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Ord River Irrigation Area History

Resources for the History of Tropical Agriculture on the Ord

This was one of two new Kununurra Museum site web pages that were created for and to compliment the new Ord River Diversion Dam west bank picnic - viewing area - Culture & Heritage Interpretive Signage that was officially opened on Monday September 14th 3pm to 5pm.  The two new Kununurra Museum "Research" web pages were created for and that are linked by 'QR Code' from the new 1960-1963 History of the Ord River Diversion Dam sign to give more information than was possible in the signage. This page is the early history showing the incremental development that led to the Ord River Irrigation project.

OR you can go to a pictorial history of the period 1960-1963 for the construction of the Ord River Diversion Dam, and start of Kununurra from...
 
 There are many resources available, both long and short that are linked from this page.  For a pictorial view of tropical agriculture on the Ord you can view our "Ord Tropical Agriculture" album on Flickr with over 1,000 images to see go to https://www.flickr.com/photos/khs-museum/albums/72157663598284279 [1,314 Photographs - Click on image below] or read on for more resources.
1944 Ord River Irrigation Scientific Surveys - Bren Gun Carrier used & Entomologist Clee Jenkins crosses the Ord River
1944 Ord River Irrigation Scientific Surveys - Bren Gun Carrier used & Entomologist Clee Jenkins crosses the Ord River [Clicking on photo leads to KHS Album on Flickr]

Tropical Agriculture Proposals & Endeavours - 1836 to 1941

 In 2016 the Kununurra Historical Society commemorated 75 Years of Ord Irrigation with a Seminar that involved the Kimberley Society (Perth) and our local Department of Agriculture.  Cathie Clement presented an extensive paper, "Tropical Agriculture Proposals & Endeavours - 1836 to 1941," which is available to download for a longer, detailed history.  You can download that document as a PDF to read now or at your leisure from http://www.kimberleysociety.org/images/kimbsoc---iujobohshe.pdf.

 For some shorter introductions there are several web pages and documents to view. See the Kununurra Museum website "Research" Page to view various short histories that may be of interest. See http://www.kununurra.org.au/research/

From the Land of Lots of Time

 The Kimberley Region has a fascinating history that you could say began with the impact of that separate land form into Sahul (Australia) almost 2,000 million years ago.  The Aboriginal people over the last 50,000 years have left remarkable traces of their lives on this land. 20,000 years ago with a shoreline up near Timor, imagine the ancient Ord, Keep & Victoria rivers coming together north of the present day Cambridge Gulf, then going on up to the coast as one river valley.  With Arnhemland people to the east of that valley and Kimberley people to the west, both with similar arts and culture, before the sea levels rose forcing them apart to move on towards Arnhem Land, NT or on to the Kimberley, escaping the rising waters to develop in different ways. Yet there are great similarities in the art of Arnhemland and the Gwion Gwion (Bradshaw) rock art styles that are said to have emerged in those times 10 to 15 thousand years ago. These formative conditions must have had great impacts on their lives and the naming of places could go back that far.  Places like Tharram (the Bandicoot Bar) and Thethebeleng (the Carlton Reach waterhole - now Lake Kununurra) that was held back by the natural dam that the Quartzite rocky bar named Tharram was.  Carlton Reach on the Ord was reputed to be the biggest waterhole in the Kimberley, stretching from the Bandicoot Bar to the head of Carlton Ridge (today known as the Sleeping Buddha).

1953-ca - The end of the Carlton Reach Waterhole by the head of the Sleeping Buddha - Bill Wright 35mm Slide Collection - KHS-2011-46-cb-P-D
1953-ca - The end of the Carlton Reach Waterhole by the head of the Sleeping Buddha - Bill Wright 35mm Slide Collection - KHS-2011-46-cb-P-D

The Kimberley coast was just a blank on the map until 1644 when Tasman charted the Kimberley coast and the Cambridge Gulf can be clearly seen on charts after that voyage.

1644 - Map - Australia - Bowen-1744 ex Princeton.edu in a Kununurra Museum Montage with Ships Paintings of Tasman wife & child the chart shows Cambridge Gulf 1644 - KHS Google Earth Pro 'Image Overlay's of 1802 1644 & Charts - Overlays by AB for KHS & Kununurra Museum
1644 - Map -  in a Kununurra Museum Montage with Ships Limmen - Zeemeuw & their smaller Galiot - Paintings of Tasman as a portrait and with wife & child - The chart clearly shows some evidence of Cambridge Gulf - Lacrosse Island(s) in 1644.

