This article describes the first determinations of longitude 129 degrees or 129th meridian east, which by Letters of Patent became the Western Australian (Swan River Colony 1829) border. The first calls for marking the West Australian border on the ground had been made with the first pastoralists in the East Kimberley, as virtually all of these were close to the border. Argyle downs bordered with the north end of Rosewood station along 129 degrees, which was the site chosen for these determinations.
This northern part of Rosewood station was in the Northern Territory following the border for approximately 30km further south, at which point on the Argyle/Rosewood boundary, part of Rosewood also extends into Western Australia, however all of Argyle Downs was in Western Australia. As well as this and other pastoral disputes, mining ventures opening up further south, the Government, encouraged with South Australian involvement, moved to marke the border on the ground for the first time. - KHS - Hope you enjoy this work.
An article corrected by KHS on the National Library of
Australia's great Australian history search engine called "Trove," which
can search pictures, maps, news articles, manuscripts, diaries etc in a
single search. The article is presented here in a new illustrated form
using photographs from the KHS Hambidge Family Collection, which has
been sought out through KHS research and
comes courtesy of the family of the late, former SA Surveyor General, CM
via another former Surveyor General of SA, John Porter and Chris Jordan
both of South Australia.
- Interwoven with the news article and these photographs are entries
from MP Durack's diary of the time, thanks to Kevin Markey and Patsy
Millett. The news article text will be italicised, and the diary entries
will not. MP Durack's diary entries transcribed here by KHS Volunteer.
- Thank you all and hope you enjoy this interpretation to show the
significance of these events 90 years ago.
- [KHS Comments or added titles are in square brackets like this.]
THE STATE'S NORTHERN BOUNDARY - WHERE AND HOW IT WAS FIXED.
- Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954)
Thursday 18 August 1921
- [Full citation see References]
[13 corrections (on Trove and illustrated here) by Kununurra-Historical-Society
- KHS encourages all viewers to sign up (free) at the National Library of Australia online to correct OCR'd newspaper articles such as this. Let us know if you do a new Kimberley article. We have available to view at the museum all text corrected and saved in a North Australian Research Chronology mixed with all other research resources]
- The members of the longitude party consisting of Mr. G. F.
Dodwell, Government Astronomer of South Australia Mr. H. B.
Curlewis, Government Astronomer of Western Australia, Mr. C. M.
Hambidge, of the South Australian Survey Department and Mr. C. A.
Maddern Assistant in the Adelaide Observatory, immediately after the
completion of longitude work at Deakin, on the trans-Australian
railway journeyed to Perth and thence proceeded up the coast in the
State steamer Bambra, to carry out a similar task in the East
- After a most interesting and pleasurable trip, the party
landed, on June 12, at Wyndham, where they were met by the Hon. M.
P. Durack, member for the district, and other prominent townsfolk.
It was the, general wish of the settlers that a point on the
boundary should be fixed somewhere east of Argyle Downs Station, and
preparations were at once made to have all the instruments and
accessories conveyed there.
- The scientists were fortunate in securing the services of Tom
Adolph, a most trustworthy and experienced bushman, and the owner of
a fine team of horses. He left Wyndham on June 14 and arrived at the
observation camp on 20th, a distance of 130 miles. This was quite an
achievement, considering the rough nature of the country traversed.
Mr. Durack, seized with the importance of the mission, decided to
accompany the party—a very fortunate thing for the success of the
expedition, as naturally, his intimate knowledge of the country
proved most valuable and all difficulties of transport were at once
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 15th 
Started off this a.m. Two cars. Mr Curlewis in my car. Call at Wireless
Station on way. Ivanhoe Station 4.20 p.m. My Ford pulled splendidly.
Passed Tommy Adolph with the Bag and baggage on Blue Bush Plain. The
party engaged tonight taking sights-expect arrive at Longitude tomorrow
The Outward Journey.
- On June 15 a start was made for Ivanhoe, about 50 miles from
Wyndham, per motor cars, Mr. Durack driving his own, with Mr. Jones,
manager of Ivanhoe, following in a hired car, with the scientific
members and their personal luggage equally distributed between the
two. Generally speaking, the track is fairly good for motoring, but
over the black, boggy country it is very bumpy, and diversity is
also lent by the numerous creeks that have to be
negotiated—occasionally—necessitating jumping out and pushing the cars
and up the opposite bank. The course of the river Ord is marked by a
line of timber, some little distance from the track, and it was not
till the bend of the Ord was [reached?] that the first sight of this
famous river was obtained and an impressive sight it is. The river,
making a great sweep here, is lined on one side with steep,
precipitous cliffs and stretches out on the other in rocky shoals
and mud-flats—the favourite basking place of alligators and
crocodiles. The salt water runs up as far as the bend, in the dry
season and the ebb and flow of the tide is quite noticeable.
