By Earl James
A few years ago, as part of a field trip by members of the Northern Territory and the Kununurra Historical Societies, I visited what is known as the Kimberly Obelisk which marks a prime point on the border between Western Australia and the Northern Territory. The Obelisk is situated about 20 kms south-south-west of the intersection of the Victoria Highway and the Duncan Road that meanders southwards along the border.
David Taylor tells the story of how and why the obelisk came into being in his book The States of a Nation (2006) but sometimes, in his maps and photographs, he mistakenly refers to the obelisk as the Austral Pillar. This pillar, which in fact was not a pillar but a number of concrete blocks, is 2.4 kms east of the obelisk and was the site of high precision astro observations for longitude taken in 1921 and from which the site of the obelisk was set out by direct measurement in 1927 by surveyors Brown and Cleave. It was from this point that the border was surveyed northwards to the sea, and southwards to the Tanami Track by surveyors Barclay, Spighl and Stokes in 1935 to 1937. The obelisk is in good condition but the same cannot be said for the Austral Pillar.
When I say the obelisk is in good condition I am not entirely correct. Somebody has nicked the brass plate from the NT side of the monument. There were originally two as shown in early photographs but now only the one on the WA side remains. I am sure it could only have been a West Australian that stole the NT plate but I believe it is up to Territorians to replace it. A friend from Kununurra has measured the slot into which a replacement could be placed and the dimensions of the existing plate. With the photos I have it would not be hard for an artisan to produce a brass plate similar to the existing one but relevant to the NT.
I have asked the Regional Committee to consider funding such a project and organizing a camping trip for SSSI members during which the new plate could be installed. Access to the site is not difficult. Such a trip could occur during a long weekend this or next year and could possibly include sight seeing at places like Kununurra, Lake Argyle and Gregory National Park. In anticipation of being run off my feet with volunteers for this project I have ordered a replacement brass plate which will be delivered in the near future. All that remains to be done is to drum up some enthusiasm from members.
JUNE 2015 Update – NT/WA Border Obelisk Project
Interested members will be pleased to know that in January 2015 I sought quotes for the manufacture of a brass plaque to replace the one missing from the Territory side of the border Obelisk. In late April the plaque was received into store and has paid the cost. All that remains to be done now is to find some volunteers to make the journey to the border to install it.
The Committee has decided that it is too late to organise a trip this year so installation has been postponed to next year. In the meantime would members please consider the possibility of taking part in the installation. If you have any inclination to take part in the expedition please advise me at email@example.com as soon as possible so that early discussions can take place. We are particularly looking for someone who has some skills in drilling holes in old concrete and filling them with expansion bolts or other appropriate means of fixing the plaque.
The NT Division of ISA had a history of making expeditions of this kind in years gone by. I would like to think SSSI members would want to continue the practice.