[KHS Montage by AB for KHS & for Kununurra Museum's incredible "Date-Sorted Slideshows - Now with around 25,000 images (KHS Archival & collected online for KHS :^) - A highlight of the museum - KHS "Date-Sorted Slideshows" - Allow yourself the time to just gaze at any of the many different years on many screens and projected all around the museum, as you peruse the displays :^]

1802 - Baudin names Joseph Bonaparte Gulf & Lacrosse Island(s) - Shows old 1802 expedition chart as an "Image Overlay" in Google Earth Pro (free) - Image Overlays by AB for Kununurra Museum
1802 - Baudin names "Golfe Joseph Bonaparte" (Gulf :^) - "Mt Connexion" & "Illes Lacrosse" - Mount Connection & Lacrosse Island(s) from out at sea, so the French did not chart the Cambridge Gulf but there are opening gaps left on their chart at the mouth of the Gulf and a massive gap not close enough to even notice the Keep and Victoria Rivers, the latter not charted until Captain John L. Stokes on HMS Beagle in 1839 - 20 years after King.

[Shows 1802 expedition course on chart as an "Image Overlay" in Google Earth Pro (free) - Image Overlays by AB for KHS & the Date-Sorted Slideshows Kununurra Museum 8^]

It would be another 175 years after Tasman (& 17 years after the French Baudin Expedition :^) before the Cambridge Gulf and Adolphus Island were named after Adolphus Frederick, the Duke of Cambridge, by Captain Philip Parker King on-board the Royal Naval Cutter, HMC Mermaid in September 1819.  King on the Mermaid named many other landmarks of the Cambridge Gulf, East Arm, West Arm, the South-East Arm (later the Ord River mouth), View Hill (Range), the East & West Bastion Ranges, The Gut, King River, Mount Cockburn (North & South) - Cockburn Range.

1819 - Chart of Cambridge Gulf and Adolphus Island named by Philip Parker King with Adolphus the Duke of Cambridge (Inset) next to Adolphus Island
1819 - Chart of Cambridge Gulf shows Adolphus Island both named by Philip Parker King after Adolphus Frederick, the Duke of Cambridge (Inset next to Adolphus Island)

1819 - Cockburn Range named after Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn G.C.B. by Philip Parker King - AB's Montage for KHS
1819 - Cockburn Range named after Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn G.C.B. by Philip Parker King on HMC Mermaid in September 1819 - Montage by AB for KHS


Sixty years after King named Cambridge Gulf on August 2nd 1879 Alexander Forrest records in his journal the following.

"No-one can regret more than I do, that I am unable to follow this magnificent stream to its mouth, which I have no doubt will be found in Cambridge Gulf - the whole of its waters in that case being in Western Australian territory. I have named this river the Ord, after his excellency the Governor of Western Australia who has taken so great an interest in this expedition."

Towards the end of his journal, Forrest writes on October 15th 1879,

"it will, I believe, be found that an extent of country equal to about 25 million acres has been opened up for pastoral and agricultural experiments."

Extract from an 1860 Map of Australia showing the Kimberley as Tasman Land ex archive.org
Extract from an 1860 Map of Australia - Shows the Kimberley as Tasman Land

 The Kimberley Region was known as "Tasman Land" and appears on maps right up to 1880 with that name. After Forrest's traverse of 1879, the new WA Governor, Sir William Robinson, named it as the Kimberley Region in mid 1880. Strangely enough there was a change of Government and the Gladstone Government only came to power in England in April 1880.  Had they not, the Kimberley would not have been named after the first Earl of Kimberley, who became the new Colonial Secretary for the new Gladstone Government, shortly after that election.

1880-08 - The Kimberley was named by WA Governor William Robinson after the 1st Earl of Kimberley
1880-08 - The Kimberley was named by WA Governor Sir William Cleaver Francis Robinson GCMG (left) after John Wodehouse, the 1st Earl of Kimberley in August 1880.

Early Talk of Dams over 100 Years Ago by Adrian Despeissis

[From articles written by KHS for the Kimberley Echo under the title, "Looking Back" (for all articles), with this below from the article published on January 27th 2011 (same article reproduced below) can also be DL'd as a PDF from the link "January 27th 2011" above.]