[Ivanhoe Station - Ord River]
[The Ivanhoe Station was a Durack property originally called the "Stud Station," most of which was resumed to make way for the Ord River Irrigation Area and the new town of Kununurra in between 1959 and 1961. - In the article here it is interesting to note that the astronomers here, determine the longitude of the old Ivanhoe Station site (Burnt in 1950s moved to new site).]
Ivanhoe, one of Messrs. Connor, Doherty. and Durack's many stations
were reached just after sundown. It is situated close to the Ord River in very fertile country, and is under the management of Mr.
Jones, who proved a most genial and kindly host. A strange sight
this crossing in the dry season, a narrow rivulet winding its way
through great stretches of boulders and wastes of sand, with belts
or timber here and there, and on either side the steep banks lined
thick with trees of all kinds. In flood time it must be a very
wonderful spectacle, and dangerous, too, for several lives have been
lost in the foaming mile-wide torrent. It must not be thought that
the whole bed of the Ord dries up.
- A day was spent at Ivanhoe [June 16?], preparing for
the journey to Argyle Downs. The conveyances, in this case, were a
buggy and waggonette, the track being too rough and sandy in parts
for motor cars. The road, if such it may be called, trends generally
southwards, following still the valley of the Ord, and passing
through some very rough, mountainous country.
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 16th [1921 - Latitude of Ivanhoe Determined]
Mr. Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"] took Latitude Ivanhoe last
night, also rough Longitude Lat. 15.40:2" - Start on with wagonette
driven by Gunning and carrying three members of the party. I drive the
buggy with me and Mr Curlewis. Find two horses not equal to pulling the
big wagonette though sand so I take Mr.Dodwell along with us and Mr
Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"] rides...camp 9.20 p.m
[Article continues... "The Famous Carlton Reach"]
- Not many miles further on is the
famous Carlton Reach, seven miles of permanent water, and many
permanent pools, as they are termed, of lesser length occur at
frequent intervals along its course, while innumerable creeks,
tributaries of the Ord, also containing permanent pools, were
crossed during the journey.
["Emu Springs" - Ebb and Flows with the Moon]
[Emu now known as Emu Creek (a few kilometres from Kununurra on Highway 1 heading east]
- Many of these creeks are fed from
springs, which ebb and flow in a strange manner, sometimes giving
out only a dribble of water, and then unexexpectedly springing to
life with n generous supply. The moon is thought by some to
influence the flow of those springs, after the manner of its tidal
action, but nothing definite can be stated in this respect. Emu
Springs afforded an example of this peculiar ebbing and flowing. On
the outward journey there was very little water among the rushes
which cover the swamp, while on the return the water was streaming
across the track.
- At Cockatoo Spring there is always an abundance of
water in the line of pools, which present a really tropical
appearance—their surfaces covered with water lilies and the banks
lined with palms and evergreen trees. Curiously enough, though only
10 degrees from the Equator, very little really, tropical scenery is
met with in this part of the Kimberleys, which would be classified
as a type of the dry tropics. Napoleon Springs, about 15 miles east
of Argyle Downs, was another most interesting feature. There the
water bubbles up on the top of-a knoll through natural pipes from
unknown depths, in the midst of reeds and palms. Fish of some size
have frequently been seen in the pool, and can only have come up
through these pipes.
[This looks as if it could be Cockatoo Springs looking at other photographs of Cockatoo Springs. - KHS]
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 17th [1921 - Thompson Springs to Argyle]
Away early morning dinner under big boab at Thompson's Spring.
Photographs taken. Messrs Curlewis, Dodwell and self arrive Argyle 5
p.m. Other members get in after dark. Mrs.Rademy laid up with fever and
Rademy over from Lissadell. Luke Hall here preparing leave Derby. Jack
Butler from Rosewood. Feel well pleased to have the party thus far
safely. We discuss the situation and both Mr.Curlewis and Mr.Hambridge
[sic - Should be "Hambidge"] decide better make our Observation post
somewhere about Chambers peg on Bob Tail Creek.
[Look into "Chamber's Peg" - Was this the original border marker before 1921? AB for KHS 17 VII 2011]
The Golden Gate.
