61 – The Overland Telegraph Line

We talk about ‘Telegraph Todd’ and the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line, built through the largely unsurveyed and vast centre of Australia.  Only one group of British explorers had, to date, survived a trek all the way from the south to the north and returned, but using the information they recorded, Todd was sure he could supervise the construction of a more than 3200km Telegraph Line, that would allow the colonies in Australia to be linked up the the rest of the world.  A huge leap into a more modern communications era.

(105 mins)

Brilliant stories from Australia’s past!

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Charles Todd 1860 (Trove)
Overland Telegraph route (Map p2 – Leybourne-Ward, N.  Australia’s Overland Telegraph Line 1870-1872.  First Australasian Conference on Heritage 1994: Old ways in a new land.)
Morse Code receiver (Wiki)
Morse Key used by Sir Charles Todd [SLSA-B78443]
1st Telegraph Office Darwin [fl15842941-Sweet]
Landing the telegraph cable at Port Darwin 1871 (SLSA)
Planting of the first Overland Telegraph Pole – 15th September 1870 Capt. Sweet SLV
Peake Telegraph Station in the south [SLSA-B11363]
Camp at Roper River c1870 (NMA)
Alice Springs Telegraph Station 1872 (Berry-SLSA)
Camel caravan Alice Springs telegraph station c1890 [SLSA-B1434]
Overland Telegraph party taken by Capt Sweet at the Roper River in 1872. Todd second from right (SLSA)

Bob Carew, linesman 1921 [SLSA-PRG 1365-1-133]
Post Office and Postmaster’s residence after the first air raid on 19 February 1942 – [Northern Territory Library PH0250-0026/0059 Watts Collection]

Charles and Alice Todd c1855 (SLSA-B-12210)
Adelaide Observatory (SA History Hub)
The Overland Telegraph Line Memorial – Liberty Square. Parliament at right, Darwin.

Podcast recommendation: 

“Sandman Stories Presents” 


Interesting & international stories from around the world. Mostly folktales, they’re great listening during work, during commutes, when you are trying to fall asleep, or any time that you need a calm friend to read to you.     https://sandmanstoriespresents.wordpress.com/


CRYLE, DENIS. 2017. Behind the legend: the many worlds of Charles Todd. North Melbourne: Australian Scholarly Publishing. ISBN 978-1-925588-09-5.

PUGH, DEREK, 2022. Twenty to the mile: The Overland Telegraph Line. ISBN 978-0-648-14219-5.

CLUNE, FRANK. 1955. Overland Telegraph: The Story of a Great Australian Achievement and the Link Between Adelaide and Port Darwin. Sydney, N.S.W.: Angus & Robertson.

MOYAL, ANN, 1984. Clear across Australia: A history of telecommunications. Melbourne, Victoria: Thomas Nelson Australia. ISBN 0-17-006266-X.

Adelaide Observatory | SA History Hub. [Accessed August 2022]. Available from: https://sahistoryhub.history.sa.gov.au/places/adelaide-observatory

AUSTRALIAN INSTITUTE OF ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER STUDIES, and AIATSIS, 2021. Map of Indigenous Australia. 1 October 2021. [Accessed April 2022]. Available from: https://aiatsis.gov.au/explore/map-indigenous-australia

BOWDEN, Brett. [2016]. The bombing of Darwin: Telecommunications in times of war. Journal of Telecommunications and the Digital Economy. Online. Vol. 4, no. 1, p. 1–14. [Accessed June 2022]. DOI 10.3316/informit.062251201199243.

John McDouall Stuart Society » Great Northern Exploring Expedition. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: http://johnmcdouallstuart.org.au/great-northern-exploring-expedition

KENEALLY, THOMAS., 2011. Australians: Eureka to the Diggers. Sydney, N.S.W.: Allen & Unwin. ISBN 978-1-74331-195-0.

MORRIS, Deirdre. [1976]. Stuart, John McDouall (1815–1866). In: Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/stuart-john-mcdouall-4662

Colonial Frontier Massacres, Australia, 1788 to 1930  https://c21ch.newcastle.edu.au/colonialmassacres/map.php

BLACKWELL, ALICE. and LOCKWOOD, DOUGLAS., [2008]. Alice on the line: The Oveland Telegraph one family’s story. Sydney, N.S.W.: New Holland Publishers. ISBN 9871741108033.

ERDOS, Renee. Leichhardt, Friedrich Wilhelm Ludwig (1813–1848). In: Australian Dictionary of Biography. Canberra: National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. [Accessed August 2022]. Available from: https://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/leichhardt-friedrich-wilhelm-ludwig-2347

GILES, ALFRED, 1926. Exploring in the ’seventies and the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line.  Adelaide, SA.: W.K. Thomas & Co. [Accessed June 2022]. Available from: https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-211081884

Morse Code Translator. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: https://morsecode.world/international/translator.html
The translator can translate between Morse code and Latin, Hebrew, Arabic and Cyrillic alphabets. It can play, flash or vibrate the Morse code. You can also download the sound and share a link to use it to send messages to your friends. The speed, Farnsworth speed and frequency of the sound are all fully adjustable.

WIKIPEDIA: MORSE CODE, 2022. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Morse_code&oldid=1095543769

OT Pole No, 1. PastMasters. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: https://www.pastmasters.net/ot-pole-no-1.html

STUART, JOHN MCDOUALL. John McDouall Stuart Society » Expedition Six. Online. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: http://johnmcdouallstuart.org.au/729-2

THOMSON, ALICE. 1999. The Singing Line. London: Chatto & Windus. ISBN 0-7011-6493-X.

TRAYNOR, STUART., 2016. Alice Springs: from singing wire to iconic outback town. South Australia: Wakefield Press. ISBN 978-1-74305-449-9.

WIKIPEDIA: AUSTRALIAN FERAL CAMEL, 2022. [Accessed August 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Australian_feral_camel&oldid=1103047993

WIKIPEDIA: JOHN MCDOUALL STUART, 2022. [Accessed July 2022]. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=John_McDouall_Stuart&oldid=1093032140

Leybourne-Ward, N.  Australia’s Overland Telegraph Line 1870-1872.  First Australasian Conference on Heritage 1994: Old ways in a new land.  [Map, p2]

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