Down Under: Alice Springs

Henbury Meteorite Craters

Henbury Meteorite Craters


As I make my way back to Alice Springs, I make a stop at the Henbury Meteorite Craters.


According to the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Commission, it was around 4,000 years ago when a large meteorite, travelling at over 40,000 kilometers per hour [~25,000 miles p/h] broke up before impact and hit the surface of earth at Henbury.


At Henbury you can find 12 meteorite craters, ranging in diameter from 7 to 180 meters [~23 – 590 feet], and up to 15 meters deep [~49 feet].

Henbury Meteorite Craters


Shock waves ran through the earth causing sheets of rock to fold back and form the rims of the craters.


Of course, a few thousand years of wind and rain have softened the outline of the craters, which now look like the mounds that are seen at Henbury today.


The Henbury craters are small but the study of their complex geological structure has helped interpret features on planets such as Mars.

Henbury Meteorite Craters


Henbury Meteorite Craters


Alice Springs

One of several ‘beanies’ aka ‘hats’ on display in historic building


For a small area, there are quite a few things to do to spend your time over a 2-3 period in Alice Springs, at a leisurely place. I will cover a few highlights.


The original inhabitants of this area are the Arrente people and the area known as Mparntwe [mbarn-twa]. It’s believed they resided here for more than 30,000 years.


The current population is estimated over 24,000 and back before World War II, it was just 500.

What I found ironic was that most of the history on display, only starts from the time that the Europeans colonized and settled in Australia and this area.


I felt there was very little related to the thousands of years of history prior to this time; almost as it didn’t exist or was given a token mention. However, like watching a movie more than once, each time seeing something new, I am open that my view could be different if I were to see it a second time around with more experienced eyes.

Telegraph Station


Alice Springs’ more recent history begins in the 1860’s when John McDouall Stuart led an expedition to map this and other areas.


This subsequently resulted in the Overland Telegraph Line being built from Adelaide to Darwin, completed in 1872, which opened up communications and further European settlement.


The area was first known as ‘Stuart’ by the European settlers and later named Alice Springs.


  • Did you know that Alice Springs was named after a woman who had never been there? Alice Todd was the wife of Sir Charles Todd, the Superintendent of Telegraphs.


  • Did you also know that Alice Springs was never a permanent spring, but a waterhole?

Telegraph Station

Telegraph Station: Evaporimeter, to measure evaporation [was done daily]


The Telegraph Station operated 24 hours a day and was one of 12 along a 3,000 km line [1,864 miles].

Given the remoteness, it was self-sufficient and provisions were sourced once a year from the south. The Telegraph Station and Post Office originally used Morse code.


The station employed one station master, four telegraphist-linesmen, a teacher-governess, a cook, and a stockman-blacksmith.

Telegraph Station


Telegraph Station: telegraph pole


In the 1930’s the station was moved to other facilities and then became known as the Bungalow.

The Bungalow was used to house Aboriginals who were forcibly removed from their families across Australia. This began in the early 1900’s until the 1960’s as part of the government policies used to ‘assimilate’ the Aboriginals to the European / white settlers way of life.


This period of forced removal is known as the ‘Stolen Generations’, and is a major cause of the loss of knowledge, culture, and traditions of the Aboriginals throughout the country.


You can listen to one person’s story of their removal here and containment:

  1. https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/stolen-generations#video-1


In the story above, [not at Alice Springs location], the mother and daughter were together. In many cases, once removed, children never saw their families again.


Here’s an extract posted at the Telegraph Museum which was taken from the Sydney Sun on the 2nd of April, 1933:


… With huddled, batches of 60 and 70 children; male and female between the ages of 2 and 14, locked up at night in shacks and small cottages, the conditions of these homes have at times in certain circumstances, been admittedly woeful. But with gradual acclimatisation to white living, a steady improvement is now in evidence.


For the first time in the history of the Territory and adequate home has been established, at the expense of thousands of pounds, three miles from Alice Springs in the Centre, to which children from a thousand miles radius are to be removed.


Under the best conditions, they are to be given every opportunity to outgrow their heredity. They will be encourages to live white, think white and to marry, if possible, into the white race, or failing that with each other.


With, the transport of all boys from North Australian institutions and a scoring of the Territory by camel and pack-horse police patrols it is intended that 150 children shall be in residence there by the end of the year, leaving a residue of some 45 girls under the age of 14 at the Compound Home in Darwin.


Humane, parental, and exceedingly optimistic, this scheme frankly appals many residents of the Territory, who openly state that it is not only Quixotic and a moral cruelty to the half-castes themselves to sever them from their own Country and their own people, where their man-power can be of infinite use, but the deliberate concentration of a large colored element in the settlements and railway thoroughfares that can only result in untold chaos and disaster.


A vitally interesting national experiment, it will require the passing of at least 20 years to write the end of the story.


That excerpt is quite telling regarding the thoughts of that time.


I’ve also included some links below for further reading and background related to the Stolen Generations:

  1. https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/a-white-australia/

  2. https://www.australianstogether.org.au/discover/australian-history/stolen-generations

  3. http://www.pilotguides.com/articles/stolen-generation-the-brutal-history-of-australias-aborigine-people/

The majority of the buildings at the Telegraph Station today have been rebuilt or restored.  Getting to the Telegraph Station is a nice leisurely walk from town.

Telegraph Station


Telegraph Station: Stone tank, held 10,000 gallons of water 1908 onward


Telegraph Station


Telegraph Station


National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame


The National Pioneer Women’s Hall of Fame was a great place to see so many accomplishments of Australian women over the past 150 years or so. My favorite area were about the women who chose to settle in the outback in the 1800’s under such harsh conditions.


I also walked away thinking, women today think they are accomplishing great things, and they are.  They should also see what the women displayed in this museum have done, in many cases there is no comparison given the circumstances and obstacles of their times.


I didn’t take photos here as it didn’t seem I could take any to do the museum justice, however their website has a great section where you can browse stories in their ‘Her Story’ archives. It’s also broken down by profession, location, sport, etc. Here are a couple of links that are well worth a scan:

  1. http://pioneerwomen.com.au/herstory2017/industry?category=women-on-the-land

  2. http://pioneerwomen.com.au/herstory2017/atsi

  3. http://pioneerwomen.com.au/herstory2017

Royal Flying Doctor Service [RDFS]

Royal Flying Doctor Service


Back in 1917 a medical student, John Clifford Peel, with aeronautical experience had an idea to use airplanes to bring medical help to the outback.


With the support and perseverance of Revered J