• Maker: skot
  • Assistance: jenna (weathering / rock-grinding effects) | michel.ludwig (construction & painting, controls) | tara.surry (painting & velvet, explorer's notes)

The Mole was a prop built for The Great Steampunk Affaire's “Journey From The Centre Of The Perth” ball. This was a Jules Vernian “Journey to the Centre Of the Earth” inspired underground immersive theatre party featuring colonising humans invading and fighting Troglodytes held in the Cabaret Cave at Yanchep National Park, April 28 2012.

Fanciful underground exploration machines with the form of a giant drilling bit hauling a cabin behind it through solid rock have a long history. The most popularly known example may be “The Mole” from Gerry Anderson's “Thunderbirds” sci-fi marionette show of the 1960's.


We set about to create a prop that was large enough to be a convincing transportation machine for several occupants, with pilots cabin and a rear “crew's quarters” where evidence of day-to-day speleological activity could be found by visitors - maps of rock strata, lists of remaining supplies, engine readings, and a diary charting the hum-drum daily perils of the journey downwards - no giant lizards, but banal “real” experiences like water running low, intolerable heat, friction between crew members over who would be allowed to eat the remaining biscuit. At the same time, we wanted a sense of an underground Nautilus, the submarine of Captain Nemo, which Jules Verne equipped with comforts such as fine wine, comfortable furniture, and a pipe organ.

  • Transportability - Yanchep National Park is 50km north of the Artifactory. The Mole would have to fit into a small moving van being hired for the event.
  • Flat-pack-ability - The entrance tunnel to the cave allowed items with maximum dimensions of 2.0 x 0.8m to be admitted. This thing was going to have to flat-pack Ikea style.
  • Quick to assemble - On the day of the ball, we had to transport the props from perth, unload, and setup in a few hours before the performers arrived to start work-shopping the final stage show in the space. We could allow no more than an hour for complete re-assembly of The Mole.
  • 4.7m long, 1.5m x 1.5m octagonal core with two cabins (cockpit and crew's quarters), a massive 2.3m drill bit.
  • A gull wing door for access to cockpit, velvet curtains at rear door and between the cabins.
  • Velvet lined interior panels for comfort
  • Exterior paint job: fake weathered metal with rock-scrapes, welding and oil leaks; the drill bit was fake-scoured from its grinding work through rock.
  • Initial tear down time at Artifactory: 24 minutes. Construction time pre-show: 30 minutes. Tear down after the show: 13 minutes.
  • Modular construction featured 3 octagonal cores that formed the dividing walls down the body, and 3 strong-framed panels (top and two sides) per core segment held together with two long bolts per panel to allow rapid assembly, and self-bracing.
  • Nose cone drill bit was supported by an octagonal “wire-frame” of pine, with the drill-bit panels secured to it by a minimum of screws.
  • Other core side panels also barely held in place. Initial plans were even for velcro!
  • projects/themole.txt
  • Last modified: 2020/03/12 12:49
  • (external edit)