- Skirting Mt. Hensman, a magnificent rocky headland, only a few
miles from the boundary, the track winds through the final passage
of the ranges before descending upon the rich and fertile plain
country surrounding Argyle, and the scenery here is bold and wild in
the extreme. The name "Golden Gate" has been given to this
- Arriving at Argyle Downs, the party met with a right royal
welcome from Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Durack and visitors staying there.
The arrival caused considerable excitement among the blackboys and
gins, and it was learnt afterwards that they thought the party had
arrived with wonderful instruments to avert a dire calamity
threatening the earth, namely, the much talked of collision with a
comet, and possible end of the world on June 20. On the return a
full-dress corroboree was held in honour of the star-gazers who had
warded off the dread calamity.
- Argyle Downs undoubtedly holds pride of place as the station par
excellence of the Kimberleys. The richness of the country is amply
evidenced in the, mobs of splendid cattle that are seen here and
there pasturing shoulder-deep in the luxuriant grass, which covers
the whole landscape as far as the eye can see grass of all kinds,
from short tufty kind of couch up to the giant sugar grass, 12 or
more feet in height. This grass, especially when seeding, makes
walking far from pleasurable, as the seeds quickly work their way
through one's garments and become most annoyingly evident.
- Of the trees which grow in the Kimberley in great profusion, by
far the most interesting is the Baobab or bottle tree, only found in
the extreme North-west and North of Australia. The trunk and bark
are of a fibrous nature, and may be chaffed up for fodder. The
leaves fall off some of the trees in the dry season, while others
again remain evergreen. Each tree produces a prolific crop of nuts
and the kernel is used by the blacks as food. It is a white, pithy
substance with an acid flavour—resembling a natural cream of
tartar. Among other trees of interest and value is a hardwood which
leaves a perfectly white ash when burnt, which is used for
whitewash; the quinine tree, bearing berries which are strongly
quinine-in flavour; a tree, the leaves of which when brewed, prove a
certain cure for dysentery; There are also the wild orange, the
grape vine and wild plum— there is probably very little doubt that
under the attention of an expert in horticulture, these trees and
shrubs could be so improved that they would become quite valuable
assets to the district.
- Quite a cavalcade left Argyle on the final stage of the
journey-three buggies, a donkey team hauling a cart containing our
supplies of provisions and camping materials—the latter kindly
loaned by Mr. Durack from the the station equipment, and a string of
relay horses and pack-horses.
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 18th 
Messrs Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"], Rademy and self off
soon after breakfast to locate trig on top of Mt.Misere (HJ 19). Ride
part of way and then walk....locate trig and put up another mark-sheet
of iron-back 1pm. Decide wait till tomorrow as food supply to be got
ready. Ambrose D (Durack) getting team ready .....Sent Bulla back with
note to Tom Adolph saying party now decided fix camp somewhere east side
Rosewood road, that the buggies will be along in the morning crossing
Hicks Creek and for him to follow on. The boys put on a corroboree
tonight for entertainment of the party.
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 19th 
I take lead. Meet Tom Adolph at Newry Crossing of Stockade. Luke Hall
drives wagonette. Ambrose follows with Mr.Dodwell in his buggy. We find
Chambers' peg. I then go on about half a mile and select camp Bob Tail
Creek on a nice rise where we decide to erect the Wireless. Jock Wesley
following with rations in mule team had a bolt-broke shafts and Went
back, loaded dray and arrived midnight. Anxiety of safely landing the
party now much relieved.
The Camp. [June 20th 1921 - "Observation Camp" - Wireless Mast Erected]
[This was coined "Observation Camp" by the party at the site at which two concrete cubic observation pillars would be erected, the eastern most pillar, which was used to mark how far east of Greenwich their position was by 8 hours minutes and seconds, would later be named the "Austral Pillar" - The naming of which is something we still have not found anything about, who or when this was named, so if you know contact KHS.]
A suitable spot for the camp , was reached on June 20, and the
erection of the aerial masts, the building of the cement observing
pillars and the setting up of the tents and bush shelter were set in
hand at once.
1921 - "Raising the wireless mast" - KHS-2011-15-04-P2-D
CM Hambidge Family Collection
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 20th 
By 11am. The wireless is erected and all ready to receive message.
Mr.Dodwell tried to get Annapolis but did not succeed. By midday a good
shed erected, also three tents. Messrs Curlewis, Hambridge [sic - Should
be "Hambidge"], Dodwell and Maddern erecting the concrete pillars-Soon
After 7 pm Dodwell and Maddern at work on wireless. Heard several
messages passing Carnarvon, Applecross, Dutch Stations and on long wave
could hear messages passing between Europe and America-truly wonderful
and a record all very pleased.
