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A Four Wheel Drive Excursion Through Central Australia

October 20th 2006 04:21
Each year members of the Albany Four-wheel Drive Club plan a challenging, long distance tour of 14-28 days. This year a convoy consisting of six cars started out from Albany and headed north through Hyden, Coolgardie, Niagara Dam, Kookynie, Malcolm Road, Leonora , Laverton and eventually on to the Anne Beadell Highway. The Anne Beadell Highway travels through 1346 kilometres of desert from Laverton, Western Australia, to Coober Pedy, South Australia, and passes through the southern portion of the Great Victoria Dessert. There are no settlements between Laverton and Coober Pedy so travelling this track is challenging and requires fastidious preparation. Permits are required to travel through sections of this Highway.


In the late 1940’s Len Beadell, a famous Australian surveyor, explorer and author, was commissioned to develop a rocket range, chiefly for Britain’s weapon testing. He chose and surveyed the launch site at Woomera, with the firing range extending across Australia to the NW towards Broome. With a team of men, a bulldozer, a grader and a supply truck he set about developing access roads radiating out from Woomera across the vast desert interior to the NW of WA. In all, he surveyed 6500 kms of tracks in the Great Victoria, Gibson and Great Sandy Deserts of Australia.

He named some of these tracks after members of his family. The Anne Beadell Highway, was named after his wife. He also built the Connie Sue Highway, named after his daughter, and the Gary Highway, named after his son. The latter two run north and south and intersect the Anne Beadell Highway. The Gunbarell Highway, which stretches 1600 kms across Central Australia, from Wiluna to Warburton, past the Olgas and onto Ayres Rock, was his first track. Some of this track is now the Great Central Road, which is kept graded, and many people travel this road to Alice Springs. In 1958 Len Beadell received the British Empire Medal for his work in building this highway.


Niagara Dam, Goldfields, Western Australia.
Niagara Dam, Goldfields, Western Australia.
The Niagara Dam was built in 1897, with cement carried from Coolgardie by camels. The dam was needed to provide water for locomotives to run between Kalgoorlie and Leonora. The Niagara town site developed, fuelled by gold mining in the area. Shortly after the completion of the Niagara Dam, good, plentiful underground water was discovered at Kookynie, 14 kilometres away, and Niagara town site declined in favour of Kookynie. Today, Niagara is a ghost town.

Kookynie Hotel, outback Western Australia.
Kookynie Hotel, outback Western Australia.
Kookynie is situated a couple of hours drive north of Coolgardie and in its hey-day boasted a population of about 1500. Today it is a ghost town with a population of about 15. This photo shows you the one remaining hotel, out of the six hotels the town had when it was a thriving gold town.

Western end of the Anne Beadell Highway, Laverton, Western Australia.
Ready for a great adventure, beginning at the western end of the Anne Beadell Highway, Laverton, Western Australia.
The Anne Beadell Highway travels 1340 kilometres from Laverton to Coober Pedy, South Australia. It starts here as a gravel road but soon becomes a two wheel track.

Old Yeo Station Homestead, east of Laverton, outback Western Australia.
The old Yeo Station Homestead, east of Laverton, outback Western Australia.
In the 1950’s a family came to this place, near Lake Yeo, to develop a station. Unfortunately, the venture failed, but this homestead has been revamped by CALM for the comfort of travellers.

Aluminium marker, Neale Junction, Great Victorian Desert. Left by Len Beadell, to guide future travellers.
Len Beadell left aluminium markers at strategic places to guide future travellers. Unfortunately, some of these markers disappear or are damaged, much to the frustration of Len Beadell’s family who are trying to keep them maintained. This marker is placed at Neale Junction, where the Anne Beadell Highway and the Connie Sue Highway intersect.

Aboriginal rock formations, crashed aircraft and healthy camels, along the Anne Beadell Highway.
There are many interesting things to see along the Anne Beadell Highway. The Aboriginal rock formations, crashed aircraft and healthy camels are some of the attractions to investigate as you travel through the Great Victoria Desert. These photos also give some idea of the vegetation along the way.

As part of Britain’s nuclear testing programme Len Beadell was commissioned to locate and survey sites at Emu and Maralinga. Today at Emu, concrete monuments mark the places where two nuclear bombs were exploded. Observers of these nuclear explosions stood on Observation Hill, about 40-50 kilometres away. They stood with their backs to the explosion and then turned around to observe the mushroom cloud.

Sturt Peas, growing near Emu, South Australia.
The desert has a beauty of its own in so many ways. It was a delight to discover these Sturt Peas blooming so beautifully near the site of Emu settlement.
Site of Emu settlement, Great Victorian Desert, South Australia.
Site of Emu settlement, Great Victorian Desert, South Australia.
The site for the town of Emu, 240 kilometres west of Coober Pedy, was chosen because it was near a clay pan, on which an airstrip could be constructed. It was a good site also because bore water was available.
The monument marking the spot where Totem 1 nuclear test was exploded at Emu, South Australia, 15th October, 1953.
This monument marks the spot where Totem 1 nuclear test was exploded, 15th October, 1953. Totem ll was exploded on October 27th, 1953. The devices were placed on top of towers which vaporised with the intense heat of the nuclear explosion. The other side of this monument carries the “WARNING: Radiation Hazard: Radiation levels for a few hundred metres around this point may be above those considered safe for permanent occupation.”
Burnt rocks on the site of the nuclear explosions at Emu, South Australia.
Burnt rocks on the site of the nuclear explosions at Emu, South Australia.


The Eastern end of the Anne Beadell Highway, Great Victoria Desert, South Australia.
Here it is … the eastern end of the Anne Beadell Highway, heading for Coober Pedy … but that is a story for another day.






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