STEVE ROWELL


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Ballarat: Beneath Sentinel Mountain

A short video shot in 2001 during early explorations of Death Valley.

Ballarat is a primary radar installation for Edwards Air Force Base and China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station and monitors the
Sonic Boom ArchiveR-2508 restricted supersonic airspace which covers most of the Death Valley, Owens Valley, Saline Valley, and Antelope Valley regions of the Mojave Desert.

Ballarat is also a place... just a ghost town now. It's heyday was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a gold mining town. Ballarat was completely abandoned at some point during the depression. Decades later, the few buildings that weren't destroyed by weather or fire became the site the Manson Family's last stand. After the Los Angeles Police raided the make-shift compound they found Charles Manson crouching behind a 19th century pot-belly stove. As a result of this notoriety and because the site is so bleak and barren, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper shot a scene for their film Easy Rider here in 1969, further intertwining Ballarat with Hollywood, the old California with the contemporary. Not much has happened here since, unless you count a hippie gathering in 1971 when a few hundred people contracted hepatitis from contaminated water.

Trona is to the south, Emigrant Pass is to the north. Death Valley lies beyond. Tourists and desert dwellers sporadically pass each other on this remote stretch of asphalt.

The audio is found sound from my 2000-2002 Mountain Radio project. More on that elsewhere.