[Article continues below]
June 20th to July 7th - Longitude determinations
- As soon as the cement pillars were ready, the two
instruments—Mr. Dodwell's portable transit and Mr. Curlewis's
12-inch theodolite, were installed in position and observations for
time were commenced. These were continued with-out intermission
until July 7, and from the preliminary computing the clock errors
thus obtained, appeared quite satisfactory.
CM Hambidge Family Collection
[Notice the guy-wires of the temporary wireless mast and the instrument
on top of the newly erected concrete pillar to right of picture - KHS]
[From MP Durack's Diary] - June 21st  - The new technology of the day - Wireless Radio Time Signals
Curlewis and Dodwell up 4.30am to get time signals from Lyons ,
France....Hope to get Bordeaux before long. It is truly wonderful to
receive messages in the north so soon after arrival of the plant.
Returned Argyle leaving scientific party at work.
- The special signals
transmitted by Bordeaux and Lyons in France, by Annapolis—the
radio station, connected with the United States Naval College, by
Applecross and by the Adelaide Wireless Station were received on
almost every occasion. The times of transmission of the special
signals from Bordeaux and Lyons were to be determined independently
by observers at Greenwich and Paris Observatory; those from
Applecross by Mr. Nossiter, with the Perth transit instrument and
the Adelaide ones by Mr. Hosking, first assistant of the observatory
there. It should be mentioned here that both these officers had a
very arduous time while the work was in progress—not only had they
to attend to the ordinary daily routine work of their respective
observatories, but had to be in attendance during thc night, taking
observations to determine the error of the several clocks and in the
early hours of the morning transmitting time signals for the radio
stations, and also receiving the signals from France and America.
For, in addition to the fixing of the longitude of a point in the
Kimberley, opportunity was also, naturally, taken to re-determine
the longitudes of the observatories by the same direct method.
Expedition Members and the Austral Pillar Site Panorama
1921 "Camp in the NW, 110 miles SE of Wyndham." People Named - KHS-2011-15-03-P2-D
CM Hambidge Family Collection - L-R Hambidge and 8 inch theodolite, Ulysees and Buller (behind), Tom Adolph.
[From MP Durack's Diary] June 23rd 
With boy, Ulysses, back to observation camp noon today. Listened to
message from Annapolis, U.S.A. Party has now been in touch with
Adelaide, Perth, Lyons, USA. Took photo... listening time signals from
USA, ...Message from Wyndham 5pm
Australia beat Surrey ..cricket
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - June 24th 
Mr. Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"] and self start off locate
trig HJ18. Find it on top remarkable peak Commanding magnificent view of
whole country. I suggest calling this peak Mt.Hambridge [sic - Should
be "Hambidge"], as the first day he saw it he was inclined to think the
trig was on this hill, judging from the bearing on the map. Dodwell
heard Bordeaux this a.m. also Lyons and Annapolis.
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - June 25th 
Took photos of camp. Messages giving time signals came through clearly from Annapolis. [MPD Went] Back to Argyle.
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - June 26-27 - No entries. - June 30th 
Back to observation with Luke Hall who is anxious to see the wireless outfit...All going Well
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - July 1st to 6th - No Entries - July 7th 
Started for observation camp in buggy with young Arthur Cowan in another
buggy. Party started to break up this a.m. and by evening had
everything pretty well taken down and Adolph's team loaded.
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - July 9th 
Took ride to boundary peg ..got boys to put some stones around. After
lunch we assemble round the concrete pillar and I declare the stone well
and truly laid, saying a few words in connection with the work and we
all had a drink. Mr Curlewis replied with appropriate words after which
we poured a little whisky over the pillar and took photo showing
Curlewis and Dodwell shaking hands, signifying that they came to entire
agreement on Boundary. Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"] and
Maddern on either side with myself between Curlewis and Dodwell. Start
2pm. In three buggies back to Argyle around 5 pm.
CM Hambidge Family Collection
[Article continues circa July 9th 1921]
- As soon as all the results are available the exact longitude of
the main observing pillar will be known. As it is, since Annapolis
sends out an exact time signal, guaranteed correct to within less
than one-tenth of a second of time, it was possible to fix an
approximate longitude for the pillar and this worked out at 8 hours
36 minutes 5.5 seconds east of Greenwich.
- The boundary between
Western Australia and the Northern Territory is laid down as the
129th meridan of longitude or 8 hours 36 minutes from Greenwich.
