Field Operations 1959


The 1959 program was to be:


  (i)    Reconnaissance - finalisation of Carnegie - Roy Rill section under H.A. Johnson


 (ii)    Reconnaissance - Kalgoorlie - Mt Deverall, WA and Mt Fanny, WA - Hardy, NT, under A.H. Spowers


(iii)    Beaconing and observing, Mt Hinckley - Carnegie - Roy Hill, WA, under R.A. Ford


(iv)    Beaconing and observing, Derby area (Mt Anderson - Halls Creek, WA) under R.A. Ford


 (v)    Observing Colona  SA - Eucla (Wilsons Bluff), WA, under A.H. Spowers


(vi)    Observing and Tellurometer, Tower Traverse, Mataranka ‑ Powell Creek, NT, under A.H. Spowers


(vii)    Tellurometer measurements, Ooldea, SA - Colona, SA - Olwolgin Bluff, WA, under M.A. Nicholas


(viii)    Tellurometer measurements, Mann. Range - Roy Hill and Mt Anderson - Halls Creek, WA, under M.A. Nicholas


(ix)    Reconnaissance Mildura, Vic - Tibooburra, NSW with some Tellurometer measuring under M.A. Nicholas


This was an important year for the Division and also for WRE. The requirement was that the big 2700 mile loop of traverse, Alice Springs - Finke - Giles - Rawlinson Range - Roy Hill - Derby - Halls Creek - Alice Springs, had to be completed by the end of 1959 to provide the required control at Talgarno (between Broome and Derby), in time for the firing of the “Blue Streak” rocket in 1960. Of the 2700 miles required, the Division had completed approximately 1100 miles during 1957 and 1958. The 1959 program would require the Division to complete a further 1100 miles, and the WA Lands approximately 450 miles - between Roy Hill and Mt Anderson. All involved could see there was no time to spare if this program was to be successfully completed to the required timetable.


Central and Northern WA Field Work


The field party under R.A. Ford left Melbourne early in April and in Adelaide was joined by the WRE vehicles and drivers. It then proceeded to the Giles area; as all beacons as far west as Warburton Mission, with the exception of Rawlinson Range had been erected in 1958, observing was commenced at Mt Hinckley. Only two observers were available, R. Ford and G. Cruickshanks. The observing party at Rawlinson Range built this cairn while at that station. Lights were necessary on the long lines Rawlinson Range - Mt Aloysius (71 miles) and Rawlinson Range - Mt Fanny (57 miles).


It was a triangulation scheme to the line Mt Talbot - Scamp Hill, near Warburton Mission.


However the observing conditions were good and in conjunction with the work of the previous year at the junction stations, 34 triangles were closed at an average misclosure of 0.54 second, only four triangles having over one second misclosure with the greatest 1.38 seconds. It was pleasing to get such good results on probably the last main triangulation chain National Mapping would observe in Australia. This work was completed by the end of May. See Figure 1 for triangulation diagram.


The field party now prepared for the difficult country ahead. A contractor had dumped petrol in 44 gallon drums at both Warburton Mission and Carnegie HS for the use of all National Mapping field parties passing through. The vehicles were refuelled and water was taken on at the Mission, all extra vessels available were filled. As cairns had to be built and lines cleared a beaconing party with E. Lewis in charge was organized and moved off ahead of the two observing parties which were each of two men.


The track was a mixture of soft and hard spots, hard being the area where white ants nests had stood before being removed by the grader; this made travelling very slow however it was a lot better than just wheel tracks and as movement was only between a couple of traverse stations at a time, travelling was no great strain. H.A. Johnson, coming from WA where he had just completed the reconnaissance Carnarvon Range to Roy Hill, passed the party at Mt Everard, handing over the access sketches of that section.


A little later A.H. Spowers who had just completed the reconnaissance Kalgoorlie to Carnarvon Range passed en route to Giles. It took only four weeks to completely beacon and observe the 16 stations in the section Warburton Mission to Carnegie H.S. As the only water available was that carried on the vehicles, consumption of it had to be carefully watched; no washing of clothes was possible and baths were little more than a wipe down with a wet facecloth. The date of arrival at Carnegie HS was 22 June.


Two beaconing Parties were now organised and the nine hills west to Mt Salvado in the Carnarvon Ranges, were beaconed. The observing then commenced working east towards Carnegie HS. All observing was completed by 9 July and the field party proceeded to Wiluna next day. This was the first place visited since passing through Kulgera on 18 April which had a general store where supplies could be purchased.


One week was spent in Wiluna getting vehicles repaired, purchasing food and petrol etc. In preparation for the next section a beaconing party under. E. Lewis was organised to push ahead quickly to Roy Hill, as M. Nicholas with the Tellurometer had almost caught up, and by the very nature of that work would soon pass the observing party and continually widen the gap. Also Frank Johnston a surveyor from the Snowy Mountains Authority, who was doing Laplace observations along the traverse for the Division, arrived at this time and would need to observe at some of the stations yet to be established between Carnarvon Range and Roy Hill.