 The idea of a dam on the Ord can be traced back more than 100 years to 1911, when the Commissioner of Tropical Agriculture, Adrien Despeissis suggested, “Substantial wooden dams constructed on a double row of Jarrah piles driven into the bed of the river, with a core wall of puddle clay between, would appear to form suitable weirs.” [Knowing the power of the Ord in flood it is obviously doubtful that this method would have been "suitable," as described.]

 Despeissis claimed that the North West soil was suitable, both physically and chemically, for raising tropical crops. Cotton, he saw as becoming "one of the leading agricultural industries of our tropical country." Despeissis retired from the post of Commissioner of Tropical Agriculture for the North West in 1912, to establish the Santa Rosa Wine & Distilleries Ltd at Guildford with partners, which would later become Valencia Vineyards. Despeissis very briefly advised the State government in 1927 about introduced pastures and fodder plants around Wyndham. While in the area preparing for this work he caught pneumonia and died on May 2nd 1927. He is buried in the Gully Cemetery at Wyndham.

1910-ca - Adrien Despeissis - WA Commisioner of Tropical Agriculture & his grave at the Gully Cemetery, Wyndham
1910-ca - Adrien Despeissis (1860-1927) - WA Commisioner of Tropical Agriculture & his grave at the Gully Cemetery, Wyndham

 In February 1921 the secretary of the North West Department suggested that an expert in Tropical Agriculture be appointed and in August 1923, Mr. F. J. S. Wise, an officer of the Queensland Department of Agriculture, was appointed as Tropical Advisor. This is a name that will be familiar to most people in Kununurra as the new name for the Kimberley Research Station, the "Frank Wise Institute of Tropical Agriculture."

 Not long after his appointment, Wise, Drake-Brockman and a surveyor (Tom Cleave?), headed north, inspecting country in the vicinity of the Ord River, firstly in an area of about 10,000 acres on the Ord River. Wise found the soil in the Wyndham area was the best he'd seen in the North, and if a large enough area of this type could be located within a reasonable distance of Wyndham, "consideration could be given to the establishment of the cotton industry on sound lines, and if a ginnery were needed on the spot, plenty of available power could be used from the meatworks."

 In September 1921 several East Kimberley pastoralists with an interest in watering cattle on the way to Wyndham, banded together and formally requested that the WA government should "consider the construction of a dam at the bend of the Ord (about thirty five miles from Wyndham) to prevent salt water contaminating the fresh water already there."

 The pastoralists involved were C. W. D. Conacher and H. Loder (Northern Agency Ltd.), W. J. C. Jones (Ivanhoe Pastoral Co.), Ambrose Durack (Argyle Downs Station), W. Weaber (Ningbing Station), Alfred Martin (Bovril Australian Estates Ltd.), J. Rademy (representing W. Naughton Lissadel and Mabel Downs Station), Arthur Haly (Livestock Manager Wyndham Meatworks).

 The pastoralists were prepared to provide half the cost to assist paying for the dam through a stock levy over two or three years. Commissioner Drake-Brockman could envisage the use of the dam for tropical agriculture and had plans drawn up for a concrete dam at an estimated cost of £200, however no further action was ever taken for a dam at the Bend of the Ord. [Records were located at WA State Records in Perth and photographed for Kununurra Museum by AB for KHS in 2015]

1920 - Plan for Proposed Dam at Bend of the Ord_KHS-2015-31-P-BD - ex WA SRO  Item 27947 Cons.1647 Series 399
1920 - Plan for Proposed Dam at Bend of the Ord - WA SRO Item 27947 Cons.1647 Series 399 - KHS Archive No. KHS-2015-31-P-BD
1920 - Proposed Dam at Bend of the Ord - WA SRO  Item 27947 Cons.1647 Series 399 - KHS Archive No. KHS-2015-31-P-BD
1920 - Costing for Proposed Dam at Bend of the Ord - Records sourced and photographed by AB for KHS at the WA State Records Office (WA SRO)
WA SRO Item 27947 Cons.1647 Series 399 - KHS Archive No. KHS-2015-31-P-BD

 In 1923 talk of pests in cotton had not deterred the North West Department who arranged to purchase the 1923 trial crops of cotton from the north, to be able to send lint to the 1924 British Exhibition. Only seven of twenty five bales sent were priced below official quotation.

