1921 WA/NT Border Determinations



 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 Hambidge, 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.

[Comments may be in square brackets like this.]

Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954)

Thursday 18 August 1921

[Full citation at end of page]

13 corrections (and illustrated here) by Kununurra-Historical-Society 



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 Kimberley. 

1921 - "The Bambra on mud at Broome. Return journey from survey of SAWA border" - KHS-2011-15-10-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[From MP Durack's Diary]

June 12th.

Wyndham. Met the BAMBRA on which are the scientists who come up to fix the W.A./N.T Boundary.

[Article continues]

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 smoothed away.

[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 morning

[Article continues]

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 across 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. 

1921 - "The 'Bend in the Ord' and House Roof Hill on route to Argyle station" - KHS-2011-15-18-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

 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. 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. 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

1921 - "Ivanhoe Stn. and lagoon, Kimberley district, about 50 miles from Wyndham" - KHS-2011-15-11-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

 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

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

June 17th

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]

1921 - "En route from Argyle to Ivanhoe showing baobab trees, conveyances, pack horses and spare horses" - KHS-2011-15-16-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[Could above have been taken at Thompson's Spring? - KHS - Article continues]

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.

1921 - "G.F. Dodwell and H.B. Curlewis at Golden Gate between Ivanhoe and Argyle" - KHS-2011-15-17-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

 The name "Golden Gate" has been given to this pass. 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.

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.

[Article continues]

The Camp.

 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]

1921 - "Mixing concrete at the border camp. L to R C.M. Hambidge, C. A, Maddern, M.P. Durack & H.B. Curlewis" - KHS-2011-15-07-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

 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.

1921 - "Camp near Argyle Stn. showing observation station" - KHS-2011-15-01-P2-D

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

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.

[Article continues]

 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.

1921 "Camp in the NW, 110 miles SE of Wyndham." People Named - KHS-2011-15-03-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[In this image the temporary wireless mast is clearly visible - KHS]

1921 "Camp in the NW, 110 miles SE of Wyndham." People Named - KHS-2011-15-03-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[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

1921 "M.P. Durack and A.A. Maddern in the wireless tent" - KHS-2011-15-05-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[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.

June 25th

Took photos of camp. Messages giving time signals came through clearly from Annapolis. [MPD Went] Back to Argyle.

1921 "Survey camp near Argyle Stn" - KHS-2011-15-02-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[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

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.

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.

1921 - "Astronomical stn. near Argyle Station L to R Maddern, Dodwell, Durack, Curlewis, Hambidge" - KHS-2011-15-08-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[Article continues]

 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 39.5deg.

[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 very interested.

1921 "Argyle Station, Kimberley district, about 100 miles from Wyndham" - KHS-2011-15-13-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[Photograph and original caption by former SA Surveyor General, CM Hambidge or was original taken by MP Durack? - KHS]

[Jack Kilfoyle of Rosewood Station can be seen leaning against a post. Identified by KHS in hi-res images.]

[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.

1921 - "Country between Ivanhoe and Argyle North Coast" - KHS-2011-15-14-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[MP Durack's Diary continues]

July 12th

Ivanhoe... The car expected from Wyndham did not arrive.

July 13th

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.

1921 - "C.M. Hambidge in the Grotto near Ivanhoe, W.A." - KHS-2011-15-19-P2-D

CM Hambidge Family Collection

[MP Durack's Diary continues]

July 14th

In Wyndham before sundown.

[Article concludes]

 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.

1921 "The Quiet Stockman's Grave between Ivanhoe and Argyle" - KHS-2011-15-15-P2-D

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 Wyndham.

[MP Durack's Diary concludes]

July 15th

Embark on BAMBRA with members Scientific Party.

July 26th


See all of the Hambidge Collection as a Slideshow from below.

CM Hambidge Family Collection as a Slideshow

[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


Page identifier


THE STATE'S NORTHERN BOUNDARY. (1921, August 18). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885-1954), p. 42. Retrieved May 28, 2011, from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article38864646