In the Carnarvon Range area the scheme was again minor triangulation, however the observing conditions were good and all observing was completed to Roy Hill by the end of August. The Tellurometer party had been delayed by instrument trouble and were still behind but F.L. Johnston had moved well ahead as the Laplace stations were widely spaced.



Figure 1: Triangulation scheme NT/SA & WA Border – Warburton.


The beaconing party had already gone ahead to beacon from Mt Anderson to Halls Creek. The observing parties followed and arrived in the area on 4 September and built the cairn on Erskine Range, this task having been left to them to enable the beaconing party to keep well ahead. Observing commenced but conditions on this section were to prove most difficult, the wind was strong, causing a constant build up of dust haze by evening.


Some observations were done at dawn to circumvent this problem; heliographs and lights were necessary on some lines. The Tellurometer party caught up again and completed their measuring a few days before the observing was finalised. All was finished by 30 September which meant the big loop required by WRE had been completed.


The field party commenced the return trip to Wiluna, R. Ford called at Talgarno to advise T.R. Nossiter (OIC Engineering Reconnaissance Section, WRE) of the completion of the field work and also to contact M.A. Nicholas regarding future plans. T. Nossiter was full of enthusiasm at the successful completion of the survey and spoke of a big program of mapping in the Talgarno area which they considered requesting the Division to do in 1960.


The party arrived back in Wiluna on 12 October. The balance of the season's work was to be the beaconing of the Carnarvon Range - Kalgoorlie traverse. Beacon poles, paint and cement etc., which had been ordered as the party passed through Wiluna in July, were waiting to be collected. It was very hot now, unfortunately there was a huge amount of tough mulga to be cleared on the first few hills which were flat topped. To beat the heat, work was commenced at first light with a lay-off during the hottest part of the day, followed by a few more hours work in the evening. Once the beaconing was proceeding well, R. Ford returned to Melbourne by road, arriving 2 November. G. Cruickshanks took charge of the beaconing party and all beaconing and clearing was completed before the field party returned to Melbourne.


Southern WA observing and NT Tower traversing


The field party under A.H. Spowers left Melbourne in April and completed the Colona - Wilsons Bluff and Colona Ooldea observing. Conditions were difficult at the stations sited on the “capes” along the cliff-edge, some of the lines were long and low over the water making lights necessary. R. James and H. Couchman were the observers on this traverse. In conjunction with this work, A. Spowers completed the reconnaissance, Kalgoorlie to Carnarvon Range.


Closing down in this area the party returned to Adelaide, collected the thirty foot observing towers, scaffolding and other sundry requirements, then moved by road to the Mataranka area of the Northern Territory.


During this time A. Spowers travelled via Carnegie homestead to Giles and reconnoitred a connecting traverse from Mt Fanny to Mt Hardy on the Aileron - Halls Creek traverse. He then proceeded north to join the observing party at Mataranka and to take charge of the work on the tower traverse.


The observing towers were orthodox thirty foot tripod windmill towers. A circular steel plate attached to the top of the tower held the instrument, this plate taking the place of the normal tripod head, the only difference being there was no “traversing” movement to assist in plumbing the instrument. On this traverse, the towers and scaffolding were positioned and then the station mark was established directly below the plumb point of the instrument.


Normal “Mills” tubular scaffolding was used, however the eleven and eight feet lengths were of dural tubing not steel; because of the lighter material this made it possible to carry sufficient scaffolding in two 3 ton trucks. A heavy bond wood platform was provided for the observer and booker; it was possible to adjust the platform to suit the height of the observer.


All observations were to lights after dark, it taking about half an hour after sundown for the tower to cool down and become stable enough for observations. A Tellurometer was with the field party so that all work could be completed at the station before the tower and scaffolding was dismantled and moved to a new site.


Unfortunately only one night's observations were taken at all stations and only one measurement on quite a large section of the traverse. As by this time it was late in year, the weather was very hot in that northern latitude and both observing and living conditions were difficult. Towards the close of the survey, O.J. Bobroff, a Surveyor Grade 2, who had recently joined the Division arrived to familiarise himself with the equipment and the technique. Also during this period some rock cairns complete with pole and vanes were erected on a few previously observed stations just south of Darwin. When the traverse was completed the tower equipment was stored and the field party returned to Melbourne in December.


Tellurometer Party


M.A. Nicholas was in charge of the main Tellurometer party. They completed all measurements on Olwolgin WA - Colona SA and Colona - Ooldea SA traverses, some 450 miles in all.


