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Family oriented pleasent peasant. In life, to learn is to keep your ears open and your mouth closed!

Canning Stock Route

GEM OF WISDOM: THE CANNING STOCK ROUTE

 

  1. WHY

Alexander Forest’s 1879 expedition to the Kimberley  discovered vast tracts of excellent pastoral land. The West Kimberley was settled from access to the west. The East Kimberley was settled from Queensland and NSW, with herds of different cattle in the thousands coming from the east coast. Shipping to Perth from Wyndham was expanded to meet the needs of a 5-fold population explosion in WA from 29000 in 1880 to 161500 by 1901, created by “Gold Fever” from Halls Creek to Kalgoorlie.

By the early 1900’s, movement of cattle from east Kimberley and NT to Wyndham was banned due to an outbreak of cattle tick, so the cattlemen were facing ruin unless they could market some cattle in WA. Several cross country routes to ports south of the tick exclusion zone were tried without much success. Finally, under pressure from the cattlemen, a Government expedition across four deserts was agreed to. These are Little Sandy Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Gibson Desert, and Tanami desert.

 

  1. WHO

Alfred Canning, an inspecting surveyor with the WA Department of Lands was chosen to lead an expedition into the feasibility of a stock route from Halls Creek to Wiluna. He was the obvious and ideal choice as he had recently led the successful 4 year survey of the 1900km long rabbit proof fence from Esperance to Cape Keraudren.

He assembled a team of 8 men – 2 drilling/ boring experts, 2 camelmen, himself as leader, Hugh Trotman as his trusted assistant, a general hand, and a cook. To carry the provisions, equipment, water drums, boring plant etc, he determined he would need 22 camels and equipment for them, and 2 horses with saddles. All up including salaries for the men…..Pounds 3495!

Rations per man per week were 10lb flour, 10lb meat, 2lb sugar, 1/4 lb tea. It was anticipated killing wild animals would provide some supplement.

 

  1. WHEN

Canning and his crew left Wiluna on May 29, 1906, with the charter to survey and document a stock route to Billuna, some 1860km north east on the Tanami Desert track – SHOW ON MAP. The remaining 190 km to Hall’s Creek was already established. The track had to be capable of supplying sufficient feed and water to support a herd of 800 cattle. Water supplies were deemed to be necessary ideally no more than 30km apart, the distance it was expected cattle could travel daily. The route had to avoid “poison bush”

They arrived in Hall’s Creek on October 29. He blazed 31 trees on the upward and return journey, marking significant features for the future. He ascertained that 51 wells would need to be sunk to supplement several permanent water soaks. Later this became 54 wells. He used aboriginals he “conscripted” on the way to help find promising water sources, but never took them beyond their “traditional lands”. Surveying a satisfactory route was made more difficult by the need to find satisfactory feed as well as water. Some 1000 substantial sand dunes to cross was also a factor in route selection. The party met some resistance from local aboriginal tribes and his most trusted borer, Michael Tobin was killed (speared) in one altercation.

The party stayed on Flora Valley Station south of Hall’s Creek to let the Summer/ Wet season pass, and set off, re-supplied, on the return journey on Feb 18, 1907. This time, they herded 20 wether goats for fresh meat, and this proved most successful. They mainly returned via the same track they had created, but the wet season had transformed the parched desert into luxuriant grass and herbage. Route changes were made where summer water courses had changed the navigable landscape. More experimental bores were sunk to ensure all 51 wells were identified, surveyed, marked and logged. Again the local aboriginals were very useful in identifying existing and possible new water sources.

The party reached Wiluna on July 1, 1907.

In his comprehensive report soon after, Canning concluded the mission a success, and detailed plans showing a compass traverse of the route and well co-ordinates.

He concluded in typical Canning style – “I have the honour to be, sir, your obedient servant, A W Canning.

 

  1. THEN WHAT – 1908

Canning had returned in triumph to wide praise and adulation from the Premier, all members of Parliament, the Civil Service, and the public.

All but Edward Blake, the cook on the expedition, who was concerned about what he perceived to be ill treatment of aborigines. He pursued the issue with high ranking Civil Servants, relevant Members of Parliament, and a broad based attack in the press.

Eventually, on Nov 15, the Minister for Lands asked for Canning’s comments. Canning responded that the claims were “nonsense”, and because Blake “had little experience with natives”, his perceptions of certain events were wrong. There had been no mistreatment of person or property.

However, Blake’s allegations were quickly picked up by all newspapers, and with pressure building and opinion divided, the Government instituted a “Royal Commission to inquire into the treatment of natives by the Canning Exploration Party”.

