…and so …. The Journey Begins


19th May 2017 – Barry and Denise, pictured with friends Val and David, taking the first step in their epic adventure to challenge the legendary Canning Stock Route.

From all the blokes at OM:NI DC – wishing you a safe, interesting and fulfilling journey  ……..

**The road goes ever on and on
                     Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the road has gone,
    And I must follow, if I can.
Pursuing it with eager feet,
        Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet,
            And, whither then? I cannot say.

**J.R.R.Tolkien – (Lord of the Rings) circa 1954

Saturday 3rd June 2017
Wiluna, Western Australia – the gateway to the Canning Stock Route and Well No.1

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.

Looking Good at 89!


At the Diamond Creek OM:NI meeting today our dear, much respected and loved erudite sage of wisdom, Sir Kelvin, decided to disrupt procedures by having a rather acute drop in blood sugar levels.
Some wonderful & professional paramedics eventually removed him to safer havens (so that the meeting could proceed as ‘almost’ normal) and, thankfully, by late afternoon, we believe was up to his usual cheeky antics – albeit in the care of some tolerant nursing staff.

Get well soon Sir Kel & we’ll see you at the next meeting.
From all the OM:NI DC Blokes.

Austin Hospital Holiday

The pain struck around midnight but, like most tough stupid Aussies, the comment was “she will be right mate”, it will pass over.

Doactor! Doctor! What’s that growing on my face?

Well by daylight it was not all right. Lots of nausea made my wife Lady Florence call the ambulance via triple 000. What a great service, arrived within 20 minutes and into the Austin emergency hospital within 30 minutes where a doctor from an overseas origin attended me he talked for a short while then by observation alone. He stated correctly, I believe you have a bowel blockage. He was 69 years old jet black hair, he spoke of life and how to live properly and left a lasting impression upon me.

Up to the eighth floor bed 16 ward E west, with a pent house view of east Melbourne, this was to be my home from 2nd April till 12thApril.

Many x-rays, tubes and blood tests proved the old doctor correct and an opration followed leaving a long stapled pattern from sternum to bikini line. I learnt not to be afraid but to put my faith in the surgical team who calmly went about the task before them and it seemed in next to no time at all I was in bed awake feeling no pain at all .

The nursing staff was from many corners of this planet. Each and every one lifted my spirit and enlightened my knowledge and acceptance of the many struggles, losses and true grit that has taught them a new language, their pursuit of knowledge through university studies, finding a new home without families. They had the most reassuring smiles and one nurse on night duty would sing and hum Indian tunes to us during the early hours before dawn.

One patient Rosa told me both her and her husband with a small family had to leave their home in Cairo, Egypt. They had no work were very hungry and feared for the well-being of their children, somehow they got to Australia learnt English got jobs educated the family and bought a home. I met some of this very fine family now calling Australia home. Her husband died 20 years ago and now she has terminal cancer – she was the nicest person I met there.

Thanks to all the OMNI and Men’s shed members who visited and supported me.

One doctor gave me this parting advice…..

“Get out of here, go home, enjoy your life to the fullest and don’t ever come back.”

 I dedicate this story to all the staff, doctors, nurses, porters and cleaners of the

Austin Hospital

The marvels of modern medicine

In 1983, while working in Port Moresby at the National Library Service of Papua New Guinea, I contracted a terrible ear infection. In time the pain almost drove me insane. Blood, pus and black goo leaked from my ear all day and night. I had to sleep with my head on an old towel and I lost my hearing completely in the infected ear.

Over the next two months I tried two types of ear drops, went to see the doctor five times, underwent an ear syringing, completed five full courses of four different antibiotics and had three injections, with absolutely no effect.

An acquaintance at the University of Papua New Guinea, who had heard about my ongoing problem with the ear infection, rang me and told me that a certain Dr Ghosh, an Indian ear, nose and throat specialist, was in town on a temporary training attachment at the Port Moresby General Hospital. I promptly went to see my doctor and asked him for a referral to see this Dr Ghosh.

