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Overland Telegraph construction party
Title : Overland Telegraph construction party Overland Telegraph construction party
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Creator : Sweet, Samuel White, photographer
Date of creation : 1872
Format : Photograph
Dimensions : 150 x 204 mm
Contributor : State Library catalogue
Catalogue record
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Description :

Overland Telegraph Construction party. L-R John AG Little, RC Patterson, Charles Todd and AJ Mitchell.

One of the greatest engineering feats of 19th century Australia, the Overland Telegraph Line enabled communication between Australia with the rest of the world. The telegraph line generally followed explorer John McDougall Stuart's 1862 route through the centre of the continent, which had been guided by indigenous tracks that linked water sites. Stuart did not make a thorough survey of these lands so much of the country was relatively unknown.

In 1870 the South Australian Government authorized construction of the 3200 kilometre line from Port Australia to Darwin (Adelaide to Port Augusta was already completed). Concurrently the British-Australian Telegraph Company undertook to lay undersea cable from Java to Darwin. Charles Todd, South Australian Superintendent of Telegraphs, managed the vast project, which was divided into three parts: northern and southern sections handled by private contractors, and the central section built by the Government.

Steady progress was made in the northern section until November 1870 when the incoming wet season created extreme conditions with heavy rain, bringing disease and ruining food supplies. Workers went on strike, the contract was cancelled, and under pressure to complete the project, the South Australian Government had to take over construction. In July 1871 Robert Patterson was placed in charge, and in January 1872 Charles Todd arrived at Roper River. The rains abated by April, and the lines were finally completed on 22 August 1872.

Period : 1852-1883
Region : Northern Territory
Internet links :

Australian Dictionary of Biography Online see: Patterson, Robert Charles (1844-1907); Todd, Sir Charles (1826-1910)

Centenary of Federation - Connecting the Continent

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