The drawn out process of charges and witnesses and cross-examination exonerated Canning and his expedition party of all charges, but the recrimination continued in the press and public domain. The Government allowed the turmoil to subside but still planned for the Canning Well construction Party to proceed.

 

 

  1. WELL CONSTRUCTION, 1908 – 1910

Canning left Wiluna on March 28, 1908 disappointed with the accusations and antagonistic towards the press for not publishing his refutations of the accusations, but determined to accomplish the project aims.

This was a massive undertaking, but with experience from the original exploration expedition, he left well prepared.

“The 73 camels bulged with gear, 23 men plodded out, and Nipper controlled a herd of 500 goats for fresh meat.” This trip, they had to carry heavy boring gear, and well construction material including bracing, windlasses, buckets, and troughing for all the wells, to enable all the cattle to be watered in good time. Routine was soon  established with the well construction team at a well site while the bulk of the party moved to the next to do preliminary work and source suitable timber for well supports and gantry, thus “leap-frogging” each other.

After 31 wells were completed, supplies were exhausted, as were the men, so on July 28, 1909, Canning reported his position and distributed his remaining material up the route before escaping to Halls Creek to rest, recuperate and prepare his return after the Summer/ wet season to complete the remaining wells.

In Feb 1910, the Construction Party set south to complete the remaining wells, with 50 bullocks and 150 goats as auxiliary food supplies. Progress was swift to complete the outstanding wells, but then hampered by damage to the earlier wells by the natives. The team finally arrived back in Wiluna on March 12, 1910, and promptly cabled The Secretary for Mines” in his inimitable style – “WORK COMPLETED – CANNING”

A substantial report followed, giving the depth to water, the storage at the well, and the flow rate at each well, together with cattle feed available at and nearby to the well. He also described the journey between each well and the terrain nearby. He estimated the droving journey with a full herd would take around 2 months.

 

  1. WHAT THEN
  • Only 8 herds were driven between 1911 and 1931, mainly due to destruction of well infrastructure by the aboriginals and lack of maintenance. There was also a fear of the natives, who killed 2 drovers on the first drive in 1911, and another geological explorer later.
  • William Snell led a “Re-construction Party” in 1929, and added 3 further wells just out from Wiluna. Snell was a bushman/ cattleman, and his work was slow and “rough”. The party returned to Wiluna well short of the planned refurbishment. During the layover period, his work was inspected and found so inept that Canning was recalled to re-do and complete the task in 1930. Spasmodic droving resumed, but limited to 600 head.
  • Major maintenance and reconstruction was done after the bombing of Darwin in WW2, as the CSR was seen as an escape route for people and cattle to the south, should the Japanese invade.
  • Last of 30 droving crossings was in 1959, by which time road transport was well established.

 

  1. WHAT NOW
  • The CSR is considered to be the most challenging and remote 4wd adventures of its type in the world
  • Around 300 vehicles attempt it each year. It is mainly over the highest level native title land (right to exclusive possession), and pastoral lease land, so several permits are required and strict protocols must be adhered to.
  • Most of the culturally significant aboriginal sites near the stock route have now been closed to public access, due to the impact of a few idiotic travellers.
  • Self-sufficiency is a must as there is no routine “recovery” available on the CSR
  • Denise and I, with close friends Val and David Edwards are leaving Melbourne on May 20, to be in Wiluna June 5 for our adventure, crossing the Canning Stock Route. We are experienced and well prepared, adventurous but not fool-hardy. We plan to take 3 weeks on the CSR, but are prepared for the unforseen, and provisioned to cope. We are excited but take on this adventure with some trepidation.

Jacko’s NSW north coast trip – Scotts Head

Never heard of this place……ever heard of heaven…..yep, it’s here. Just south of Nambucca Heads this hideaway has a basic shopping facility, and a fantastic Bowls Club, and a sheltered/ secluded beach which is idyllic. Better still, the CP is nestled behind the high sand dunes sheltered from the prevailing winds. there is a lookout a few hundred metres away that attracts migrating humpback whales and their calves only a few hundred metres from shore for the most spectacular display we have ever seen.
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Jacko’s stay at Evans Head, NSW north coast

After leaving Melbourne on October 15, we meandered our way north, hugging the western side of the great divide through spectacular, but winding and steep terrain to Tenterfield, where we crossed to casino, and down to the gorgeous and largely unspoilt township of Evans Head, about 30km south of Ballina. This is our free camp at Black Springs on the way up.img_0396

The weather has been sensational and we haven’t been out of shorts and T-shirts since we arrived, a week ago. We have enjoyed lots of long beach walks, sensational humpback whale watching from several headlands, much fresh deep water fish from the Co-Op, other great local produce, and the company of the many friendly people we have met in the park.