 Most of these bales were grown on the west side of Cambridge Gulf, fifteen miles west-south-west of Wyndham on Nulla Nulla Station, south of the Forrest River Mission, which at that time belonged to F.W. Hay and F. C. Overheu, both WWI returned Soldiers. In the 1924 season, Hay and Overheu still believed cotton could be grown successfully but when seasonal rains failed, no crop was produced. Up to June 1924 the North West Department had spent £6,344 in an attempt to establish tropical agriculture, with very little produced. Even though these failures were apparent,  their commitment to cotton led in 1925, to the North West Department purchasing the state's first cotton gin at a cost of £215/5/-.  Cotton was also being grown at the Forrest River Mission.

1925-ca - At the Forrest River Mission Landing 'Loading Cotton' - Estate of Charles Tompkins - Andrew Worssam Collection - KHS Archive No. KHS-2020-58-P-BD_044
1925-ca - At the Forrest River Mission Landing 'Loading Cotton' - Estate of Charles Tompkins - Andrew Worssam Collection - KHS Archive No. KHS-2020-58-P-BD_044

 In March 1924, a survey party left Perth to classify the country on the Ord River about thirty miles east of Wyndham, selecting a suitable site on the coast for a port and marking the main access roads through the country.  By June 1926 about 266,000 acres had been surveyed and classified, about twenty seven miles of main roads selected and surveyed, sites selected for two town sites and a suitable landing place established on Cambridge Gulf. Approximately 35,000 acres of land suitable for tropical agriculture and settlement had been subdivided into 136 blocks, most along the Ningbing Range.  These selector blocks were not for irrigation but were to rely on rainfall for farming tropical agriculture.

1924-ca - Ningbing Blocks for Tropical Agriculture - Extract from WA State Records Office (WA SRO) digitised Lands Department (Cancelled Public Plans) - WA SRO 300 Chain Ivanhoe - Series 4265 Consignment 4567 Item142-4
1924-ca - Ningbing Blocks for Tropical Agriculture - Extract from WA State Records Office (WA SRO) digitised Lands Department Cancelled Public Plans
WA SRO 300 Chain Ivanhoe - Series 4265 Consignment 4567 Item142-4

 There were no takers for these blocks and by the end of 1926 the North West Department had been abolished. By this time very little cotton was being grown in Western Australia.

 Hay and Overheu wrote about their cotton crop in 1926, "with reference to this season's crop - it is finished! With first planting and replanting we planted forty-six acres, but only about a dozen bushes are left growing."

 A Royal Commission started in 1924 and going through to 1926, was to look into the financial disability suffered by WA as a result of federation, that was not suffered by the other states of the Commonwealth.

 As a result the Royal Commission did find that there were great inequities, and in August 1926, Prime Minister Bruce wrote to WA Premier Collier with a Commonwealth offer to assume responsibility for "that part of Western Australia north of the 26th parallel of latitude," as well as to assume liability for the £2,700,000 in loan funds the state had expended in the development of that area.

 After some months consideration, the state cabinet, knowing that to give away the land north of the 26th parallel up as far as the 20th parallel, which was now quite developed, was not a sound proposition, so Premier Collier wrote to Prime Minister Bruce on November 26th 1926 to express this view.

 The Commonwealth replied on December 14th 1926 amending its proposal so as to apply only to the territory of Western Australia north of the 20th parallel.

 However it seems that the West Australians had already made up their minds, as on the following day in the WA Legislative Assembly, Premier Collier moved, "that in the opinion of this House, the proposal of the Commonwealth Government for the surrender of all the territory in Western Australia north of the 26th parallel of south latitude, contained in a letter from the Prime Minister dated 12 August 1926, is not in the best interests of Western Australia and therefore is not acceptable to the house."

 A motion was moved in the WA Legislative Assembly in late 1928, by E. H. Angelo (M.L.A. Gascoyne) which urged the government to engage an expert irrigation engineer to look at the suitability of the northern rivers from the Gascoyne to the Ord, for irrigation and settlement.

 Despite rejecting the Commonwealth's 1926 offer and the passing of this 1928 motion on irrigation, no further interest was shown until the late 1930's.

 Between 1935 and 1942 drought affected the Kimberley, and in a way the Ord Project can thank this drought and the Pastoral Industry for its existence. The focus in 1937 was on supplementing that industry.

 Then Minister for Lands and Agriculture, F J S Wise, in 1937 wrote “..we set a plan in motion during the past twelve months in connection with the establishment of experimental areas on Ivanhoe Station somewhere near Carlton Reach.” By 1941 the new Carlton Reach Research Station had been cleared and was operational, having been set up with funds, supposedly “siphoned off” by the Department of Works from the Kalgoorlie pipeline.

