Centenary of the Kidson Expedition - 12 May 1914

Submitted: Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 21:15
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How many times in the lead up to the outback travel season do we get asked about conditions on this track or that, where can we pull water from, how much fuel will I need? We often travel outback roads and highways unaware of the rich history of the area or of the feats of the rare individuals after which some of our iconic roads and tracks are named. In many cases their feats of exploration, endeavour and endurance have faded with time. I for one reckon it’s important we remember their achievements.

2014 marks the centenary of an expedition through the Great Sandy Desert by a New Zealand Geophysicist Dr. Edward Kidson. Yes, that’s the same Kidson after whom the WAPET road was renamed to support the memory of his achievements in science and exploration. In May, 1914 Kidson set out with a group of camels and men from Wiluna on a scientific expedition (The had left Kalgoolie on the 12th May). Over a period of three months he would measure the magnetic inclination across a vast swathe of the West Australian desert along the newly forged Canning Stock Route. Despite being completed by Alfred Canning in 1910, it was a year later in 1911 that Drover Tom Cole led the first cattle, a small mob of 300 head, down the Canning. Several other parties used that Canning that year to move stock but the next group through was to be Kidson’s expedition three years later. In fact only a handful of cattle drives had utilised the route by the time William Snell was tasked with refurbishing the route in 1929. This puts Kidson’s feat into some perspective.

Dr. Edward Kidson belonged to a well-known Nelson and Christchurch family, but was born at Bilston, Staffordshire, on March 12, 1882. He received his school and university education in New Zealand, graduating at the University of New Zealand with first-class honours in physics in 1904. His first post was that of assistant observer at the Magnetic Observatory, Christchurch, which led to his joining the staff of the Department of Terrestrial Magnetism of the Carnegie Institution of Washington in 1908. Before the Great War he was engaged on magnetic surveys in South America, Newfoundland and Australia, and he spent six months as magnetic observer on the magnetic survey ship Carnegie belonging to the Carnegie Institution.

In a blog, I have reproduced the article “A geophysicist and some Camels”, written in 2005 by Doug Morrison which gives an overview of the expedition and Kidson's achievements.

Remembering our Explorers - Dr Edward Kidson

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903

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Reply By: Bob W5 - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:12

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:12
Thank you Mick O. For a great history lesson. Cheers.
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Reply By: Member - Markthemilko (WA) - Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:49

Tuesday, May 13, 2014 at 22:49
thanks Mick for telling us about one of our great explorers. Very interesting.

Happy travelling.
Happy 4WDriving

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Follow Up By: Member - blackbird1937 - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 00:45

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 00:45
Mick. I agree wholeheartedly with you that most Australian explorers need more recognition. They definitely did it the hard way, in very adverse conditions. Much more should be taught in our schools about the explorers and Australian history.
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Reply By: Member - John (Vic) - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 02:33

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 02:33
Good stuff Mick, so much history that passes by.

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Reply By: The Landy - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 06:58

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 06:58

A couple of things that always stand out for me is the early explorers' planned well, we're generally good 'bushmen' and this gave them the confidence to go forth and explore.

And the navigation tools they used were "old hat" but ones that have stood the test of time.

I only wish more of this was taught in our schools. Last night we had parent/teacher interviews and TomO was explaining our next trip into the Great Victoria Desert and had to elaborate to his teacher where it was located...his geography teacher - tragic!

Cheers, Baz
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Reply By: Steve - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 18:20

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 18:20
Thanks for that Mick - one for the "to read" list.

I'm in the middle of Ion Idriess' version of Lasseter's escapades at the moment and only just became aware of how prolific Idriess was in his writing, so plenty more to look forward to there.
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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 22:35

Wednesday, May 14, 2014 at 22:35
Hi Mick,

I always enjoy any post on Explorers, especially the ones who don't get recognition.
Kidson was an outstanding man, he lead his party expertly and got up the CSR without any trouble.

Keep up the good work in celebrating our history.


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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 08:44

Thursday, May 15, 2014 at 08:44
Thanks Mick, we surely have forgotten the word adventure with all the gear we take but I guess that is just progress. It is refreshing that so many still enjoy a night out in the bush with limited luxuries! Ironically I often find myself reflecting on how tough life was back then when I am in some remote place. It seems right to appreciate these early explorers and what they left behind for us to enjoy.

Safe travels and kind regards.
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Reply By: Mick T3 - Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 12:07

Saturday, May 17, 2014 at 12:07
It makes me proud to be a white fella.
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