Yesterday myself, and co-director of the BCSC Madelynne Cornish, were given access to the Mt McKay power station for two hours to record and film. The station is located deep underground at the foot of the mountain. It’s a rich sonic environment from the first moment you step into the entrance and lift area, to the generator floor that is situated on the last level.
We were lucky enough to time our visit when the station was generating power so two turbines engines were running when we arrived at the site. Along with the powerful sound that floods the station when the turbines are generating, what struck me was the interior design of the station, which incorporate large slabs of raw rock into the different levels and chambers. The station was built in the 1940’s and is the first stop the cold snow streams makes before it continues its journey to the next level of power making at Bogong station.
The generators deliver a massive level of sound that hits you as soon as you reach the turbine floor. At around 90db, its at first hard to gauge where any fluctuations of sound may be. After a couple minutes my ears acclimatised and we were able to find an array of different placement areas for the microphones to capture a more varied sound picture of the space. Using two stereos mics we capture different angles of the site, while Madelynne placed contact mics on different vibrating surfaces. Our time was strict and limited so I found myself only grabbing 3 minutes takes of video to make sure I was able to get as much footage as possible. After lining up the shot, checking exposure and then pressing record on the camera I then dashed to where I had set up my sound equipment and repositioned the microphones.
Although our time underground only lasted for less then two hours, I could have easily spent a full day just recording the variety of sounds active within the space. Arriving back on the surface, it was surprising to hear nothing of the machine noise we had travelled from. Only a small rumble near the lift doors gave away any suggestion about of machinery churning below.
After spending the last few days following the beginning of the waters journey from the snow-ice and though alpine valleys, it was somewhat strange to see this flow of wild water churning and controlled in the industrial and mechanised setting of the power station – generating electricity that conversely also activated the machines that redirected its flow.
The next few days will be spent following the water as it is funnelled out of the power station and into the tall eucalypt forests, where its broadens its banks to become the Pretty Valley Creek, eventually unfolding into the Kiewa East River.