Mount Isa Underground Hospital and Museum


Useful Information

Location: Beth Anderson Museum building, Joan Street, Mount Isa.
At Joan Street, off Deighton Street, behind the Mount Isa Hospital. At the parking lot is a museum and the Mount Isa Tent House.
(-20.731093, 139.494844)
Open: APR to SEP Mon-Fri 10-14.
[2005]
Fee: Adults AUD 16, Concession AUD 14, Children (9-18) AUD 5, Family (2+2) 32.
[2005]
Classification: SubterraneaWorld War II Bunkers
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Dimension:  
Guided tours: self guided
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: yes
Bibliography:  
Address: Mount Isa Underground Hospital, 63 Deighton Street, Mount Isa, Qld 4825, Tel: +61-7-4749-3087. E-mail:
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.

History

1942 bombing of Darwin.
1995 it was decided to conserve and develop the underground hospital as a tourist attraction.
1997 begin of restoration works.
2001 opened to the public.

Description

The Underground Hospital is a remains of World War II. After the bombing of Darwin in 1942, precautions were taken to protect the top end of Australia in the event of an air raid. Also, thousands of American troops were relocated into Northwest Queensland from April 1942.

It was decided to excavate a large air-raid shelter, designed to function as a fully equipped underground hospital. The place was the so-called Hospital Reserve, where the Community Hospital was located. Miners, working in their spare time and at the weekends, excavated the hospital in only 15 weeks. It was equipped with a surgical theatre and a delivery room. Once a week there was an air-raid drill, and nurses and orderlies wheeled less-seriously-ill patients to the underground hospital. No Japanese bombers ever came to Mount Isa, so the hospital was never needed.

After the war, before air conditioning was installed at the above ground hospital, the underground rooms were used by the nurses as a rest area, as it was naturally cool. But the underground hospital fell into disuse and became dilapidated and vandalised. When it was reconstructed in 1997, there was little left and no surveys existed. Obviously nobody had thought to map the hospital during wartime. So they used old photographs to reconstruct it as close as possible. Mount Isa Mines provided timber and labour for the renovation.

The underground hospital is managed by the Beth Anderson Museum. This museum of local history was opened in the renovated Kuridala hospital building. The old hospital is located at the parking lot on Joan Street, off Deighton Street. Near the museum is the Mount Isa Tent House, a remains of the mining history of Mount Isa which is also part of the museum. The entrance of the underground hospital is only 40 m youth of the Beth Anderson Museum on the western slope of the small hill.

Kuridala is an abandoned mining town in the Cloncurry Shire. Mining operations began in the 1880s and ceased in the 1920s due to the collapse of world copper prices. In its heyday, Kuridala had 1500 inhabitants, six hotels, an ice factory, a printing works, several shops, a primary school, and a hospital. In July 1931 the abandoned Kuridala Hospital was purchased by the Mount Isa Hospital Committee for £400. They relocated it to the Mount Isa Hospital Reserve, by removing the roof board by board, walls and partitions in sections, and the floor cut into three sections. It was carted to Selwyn and then transported by railway to Mount Isa in five 12-hour trips. The building served as hospital for many years until 1960. Then it was replaced by a new four-storey building with 81 beds.

The Tent House was an indirect result of unemployment and poverty brought by the Great Depression. About a thousand men came to Mount Isa in search of work in the mines, causing an acute housing shortage. Temporary tent communities were erected, but the tent deteriorated very fast and a quick and more durable solution was needed. The mining company provided employees with material for converting tents into tent houses. An iron roof above the existing tent roof and iron walls outside the tent walls were added, also an enclosed veranda with glass windows. The airspace between the iron and the fabric kept the house cool during the summer. Between 1932 and 1952 a total of 179 tent houses were built, in the early 60s they were replaced by normal houses and demolished. The last remaining Tent House was set under protection by the National Trust in 1967. It was relocated to this place and became a part of the local history museum.