Something’s afoot


Last year, Jemena Pty Ltd (the Melbourne-based gas retailer and owner of the Clyde Street gasworks) threw a bit of money at the site. Bores were sunk so that monitoring could take place of the pollution levels in the water table, the old admin building had fresh panes of glass installed (which were promptly knocked out) and there was an effort to keep the lantana and grass down to a point where they weren’t a terrifying fire hazard to the folk next door at ELGAS.


Then it all went quiet.

Well, they’re at it again.


First, a big black rainwater tank appeared, and now this lot. Viro soil? Huh? Google isn’t much help. Does anyone out there know what on earth viro soil is? Is is like enviro soil, but even more concentrated and awesome? Or could is it that the nice lad with the texta forgot to scrawl “en” in front of “viro”?

I’m very interested to see what a couple of tanks of viro soil will do to the place.  There’s so much coal tar soaked through the soil that it would cost a mint to rehabilitate the whole site. If any reminder were needed of just how industrial it was, then check this out:

gas holders clyde street

Russell put me onto this pic in a previous post. It really is quite amazing to see the gigantic gas holders dwarfing the admin building. And what’s that two-storey building in the background, on Chatham Road or Emerald Street?

As an aside, I’ve just finished reading Bill Bryson’s At Home: A Short History of Private Life. He covers gas production and coal tar (p. 179, if you’re keen) and I was interested to see how coal tar was converted into kerosene, and how it was, in Bryson’s words, “the basis of the modern chemical industry”.

Leaving us with a postmodern mess to clean up. Go viro soil!

Lying around


Last year, or maybe it was earlier this year, there were huge flocks of magpies and Indian mynahs in the gasworks, all mixed up together. Most of the magpies have dispersed but a bunch of them, perhaps a family group, have taken up residence around the junction of Emerald and Hamilton streets. There’s about half a dozen adults and a couple of juveniles. I came across these three the other day, singing their heads off right in the  middle of the street.

If these three were the melody then the two up in the tree were the harmony. It was all very beautiful.

And, just to one side, was a juvenile magpie lying flat on his back on the pavement! I actually thought he was dead and so I didn’t get my camera onto him until I was almost upon him, at which point he jumped up, looked at me with that defensive-aggressive “What?!” expression universal to adolescents, human and bird, and flew off.

I was gobsmacked, but noodling around a few bird forums it turns out that this is not entirely uncommon. Someone suggested that it might be anting activity but this bird was definitely not anting, he was just lying there for the hell of it, doing what teenagers the world over do: lying down while the grown-ups get on with the work of singing and standing around in the middle of the road.

This poor magpie-lark wasn’t fooling around though.

Dr Jambo gave him a full-body examination.

His diagnosis? A fatal case of death.