The party then moved to the WA-NT-SA border area and completed all measurements to Roy Hill. Instrument trouble occurred on the last section which follows the Great Northern Highway and the instrument had to go to Perth for repair. It was lucky no similar problems had been experienced while measuring between Giles and the Carnarvon Range. On the return of the instrument the traverse was completed to Roy Hill, 800 miles in all being measured.


The next move was to the Derby area and 250 miles of traverse was measured between Mt Anderson and Halls Creek. This was completed by 30 September.


This field party now returned to Melbourne and after having their vehicles and instruments serviced proceeded to Mildura. From here to Broken Hill a traverse was reconnoitred, stations marked and most of the lines measured. No theodolite observations were undertaken and a small section where towers would be necessary had to be left until tower equipment could be brought to the area at some later date.


Reconnaissance only, was undertaken northward from National Mapping's 1954 station, Gap (come 70 miles north of Broken Hill) almost to the Queensland border. The party returned to Melbourne in December.


During the year a National Napping field party also measured 250 miles of traverse between Riverton, SA and Broken Hill, NSW. Selected sides of the Division's 1954 triangulation scheme were measured to form the traverse, no angular measurements being necessary.


Early in the year C.K. Waller who had pioneered the use of both the Geodimeter and Tellurometer resigned to join the Queensland Department of Lands in Brisbane, his home town.


Other Reconnaissance


H.A. Johnson completed the Carnarvon Range - Roy Hill reconnaissance, visited the observing party at Mt Everard and inspected the track which he had marked twelve months earlier for L. Beadell's grading team.


In the spring he went to Papua New Guinea and commenced a reconnaissance for a triangulation scheme through the high mountain ranges of that country. Many high peaks of the Owen Stanley Ranges were climbed on foot, lines were cleared where necessary, and large high cairns with a fourteen foot steel pole and vanes were erected. Full details of this reconnaissance are available in his report, “High Level Geodetic Survey of New Guinea”, Technical Report No. 8, March 1969.




A huge amount of traversing was completed this year; with the Tellurometer measuring catching up to the beaconing and observing, much more work was fully completed than was the case in the previous year.


However the biggest let down was that after all the effort to complete the traverse loop to provide control at Talgarno for the “Blue Streak” project, the British Government announced that project's cancellation just as the field party arrived back in Melbourne. Probably the Geodetic Survey of Australia came out best; it is most unlikely money would have been available to push the survey ahead at such a fast pace if it hadn't been for the “Blue Streak” requirement.


Details of traverses completed in 1959:


Mataranka - Powell Creek,  NT

240 miles - 51 stations approx.

Mt Anderson - Halls Creek, WA

250 miles - 16 stations approx.

WA-NT-SA border - Carnarvon Range - Roy Hill, WA

800 miles – 58 stations approx.

Ooldea, SA - Colona, SA - Olwolgin Bluff,  WA

450 miles (mainly measurements)

Riverton, SA - Broken Hill, NSW

250 miles (measurements only)

Mildura, Vic - Broken Hill, NSW

200 miles (measurements only)


Field Parties 1959


H.A. Johnson

Senior Surveyor, Reconnaissance



Central and Northern WA


R.A. Ford

Surveyor, Grade 1 (Acting)

G.J. Cruickshanks

Field Assistant (Survey)

E. Lewis

Field Assistant (Survey)

J. Graham

Field Assistant

J. Coles

Field Assistant WRE

R. Campbell

Field Assistant WRE

G. Stanley

Field Assistant WRE

R. Hair

Field Assistant WRE

E. Skeen

Field Assistant WRE

(short time only)



Southern WA & NT



A.R. Spowers

Surveyor Grade 2

R. James

Field Assistant (Survey)

H. Couchman

Field Assistant (Survey)

K. Simonds   

Field Assistant

C. Hale  

Field Assistant

D. McDonald

Field Assistant

H. Bausor

Field Assistant

O.J. Bobroff

Surveyor Grade 2

(NT section only)

F. Dare

Field Assistant (Survey)

J. Marshall

Field Assistant

(NT section only)



Tellurometer Party




M.A. Nicholas

Surveyor Grade 2


R. Collins

Field Assistant


J. Marshall

Field Assistant


D. Hutton

Field Assistant


E. Skeen

Field Assistant WRE

(SA-WA only)





Additional Photos


Map showing importance of Talgarno area as down-

Hocking et al atop Olgas (note rock pile with climbers names)

range centre of operations and recovery

(Courtesy Peter Hocking)

Stuart’s tree near Daly Waters, NT, 1959

Plaque on Stuart’s tree

Devils Marbles, NT, 1959

NMG 02 near Tennant Creek, NT

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower construction, NT (circa 1959)

Tower walkway

First tower NT, NMG 43

Tower plumbed over station mark

Musgrave Ranges, SA, October 1958

Pass of the Abencerrages, Rawlinson Range, north of Giles, October 1959