Tales From The Acacia TreesLindsay Johannsen / Humor
Tales From The Acacia Trees
Copyright Lindsay Johannsen 2015
National Library Of Australia Cataloguing-in-publication data:
Author: Johannsen, Lindsay Andrew
Title: Tales From The Acacia Trees
Cover art by the author.
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TALES FROM THE ACACIA TREES
This is not an historical document; rather it has been penned to entertain. And given it may fail on both counts I have elected to change the names of almost everyone mentioned herein. Those who know of these things will know of whom I write, so please address any correspondence in relation to these issues directly to my solicitors: Ron Bruise and Associates, 49 Nothrough Rd, Mudbuggery Wash NT, 0899. Thank you.
Chapter 1. Assaying The Alice; And Whither Its Waters
When I was a boy, growing up in Alice Springs was an adventure. One of the reasons for this is that in those days the world was a much freer and safer place, especially where kids were concerned.
Alice Springs was the name Government Surveyor WW Mills gave in 1871 to what he believed was a spring-fed waterhole he'd discovered in the rocky MacDonnell Range hills, in what was subsequently named the Todd River – Todd being the Surveyor General at that time and Alice being his wife.
Mills had been looking for a way through the MacDonnell Ranges during construction of the Overland Telegraph Line and, in 1872, given the abundant water supply it afforded, a repeater station was built there to service the line. But the notion of a spring proved incorrect, for in time the pool was revealed as simply a long term waterhole in what for the most part is a dry sandy channel.
Then, in 1888, gold was discovered at Arltunga, ninety kilometres ENE of there. Because of this and the taking up of pastoral leases in the area, a town site was surveyed some three kilometres south of the repeater station to encourage the region's development. The spot chosen was on several square kilometres of flat country immediately west of the Todd River. It lay between (to the north), the low rocky ridges of the MacDonnell's Arunta geology and (southward), its much higher east-west trending Heavitree Range quartzite escarpment.
The place was to be named Stuart after the explorer John MacDowell Stuart, and, the following year, in January 1889, 104 lots were put to auction. There was not exactly a stampede of buyers, however. Only five lots were sold and, even by the turn of the century, Stuart still only consisted of a few scattered dwellings and structures.
Then in 1929 the Adelaide to Oodnadatta narrow gauge rail line was extended to there and the Stuart rail terminus was established. But the locality's two names were a constant source of confusion to the Central Australian Administrators in Adelaide, and so in August 1933 the Stuart township was officially named in the Government Gazette as "Alice Springs".
Aiding development was the serendipitous discovery that a large, shallow, subterranean water supply existed within the broad basin of sandy alluvium on which the town had been established – water being the absolute linchpin in this part of the country where development is concerned. In places it was only three metres below the surface and generally speaking was easily accessed by anyone with a pick, shovel, bucket and windlass.
The reservoir is maintained by the southward flowing Todd River during storm runoff events. Huge volumes pass through the Heavitree Gap's break in the range and flow on down into the desert, but substantial amounts soak into the sands upstream of it and are retained by the steeply dipping quartzite barrier underlying the gap, effectively creating an underground dam of significant volume and one that is safe from the searing winds of summer – which, at their worst, can evaporate more than a metre from an open body of water inside a month.
The town basin, as it is called, amply supported Alice Springs into the early 1960's, but lack of recharge due to drought and continually increasing demand created shortages and restrictions. The authorities had not been idle, however, and the discovery, development and gradual bringing on line of a water supply south of the Heavitree Range quartzite was subsequently effected. This reservoir, of utterly staggering proportions, lies in a vast geological sequence called the Mereenie Sandstone, and supplies Alice Springs to this day.