'The End of Dreaming, The Death of the Dreamer' by Michael Dulaney

 
Art by Ilana Bodenstein, photos by Michael Dulaney

Art by Ilana Bodenstein, photos by Michael Dulaney

 

Cuttlefish, solidarity and the steel city

Whyalla is only four hours drive from Adelaide by way of Australia’s Highway 1, but in many ways it exists in a different age to the cosmopolitan boulevards and bucolic hinterlands of the state capital. Some people are born here and never leave until they die. For everyone else there is no seasonal migration, only exodus; sometimes there is a golden year abroad. The land yields wheat and grain, yet the fields and riverbanks are seeded with heavy metals and contaminants. The fishing jetty is dilapidated, but it will be rebuilt. A kid can still trade baitfish for snapper among the crowds casting in at dusk.

To get here, turn off the great concrete path that crosses the Australian interior—the freight and tourist link between the dynastic riches of the eastern seaboard and the frontier promise of the west—and follow the road which hugs the Spencer Gulf. Those who move through this ominous middle country have always been visited by waking dreams. Looking east across the gulf waters from his ship, the English navigator Matthew Flinders saw campfires in the ranges that would someday bear his name, but no natives. Two hundred years later the sign-posted coastal cities support relics of industry, operations built on the turning of huge turbines and men who attend to great fires that burn round the clock.

 
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Drive through the flat lands, where lambs graze on the saltbush. Along the cobalt-hued folds of the Flinders Range and beyond, between ironstone plateaus ringed by contrast clouds that suggest deep time and whatever comes after. Pass by a lead plant and the remains of a coal plant until the great steelworks looms on the horizon, glowing on the night clouds like a distant fire. Whyalla is there: one of the most specialised economies in the nation, a place where half the population of 22,000 relies in someway on the steelworks for their livelihoods.

The plant is all that matters. For fifty years its presence has visited cycles of hope and despair on the town. The boom and bust has instilled in the people a kind of hardiness, they respond to their situation with idealism and alienation in equal parts. This is the country of the smashed shop front window, of the annual players production of The Wizard of Oz followed by simulcast Shakespeare from London. There are no forced smiles or false pleasantries, just a straightforward approach with little need for middle class manners. Here is where the rains fall as mist or not at all, and the income gap between rich and poor is the highest in the state. In both the fat years and the lean years the workers look warily towards the future and say: “Perhaps. Hopefully not, but perhaps.”

How strange to observe that, in certain ways, these volatile cycles are mirrored off the Whyalla coast. For a few weeks every winter, a small rocky outcrop in the shallow waters of the Spencer Gulf close by is transformed by vast numbers of Sepia apama, the world’s largest species of cuttlefish. The narrow ledge on Point Lowly at which they congregate is only a few kilometres long, yet nearly the entire surrounding population of Giant Australian Cuttlefish—often over a hundred thousand—migrates hereto mate and lay their eggs. It is the only known cuttlefish aggregation in the world. The seafloor transforms into a living carpet of psychedelic colour; the species is reliant on this one event to replenish each year.

At its peak there is a ratio of seven males to every female, and so the suitors have become shapeshifters and masters of deception. The smaller males impersonate females to sneak past the aggressions of bigger bulls. All cuttlefish possess soft bodies covered in pigment cells and light reflecting cells that allow them to shift along the colour spectrum in an instant. Groups of twenty or thirty males will gather at a time to perform an endless sequence of displays to attract the females, the ten-megapixel screen of their bodies turned towards reproduction and mating.

Sometimes they are serene, floating wisely together in rust red and brown with their tentacles hanging down like long beards. If angered they change in an instant to pure white, their tentacles flared towards a foe. Dark patterns resembling the shadow of passing clouds or exploding nebula ripple across their back. Their fins pulse like neon blue plasma. And always, there is a kind of resting background chatter, the brilliant iridescent body linked to the subconscious, an outward display of the cuttlefish inner life.

No one knows how long they have been gathering at Whyalla. What is known is that ten years ago the cuttlefish began to disappear with no apparent reason why. Soon after, the steelworks was placed in voluntary administration, hobbled by debts. Not for the first time in Whyalla’s history, the rise and fall of those on land seemed to intersect in curious ways with these alien creatures in the sea.