Therefore, the observing pillar was 5.5 seconds further east or
turned into the equivalent mileage for that latitude,
approximately one and a half miles. The signals from the various
stations were, generaly speaking, clearly audible, and this in no
small measure due to the assistance and advice given by Mr. Appely,
Commonwealth Wireless Inspector, who was on the Bambra, making a
tour of inspection; and Mr. Williams, the steamer's wireless
operator; Both these gentlemen took the greatest interest in the
mission and thoroughly overhauled and improved the two wireless
sets, besides giving advice on special technical points.
Fixing the Boundary.
- Observations for latitude were made with the 12in. theodolite on
six nights—the Talcott-method of pairs being employed—and thc
individual results show good agreement. The resulting latitude
16deg. 12min. 58.53sec. is probably very accurate. During our stay
at Observation Camp the weather was on the whole delightful; warm at
times in the day-the temperature rising to 85 and 90 degrees but
cool at night, especially in the early hours of the morning, when it
frequently dropped to about 40deg.—the lowest recorded being
[From MP Durack's Diary] - July 10th 
Getting ready start Wyndham with scientific party. Took photographs. The
boys put on another corroboree at special request of the party - all
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - July 11th 
Started Ivanhoe this a.m. Mr Hambridge [sic - Should be "Hambidge"]
driving the big buggy, with Dodwell and Maddern, Curlewis with me.
Camped Cockatoo Spring.
CM Hambidge Family Collection
[MP Durack's Diary continues] - July 12th  - Ivanhoe and Grotto
Ivanhoe... The car expected from Wyndham did not arrive.
Got my car going and decided make in with small buggy instead of waiting
for car. Party enjoyed climbing round in the hills. Visited the Grotto
which was much admired.
- The four members of the party enjoyed excellent health
during the six weeks in the Kimberley, fortunately escaping the
dreaded malaria, though it was very prevalent, very few of the
residents not being affected. Were it not for this scourge, it is
safe ot [sic to] say that the inland parts of the Kimberley would be
just as healthy as the Pilbarra, Murchison or North Coolgardie
fields. The heat in summer, though intense, is for the most part dry
and the nights are moderately cool. During the short winter, the
climate is quite invigorating and were it not foe the malaria which
is then most prevalent, healthy. Owing to its vast extent it is
difficult to see how the destruction of the malaria-bearing mosquito
can be compassed. Until this can be done, however, the Kimberleys
must always prove unhealthy for white settlement—or black for the
matter of that for the blacks are just as much a prey to the disease
as the whites. The trip from Ivanhoe to Observation Camp and back
again would not be complete without mention of Ulysses—a
magnificent specimen of the Kimberley black, Mr. M. P. Durack's
faithful and devoted henchman for over 35 years, and considered by
him one of the most, efficient station hands in the whole country.
He is a splendid horseman, and in his younger days a noted buckjump
rider. It was wonderful to see him manage a refractory horse, with
his great strength which was phenomenal, and of which many
exhibitions were given. It all seemed quite simple.
- Of the return journey, which was in every way similar to the
outward, nothing need be said, except that the last stages were
hurried over in order that the Bambra might not be missed at
[MP Durack's Diary concludes] - July 15th  - Embark on BAMBRA with members Scientific Party.
July 26th - Disembark.......Fremantle
[The End - References below]
- See all of the Hambidge Collection as a Slideshow from below.
CM Hambidge Family Collection as a Slideshow
Durack, Michael Patrick, Diary, Courtesy of Patsy Millett (the Durack Family) and Kevin Markey.
[News article above from following source]
- Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954)
Thursday 18 August 1921
- p 42 Article
- ... many miles further on is the famous Carlton Reach,
seven miles of permanent water, and.many perman- ent ... 2356 words
- Article identifier
THE STATE'S NORTHERN BOUNDARY. (1921, August 18). Western Mail
(Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2011, from
Some more background information from KHS Anniversaries History page
- 1921 WA/NT Border Determinations
photograph of Clive Melville Hambidge at the Deakin Obelisk was found
at the State Library of South Australia (SLSA) and appears here courtesy
of the SLSA.
State Library of South Australia - B29307
TITLE Mr C.M. Hambidge
[Date - KHS Added - circa 1926 as the Deakin Obelisk was constructed by CM Hambidge in that year]
Another photograph of Clive Melville Hambidge is available here, with courtesy of the State Library of South Australia.
State Library of South Australia - B8531
TITLE Clive Melville Hambidge
DESCRIPTION Clive Melville Hambidge
Archival No. B 8531
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