Journey to the Centre of Western Australia

There are easier Road Trips than travelling to the exact geographical Centre of Western Australia, however, it has ‘bucket list’ status, it is little visited, and our investigations revealed that its position was most likely incorrectly marked – a status we intended to rectify.

Clearly, we would not be the first to travel to this vicinity, however, we were the first to determine the exact position of Western Australia’s centre, on the ground.

Getting There

Our Journey to the Centre of Western Australia started on Friday 19 August 2022 at Muchea and that part of the Road Trip to Shoemaker Crater is detailed here.

Shoemaker Crater to Glen-Ayle Station

With the marking of the centre of Shoemaker Crater completed we headed north to a track that we hoped would take us to Granite Peak Station.

A dry creek bed with an inconveniently-positioned tree presented a lengthy delay in getting the camper trailer through.

However, that was the only obstacle before we stopped for lunch at spectacular Boundary Breakaway near the western boundary of Granite Peak Station.

Station tracks to Granite Peak Homestead presented another navigation challenge, however, the alternatives we chose were successful and we found our way to near the homestead. As is often the case at station homesteads there are tracks going everywhere and finding the right one is difficult. Granite Peaks is no different, however, as ‘all roads lead to Rome’, we duly arrived at the homestead and met the owner, Jim Quadrio.

After a quick chat and thanks for access to the station we moved on towards Glen-Ayle Station. We were a long way behind schedule.

There was no-one home at Glen-Ayle. Doors open, dogs, horses, poultry but no humans.

Base Station – Key to Accuracy

Steve needed to set up a ‘base station’ so he could achieve an accuracy at the Centre of WA of 20-25 mm rather than 1-2 metres that could be achieved by using GPS satellites alone. To do this he would need to place a radio at a known, surveyed point that would transmit continuously to him at the Centre of WA. The only known, surveyed point within cooee of our objective was Standard Survey Mark HP 24, 22 kilometres south-east along the Glen-Ayle Carnegie Road from where we currently were at the unoccupied Glen-Ayle Homestead. Graham jumped in with Steve and accompanied by James and Tim they headed off to find the survey mark and set up the base station.

Windy, Windy Campsite

The rest of the crew found a good campsite a few kilometres from the homestead. Scott and Kim went back to the station about 6.00 p.m. Still no one home.

The wind continued to howl. It normally calms down after the sun dips below the horizon, however, that didn’t happen. Steve was concerned that the strong winds might blow over the base station during the night.

It was a lazy wind, a very lazy wind.

Some time after darkness fell an animal was heard whining/crying off in the distance. Scotty investigated and brought a dog back to camp. It was obviously a station dog. Why was it out here? It was in a bad way. Scotty and others fed it and set up a comfortable bed for it near the fire and out of the wind.

Glen-Ayle Station Homestead

In the morning we returned to the homestead. There was still no human activity. We reunited the hapless dog with its mates. It perked up immediately.

The yapping dogs caused Colin to appear.

The Legend of Little Dog

After brief introductions we advised him that we had found his station dog and that it was ok.  Clearly relieved, he told us the story of Little Dog. It had been missing for four days and the entire Station workforce had been out on motorbikes searching for it. However, the backstory was even more interesting.

In 2008 an adventurous lady was travelling south on the Canning Stock Route with camels. She called in to an aboriginal community and came across a dog that she believed was being mistreated so she offered to take it with her – which offer was accepted. She arrived at Glen Ayle with her camels and made the decision to leave the dog at the station. It was named Little Dog and, as events unfolded, it was a canine with two fortunate life stories.

Track In

Scotty led the way to the Centre of WA, following wheel tracks of some adventurous visitors who had made their way to the supposed Centre of WA only a few weeks previously. So sad that they didn’t see the real Centre of WA.

In a number of places we travelled cross country, along creek lines and through mudholes. Considering that we were in the Little Sandy Desert, there was a fair bit of water laying around. The drive took about an hour.

Supposed Centre of WA

All vehicles were parked on a clearing at the side of the hill where the supposed Centre of WA is located.

A walk track led to the top of the hill on which a small rock cairn had been constructed. Very convenient, very scenic, very much done for the punters – and very wrong.

Steve led the way to the real Centre of WA – more than 200 metres away from the BS location.