 
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***

Picture the faded grandeur of the Westlands Hotel conference room, because this is where it began. April, 2016, the season of suffocating humidity, of buzzing evaporative air conditioners. Two hundred vinyl-covered plastic chairs and a faux-chandelier decorated with white lace, tropical birds frozen in flight on the scuffed blue carpet. The speakers and projector screen up front broadcasted a creditors meeting from Sydney concerning the future of Arrium, the owners of the Whyalla steel plant. From all over the Upper Spencer Gulf, workers and suppliers arrived in their hi-vis or Australian Workers Union jackets, clothing marked by the smell of diesel and the tar fumes that escape the coking coal plant. The three-hour meeting would determine their money and their jobs; it would sort out who would be paid and what would be sold off to do so.

When the floor was finally opened to questions, one of the contractors stepped up to the microphone. A lady in a cleaner’s uniform pinched the bridge of her nose and yawned.

“Am I on the line for twelve months or twelve years? Or am I just going to be whistling dixie?” he asked, addressing the streamed image of Mark Mentha, lead director of administrators KordaMentha.

The first contractor was followed by another, then another, and Mentha attempted to quiet their concerns with a metaphor about putting out spot fires to prevent a bushfire. He wore a lapel microphone that amplified his breathing and the way his lips smacked together, which lent an unsettling air of intimacy to the spacious conference room. A mundane PowerPoint presentation laid out the facts: four billion dollars in debts, the most complex corporate restructure in Australian history, over three thousand people directly employed by Arrium in Whyalla, and more than three times that number around the country. The steelworks made 70 per cent of Australia’s structural steel, and it was the only manufacturer of rail in the country. Even then it mostly relied on anti-dumping tariffs to compete with Chinese steel imports.

“We’re at pains to make sure there’s no contagion,” Mentha said to conclude. The biological term also refers to financial crises spreading across global markets. This contagion would hit hardest in Whyalla and 100km up the highway in Port Augusta, where many of the steel workers lived.

Those present in the conference room were overwhelmingly a people diminished. The crowd, by and large, presented faces of boredom or credulity as the votes were tallied and the schemata of their futures were discussed in some blue-velveted boardroom a world away in the big city. Only the union representatives displayed a brave and united front, they stood together beside the complimentary water at the bar with their chests puffed out.

“Whyalla makes the best fucking steel in the world,” one said. Some looked off in the direction of the gulf, where the two other smoke stacks that dominated Port Augusta and Port Pirie faced their own precarity. There, the people had experienced the same worries for the future, the same fears for their children.“The government needs a bullet up the arse,” another added, and those around him nodded.

The creditors meeting closed with KordaMentha resolving to ask for another two hundred million dollars from the Big Four banks to preserve “business as usual” and keep the plant operational. Everyone filed outside past the journalists and cameramen. Local officeholders like the president of the Chamber of Commerce were left to answer to the media for the capital city bulletins.

“Are you concerned that Whyalla could become a ghost town?” the journalists asked, and the officeholders tried to sound measured: “We’re discussing all possibilities, but until we know further there’s nothing we can say.”

Afterwards, in private, the officeholders were more forthright.

“They want us to be running around, crying, and saying ‘Oh shit the world’s over, we’re all fucked.’

“My job is to get information out there, not to create bedlam.”

The cameras were waiting when the workers arrived at the steelworks the next morning and when they left that evening. Some had three children under three years of age and others had medical bills to pay, all were holding on to the last string of hope. Inside, they huddled together and downplayed their situation with pleasantries like, “Just trying to keep positive, I suppose.”

In private, they were more anxious, not least because reliable information about their future was harder to come by.

“You talk to one person it’s one thing and talk to another person and it’s different,” they told outsiders worried enough to ask.

“I just wait to hear it from my boss, that’s what I do...it’s better waiting and finding out for yourself.”

***

To dive with the cuttlefish, first wade over the flat rocks into the murky water. Look left, see the Point Lowly lighthouse standing guard over the narrowest passage of the Spencer Gulf. Look right, to the steam leaking from the steelworks on the opposite shore. Just a few hundred metres away, the Santos gas plant roars ceaselessly alongside the spawning grounds, an eerie sound like an approaching hurricane. From this vantage the long jetty and refinery are absent any signs of human activity, the workers hidden in cabs or offices as tankers dock to load hydrocarbons bound for equatorial markets. A long exhaust flame burns skyward, like a beacon of prosperity that must never be extinguished. Submerge yourself, approach the world of colour hidden beneath the cold grey surface.