On a steaming hot day in March, nearing the end of the wet season, I walked into Dr Ghosh’s office, introduced myself, and told him, “I’m getting really depressed about this ear infection, Doctor. The damn thing appears to be incurable and the pain is driving me around the bend.”

Dr Ghosh raised both his hands as if to fend off my words. “Depressed? Depressed? My dear fellow, there is no need to get depressed. This is the Twentieth Century, after all. We can now cure almost any infection!” I nodded and kept my disbelief to myself.

The doctor proceeded to peer into my ear. “Ha!” he exclaimed triumphantly, after a minute, “no wonder the antibiotics have had no effect. What we have here is a fungal infection, not a bacterial one. Oh, no, no, there are no bacteria in that ear. Only fungus.” He then proceeded to tell me with great merriment how he had recently cured a young fellow’s nose problem by advising him to get married! It was with difficulty that I managed to hide my lagging confidence in the good doctor.

He wrote out a prescription for anti-fungal drops, which he handed to me. He noticed that I was looking a tad sceptical. “Oh,” he said, brimful of confidence, “you use those drops and within three weeks’ time you will say to yourself, ‘My goodness, Dr Ghosh has cured me!’”

Having no alternative but to hope desperately for a miracle cure, I thanked him and set off to the chemist to get the anti-fungal drops. As I was leaving his office he shouted after me, “Depressed? Oh, no, my dear fellow, no need to get depressed! This is the Twentieth Century, after all!”

The prescription I collected from the chemist was for Tinaderm drops. I carefully read the instructions on the label, which stated that Tinaderm would cure things like tinea, foot rot and crotch itch. There was no mention of using them in one’s ear.

I had little choice but to trust Dr Ghosh, so I gritted my teeth and put a few drops into my ear, repeating the process the next morning and the next evening. After two days I woke up in the morning and discovered to my amazement that my ear infection had vanished completely.

“Oh, the marvels of modern medicine,” I mused to myself. “No, no, there was no need to get depressed.”

 

Words, writing and me

Author’s Note.

The article below is a copy of a talk given by me to the OMNI Liaison Officers’ meeting at COTA on 27th March this year. I was asked to talk on how I learnt to write stories and articles.    I did this, but also took the opportunity to publicise our blog in the hope of encouraging more men to put pen to paper.

Bruce McCorkill March 2017

From an early age, I have always loved reading.  At primary school I had special rights to borrow more books than the other kids.  At home after tea we would sit around the kitchen table reading.

In school my skills were in writing in subjects such as English, but I was hopeless in subjects like maths.

I spent three decades in the public service, much spent in writing reports. While supposedly factual, many of these were fantastic creative works of fiction.

So when I retired I took up writing.

I started in 2012 in Living and Learning Centre writing classes. This was an eye opener, because I had thought that authors just sat down and wrote. But no, writing can be hard work. You need to think of a good topic, will the story be character or plot driven, will it be past or present tense, told in first or second person. Then you have to make the story come alive and interesting, so people will enjoy reading it.

For example, a simple two page piece can sometimes take me ten hours of hard work to finish, by the time I think of a story line, draft it, find the right words, type it, change it, read it to my wife, then start again.

Some authors claim that writing is an art. I would argue that writing is just as much a craft or a trade, which you can learn. Building a house needs careful planning, use of the right materials, sound construction and attractive finishing. So with a story. A writer uses words as the building blocks of writing, and carefully places the right words in the right order to make the story stay upright. A good story should make the reader want to come inside and follow the author on a guided tour.

When I write, I like allowing the creative side of my brain to get loose and develop unusual tales with characters getting into strange situations. I enjoy developing plots having unexpected endings.  I particularly enjoy creating good strong decent characters, but who are flawed, yet are still likeable. I have also started writing poetry, which is a whole new challenge.

