Wednesday 19 August 2015

The Glory Hole

Before gold was discovered at St Bathans in 1863, the 120 metre high Kildare Hill stood where the Blue Lake is now located. (Don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge)

The hill was named after their home country by the Irishmen who made the original find. Sluicing whittled the hill down to become first the Kildare Basin, and as it sunk further it became known as the Glory Hole, celebrating the riches it yielded.

The Kildare Hill Claim became the site of the deepest hydraulic elevating operation in the world, an operation that would eventually turn a 120 metre hill into a 68 metre hole over 800 metres long. The hydraulic elevator acted like a giant vacuum cleaner, sucking water and gravel out of the pit to where it could be worked for gold.

Mining was halted in 1934 because the sides of the pit were getting too close to the town and once abandoned, the Glory Hole filled with water that became a striking blue colour, due to the high mineral content of the surrounding tailings. Hence today’s Blue Lake. Which I renamed the Green Lake. I think the blue must show a lot more in the summer, and of course when there’s a blue sky to reflect the colour.

I walked and drove over to the lake several times while we were at St Bathans Domain. Every time the rain stopped or the wind died down I’d race back over to check out the shooting conditions.

Just the once I managed a millpond lake to help with the reflections, and then it only lasted for about 30 minutes before a breeze came up again and the water rippled. And while it would have been nice to see the sun and a blue sky, the cloud cover helped with the reflections and there were no harsh shadows.

I spent a couple of hours exploring along the track that weaves in and out of the workings and along the lake edge, checking out the many coloured and textured bluffs, mounds and the tiny bays at water level. I had the whole lake to myself, not a soul in sight, just peaceful surroundings, a pair of ducks, a few song birds, a couple dozen rabbits and me.

A few more photos-

And finally one of the Blue Lake (looking a little green), and the only people I saw all afternoon who arrived just in time for me to capture them and give some perspective to the lake.

It’s hard to imagine that a place like the Blue Lake exists in high country New Zealand. With it’s gouged out white cliffs, pink, orange & grey hued mounds of tailings and deep green water it's like a beautiful but scarred moonscape. It should look totally out of place in the surrounding countryside yet it fits in perfectly. The Blue Lake is a hidden gem, one of those places that are well off the beaten tourist track but well worth the extra effort of visiting.

I definitely will be back in the autumn not only to see if I can shoot a ‘blue’ lake but also to see the surrounding willows in their autumn colours.


  1. These photos are amazing Shellie! Nice work :)

    1. Thanks Laura, glad you enjoyed them. Maybe we'll see them on a huge canvas in a head office one day, or even beside a hard workers desk ;)

  2. Superb photos Shellie, another spot for our bucket it's a bit different where you are, we have 36deg C or 96F

    1. Thanks Jimu, that temperature sounds great as long as there's somewhere to cool off like a nice forest pool or river.


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