Anniversary of Surveying the Simpson Desert

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Simpson Desert, Surveying, Surveyors, South Australian Department of Lands

Fifty years ago a team of public servants endured freezing night time temperatures and water rations to accurately survey the southern Simpson Desert.  An exhibition on at the Mortlock Library commemorates their journey.

In July 1963 an eleven man survey team from the South Australian Department of Lands left Adelaide to undertake the first comprehensive survey of this region in the north east of the state. The information provided survey control for the oil and gas exploration companies that were starting to work in the area.

The team started their work east of the railway siding of Pedirka (100kms. north of Oodnadatta) working their way via Poeppel’s Corner to connect to an earlier survey near Birdsville. This was a distance of nearly 450 kilometres and took six weeks to survey.

The vehicles carried basic supplies and equipment; the essential long handled shovels, sand mats, lots of tinned food and jerry cans of fuel and water. The team soon settled into the daily routine of camping, constant billy boiling and weird food concoctions. While as much water as possible was carried, for a significant part of the trip it was rationed to two litres per man per day for drinking, cooking, cleaning utensils and washing. Even in 1963 water was the same precious commodity that it had been for the early explorers.

To recognise the 50th anniversary of this significant, but little known, undertaking, Alan Wright (one of those involved in the 1963 survey) has created a display featuring the survey equipment used, photos and historical information. Details of the exhibition can be found here.

Story contributed by the Land Services Group.

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