Jane has written this fantastic guest blog on the ABC Open website found here: open.abc.net.au/openregions/wa-pilbara-88pw4lt/posts/woman-of-salt-76us8mk
"It is estimated that the worlds oceans hold enough salt to cover every continent on earth with thirty five metres of the amazing white mineral. Did you know that salt can grow upwards like a stalagmite forming crystals?
Basically there are only three things needed to grow solar salt: sea water, wind, and lots of sunshine.
I guess that is why they established salt mines in the north west of WA. When the time is right the salt pond or crystallizer is drained, the evaporation process by the sun is complete and the pond is ready for harvesting. Yes harvesting - just like any other yield or crop - when it has finished growing it needs to be harvested. It is an all-natural process. There is no need to use additives or chemicals of any kind when growing and harvesting salt.
When I am at work I never get bored with the scenery. When I am driving the haul truck between the ponds, one of my favourite things to see is the changing colours of the ponds. At dawn when there is no wind, just before the sun comes up, the twilight reflects everything off the glass like surface of the ponds. It is something that gives cause to my own reflection… it is really lovely and quite magnificent.
If you can imagine a triple road train, three hundred tonnes when loaded, with white peaks sitting on top, travelling along a narrow levee over its own reflection mirrored off the pond surface, it can look like it is travelling on the water.
With the shining lights of Karratha on one side, and brown rocky hills dotted with greenery on the Dampier side, the backdrops reflect as well. It is a sight I never tire of looking at. Then throughout the day as the light changes the ponds change colour, they can be blue, green, brown, white and salmon pink.
When the winds come up, the foam from the salt starts blowing around, sometimes it collects in one spot on the main haul road, like a big foam blob it hovers until I hit it with my truck and then it flies everywhere, bombarding my windscreen.
At night it is very dark out on the ponds, we don’t have much lighting, we use small beacons, like at an airport but not as many, they guide us in and out of the ponds.
When you first do night shift it is like being in a different world. It’s my other favourite time at work. Sometimes the moon looks like a downlight in the sky. When it is big and full it shines across the ponds and lights things up for us. I’ve seen a couple of red moons, they were amazing! I love seeing the shooting stars and distant lightening flashing around the sky. Sometimes the storms can be scary, they can arrive very quickly.
At certain times of the year the levees can become slippery from moisture both in the air and coming up from the ponds, when the wind drops and the sun is going down, there is a period of time when they won’t dry out. We learn to drive to the conditions onsite, but sometimes it can be likened to driving on black ice.
Production and harvesting will stop when the conditions make it unsafe to keep operating. When there is heavy rain, or a storm - like the one in the film - and of course the cyclones, this all disrupts the harvest in a number of ways. As much as we love the rain in this region, it can cause havoc with the salt!
There is a lot of wildlife onsite too. We have kangaroos, snakes, lizards, echidnas, birds (including eagles), cats, rats, mice, fish, a whole ecosystem I guess. We see the birds catching the fish out of the ponds. It is one of our priorities to take care of the flora and the fauna. If an animal is injured at all we have carers we take them to.
When we are operating we try to avoid animal strikes. We report over our two way radios if we see an animal on the road. We re-locate anything that is on the road, a number of echidnas have been picked up and taken back up to the base of the hills where they live. We alert each other to kangaroos being around, and will slow down when we get to the area
We have a good roster; four days on, four days off and do two day shifts and then go straight onto two night shifts, all twelve hours.
I’ve worked on the salt for almost two and a half years now. I work with many different personalities, men and women, all different ages. We have a lady in her sixties who has been working here for over six years, she is pretty inspiring. I had driven trucks before; my dad taught me when I was quite young, and aside from driving with him off and on, I never drove professionally (most of my working life had been in completely unrelated occupations) until I got this job."
Read more in Jane's brilliant guest blog: open.abc.net.au/openregions/wa-pilbara-88pw4lt/posts/woman-of-salt-76us8mk
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