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.
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Jacko’s Journey – The Simson and Beyond – continued……

Barry & Denise, our intrepid travelers, are on their way to cross the Simson Desert then heading further North. I’ll be adding to this post when he is able to send updates of their journey……Admin.
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15June2016    Had five great days in Mildura catching up with friends from our farming days, then two long drives to make Coober Pedy yesterday. Sadly the weather has thwarted our flights over Lake Eyre and Painted Hills and we are stuck here waiting for friends to catch up for the Simson Desert crossing hopefully starting Sunday.
CP hasn’t changed much since we were here 5years ago.

299Crossing Bloods Creek, soon after leaving Mt.Dare at the start of the Simpson Desert Crossing. It was unexpected, and the water was over the bonnet before David took this photo. The first100km or so is crossing rough plains before reaching Dalhousie Springs,
where the 1100 sand dune crossings commence.

Below – Camp at Dalhousie Springs and an 8.00am swim before leaving.


Cresting a dune. You can’t see the track ahead………….Cresting a dune. You can't see the track ahead
Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin……..Nearing the crest, trying to maintain momentum with no wheel spin
Descending a dune………….Descending a dune
Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend
with………Often as hard on the way down with deep corrugations and ruts to contend with
Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes……..Great camp in the shelter of one of these massive dunes
Sunset over a saltlake from the hill……..thumbnail_Sunset over a saltlake from the hill
Crossing a dry saltlake….and they weren’t all dry!Crossing a dry saltlake....and they weren't all dry!
Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing……..Ripping through mud at the end of another saltlake crossing
Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing.
Now a green desert………..Another camp with magnificent wildflowers everywhere over the crossing. Now a green desert.
At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator
vehicles on top watching the sport………At the bottom of the final 40m dune known as Big Red. Note the spectator vehicles on top watching the sport.
Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering……..Part way up, bouncing, swerving, cheering.
Just before the final successful ascent…..thumbnail_Just before the final successful ascent

That’s it for the Simpson, a truly memorable experience with great
friends Val and David Edwards. We loved the challenge, the excitement,
the remoteness, the green landscape with so many wildflowers, the
camping where tales were swapped and good food and wine
consumed……..all and more than we hoped for.
B.J.

** Stay tuned for the next episode in the adventure as Barry & Denise head further north…… Admin.

OM:NI & COTA Victoria

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OM:NI group representatives meeting at COTA Victoria headquarters – April 2016

The OM:NI organisation is much bigger than any one group. There are currently 21 groups in Victoria with representatives from each who meet regularly to report on group activites, to discuss future plans and to exchange news and ideas.

During the quarter ending 31 March 2016 attendances at individual OM:NI meetings ranged from three to 30 with an average of around ten. Of the 21 groups, seven had an average attendance of six or less, thirteen groups had averages between nine and fourteen and one group, Eltham, an average of 29 – our Diamond Creek group averaged 13 for the quarter.

The OM:NI organisation is a program of COTA Victoria (Council On The Aging)

COTA Victoria has been the voice of older Victorians for 60 years

COTA Victoria is governed by an elected Board of Management, dedicated staff and volunteers who continually strive to ensure that the contributions of older people are proudly recognised and acknowledged within our community.

*** If you want to know more about COTA Victoria click the link on the sidebar of this page.

*** Photograph supplied by John Habbouch – Banyle OM:NI Group

Meeting No. 110

BirthdayBannerOn Tuesday 15th March the Diamond Creek group held it’s 110th meeting and also celebrated five successful years of OM:NI in Diamond Creek.

After a lively meeting the members enjoyed a BBQ to suitably mark the occasion.

The opposite of handy

I will be the first to admit that I am not what you would call a handyman. Quite the opposite, in fact.

My lack of handyman skills was apparent from an early age. The only test that I ever failed at school was in woodwork, when we were given pictures of a variety of tools. We had to name these tools and write down what each one is used for. I couldn’t even tell the difference between a screwdriver and a chisel and any tool more complicated than those two baffled me completely.

Two years into high school every boy in our class had to do a woodwork project. I attempted to make a very basic small folding seat. It was a disaster. I just couldn’t do it. I was saved by the fact that our woodwork classroom had to be relocated near the end of the school year to another part of the school premises, around the time when our projects were due to be completed. Such was my desperation that I smuggled my attempt at the folding seat out in my school bag and dumped it into the bushes on the way home.

