the home of 95% of the world’s known black opal reserves, all buried beneath the dry Outback soil in a small area of New South Wales known as Lightning Ridge. Under existing laws an individual can hold only two mining claims that measure 50 meters by 50 meters, or roughly one acre in size. These restrictions do not exist in other parts of Australia.
Lightning Ridge is an area of the outback where many crooks, cutthroats, and thieves come to hide away from civilization. There are few people in the Lightning Ridge area. Everyone is highly suspicious of his neighbor and of what he is doing. Newcomers are not easily accepted. The paranoia of these people as they go about their daily lives, when it comes to mining and selling black opal, cannot be exaggerated. The people who steal from legitimate opal miners are called “ratters.”
The black opal in the Lightning Ridge area is mined in sedimentary rock dating to the Cretaceous Period, eighty to one hundred and thirty million years ago. The Lightning Ridge opal miners dig to a maximum depth of seventy feet, which has led some to ask the question: What might lie below the Cretaceous zone? In many places in Australia there exist volcanic intrusions of rock known as kimberlite that predate the Cretaceous period by millions of years. These kimberlite intrusions are sometimes the ‘host rock’ for diamonds. Could it be that if the Lightning Ridge miners dig deeper they might run into one of these pockets of kimberlite?
This adventure story centers around two leading characters: Rusty, a 40-year-old opal miner, and Kate, a 60-year-old, tough-as-nails woman who raises sheep and cattle when she is not mining opal. This story, I believe, captures a sense of intrigue and calamity that continues to happen between opal miners, “ratters,” and animals of the Outback area of Lightning Ridge, Australia.
I find Australia an exciting and interesting country. The people there are warm and friendly and ready to help a stranger enjoy their home ‘among the gum trees.’
Richard W. Holmes