We are leaving tomorrow for 4 days at Woolgoolga, just north of Coffs Harbour

Estuary inlet at Evans Head. Caravan Park in the trees to the left of the Surf Club

Estuary inlet at Evans Head. Caravan Park in the trees to the left of the Surf Club

BasOMNI on the beach at Evans Head

BasOMNI on the beach at Evans Head

Looking up the estuary to the fishing fleet and Fishermans Co-Op in the distance

Looking up the estuary to the fishing fleet and Fishermans Co-Op in the distance

Jacko’s 2016 Cape York adventure completed

First off a big thanks to Nick for collating and posting a few of our pics up to Atherton Tablelands, and then the one pic of me at the Tip of Cape York. It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but now we are back…..for a few weeks, I will post a bit of a story, and a few more pics of our 4 weeks exploring Cape York from Cooktown to the Tip and back.

After coming to grief at Cape Tribulation in 1770, Captain Cook guided the wounded Endeavour to Cooktown for proper repairs that took 47 days. A memorial exist on the foreshore of the estuary, and the setting of Cooktown can be seen from the lookout above the town.

Captain Cook memorial on the waterfront near where he completed repairs to the Endeavour

Captain Cook memorial on the waterfront near where he completed repairs to the Endeavour

Cooktown, with Captain Cooks landing site for repairs in 1770 on lhs shore

Cooktown, with Captain Cooks landing site for repairs in 1770 on lhs shore

From Cooktown we spent 3 days exploring Lakefield NP, with an interesting stop at the well preserved remains of an early cattle station (1880’s), a lovely camp at Kalpowar Crossing, and two interesting 4wd tracks on our way back to the Peninsular Development Road (PDR – the main road north). From there we headed out to the mining and fishing centre of Weipa. It has a massive surface bauxite mine (Rio Tinto), with the mined ore shipped to Gladstone for refining to aluminium. From our point of view it was the last place for good shopping! Amongst other short drives, we crossed the causeway (with a mine train) and drove 80km up to the aboriginal settlement of Mapoon, because it was here that the first landing and meeting with indigenous clans took place with the Dutch in 1602!!!!! The memorial records the event in detail, and the entry has 6 boulders flanking it representing the 6 clans in the area at the time.

Memorial to first white (Dutch) landing at Mapoon in 1602

Memorial to first white (Dutch) landing at Mapoon in 1602

Crossing the wide river at Weipa with an ore train, whilst heading north to Mapoon.

Crossing the wide river at Weipa with an ore train, whilst heading north to Mapoon.

Loading bauxite bound for Gladstone.

Loading bauxite bound for Gladstone.

 

Back on the very wide but very corrugated PDR we continued north to Bramwell Cattle Station for a night of hospitality and rest. We then left the Tvan for the day and crossed the southern section of the Old Telegraph Track, built in the 1880’s to service the line (about 80km). It was slow going with very demanding 4wd conditions. Although the water crossings were shallow, this track gets no maintenance and much traffic because of its iconic nature, so creek entry and exits were very steep, In addition it was deeply rutted due to the traffic volume…….but it was FUN – FUN – FUN for me but nerve racking for Denni. One reward was a cleansing dip at Fruit Bat Falls, before the return drive to Bramwell, where some of the “unsuccessful” adventurers has left a memento of their “broken” vehicles.

 

These termites in FNQ are dammed good workers!

These termites in FNQ are dammed good workers!

The innocuous beginning of the OTL. giving no hint of the 4wd adventure ahead.

The innocuous beginning of the OTL. giving no hint of the 4wd adventure ahead.

Cowboys entry options at Gunshot Creek Many can't resist......and many have come to grief. We chose a slightly easier alternative entry around to the left.

Cowboys entry options at Gunshot Creek
Many can’t resist……and many have come to grief. We chose a slightly easier alternative entry around to the left.

Exit from Gunshot Creek still to be achieved.

Exit from Gunshot Creek still to be achieved.

A ute which survived the vertical drop into Gunshot......after being winched out. And trees full of mementos who weren't so lucky.

A ute which survived the vertical drop into Gunshot……after being winched out. And trees full of mementos who weren’t so lucky.

