In 1964 myself (René), Nelleke my wife, and our daughter Iefje emigrated from Holland to Australia. I was 29 years old and Nelleke a few years younger.
We choose to live in the tropics of Far Northern Australia, a place unknown to many people around the world.
Cold weather and a longing for adventure was the main reason to leave The Netherlands. We found a job in the tobacco fields. During that time we met a guy from Macedonia and he introduced us to a place called Agate Creek. I had never even heard the word agates before. This was my first introduction to the world of semi precious stones and in particular agates.
In later years, 1965 to 1968, we went to Agate Creek with an old Nissan Patrol. It had very primitive suspension, there were terrible road conditions and getting there took two full days.
Not many other people were there, digging for these potato looking treasures. The so called surface material was already gone by then. To dig a hole up to 3 meters with pick and shovel in dry hard soil was hard work. The heat, the millions of flies and always being short of drinking water, were the harsh circumstances we had to cope with. But the rewards were so exciting.
Digging for the agate nodules was something that was not for the so called “city slickers”! But coming home after 12 to 14 days to Atherton with bags full of agates made up for all the blisters and sorrow, despite the fact, that only 30 to 35 %, after cutting, are good for collectors world wide. We are very, very selective and sort out the ones with flaws, fractures, uninteresting patterns and large crystallizations in the center. But the ones that are good are so beautiful in colour, patterns and design, that it is not easy to find comparison with other agates elsewhere in the world. Mother Nature did a wonderful job!
A very interesting book about agates in general, including Agate Creek agates is available from http://www.agate-nodule.com/category/publications
These days Agate Creek is still a very interesting place to visit and is far more accessible than in the old days. Now, there is a camping ground, fresh water and lovely people to point out places, where you still can dig up some agates.
In 1996, Nelleke and I, with the two girls went back to The Netherlands to try and sell the rough agates. It was not a smart move at all, as the Dutch people did not know what they were and what to do with these “Rocks”.
What now? I decided to start making jewelry from the agates. That worked and we start making a living again. In 1969 we opened, with borrowed money, a Museum called “De Oude Aarde” (The Old Earth) in a place called Giethoorn, near Zwolle.
Although not ours anymore it is still one of Holland’s most interesting mineralogical Museums. A must if visiting in Europe.
In 1977 we returned with the 3 girls to Northern Queensland, to our beloved Atherton Tablelands. After 3 years taking it easy I decided to start another museum. This time a-dream-come-true fantasia museum, to awaken people to the phenomenon of crystal formations from around the world. With financial help from Australia’s development bank I build a spectacular semi-underground simulated cave museum, an adventure land, a fairytale for all age groups. Visitors are supplied with a miner’s helmet with light and a catalogue. To complete this mini-expedition takes about an hour. It’s been the biggest success in my life. Visitors from all over the world have visited this exciting and at the same educational cave-museum, with its incredible collection of the most spectacular specimens from around the world on display. Many of the larger specimens are free standing and can be touched. This is much appreciated as you can read regularly in our visitors book.
The creation of “The Crystal Caves” took 14 moths to complete, with the help of a dedicated group of 5 fine people. The grand opening was in 1992, when the Honorable Minister of Tourism, Mr. Bob Gibbs flew in from Brisbane to perform the opening. Television, newspapers and other media were all there to support the opening and marveled at the wonders from deep down in our Earth. You can see picture of the museum at http://www.crystalcaves.com.au/ .
The remaining agates, those that were shipped to Holland, were returned to Australia in 1977. Combined with the agates we left with friends, we are now selecting, cutting and polishing them after all those years! You will find in our new web site http://www.agatesaustralia.com only the best of Queensland agates for sale.