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Lightning Ridge feature — Big plans for Chambers of the Black Hand

Tour Guide Sam Mehan with the original butter knife used to carve all the sculptures inside the Chambers of the Black Hand at Lightning Ridge. Photo Noel Fisher

The last supper carved into the wall of the Chamber of thew Black Hand. Photo Noel Fisher

It all started as a small welcome sign carved into the sandstone wall at the bottom of the stairs at the entrance to an unsuccessful opal mine with the closest thing available – a butter knife.

Today, the Chambers of the Black Hand has between 800 and 900 carvings in the sandstone, all carved with the original butter knife that started it all.

Now owned by Gary Berry, and other shareholders, the popular tourist attraction traded for just three days after it was purchased, before Covid restrictions closed it down.

Mr Berry said that the Chambers of the Black Hand reopened in November on a casual basis because so many people come to town and wanted to see the carvings and he felt he had an obligation to open the doors.

Tourist traffic started to pick in March and April this year, and the tourist traffic has been excellent since then.

“We’ve spent a significant amount of money there to date – we’ve totally rewired all the electrical work; and the whole mine needed a facelift.

“We have also created a whole new level below the sculpture chamber, there was quite a complex of older mines under there, so we took out tonnes of backfill from those mines.

“This means we now have two tours available for people to see. The lower level takes people into how opal mining was done in the past with one hundred-year-old belly drives.

“We are showing people how the miners did it back then, how hard the miners did it, which is amazing to see.

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