Since 2014 I have belonged to the Eltham U3A creative writing group. In the group I’m interacting with like minded people, who enjoy writing and understand my feelings about writing. Sometimes you mention to people that you are a writer, and they look at you in a very strange way. But in the group, you feel like you belong, similar to being in an OMNI group; everyone is on your side.

In my group, led by a very competent published author, we write on a variety of topics, fiction, nonfiction, prose and poetry. Tim belongs to the same group. We give each other feedback, and this makes me a better writer. Like an OMNI group, I come home with a smile on my face, thinking about the stories I have listened to that day.

Which leads me to our blog. WWW. OMNIDiamondCreek. Along with a few here, Daryl, Tim, Ron, Ken, I regularly post stories on the blog. The blog shows the history of the group over the last six years, and contains travel stories, Xmas party pictures and short stories and poems. This is a great chance to get your work out into the wider world. 99% of writers will never be formally published, but the blog lets us get our work out there into the public domain. For example I have written a short 20, 000 word novel, and it’s on the blog.

On a serious note, posting on the blog enables you to publish something about which you may have really deep feelings, which you want to share with many people. For example, my first serious poem in 2012, was about sexual abuse by priests, and this poem is still relevant now. Then again, some of my poems are more in an amusing style, such as the one about the dog on the tucker box which John passed out. So the blog gives us a chance to let the world know how we are feeling.

So this is a summary of my feelings about my writing. I would encourage other people to give writing a go.

I will finish by quoting a passage a friend gave me when I started writing.

The Joy Of Writing.

Only a writer knows the intense joy one can get from painting their life’s picture in words.

Our stories are just that – “our stories’ – they are us, they are our passion, our hopes, our disappointments and our opportunities.

Our words are merely the fabric we choose to describe out being.

Mystery At Barry’s Bend

Barry’s Bend – July 2013

We return nearly four years to one of the very first posts on this blog – to July 2013.

BARRY’S BEND on the Diamond Creek Trail was commemorated with a plaque dedicated to the, then, newly inaugurated OM:NI cyclist Basomni (2nd from the right) who on his first or second ride with the team had an unfortunate encounter, at speed, with the wire fence under the Etham railway trestle bridge – sadly the fence won the contest!

After stalwartly regaining the saddle and finishing off the ride he was, the next day, inopportunely found in the hospital with a punctured lung and various cracked ribs. This fateful incident was to see him off the bike for some six months but meanwhile his Omnicycle mates would ride past the spot almost weekly and recall the unfortunate incident. It was sometime on one of these ridebys that one Omnicycle ‘wit’ referred to the corner as ‘Barry’s Bend’ – and the name stuck!

Some months later, undaunted and recovered, Basomni declared his intention to return to the peloton but before his return ride a certain (ex master tradesman… hereby referred to as Kenomni) and member of the team handcrafted a sign which was suitably attached to the offending fence (see above photograph). The occasion, on a chilly winter morning, being duly recorded for the Omnicycle archives.

So, to continue the story…… The sign from then on became a bit of an icon and a conversation point but not quite a GPS locator (never actually made it onto Google Maps!) though It managed to stay in pristine condition until it came to the untoward attention of the local graffiti ‘vandals’ (we don’t ever  refer to them as ‘artists’ – that esteemed honorific can only be attached to a few people like Banksy – but we’ll not continue that discussion here).

Barry’s Bend – March 2017

After a couple of years the sign was ‘tagged’ … then ‘tagged’ again untill eventually it was totally obliterated with black paint. The Omnicycle riders would pass it in the last six months or so and occasionally thinking should they do something to restore it. So imagine their surprise a week ago when passing Basomni’s calamitous bend that the sign had received a surprising makeover –
..Aha! They said “that looks like the work of that master Omnicycle ‘tradie’ who originally made and erected the sign – well done!” But on being confronted with the information the said tradie, categorically denied having any part in the restoration of this DC Trail icon. Subsequently it is obvious that non of the Omnicycle riders are responsible for this refurbishment (or at least non that are owning up) …..so …..

………Who then is the mystery keeper of Barry’s Bend?