Steep and slippery entry to Scrubby Creek with water over the bonnet assured and a steep exit to follow

Steep and slippery entry to Scrubby Creek with water over the bonnet assured and a steep exit to follow

Fruit Bat Falls for a well earned swim

Fruit Bat Falls for a well earned swim

Some of the vehicles that didn't make it over the OTT

Some of the vehicles that didn’t make it over the OTT

 

Back on the PDR north and we took a diversion out to the east coast to Captain Billy Landing for 2 nights. The remains of the cattle wharf exist. It was built to ship local cattle to Weipa and Bamaga to supply local needs, but the venture failed, and it is now a remote but lovely camp in a NP. Being on the east coast, it is buffeted by the strong SE trade winds, but we enjoyed our stay there. Back on the PDR and up more rough, corrugated track to cross the Jardine River by a 100m, 5 min, $130 ride…..the only safe way across of course!

 

Jardine ferry crossing

Jardine ferry crossing

 

From here it is only 40km to Bamaga, and another 35km to the Tip. But let’s not rush, so we stayed at an indigenous mission named Umagico, near Bamaga, for 4 nights. It was quiet, shaded, spacious, cheap, right on the beach, and relaxing. We got to know a couple of the indigenous Torres Straight Islanders as they are gentle, friendly, relaxed people. They were going free diving for crays during the day, and asked if we wanted any……hullo…….2 please, and cooked please! There was a large croc and a shark cruising around about 30m from shore, but the boys weren’t worried because it wasn’t breeding season. Better you than me mate! So the result is below.

 

Magic camp at uMAGICo

Magic camp at uMAGICo

Looking along other sites on the waterfront at Umagico. We were 50m back in the shade.

Looking along other sites on the waterfront at Umagico. We were 50m back in the shade.

1.5kg cray caught and cooked fresh.......$40 !!!

1.5kg cray caught and cooked fresh…….$40 !!!

 

We also took a full day trip to Thursday and Horn Islands from nearby Seisia wharf. The remains of a full army barracks (Victoria) are well preserved as are the three 6inch guns and the underground ammunition shelters. After all, PNG is only 130kms north, and that wasn’t far in WW2. We visited the local cemetery where there is a memorial to the 700 Japanese pearl divers lost in their pursuit of pearls and shell. Most of the actual graves are unmarked. Interesting to note that nearby Horn Island was the second most bombed place in Australia after Darwin, but Thursday Island left untouched even though it had a strong military presence, maybe because of the Japanese divers buried there???

 

View from the Fort high on Thursday Island......Horn Island in the distance

View from the Fort high on Thursday Island……Horn Island in the distance

Memorial to 700 Japanese pearl divers lost mainly to the "bends"

Memorial to 700 Japanese pearl divers lost mainly to the “bends”

 

The short ferry over to Horn Island revealed an amazing WW2 connection, remembered in a comprehensive Museum display, backed up by the airfield that housed fighter support for the heavy American bombers based at Gordon Air Force base at Lockhart River we will visit on the return leg. We saw remnants of crashed planes, defensive foxholes, anti-aircraft emplacements, and thousands of rusting 44 gallon drums that once carried aircraft fuel. Just blows you away……we were told nothing of this at school.

Anti-aircraft bunker near the airstrip on Horn Island

Anti-aircraft bunker near the airstrip on Horn Island

WW2 plane wreckage

WW2 plane wreckage

 

From Umagico, we travelled north to the resort camp of Punsand Bay on an idyllic beach in sight of the TIP of Australia. But as usual no swimming because of crocs and sharks close to shore……but they did have a pool, and a bar, and a large alfresco eating area all of which we frequented. From here we did several day trips uncovering more of our history and geography.

Our camp in the trees at Punsand Bay

Our camp in the trees at Punsand Bay

Sunset on the beach at Punsand Bay. Some good size Queenfish caught during our 4 day stay.

Sunset on the beach at Punsand Bay. Some good size Queenfish caught during our 4 day stay.

Two intrepid and happy adventurers at the northernmost point of the mainland. One small step etc !!!

Two intrepid and happy adventurers at the northernmost point of the mainland. One small step etc !!!

 

On our return trip we diverted to complete the 45km northern section of the OTT, which was probably more technically challenging from a 4wd point of view than the southern section. It was more FUN – FUN – FUN for me, and Denni now appreciated that what we were doing was adventurous rather than foolhardy, so she also enjoyed the adventure.

Most bridges are straight.......but generally wider and stronger than this one over Cypress Creek......there's a good wheel to spare either side, so no worries. Denni insisted we cross BEFORE stopping for lunch. Said she had just developed a queezy feeling in the tummy!!

