Historical traces and the Marne River

The Marne was dry even though I was there in the winter months. Would this have anything to do with the construction of large dams for the irrigation of vineyards in the head water of Eden Valley reducing streamflow? This reduction in streamflow consequently reduces recharge to the limestone aquifers developed on the plains, and may also adversely affect wetlands in the lower reaches. The dry river bed was a trace of a significant river.

Another significant trace of the absent history of the railway line’s in the Mallee are the water tower. In 2019 I photographed the water tower at the end of the railway line at Sedan with the 8×10 SuperCambo:

I’ve looked but I cannot find the 8×10 negatives. I don’t even remember developing them. What happened to them?

These two kinds of traces offer a way into the early history of the Mallee that has been forgotten and is invisible in the present. They are marks of the absence of a presence — this yeomanry past is no longer and the future is not yet. These historical traces in the present are what remains to record the passage of time from settler settlement with its narrative of a war on nature and the relentless land clearing. The water tower or bridge is already imbued or inscribed with a trace of something that isn’t there — the railway line that underpinned mallee farming with its narrative of the useless scrub, white manly independence and a prosperous agricultural society.

These traces in being exposed to the elements gain something by being weathered whilst losing something of its original status through the additional supplement of sedimentation of the elements over time.

Could the traces be more than a reminder of an absent history of the overly optimistic agricultural expansion of the 1920s, soldier settlement, drought, soil drift, duststorms, salinity, environmental degradation, rabbits etc? Could they — a bridge, a dry river or a water tower — have a status or value of their own that exceeds their materiality? Could the traces be more primary than the absent yeomanry and its war on nature to conquer the desert?

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