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Water at last
Title : Water at last Water at last
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Creator : Giles, Alfred, 1847?-1931
Source : Exploring in the 'seventies and the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line, p. 42
Place Of Creation : Adelaide?
Publisher : W.K. Thomas
Date of creation : 1926?
Format : Book
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Alfred Giles joined the exploration parties for the Overland Telegraph Line in 1870, working with John Ross. They were to survey the central section of the route, which had only been explored by John McDouall Stuart in 1860-61 as he endeavoured to reach the north coast of Australia. In central Australia in December they had run out of water: men and horses were weak with the lack of it. Giles describes the horses clustering together, sucking each other's breath for the little moisture they could obtain that way. Finally they spotted smoke ahead hoping it meant John Ross had found water they moved towards it. The numbers of birds in the area indicated water. Finally the horses smelt the water and pushed ahead until they reached it and standing four feet deep in it were able to drink deeply for the first time in 36 hours.

The construction of the Overland Telegraph Line was an enormous engineering feat, stringing a strand of copper wire across the centre of the Australian continent, to link it to the underwater telegraph cable that would enable almost instant communication with the rest of the world. When South Australia won the contract, Charles Todd as Superintendent of Telegraphs was responsible for the job. The route across the continent had only been pioneered in 1862 by John McDouall Stuart, and the settlement of Port Darwin established in 1866: there remained much exploration to do to select the best route for the Telegraph Line, particularly at the northern end where Stuart had reached the coast further to the east, at Point Stuart, and in central Australia. Work on the line began in September 1870 and was divided into three sections: southern, central and northern. These exploration and construction parties added greatly to the knowledge of the land. The final link was made on 22 August 1872.

Related names :

Giles, Alfred, 1847?-1931

Ross, John, 1817-1903

Todd, Charles, Sir, 1826-1910

Coverage year : 1870
Place : Central Australia
Further reading :
Taylor, Peter, An end to silence: the building of the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin Sydney: Methuen Australia, 1980

Mills, Elliott Whitfield W. Whitfield Mills: experiences with Darwin survey & overland telegraph parties and discovery of Alice Spring, from SA to WA by camel Adelaide: E.W. Mills, 1993

The centenary of the Adelaide-Darwin overland telegraph line: papers presented to a symposium sponsored by the Institution of Engineers, Australia and the Australian Post Office Sydney: Australian Post Office, 1972

Richards, J. B. The Overland Telegraph Line: its early history Adelaide: South Australian Institute of Engineers, 1914 (Adelaide: W.K. Thomas & Co.)

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