 In the late 1930s all of the Connor, Doherty & Durack (CD&D) properties, Argyle, Ivanhoe, Newry and Auvergne stations were up for sale. Isaac Nachmann Steinberg of the Freeland League was in search of a homeland for the Jewish people saw the properties for sale in England.  The Freeland League for Jewish Territorial Colonisation, founded in 1935, had aims "to create a Jewish settlement in some unoccupied area for those who seek a new home and who cannot or will not go to Israel."

1938-39 - CD&D Properties - Ivanhoe Argyle Newry & Auvergne approx 24,000 sq. km (2,400,000 hectares - 6 Million Acres) GE by AB for KHS
1938-39 - Connor Doherty & Durack (CD&D) Properties - Ivanhoe, Argyle, Newry & Auvergne approx 24,000 sq. km (2,400,000 hectares - 6 Million Acres) straddling the WA-NT border - The blue line is a polygon made in Google Earth that measures the boundaries and area of the proposed Jewish Settlement using an "Image Overlay" of a 1940s Map of the CD&D stations combined on Google Earth - GE by AB for KHS

 Steinberg arrived at Fremantle on May 23rd 1939 and in June he came to the Kimberley and was shown around the CD&D leases by Kimberley Michael and Elizabeth Durack along with G. F. Melville, a young University of Western Australia Lecturer, as agricultural expert.  The WA Government was all for his scheme but as the CD&D properties extended into the Commonwealth controlled Northern Territory, the Commonwealth did not want a concentration of people separate to the Australian population.  A formal decision by the Commonwealth was never made or given to Steinberg or Freeland League until May 19th 1950, as the Cabinet decision outlined as a memorandum to the Minister for Immigration, Harold Holt shows below.

1950-05-19 - Letter from Harold Holt (Minister for Immigration) about the Cabinet Decision on the Freeland League's Jewish Homeland proposal - NAA - Page 1 of 4 - Cabinet Decision
1950-05-19 - Memorandum for Harold Holt (Minister for Immigration) about the Cabinet Decision on the Freeland League's Jewish Homeland proposal - National Archives of Australia (NAA) - Page 1 of 4 - Cabinet Decision

[There are extensive digitised Commonwealth records (including ASIO records) available from the National Archives of Australia about Steinberg and the Freeland League that have been downloaded for the Kununurra Historical Society digital archive. - Feel free to ask to view them at Kununurra Museum. :^]

1939 - Bill Jones - Isaac Nachmann Steinberg - Elizabeth & Kim Durack on the original Ivanhoe ("Buchan's") Crossing
1939 - Bill Jones - Isaac Nachmann Steinberg - Elizabeth & Kim or? may be Reg Durack on the original 1920s Ivanhoe Crossing that was known by some as 'Buchan's' Crossing. - Image: Courtesy http://www.elizabethdurack.com.au/

1941-1946 - Carlton Reach (Ord River) Research Station

Kimberley Michael Durack's Experiments

 Steinberg's talk of dams, irrigation, canning factories and cites of millions would have enthused Kim Durack and in March 1941 the 24 year old Kim Durack wrote a paper, "Developing the North - Proposed Research Station for the Kimberleys," and before the end of that year, with backing from the director of Public Works, Russell Dumas, his research station became a reality.  You can read more and download that document, sourced from Battye Library and transcribed by the Kununurra Historical Society from http://www.kununurra.org.au/khs/archive/KHS-2015-1-H-BD - 1941-03-31 - Proposed Research Station for the Kimberleys - Ver. 2.0.pdf - You can also see the KHS - Carlton Reach Album on Flickr from - https://www.flickr.com/photos/khs-museum/albums/72157626981847183

1941-07-21 - Extract from Letter Russell Dumas - WA State Records Office 1109.1941.751 - KHS-2011-13-H-BD-002
1941-07-21 - Extract from Letter written by Russell Dumas regarding Ord River Irrigation 1st Dam Site Survey
Inspection by Director of Works (Dumas) and WA Government Geologist (Frank Forman)
From WA State Records Office 1109.1941.751 - KHS-2011-13-H-BD-002

 During August 1941 the newly appointed Director of Works, R. J. Dumas, spent three weeks in the East Kimberley, “accompanied by F. Forman (Government Geologist). T. Brennan (Acting Engineer for the North West), K. Durack, J. Walker (a half caste aboriginal) and a full blood aboriginal, Jacko,” when he selected several possible dam sites.