Most bridges are straight…….but generally wider and stronger than this one over Cypress Creek……there’s a good wheel to spare either side, so no worries. Denni insisted we cross BEFORE stopping for lunch. Said she had just developed a queezy feeling in the tummy!!

Slow and careful crossing of all creek beds with rocks, holes and ruts the major issues

Slow and careful crossing of all creek beds with rocks, holes and ruts the major issues

 

We took another diversion to well-known Chilli Beach on the east coast through some magnificent remnant tropical rainforest. The camp was great, but the wind, then rain unsettling. It was from here however that we visited the Gordon Air Force Base at Lockhart River, another major aboriginal settlement now. There were 5000 American personnel there in WW2 supporting squadrons of heavy (B52), medium, and light bombers. There main objective was to bomb Japanese positions, especially Rebaul, with fighter cover from Horn Island on the way. We were gobsmacked!

 

Hard to stay clean coming out of Chilli Beach in the rain and the mud

Hard to stay clean coming out of Chilli Beach in the rain and the mud

Runway and aircraft remnants at Gordon Base at Lockhart River

Runway and aircraft remnants at Gordon
Base at Lockhart River

 

On our way back down the PDR again and we stopped at Laura to visit the Split Rock aboriginal art dating 12-20,000 years ago. We also took a guided tour to the guide only sites of world renowned Quinkin aboriginal rock art, now confirmed to date back 34,000 years. We are so young and innocent!

Indigenous guide showing us over Quinken rock art dating back.......34,000 years.

Indigenous guide showing us over Quinken rock art dating back…….34,000 years.

 

We were destined to be home 7 days later, but did indulge ourselves with a favourite place, Porcupine Gorge, near Hughenden, in the NP for an overnight camp, campfire, and time to reminisce our wonderful adventure

Small part of Porcupine Gorge, washed out over 260 million years

Small part of Porcupine Gorge, washed out over 260 million years

 

Until next time, travel safe and enjoy this wonderful country.

 

 

Jacko’s Journey update …. Burketown to Atherton Tablelands..

TopEnd2
The brand new wharf and pontoon at Burketown on the Albert River….said to be the best barra fishing in Australia.


Burke and wills last camp before their final, failed assault to reach the Gulf…beaten by the wet season and their lack of bush skills. We had a few tears at the campsite .3
Morning coffee on the way to Normanton from Burketown4
Termite mounds next to our morning coffee stop.5
Replica of Kris the 8.63m croc shot near Normanton when it was legal……the largest salty ever recorded.6
The Gulflander train that stills run to and from Croydon for tourists.7
Sunset on the beach opposite the CP at Karumba.8
Part of the remaining fishing prawning fleet still operating from Karumba.9
Our campsite at Karumba.10
Cobbald Gorge – some of the grateful girls with our tour guide Ron…..an amazing 3 hour tour……followed by dinner on the restaurant deck with a couple we met on the tour…..from Montrose.11
Infinity pool, pool bar, dining patio at Cobbold gorge.12
In the little 10 seater electric boats on a tour exploring this amazing gorge. A must on all bucket lists.

….to be continued…..

We made it to the top end!! Aug 8th 2016

We made it to the top end!!
Aug 8th 2016

…to be continued….

Jacko’s Journey continues…..Mount Isa onwards…

TopEnd…. just a couple of ‘hard time miners’….

1Panorama of MIM massive underground lead, copper & gold mine.
2
Our campsite on the Gregory River, the best freecamp we have ever stayed
at. We went upstream and drifted down the crystal clear waters at our
leisure, and basically did nothing for 2 days.

Canoeing the gorge in Lawn Hill NP……a close second to Karigini NP in
the Pilbara for spleandour and challenge.

5Lawn Hill Gorge at sunrise…..left camp at 6am to ford across a river
torrent in the dark up to my waste, then scramble up a nearly vertical
rock face for 300m to be there at dawn for this shot…..how good is
Lawn Hill Gorge???

6Our bush campsite at Adels Grove, the main camp to explore Lawn Hill
NP……..had a campfire every one of the 4 nights there.

7Main street and pub at Burketown on the Gulf….a lovely small town with
great civic pride.

8Burke and Wills camp 119, the last before their final 3 day attempt to
reach the Gulf…which failed due to wet season swamps and impassable
river crossings. There were 15 trees “blazed” at this camp site but only
a few remain. It was truly humbling to be at this famous site where they
had used 3/4 of their supplies, yet had the return trek to endure and
finally perish.

9….to be continued