Marking the Centre of Western Australia

It was now that the preparation and extra effort last evening by Steve, Graham, James and Tim paid dividend. The base station they installed was sending a continuous signal that enabled Steve’s determination of the CWA to be accurate to within 20-25mm.

To achieve this accuracy Steve set his Base Station over a known point – in this case the closest established Landgate Standard Survey Mark (SSM24). The Base Station receives satellite signals (American GPS and Russian Glonass) and applies a correction, so that the received position matches the SSM position. This correction is then transmitted via a UHF radio repeater to the Rover Unit at the Centre of WA area in real time (Real Time Kinetic). The Rover Unit applies this correction to its received satellite signals. This results in an expected accuracy of ± 25mm in X & Y and ± 30mm in Z.

A Survey Controller (keypad/display screen) communicates with the Rover Unit via Bluetooth to record and set out coordinates.

Geoscience Australia determined the Centre of Western Australia, using a conic projection and updated to GDA2020, to be at:

25° 19′ 41″ South, 122° 17′ 54″ East

-25.32806, 122.29833

51J 429383 17198541

The survey mark our group, led by Steve Leipold,  cemented into position is within 25mm of this.

For a simple explanation of Grid References, Coordinates, Projections, Datums, Tectonic Plates and GPS go here.

It is interesting to note that the Centre of Western Australia using the Linear Method is about 91 kilometres north, in the vicinity of 24° 30′ South, 122° 16′ East.

LOTS of photographs were taken and then it was time to move on.

Photographs of people at the Centre of Western Australia are here.

It is my understanding that a group on university surveying students intend to survey the Centre of Western Australia in 2023. Their field trip will be made even more interesting as they determine how to mark a location that is already marked.

Out of the Desert

The expedition made its way out along the newly driven ‘track’ to the Glen-Ayle Carnegie Road, after which time Gary took over as Trip Manager. It was important to reach Laverton this night because arrangements had been made with the managers of the Great Beyond Explorers’ Hall of Fame and Visitor Centre to open the venue the next day 30 minutes earlier than normal, specially for us.

Carnegie Station was the first milestone in our push to Laverton. Diesel $3.25L. There was a buzz at the station as they were preparing for muster two days hence, and a dozen or more casual hires were expected to arrive in the next 24 hours. Accommodation, catering, two beers, and $200 per day.

Carnegie is on the edge of the Little Sandy Desert, about equidistant between Perth and Alice Springs. It is an important stop for travellers on the Gunbarrel Highway.

After ‘information received’ discussion took place over the track to Prenti Downs – our planned route. After further investigation it was determined that the information about the track was presented (innocently) from a position of ignorance/inexperience. As it was a mapped road (rather than a station track) we elected to stay with our planned route and, as events unfolded, it was an easy drive. If we had taken the alternative route it would have been an extra 325 kilometres – it was never really an option. Just as we were about to depart Shaun noticed that the right rear tyre of his Prado was leaking air. The quickest solution was to swap the wheel.

We arrived at Prenti Downs Station just as the daylight was starting to fade. After talking with the station managers and, given the lateness of the hour, we changed our route to arrive at the Great Central Road further east than we had originally intended. Though a little bit longer it was a good deal quicker.

The light was fading fast as we travelled towards Cosmo Newberry. It was difficult to see the crepuscular wildlife and, sometimes, even the track.

After turning right onto Great Central Road it was not long before we hit the bitumen, arriving at Laverton Caravan Park just after 8.00 p.m. It was time to set up camp, take a shower, prepare dinner and relax.

A taxing drive, a long day, a successful but tiring event.

After Laverton we made our way to Kalgoorlie visiting historic townships, going onsite to working mines and exploring interesting geological features. That story is here.

The Journey to Centre of Western Australia would not have been possible without input by Scott Overstone and Andrew Brooks in contacting station owners and pre-Trip admin. In addition, Scott performed the Sweep role during the Road Trip and Andrew was the Communications Coordinator.

Clearly, the precise centre of Western Australia would not have been able to be accurately determined without the professional input of Steve Leipold, principal of Lone Star Surveys. Steve’s explanations as to what he was doing and why added greatly to the understanding of the process.

 

© 2022 Kim Epton
2070 words.
36 photographs, two images.

Photographs
James Hay
Louise Leipold
Maria Wilson
Tayla Skewes
Kim Epton

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