1941-08-16-ca -1st Ord Dam Survey_Near Carlton Reach Irrigation Site_SLWA-061718PD & Dumas looking North from Gorge-4_SLWA-061712PD
1941-08-16-ca -1st Ord Dam Survey - Near Carlton Reach Irrigation Site - Kim Durack, Johnny Walker & Russell Dumas (? or is this Brennan - Compare Images) - SLWA-061718PD
& 1941-08-17-ca - Russell Dumas looking North from Gorge No. 4 (Carlton Gorge) - SLWA-061712PD - Kununurra Museum Date Sorted Slide Shows
Acknowledgement - Available online at the State Library of Western Australia

 By July 1942 the Carlton Reach experimental station had been cleared with three acres planted out with Mitchell, Buffel and Birdwood Grasses and irrigation started using a thirty six horsepower diesel engine and a five inch centrifugal pump into a stilling pool which was then distributed by channels.

The 36HP Petters Engine as it was at Kimberley Research Station on the bank of the Ord - Now at entrance to the Kununurra Museum
The 36HP Petter Engine as it was at Kimberley Research Station on the bank of the Ord - Now at entrance to the Kununurra Museum

 In 1943 several other surveys of the dam sites are carried out and Dumas recommends detailed surveys to determine possible dam capacities and mapping of irrigable lands. 

[Ask to see Ray Hames 1943 Diary as a lad on a PWD Survey crew under Engineer Dave Bryden, when you visit the Kununurra Museum :^]

Early in 1944 Dumas wrote to the Commonwealth, advising of the soil, botanical, erosion and engineering surveys about to take place in the East Kimberley, explaining, the project must become largely a national one and any assistance from the Commonwealth would be welcome. He specifically asked for the use of a Bren Gun carrier with driver (see photograph at top of page).

 The establishment of the Commonwealth Rural Reconstruction Commission under the chairmanship of the Hon. F.J.S. Wise would later examine the Ord Scheme as a way of developing the "empty" north and recommended a full scale research station by joint efforts of the C.S.I.R. and W.A. Agriculture Department.

1943-ca - Carlton Reach Research Station - 1 - Kim Durack in Fodder Crop with his father MP Durack - 2 - MP Durack and Mundee Moore in a Tobacco Crop - 3 - Bill Durack in the Vegetable Garden
1943-ca - Carlton Reach Research Station - 1 - Kim Durack in Fodder Crop with his father MP Durack
2 - MP Durack and Mundee Moore in a Tobacco Crop
3 - Bill Durack in the Vegetable Garden

 The experiments at Carlton Reach were focused on the pastoral industry. At the end of the dry season grasses would dry out and cattle would lose condition, so the experiments involved irrigated pastures that could improve the condition of cattle.  It was soon realised (in 1942) that the Carlton Reach site was alluvial river loam and not the predominant rich volcanic 'blacksoil' named in 1944 as "Cununurra Clay," that most of the irrigable land was made up of. [You can read more about the naming of the blacksoil as "Cununurra Clay" from - 1944 Ord Scientific Survey]

 In 1944 Kim Durack and his brother William grow successful trials of sorghum and millet at Carlton Reach and publish their results.  The Government Botanist CA Gardiner listed many plants for trial in the East Kimberley and by May there were many botanists, agricultural scientists and surveyors investigating the potential of the area. The Richter Report classified soils and topography of the Ivanhoe Plains area and reported an area of 80,000 acres of irrigable land.

 During 1945 requests are made by the WA government to make the Ord a joint Commonwealth and State venture.

 In 1946 the Carlton Reach experiment is abandoned and equipment relocated to the new site 10 miles downstream. The Kimberley Research Station was established on Ivanhoe Plain, and collaboration between C.S.I.R.(O) and the WA Department of Agriculture began.

[Read more about the 36HP Petter engine (now at the entrance to Kununurra Museum) that was used to pump the waters of the Ord at the Carlton Reach Research Station operated between 1941 and 1946 by KM Durack from http://www.kununurra.org.au/research/carlton-reach-pump-engine then used at KRS. :^]

 The Commonwealth with WA and QLD established the Northern Australian Development Commission in 1946 with two representatives from each state and three from the Commonwealth. The committee examined the WA Government's Ord River Irrigation Scheme at its first meeting.

