Tennant Creek & the Telegraph Station

Now this was an adventure. We slept in this morning and then went to check in at the caravan park. The woman behind the desk was from Melbourne and had been here for three months. We talked to her about what to do in Tennant Creek:
* Walk down the main street and have a look.
* Go the pub for the cultural experience
* Visit the aboriginal cultural center and art gallery
* Visit the old telegraph station
* Check out an old mine.
* Go to Jimmy Hooker's Bush Tucker man show in the caravan park at 7:30pm.

Heading down the main street we were struck by the number of aborigines hanging around with nothing much to do (more on this in a subsequent post). There are two churches in town - the Uniting Church and the Aboriginal Indigenous Mission. From the signs outside the Aboriginal Indigenous Mission looks like a much more active Christian community.

The caravan park lady had issued us with a key to the old telegraph station in exchange for a deposit. Attached to a key was a couple of laminated sheets of paper with the history of the telegraph station.

What we discovered. And it was more fund discovering it ourselves with the key than if their had been a tour guide was that:

In 1894 with the laying of a cable under the Indian Ocean telegraph wires had made it all the way from London to Darwin. If a telegraph could be strung from Darwin down to Adelaide then contact would be able to be made from London to the southern cities of Australia.

What needed to happen was a overland wire needed to be constructed from Adelaide to Darwin and repeater stations set up along the way to strengthen the signal. The repeater stations initially needed to be manned so that the morse code signals could be received and then manually repeated. When this process was automated the lines along the track still needed to be serviced.

Tennant Creek was set up as a Telegraph Station. THey had batteries to maintain, each supplying 1v of electricity. With 120v required to operate the station it was a constant job maintaining, replacing and recharging the batteries (I still haven't worked out how this recharging happened).

The Stuart Highway was established as a track to service the telegraph lines. The highway runs right beside the telegraph line.

Supplies were delivered to the Telegraph office every six months. In the meantime they kept a garden and some cattle to provide some necessities. Over time some aboriginies came to assist the white settlers in exchange for food and medicines. A culture of dependance grew.

Inside the Telegraph Station there was a marvelous photo album of large black and white prints of the stations history. (It looked like the master copy). There was also a photocopy of a book released in 1980 of the history of telegraph station and the inital forays of the white settlers into central Australia.

I think there's clearly a project for someone to catalogue this slice of Australian history so that it's record is more permanent. It looks like it's only the honesty of tourists that is preserving it at the moment. And pessimistically I believe in the doctrine of sin.