 
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Cephalopod: from the Greek for ‘head-feet’. Marine invertebrates like octopus, cuttlefish and squid are distinguished by bilateral body symmetry, a prominent head and a set of tentacles. The cuttlefish have blue-green copper blood and three hearts. Technically, they are molluscs—a category which includes oysters and mussels—that discarded their shells and learned to live in the open water.

Diving down, confront the cuttlefish eye at the silty bottom, with its pupil like Arabic calligraphy. It is true that cuttlefish, the masters of chroma, are in fact colourblind. The eye is fully developed before cuttlefish hatch, so that juveniles change colour and track prey while inside the eye. On first contact the alien visage has the unmistakable charisma of intelligence and wisdom. To meet this underwater gaze is to partake in the meeting of two strikingly similar minds: mammalian and molluscan. Beside the gas refinery at Point Lowly swims the results of a separate experiment in the evolution of consciousness.

The common ancestor between humans and cephalopods—something resembling a flattened worm less than a centimetre long—lived around six hundred million years ago, close to the dawn of animal life. The moon was nearer to the earth and the days shorter; the oceans were populated by organisms so different from all that came afterwards that there is doubt about their link to current life on earth. From this tiny worm, one branch on the tree of life eventually leads to vertebrates, to bones and neurons and highly-developed sense organs, and another leads to the invertebrates and, among other creatures, the cuttlefish.

 
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Of all the creatures on the spineless side—some 97 percent of the animal kingdom—the cephalopods are virtually alone in possessing complex central nervous systems and minds; large brains not just in terms of absolute size, but relative to their body weight.

Evolution saw fit to spread neurons throughout cephalopod bodies to help them to feed, and also to help outwit predators when they left the safety of their molluscan shells. These traits mean the cuttlefish is imbued with rare intelligence, even though they only live for one or two years. For this, they are known as the rock stars of the sea: they live fast and die young, mating in one explosive season—the Big Bang version of reproduction.

In laboratory tests, cuttlefish have demonstrated episodic-like memory, something otherwise observed only in mammals and some birds. This involves the recollection of personally-experienced memories based on what happened, where it happened and when. It means they can plan for the future and remember the past.

They are also one of only a handful of animals to have rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the sleep of dreams. Like dogs that chase cars in their beds, cuttlefish have been observed striking out at invisible foes and cycling through their colourful moods while in a deep state of reverie.

Nearly all animals have some form of sleep, but only a few species dream. No one fully understands why or when this capacity evolved. Some scientists think that the purpose of dream sleep in humans is to replay the day’s experiences to consolidate these new memories within the existing brain structure. Another theory is that sleep is organised forgetting, the unlearning of useless information. A third, more recent, view is that dreams are the exercise of consciousness. When we sleep, according to this view, our inner fabulist takes over to stretch out concepts and experiences learned during routine and banal waking life. The dreamer safely explores and tests nonsensical categories, fatal scenarios and alternative realities while in their ordinary, sleeping body. Human dreams of flying are, in this sense, a necessary part of expanding the possibilities of our world.

If cuttlefish are colour blind, perhaps they dream in colours, and imagine the omni-rainbow of their bodies. Maybe, in the dream space, they are alone, free to explore the oneiric world at their leisure. Like other places where all energy is turned towards reproduction and competition, maybe at Point Lowly there are no dreams at all.

Around the time the Whyalla steelworkers felt the precarity of their situation, the count of cuttlefish aggregating at Point Lowly began to approach zero. From a stable population near the peak of 180,000 recorded in the early 2000s, the population fell to 33,000 in just a few years. While most public attention was turned towards the shore, a 600-million-year experiment in consciousness appeared to be coming to an end.

***

The Arrium contagion spread during the colder months of 2016. Politicians flew in from the cities, bringing a cultivated air of deep concern and urgency, and costly new protection measures for Australian steel. They brought with them a certain set of assumptions. Steel is the industry of industries, they seemed to say. It carries the weight of our expectations for the country, our independence from other nations. Steel is strength, steel is freedom. From this view, the furnaces can be traced back to the first fire stolen by Prometheus, and the flying sparks and molten metal and heavy rail girders that come from within form the backbone of the country. Inside, workers reckon with primal forces and mechanised violence on a daily basis, taking disorder and giving it structure, clawing back the entropy of the cosmos.

