The long burn
Unless you are from England circa 1841 or are in to Korean barbeque you probably haven't explored the burning efficiency of coal. It turns out, if you are in Australia you are probably reading this above a large ancient deposit of it.
Admit it... If I asked you what coal is, you would likely say 'mineral' or 'rock'. I'll admit I didn't really KNOW what it was until researching this piece. To get it out of the way... Coal is old plants that fall to the ground become peat, mud, rock and eventually a light weight honeycomb-like lump of mostly carbon.
That's what you can now proudly announce when asked what coal is at the next hip social gathering or sports event. You're welcome.
Coal is mostly burnt for heat and to produce energy. It is definitely responsible for a decent amount of the climate issues on earth via our coal power plants.
If you live in Sydney there are a few places you can see coal burning. You could attend one of the Korean BBQ restaurants (they all use the BBQ version of 'barbeque' which pains me), visit one of the power plants that keep 73% of Australia lit or visit a remarkable, natural and fascinating place called Mount Wingen, NSW.
Mount Wingen ('win-jen') is located on Wanaruah (Aboriginal Australian clan) country a little bit over 4 hours North of Sydney if you take the nicer route via Putty Road. Surrounded by Burning Mountain National Park, Mount Wingen soars above the surrounding anthills at 520m above sea level. Much like most Australian "mountains" it is for all intents and purposes, a hill. This particular hill/mountain hides an ancient coal seam, buried in sandstone, that has been burning consistently for over 6000 years. Yep, six THOUSAND years.
There are a few others like it in Australia, all of which ignited by human antics. This is the detail that differentiates Mount Wingen from it's colleagues. It was not lit, according to western science it ignited naturally via lightning or bush fire. Around the world there are many similar smoulders, the majority are mines that have come to blaze by the hand of man. Further setting Mount Wingen apart.
Mount Wingen is indeed the oldest naturally occurring coal seam fire in the world, making it a very special (maybe toxic) place indeed.
The Wanaruah people have a different understanding of the mountains' history. A long time ago, possibly 6000ish years, the Gumaroi warriors took a little trip to Wanaruah country (Mount Wingen) to steal some new wives. The Wiradjuri (another nearby clan) gave the Wanaruah the heads up about the approaching warriors giving them time to prepare and head off to have a little chat about the whole wife stealing thing... A Wanaruah woman waited on a cliff to watch out for her warrior husband on his return home from said conformation. Sadly, after a while she realised he wasn't coming home. Her heart broke, leading her to beg the sky god, Biamie, to kill her. Thankfully, he was a pretty compassionate dude so he turned her to stone. During the stone-turning she wept for her husband and the tears, filled with anguish became fire balls. Those years setting her stone self and mountain alight. If you visit the mountain today you will still see her tears burning away, hoping one day her love will return from battle.
So get up there and check it out soon.
cover image credit: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coal#/media/File%3ACoal_anthracite.jpg