After we had moved into the new classroom, the teacher asked to see my project.

“I can’t find it, Sir. It must have been lost when they moved our stuff to the new classroom.”

In my first year at university I struggled to find my feet. I kept changing courses and was unable to find direction. Eventually one of my lecturers arranged for me to have an aptitude test.

A few days after completing the test I had to go and discuss the results with the person who had administered the test.

“Your aptitude test results are very mixed,” he told me. “I would recommend studies that would lead to a career in the diplomatic service.”

I was still digesting this, thinking how I could never become a diplomat in the service of the Apartheid regime, when he elaborated on the test results.

“Now, when it comes to mechanical skills, I have to tell you that you have achieved the lowest score of anyone that I have tested over the years. I suggest that you never try working with your hands. You’re an intelligent kid. Just stick to using your brains, but not your hands.”

Over the years my lack of handyman skills has become the stuff of legend, as becomes someone with as spectacular an aptitude test result as mine.

A few months ago I was standing outside a shop in Diamond Creek, talking to my mate Ken, when Digby from the local Mitre 10 hardware store came by.

“Hi Ken, How’re you going?” Digby said.

“I’m good,” said Ken. “This is my mate Tim.”

“Oh, I know Tim,” said Digby.

Ken was astounded. “Where do you know Tim from? Surely he’s never set foot in Mitre 10?”

“Oh yes, he does, sometimes. He comes in with his wife, that is. She buys the bits and pieces that she needs and if need be she asks me for advice. Tim just comes along for the company and to help her to carry stuff.”

Gill, my wife, contends that my inability to fix or make things is a matter of attitude, whereas I insist that it is a matter of aptitude. I have tried really hard, once or twice, like the time when we bought the wheelbarrow at KMart. It came in a cardboard box and we had to put it together ourselves.

“That’ll be simple,” Gill said. “Can you do it please?”

I asked her to find me the necessary tools and then I laboured for more than an hour, before realising that there were some components missing. “Bloody Kmart!” I raged. “You’d think that they would check that all the pieces are there before they sell the thing.”

Gill cocked her head to one side, inspected my handiwork and picked up the screwdriver and spanner. Within less than five minutes she had disassembled my construction completely and had reassembled it into a working wheelbarrow.

*        *        *

Sharing a house with someone else is challenging at the best of times, and so it is with us. I cannot stand background noise, but Gill likes to listen to John Pain (Faine) on talkback radio every morning and to that irritating Macka on a Sunday morning. She also likes the noise of the television in the background at times, whereas I love it when the house is dead quiet.

As if this is not challenging enough, Gill is a collector and a hoarder. I am a minimalist, but our house is full of stuff, small and big. Although I detest clutter, I cannot escape it in our house.

“If you cark it before me,” I told her grumpily one morning, raising my voice over John Faine’s, “I’m going to conduct proper interviews and have selection criteria for choosing my next wife. I’ll ask them if they like talkback radio, and whether they have ever collected anything.”

“Good idea!” she replied. Without missing a beat, she added “And while you’re at it, ask them whether they can fix things.”

Ken’s “Pedal for Prostate” – 2015

Movember 2015 6For the third year running the Omnicycle blokes gathered at Marngrook Oval to begin their 100km sponsored ride in aid of “Movember Men’s Health” –  it probably won’t take over from the ‘Tour Down Under’ though it just looks like becoming an annual event in the Melbourne cycling calendar..Movember 2015 8

8.00am  … kilometer zero, seven riders – Ken, Barry, Bill, Joe (a newbie), Bruce, Nick & Lou placed their wheels on the start line with Norm, now official start photographer, and Lyn (also pressed into wielding the camera for a shot or two) to see the peloton off and running …..well…cycling.

The morning was a cool 16*C, with the promise of an extra couple of degrees later on, sunny breaks and a gentle breeze – a perfect cycling day. The ride took the usual route along the Diamond Creek Trail through Eltham and around Barry’s Bend, across the Yarra bridge into Westerfolds Park making the first stop on the top of ‘the’ hill at Km 11. It should be mentioned here that Joe, the newest member of the team, had only been on 3 previous rides, the longest being about 56Km and, sporting his new bike, had bravely decided to join the KPFP.