Hopes rested on another company or rich entrepreneur buying the steelworks and making something of the place. Hundreds of millions of public money was offered by the state and federal governments to make this happen. In a country spreading towards the margins, towards the coastal metropolises, a place like Whyalla had to take whatever it could get.

The then-prime minister Malcolm Turnbull, a vanishing man with a Cheshire Cat grin, bore the brunt of these harder realities at a press conference on the green grass of Ada Ryan Park, fringed by big date palms and trees bent low by the wind. He was heckled by Raylene Mullins, an interloper wearing a canary yellow blouse and holding a dog leash, whose husband worked at the mill.

“Where are our grandchildren, their children and their children going to work?” she asked before Turnbull was led away by the local member.

Elsewhere, the conversations about politicians were not so polite. Some of those who had been here long enough could scarcely remember seeing so many houses for sale. They were migrants who arrived decades earlier and found sixteen homes on the real estate market. Now there was something like six hundred. People recalled bitterly the predictions from speculative boosters that as recently as 2012 ranked Whyalla as one of the hotspots for Australian property.

“Many investors underrate Whyalla because of its topsy-turvy past, but it’s the future that matters,” went one optimistic report in Smart Property Magazine.

“This regional town of 25,000 has several billion-dollar ventures on the horizon… houses are cheap but may not remain so for long.”

Prices had risen the fastest in the state for the decade to 2014. Now, as the ground fell out beneath them, Whyalla locals found their homes and mortgages trapped in a “real estate nightmare,” that Domain’s chief economist Andrew Wilson said was “exacerbated by high levels of speculative irrational residential investment activity.”

A thousand people had been laid off by Arrium to keep the steelworks running. Those who could sell their homes did not delay. The local removalists filled one or two trucks per day with workers leaving the city. In times past it was just a few jobs per week in either direction. The trucks had not carried anything into Whyalla for twelve months, and soon the owners grew concerned there would be no one left to move out.

 
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All told, maybe several thousand people left town soon after the layoffs hit. In some cases four generations of the same family had worked at the mill. The Whyalla buy, swap and sell pages were filled with bargains; near-new cars and furniture sold for pennies on the dollar. People simply dumped their household stuff and took whatever they could load onto a trailer. They took the road out of town until they reached Highway 1, where they joined the long line of people in flight—some of who knew where they were headed, and many others who did not.

Those who stayed recalled the great exodus past, when the BHP shipyard that dominated the town’s economy fell silent in 1978. The facility was the pride of Whyalla, a place that made people feel like they were part of something bigger. It produced four shallow-bottom warships for World War II and sixty more vessels in the peacetime decades after. The great steel ships were always launched on a Saturday, when the public would line the beach amidst a carnival atmosphere. The shipyards fuelled predictions that the population would increase to 60,000. Instead, BHP— which controlled the shipyard and the surrounding iron ore mines and formerly even the cemetery, so that the dead could not be buried without the blessing of the company— left town once there was no more surplus value to extract. Whyalla suffered a three-decade decline, culminating in the five years from 1991 to 1996, when it had among the highest population loss of anywhere in Australia, a period when 6 per cent of the city’s population left and never returned.

Twenty years later, as the steelworks brought a fresh wave of layoffs, a group of local job seekers wrote and produced the Whyalla LifeStyle Guide as part of their Work for the Dole requirements. The free publication carried earnest articles about Whyalla and tips for the unemployed or those seeking work after the downturn. It was a pamphlet written by people forced to prove themselves worthy of survival, and that they were not useless. It was full of dignity and understated creativity that otherwise would be turned towards trying to pay the mortgage and afford food. There were recipes and tips for thrifty living, including a recipe for Weetbix with milk, a guide to cheap accommodation and free family activities for those who could not afford to leave Whyalla, six tips for successful co-parenting “written from a personal perspective”, and a bittersweet poem titled ‘Dealing With Depression’. For the cover of their magazine, a document into which they “poured their heart and soul,” the writers chose a mural of cartoon cuttlefish.

The Point Lowly cuttlefish have adapted to life in treacherous waters. The Spencer Gulf is an inverse estuary on the temperate coast of an arid, ancient and weathered continent. So little fresh rainwater enters from the north, and so much is taken by evaporation, that the waters north of the spawning grounds are more saline than the ambient ocean at its mouth.

