snowy mountains – Michmutters

Historic Kosciuszko hut rebuilt, ready to use after Black Summer bushfires

For more than two-and-a-half years the charred remnants of Sawyers Hill hut have served as a reminder of the harsh 2019-2020 bushfires that swept through the NSW Snowy Mountains.

Built as a travellers’ rest house in the 1900s, it was one of the most renowned historic structures in Kosciuszko National Park.

It is back in business and is the first of the 11 historic huts that burnt down during the Black Summer bushfires to be rebuilt.

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service ranger Megan Bowden said it was the only hut in Kosciuszko that was built as a travellers’ rest hut.

She said it was significant because of its association with important historic transport routes through the mountains.

“From people who used it in the early days right through to people who used to use it until it was burned,” Ms Bowden said.

“They’re quite significant as being living museums, as markers of the past and for present use.”

She said it “really hurt” to see them destroyed by fire.

“Especially Sawyer’s Hut, which was actually burned down in 2003 and we rebuilt it,” she said.

“So, to see it go again was certainly pretty hard.”

A park ranger inspects the ruins of an old hut, where now just a brick chimney stands.
Sawyers Hill hut was destroyed by fire in 2020.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Rebuilt by NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and volunteers, the timber was sourced from burnt trees that were felled during a roadside fire risk reduction program.

“We’ve used local millers to cut them to specific dimensions and shapes like splayed boards, which are actually hard to get now,” Ms Bowden said.

“So it’s nice to be able to use the timber that was burnt in the 2020 fires and then to see it being used in the huts today.”

It was estimated that hundreds of thousands of hectares of Kosciuszko National Park burned during the 2019-2020 bushfires.

Ms Bowden said the new huts had been built with “fire resistant strategies” to help protect them during future fires.

“We’ve used things like fire retardant in the timber,” she said.

“And we’ve wrapped the windowsills with iron and actually installed sprinklers as well.”

The huts — constructed by cattlemen, prospectors, and Snowy Mountains Scheme workers in the 1800s and 1900s — help paint a picture of survival in the region during that time.

Kosciuszko Huts Association president Simon Buckpitt said their origins were many and varied.

“Some were [for] stockmen, some were for soil conservation work, some were for hydrology, and some of them were for early survey works,” Mr Buckpitt said.

A hut in the snow with skiiers outside.
The huts have long been used by cross-country skiers and for shelter.(Supplied: Klaus Huenke)

In more recent times, the huts have been used by those seeking refuge from the harsh cold climate.

Two men sought shelter in Seaman’s Hut after becoming disoriented during a hike on Mount Kosciuszko in June.

“When people do get stuck in bad weather these huts have provided really important emergency shelter,” Ms Bowden said.

A landscape of burnt bushland.
Much of Kosciuszko National Park was badly burned during the 2019-2020 bushfires.(ABC South East NSW: Keira Proust)

Timber skills kept alive

Vickery’s Hut in Tumut is next in line for a rebuild and will require traditional timber practices in construction.

Ms Bowden said the project would run training courses throughout the rebuild process to help keep the historic timber skills alive, using broad axes and other traditional methods.

“A lot of these timbers you need the skills to know how to prepare them and install them in these places,” she said.

“We’re actually trying to run some training courses as well through this program.”

Two NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff rebuilding a historic hut
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service staff and volunteers are working on the rebuild project.(ABC South East: Keira Proust)

The entire rebuild project is expected to be finished by 2025, pending weather conditions.



SpaceX rocket debris lands in sheep paddock, Australian Space Agency confirms

The Australian Space Agency has confirmed debris found in the NSW Snowy Mountains belongs to SpaceX.

Three pieces of space junk have so far been found in the region, which are considered to be the biggest pieces found in Australia since 1979.

Two pieces were inspected by technical experts from the Australian Space Agency and NSW Police on Saturday.

Police have since confirmed they were also aware of the third piece being found in the region.

a long piece of space junk
This piece of space junk is estimated to be up to three meters long. (ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Authorities believed the space debris belonged to SpaceX but had been awaiting confirmation.

“The agency has confirmed the debris is from a SpaceX mission and continues to engage with our counterparts in the US, as well as other parts of the Commonwealth and local authorities as appropriate,” an Australian Space Agency spokesperson said.

“The agency is operating under the Australian Government Space Re-entry Debris Plan which outlines roles and responsibilities for key Australian government agencies and committees in supporting the response to space re-entry debris.”

a piece of space junk lies on the ground in a paddock
This third piece of space junk was also found in the NSW Snowy Mountains, near Jindabyne.(Supplied: Nick Lodge)

It comes after locals reported hearing a loud boom on July 9, which was considered to have been caused by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was launched in November 2020, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Locals in the regions are being told that there’s a possibility more pieces could still be found.

“If the community spots any further suspected debris they should not attempt to handle it or retrieve it,” the agency said.

“They should contact the SpaceX Debris Hotline at 1-866-623-0234 or at [email protected].”

SpaceX has been contacted for comment.

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Space junk has landed at two properties in the NSW Snowy Mountains.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)



More Snowy Mountains space junk found amid visit from Australian Space Agency

A third piece of space junk has been found in the NSW Snowy Mountains, believed to be linked to a SpaceX craft.

Two other pieces of debris were recently found by farmers at neighboring properties in Numbla Vale, after a loud bang was heard in the region on July 9.

The sonic boom was believed to be caused by the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, which was launched in November 2020, re-entering Earth’s atmosphere.

One piece of the junk was embedded deep in the ground and was estimated to be about three meters long.

The third piece of debris was discovered and photographed by a Moonbah resident on July 14.

It was not until the ABC’s coverage of the space junk in late July that the owner came forward.

News of the discoveries also led to a visit from technical experts at the Australian Space Agency and NSW Police on Saturday.

“The agency is actively working to support formal identification of the objects, and is engaging with our counterparts in the US,” an agency spokesperson said.

“If the community spots any further suspected debris they should contact local police in the first instance.”

a man stands next to a piece of space junk
Farmer Mick Miners stumbled across a piece of space junk on July 25.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Monaro Police District Commander Superintendent John Klepczarek said the objects would remain at the properties while authorities waited for SpaceX to confirm ownership.

“We believe it could be associated with SpaceX but we won’t be confirming it until we actually get acknowledgment from them,” he said.

“It’s early indication from them that there could be attempts to retrieve this space junk.”

a piece of space junk in a paddock
This piece was photographed in the Moonbah region on July 14.(Supplied: Nick Lodge )

Like pieces of a puzzle

Australian National University College of Science astrophysicist Brad Tucker said he was not surprised more fragments had been found.

a man holds space junk
Snowy Mountains resident Jock Wallace with a piece of space junk.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

“You’d expect that there would be more bits of this somewhere,” he said.

“You can probably build up enough pieces and put it together almost if more are found.”

a man leaning against space junk
Dr Tucker believes more pieces of space junk could be found in the NSW Snowy Mountains.(ABC South East NSW: Adriane Reardon)

Dr Tucker said the discovery of the pieces could be the largest space junk found in Australia since parts of NASA’s Skylab space station fell to Earth near the south-western Western Australia town of Balladonia in 1979.

He said there was still a lot to learn about what might be done with the objects.

“Eventually SpaceX, or at least the US, will have to make a declaration about whether they want to keep it or have it returned, or not,” Dr Tucker said.

“This doesn’t happen that often, so it’s not like you pull out this standard ‘space junk landed in my sheep paddock’ form.

“There’s a lot of unique work that has to be done.”

‘Respect and courtesy, please’

The uniqueness of the situation was not lost on the authorities involved.