The Secrets of Ottilia Schnacks Microworld

Melbourne, Telecom building, 1999

On our guided tour we tell you the story about the eccentric inventress Ottilia Schnack and her relation to this building. She is a unknown but extraordinary person. Let`s go up first. Now. Yeah.
Ottilia Schnack was born 1907 here in Melbourne. The beginning of here life started mysterious. It took five years before she could discover her environment with her eyes. 1912 a lightening hit the familyhouse and - strange to say - from this moment the blind born Ottilia could see. Together with the eyesight she received a extraordinary talent for dealing with the forces of electricity.
Electricity is not visible, it makes visible.
Her father, a professor of chemistry, gave all his attention to the curious girl. Easy she picked up knowledge, but she always had her own way to look at things. After finishing her studies of biology she traveled through Australia, investigating the life of insects. She went so far, that her interest in insects was bigger then her interest in humans. This rapidly changed when she met Laurent Planté
If you look through the Hyatt-building, you can see the botanical garden. In the year 1941 there was a cricket plague around Melbourne. Just like the bats today, the crickets loved the botanical gardens. Ottilia was quite enthusiastic about those happenings and spent many evenings collecting crickets. Somehow Laurent the Camellia admirer met Ottilia in the bushes of the garden.*** Instant sparkling love.
Later the top of this building was Laurent Plantes penthouse. You still can see were the windows used to be. The following rooms have been his office. He was the architect of this building. It was constructed 1940 till 1944. Because of the war and lack of money the building stood empty until 1950 when the government slowly started to install the telephon exchange. Lucky Laurent took the chance by its head, and moved into the top of the empty building 1945.
Lets go inside.
This was the sleeping room. Ottilia and Laurent painted the walls yellow. A light green synthetic carpet covered the floor. The bed was hanging from the ceiling so they could swing through the room. There you can see the caps, covering the wholes were the hooks used to be. They could change the hanging position according to their mood. Through the windows they had a incredible view on the sea.
Here Ottilia invented together with Laurent the electric kiss. Does anybody know the electric kiss ? If you roll around on a synthetic carpet your body gets charged by electricity, then you kiss someone and a exiting shock will tickle your sparkling lips just before they touch. You wonna do it again and again.
We brought some equipment to try it out. Who goes first ?
One night Ottilia was dispirited to see Laurent, but the building was looked and she couldn`t come in. She knew about the tunnels for cables being build parallel to the streets, as you can see on this map here. Ottilia was not afraid of the dark. She entered a tunnel at Flinders Lane, were it still was under construction. She made all the way along Russel in the dark till Little Collins, were she entered this building.
Unfortunately Laurent suddenly died 1955 by a heart attack. Ottilia left Melbourne, became unsocial again and went traveling up north. Since then there is no sign of here live, exept some traces on a wall out there. Lets go outside.
Here you still see some of the original yellow color.
As she became older her attitudes changed in a funny way. Her expressions got smaller and smaller. We know she came back to this place to put here family-tree on the wall. After some serious investigations we found out: This must be her grandfather on her mother side, Tsar Nicolay Krzyzanowsky and his wife Tsarina Natalia Senkowski. Their daughter Natascha Krzyzanowsky - a wild girl - escaped the polnish Aristocracy to enjoy live in Paris. There she got trapped in a romance by Victor Zappatas glue, a spanish torero man, famous for his phrase: "That`s noting !" He would have died for her, but she escaped again while pregnant. This are Victors parents: Frederico Gonzales Zappata and Florence Leclance.
Ottilias mother Natascha traveled as far as possible by ship to Melbourne 1906. When at night the beautiful Natascha was looking at the phosphorescent light in the sea, the baby in her belly got wild. Only Otto a chemist with german roots could calm her down. For many good reason they married in Melbourne and stayed together. Here we see Otto’s ancestors, his grandmother- also named Othilia. And not to forget: Laurent Planté.
Lets move to the floor now.
As you can see on this plan , there used to be a cafeteria on this floor. It opened 1951 meant for the telecom workers, but open to the public as well. Specially old people came here to enjoy the view. The only problem was, there were often bomb scares or fire alarm tests in the building, so everybody was supposed to leave, when the bell rang. But the old people woulden’t move if they just paid for a piece of cake, they preferred enjoying their sweets. That’s why the cafeteria had to be closed to the public later on.
We go down to the basement, were we`ll show you Ottilias biggest secret, after testing her favorite drink: a Polish bison gras vodka !
Here we are in the battery room. Officially they said that the batteries came from America. There were 24 boxes with a output of 3200 Amperes. Such a strong power was used to make the switches working upstairs. The whole telephone exchange was full of this mechanical switches !
The batteries were wooden boxes coated inside with led and filled with her solution ! Otillia invented the liquid used in the batteries. On the floor you can still see crystals from the battery solution. Only because Laurent knew that she was a expert in this field, he secretly arranged the fill up of the boxes. Ottilia’s solution was at least three times more efficient than any other sulphuric acid, which is normally used. She collected substances from insects, by stimulating them either horny or angry. More about it in the next room.
This are the bottles we found in her old laboratory out of Melbourne near Eltham. The people living on this farm haven’t touched the garage were Ottilias Laboratory has been. Ottilia had here own way to finde out the best solution. She did not care about formulas, instead she looked at the way how these liquids would crystallize. She found out that tiny amounts of insect substances can have a immense influence. According to the grown shapes, she concluded the quality of the battery solution.
This days organic solutions are used for a new type of batteries. The cells are still made out of led, but as a electrolyte a kind of jelly is used instead of sulphuric acid.

Thank you for joining the tour.