Tropical species like marlin, turtles and brown estuary rays endemic to Queensland have been found dead or dying in these briny shallows. Marine life migrates along the warm Leeuwin Current which wraps the continent, following it down the coast of Western Australia, through the Great Australian Bight and then up the east coast. The fish mistake the warmer water flowing from the Spencer Gulf for the eastern seaboard and swim up to their death.

Fishers have always preyed on the nutrient-rich currents that feed algae and massive seagrass meadows. The Barngarla were known as people who “sang to the sharks,” and who fished in the bays around Point Lowly for thousands of years. The men gathered on the rocks while women danced on the beach. They lit fires that attracted the fish. They sang and hit the water, and when the sharks and dolphins came to the shore they drove schools of fish towards the shallows. The last known practitioner to sing to the sharks died in the late sixties, along with the Barngarla language.

As the ancient ways were devastated, they were replaced by net and longline and engine, mechanical methods that disrupted the natural metabolism of the oceans. Seafood markets were inundated with Spencer Gulf king prawn, whiting, shark, garfish, snapper, and Australian salmon; 60 per cent of the state’s seafood is caught from this stretch of water and the ocean to the south.

The fishermen and the divers who spent their life on the gulf have the cuttlefish in their earliest memories. They recall a time when the mating dance at Point Lowly was undisturbed, at least by man. In the sixties, they say the waters off their boats ran red with dolphin and snapper feeding on cuttlefish in the shallows. The fishers, in turn, preyed on the snapper. A few decades later, when the snapper were all but wiped out by the long lines, the cuttlefish aggregation bloomed, and so did their appeal to the seafood market. Soon eleven boats or more at a time fished the living carpet, the fleet pulling in a tonne a day, the fishers on board covered in black ink from head to toe. The first two weeks in June and the first two in July was when they made their money, their haul shipped frozen to Adelaide and then to market in Indonesia. After just a few years of this, the South Australian fisheries department locked the area down in the late nineties. A decade later, the cuttlefish began to die out.

 
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Those looking to explain the disappearance of the cuttlefish turned their attention to the gulf environment. Recent history offered much cause for concern. Elevated levels of lead, zinc and cadmium had been tested in the razorfish and the sediments. Brine from a proposed BHP desalination plant (that never eventuated) would have emptied into the hypersaline water near the cuttlefish spawning grounds. In 1992 approximately three hundred tonnes of fuel—the largest spill of maritime oil in Australia’s history until that time—coated the gulf coast when the tanker Era collided with a tug, killing hundreds of birds and turning the mangroves and small creeks black.

Some believed that the army bases surrounding the town spooked the cuttlefish with the explosives tests that rattled the windows in Whyalla every so often. Or that kingfish bred for a failed commercial aquaculture venture escaped their pens, the ravenous cloud of predators spreading out and consuming everything in their path. Another potential culprit was the cape ships bringing ore—the ones with huge propellers that cut schools of cuttlefish to ribbons and engines that fouled the waters with sonic destruction.

Most of these were ruled out when the cuttlefish bloomed again. Just a few years after their apparent demise in 2013, the Point Lowly population rebounded to near its historic peak, where it has remained since. Hundreds of tourists pull up in buses filled with scuba gear rented from the local dive shop. Often the outsiders take the slip road to Point Lowly and bypass Whyalla altogether, unpacking their gear at the council amenities newly built beside the gas plant. An interstate artist camp named CephaloPOD visits for a week every year, staying at the base of the Point Lowly lighthouse. The group, curated by the aquatically-named Liquid Architecture, reads from carefully selected texts that place the cuttlefish mind at the centre of the cosmos, and creates work that mimics the shapeshifting creatures. Last year the Whyalla council held the inaugural CuttleFest to celebrate the aggregation. The second annual event was frustrated when the cephalopods arrived a few weeks later than expected due to unseasonably warm weather.

After years of studying the cuttlefish, South Australian marine scientists concluded tentatively that the Point Lowly aggregation responded most to changes in water temperature. Constrained to only fifteen years of data, the scientists figured that Sepia apama is a species that undergoes volatile cycles of proliferation and decline. Like cephalopods around the world, Whyalla cuttlefish favour warmer years, and suffer when conditions are cool. The factories and chimneys heating the gulf (along with the heating oceans generally around the globe) turned out to be a blessing, of sorts, for this species of shapeshifters. If their fragile eggs can survive the acidification caused by climate change, and if they can find enough food in the desertified oceans, cephalopods may inherit the earth.