From there it was along the Main Yarra Trail through the Yarra Valley Parklands, Heidelberg, Bulleen Park, the Burke Road Billabong Reserve with a noisy and bumpy kilometer along the Eastern Freeway bike path.
There was a brief ‘rehydration’ stop over Belford Road at the top of ‘Cardiac Hill’, in order to catch some needed breaths and allow the heart rates to subside. Then, onward to the top of Yarra Boulevard, down the ‘slalom’ run, over the Yarra pipe bridge and a much-anticipated coffee break at the Fairfield Nursery Cafe.      10.30am.

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IMG_1805Much refreshed the peloton connected with the Capital City Trail, which wends its way all along the lower reaches of our beloved Yarra River passing Dights Falls, the Collingwood children’s Farm, through Abbotsford, Burnley (sporting it’s salubrious housing on the south bank …. $$$$!) and down onto the Burnley Board Walk and along the north bank. Here the boys turned left, crossing the Morell Bridge, right onto Alexandra Avenue to be greeted with a most welcome sight.   12.00pm. ….and on schedule!IMG_1809
There, to meet them, were the support team of Sir Daryl, Lady Flo, Geoff and Lynda who had gone on ahead to prepare a BBQ lunch of bread rolls, snags, bacon, cole slaw, fresh fruit and cool drinks. The riders were most appreciative of their involvement, assistance  and perfect timing. There was at least one of the peloton who really appreciated the purple grapes! A thanks here to Coles for your sponsorship of this important part of the ride.


1.00pm … we were only half way to our goal. So lunch over it was back in the saddle before it became too comfortable and convivial, a wave with grateful thank you s to the lunch team, and it was turn around time for the ride back to our starting point. The return proved to be quite uneventful but maintained a sedate pace with frequent stops (for conversation) and spurred along to the strains of Vivaldi & Mozart.

5.00PM …. after dropping Bruce and Joe off at Eltham, a tired but full crew made it back to the start point at Diamond Creek with 100km (plus) behind them.

Medibank Melbourne Marathon Series 2015

Finally 4.30am on Oct 18 arrives, and I am out of bed after a nervous night’s sleep. The countdown to the 7.30am start for the 10km run as part of the Medibank Melbourne Marathon Series begins. Get your running gear on, apply Finalgon to calves, hamstrings, and quads, put on “trakkies”, down the litre of high carb drink, enjoy a banana for breakfast, and head off to Glenn’s (my son) in Ivanhoe for a lift to the MCG before public transport begins.

When I finally get to the “G” with around 30,000 other competitors in the Series, the atmosphere is electric. I have plenty of time, so walk out through the Stands to see the “G” lit up and empty. This is what all the training is about.

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The time passes quickly, as I strip off and put my warm clothing into safe storage. I know about the queue at the toilet so get there early to avoid the growing throng of nervous nellies! Again I have plenty of time to go through my extensive pre-race warm up exercises, and I couldn’t have felt better walking down to the start line adjacent to Rod Laver Arena on the banks of the Yarra. A “pep talk” over the loudspeaker from Steve Monoghetti who was also competing in the 10km run was perfect.

 

The gun goes on time and the 7000+ competitors walk, then jog, the run up to the start line…..and we are off. It is a perfect morning for running, cool, still, and overcast. We run up Flinders St, over the Bridge, down around the Arts Centre precinct, then back to the “tan”, up to Linlithgow Ave, back to St. Kilda Rd, over Barrack Bridge, past the “G” tunnel for a hairpin return to the tunnel, then a lap of the “G” to finish.

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I ran 1:06:04 two years ago, and hoped for around 1:03 this year, but I felt good and ran strongly (for me), so was elated with my official time of 1:00:15, placed 12th of 47 in my age group of 65-69. Overall I finished 2905 of 6126 finishers. I do this as reward for hard training and meaningful endeavour, testing myself to ensure better physical and mental health for the wonderful years ahead. Bring on the Triathlon, Open Water Swimming, and Road Cycling Seasons.