 In 1949 the Prime Minister wrote to the WA Premier McLarty agreeing to fund among other things, a high level (railway) bridge over the Ord at Tarrara Bar near Button's Crossing, for which surveys were made and plans drawn up, but of course we know never eventuated.

[The original plans, documents and photographs for this railway bridge have been sourced and photographed from the WA State Records Office for the Kununurra Historical Society and are available to view at Kununurra Museum. :^]

 The funds made available by the Commonwealth for this rail bridge were later used by the WA Government for the major upgrade to Ivanhoe Crossing, when the 44 gallon drum (Six drums welded end to end) culverts were used as formwork and the original cement crossing was raised by more than a metre over two dry seasons in 1952 and 1953. 

[The Kununurra Historical Society archives have an oral history made in 2013 with the Main Roads Department Engineer in charge of the Ivanhoe Crossing upgrade, William Arthur Champness (Bill) Wright (Feel free to ask to listen to this at the Kununurra Museum).  As well you can view Bill Wright's great 35mm Slide collection that we digitised and have placed online from - https://www.flickr.com/photos/khs-museum/sets/72157627250459603/ :^]

1953-06 - "Setting in drums, tack welded to grade and forming up as shown. After pouring and vibrating drums remain in place to rust out. Curing wet bags frequently hosed." - Original caption by Bill Wright - The men are standing on the original ("Buchan's") Crossing - KHS Archive No. KHS-2011-46-cs-PD
1953-06 - "Setting in drums, tack welded to grade and form up as shown. After pouring and vibrating drums remain in place to rust out. Curing wet bags frequently hosed." - Original caption by Bill Wright - The men are standing on the original ("Buchan's") Crossing - William Arthur Champness Wright 35mm Slide Collection.
KHS Archive No. KHS-2011-46-cs-PD

 By 1949 the Kimberley Research Station (KRS) had forty acres under irrigation trials. A new 100 horsepower diesel engine driving a centrifugal pump through a twelve inch pipe over the forty foot bank of the Ord River delivering water into the channel at 50,000 gallons per hour.

 1950 - Successes with sugar cane at KRS prompted the KRS Supervisory Committee to conclude 15,000 to 17,000 acres of sugar cane would support one sugar mill and with two, labour could be shared with Wyndham Meatworks. Peanuts are the most successful of all crops grown at KRS yielding 200 to 300lbs. per acre.

 During 1951 the KRS Supervisory Committee claimed that research to date indicated that sugar and rice were the two cash crops that could give sufficient returns to justify dam construction and they should concentrate efforts into them and increase farm scale as soon as possible.

 During the 1952/53 wet season the KRS suspend cotton growing in the hope of reducing pests. Various agricultural experimentation continues in following years.

 By 1955 rice cultivation had expanded to twenty acres with bulk cropping areas of the "Indica" type, which supplied eight tons of seed to commercial ventures in the North West. The small area of cotton ar KRS was badly affected by insects.

 The KRS Supervisory Committee were confident that sugar cane was well adapted to the Ord and suggested in 1957 that economic and social investigations were now of more importance than continued agronomic investigations.

 In August 1959, the Commonwealth government made available a grant of £5 m. to Western Australia to promote development of that part of the State north of the 20th parallel. Of this sum a total of £4.066 m. was expended on the construction of a Diversion dam on the Ord River, which was planned by the Western Australian government as the first stage of the Ord River Project.

[Next? - 1960-1963]
This was one of two new Kununurra Museum site web pages that were created for and to compliment the new Ord River Diversion Dam west bank picnic - viewing area - Culture & Heritage Interpretive Signage that was officially opened on Monday September 14th 3pm to 5pm.  The two new Kununurra Museum "Research" web pages were created for and that are linked by 'QR Code' from the new 1960-1963 History of the Ord River Diversion Dam sign to give more information than was possible in the signage. This page is the early history showing the incremental development that led to the Ord River Irrigation project.
QR Code 2 Cool water drop style with a photo of a croc skull in the centre of the QR Code and the words "Kununurra Museum" made by AB for KHS for - www.kununurra.org.au_research_1960-1963-ord-stage-1 new signage at the Ord River Diversion Dam

OR you can go to a pictorial history of the period 1960-1963 for the construction of the Ord River Diversion Dam, and start of Kununurra from...


Much of the information above was sourced from, A History of the Ord River Scheme - A Study in Incrementalism, A thesis submitted for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy of Murdoch University in 1978 by Susan Graham-Taylor.
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