Fugitive emissions is a familiar term in the heavy industrial cities of the Iron Triangle. For one hundred years, the fugitives have contributed to elevated blood lead levels among the children of Port Pirie, and lung cancer in Port Augusta (until the coal power plant was demolished). In Whyalla, the steel makes its way into everything. The iron ore dust is breathed into lungs; it settles between the cracks and in the grout, and a pink haze covers the main street so that the buildings disappear into the surrounding red soil. Whenever the rust is cleaned it comes back as before, then thicker. Today the red mist continues to fall because the steelworks has new life after nearly two years of unrest.

 
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In the end, the town was given its future by a billionaire. GFG Alliance, the company owned by British industrialist Sanjeev Gupta, outbid two others to buy the steelworks for somewhere in the order of half a billion dollars. A year before the deal was finalised, unionised steel workers voted to take a 10 per cent pay cut to keep the plant open.

The GFG flags flying out front mark the Whyalla plant as part of Gupta’s sprawling empire, which operates across 30 countries as a vertically integrated mining and industrial conglomerate. By winning the bidding contest, Gupta became known as the saviour of Whyalla, living up to his nickname as the ‘Man of Steel’ for his efforts around the world to purchase and revive ailing steel operations. In interviews, Gupta admitted he did not buy into the Spencer Gulf out of benevolence. “I see an opportunity, I see that I can make a difference and I can make my business more successful and I pursue it,” he told the Adelaide Advertiser in 2017.

What he brought was a vision. At the end of 2018, Gupta announced a $600-million upgrade package to build one of the biggest steel plants in the world at Whyalla. This vision includes the council building a $45- million hotel on the foreshore, increasing steel production by 1,000 per cent and running part of the operation with solar power. A new rail rolling plant is being built; the Australian government agreed to prioritise Whyalla steel for its transport infrastructure projects. Meanwhile, the local council predicts the population will quadruple over the next two decades to eighty thousand.

Of course, narratives of renewal have been told here before. Shipyards, coal plants, solar thermal power plants, national railways and more have all come and gone based on the movements of private financing and commodity markets. Meantime, the billionaire entrepreneurs buying into energy or steel have been reinvented as agile shapeshifters with portfolios of benevolence. They present a new face for the same old neoliberal project that long ago erased the possibility of even imagining alternatives to the current economic order. The project has evolved a form of camouflage where the things that should be contestable—debt, privatisation, the market—appear immutable, while the prospect of worker control of industry, or nationalisation, or even the limits of the natural world, are wilfully obscured. The same forces that threaten the survival of the cuttlefish, as well as workers everywhere, also thwarts a world where all can flourish.

Such dream deprivation is not just limiting: it might be fatal, as it has proved for laboratory rats hooked to brainwave sensors and treadmills that remain idle until the sleeping rodents begin to dream. After a few days without dreams their bodies jaundice, then their fur and eyes turn yellow and their paws develop lesions. Within weeks they drop dead. On land and in the sea are beings trapped by the ebbs and flows of capital, constrained by what seems merely possible. What becomes of us all if we cannot imagine a better world?

This question is not asked under late capitalism, and so it is not asked in Whyalla. It is a young town in an ancient landscape where everything moves in cycles: the boom and bust of market economics; the vicissitudes of capital; the rise and fall of sleep phases; the death and rebirth of the cuttlefish. Today the steelworks tour buses are loaded with curious visitors who come to see the early returns from the new owners and hear about the man the locals simply call “Mr Gupta.” Although there is plenty of reason for optimism, reminders of hard times are preserved all around—in the dilapidated housing estates as well as the stucco blast furnace that adorns the oldest pub—and this is why, at the conclusion of the tour, the guides request gently: “Keep your fingers crossed for Whyalla.” ◆



The research for this essay was conducted over several years living and reporting in South Australia. The author would like to thank FSM and the CephaloPOD19 artist camp for funding part of this research. That project was supported by Australia Council for the Arts. The above piece was originally published in Issue #43 of The Lifted Brow, out now!

Michael Dulaney is a writer and journalist based in Sydney. His work has been published by Griffith Review and The Monthly, among others. He tweets to a small audience of bots at @michael_dulaney

Ilana Bodenstein is an illustrator and designer from Sydney.

 
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