QAA line Birdsville to the French Line

Submitted: Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 10:35
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Got into a conversation yesterday about the names of outback "lines" . We haave done a google search & tells us all about the QAA line but nothing saying what QAA stands for. Have had some responses on a couple of other forums but still no definitive answer. Any clues out there?
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Reply By: 19738662 - Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 12:03

Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 12:03
In the 1960's the French (as I understand it) were exploring the area of the Simpson for oil....hence the French line & the track used to bring their oil drilling rigs on was named "The Rig Track" or "Rig Road."......I was told that the QAA was possibly a reference to a French company or similar. Sorry I cannot be of any more help. Google is your best friend. Robert
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Reply By: Member - mechpete - Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 14:16

Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 14:16
As I understand it the French Line was named after the exploration
company called French Petroleum , don,t know about QAA
cheers mechpete
AnswerID: 549668

Reply By: cruza25 - Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 16:57

Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 16:57
I think it may be named after the El Qaa plain in the gulf of Suez
Maybe some of the workers had worked there and saw a similarity
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 18:54

Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 18:54
I had long involvement with Santos and the SA oil & gas industry since the early 1960's.
The derivation of the 'QAA Line' also has intrigued me for some time as I had no memory of such a name from that time.

Today, most maps show the French Line going from Dalhousie to Poeppel Corner then continuing Eastward to Big Red as the QAA Line although I note that the Trek Notes on the ExplorOz website show the French Line as going fro Dalhousie to Birdsville.

I have some authoritative industry books and documents recording that there were several companies involved in oil/gas survey work in the Simpson with the main one being French Petroleum who are credited to putting the track "across the Simpson from Dalhousie to Birdsville---which became known as the French Line." in 1963. I can find no reference in my books to "QAA" nor can I find any relevant reference on extensive online searching.

Some persons have suggested that the acronym comes from the French "Qualite Accord Assurance" but this is unlikely as it has nothing to do with Oil exploration.

So I also remain uninformed and hope that someone can offer a supportable explanation rather than guesswork.

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 20:27

Monday, Mar 09, 2015 at 20:27
I love a good Google challenge :)

Found this, page 4 . . . Munga-Thirri National Park Management Statement 2013

"The QAA line was then constructed in 1979 by Delhi Petroleum and was left open at the request of locals to provide
access through the desert from Birdsville to Poeppel Corner"

However, this site is interesting, says . . . the QAA Line used today from Poeppels (always be reminded - Poeppels is POPPLES not PEPPLES) was cut by CGG Party S6509 the following year, 1964.

2 Very interesting pics on that site . . . 1963 seismic survey . . . and French Line mud map showing it going part way towards BV before heading off NNW.

Yes there is a Gulf of Suez Qaa Plain which could be a namesake.

Very interesting subject, it would be great to confirm the origin.
AnswerID: 549683

Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 00:46

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 00:46
Hi Les,

Yes, I had viewed your second site reference ( whose homepage has the notation......
"This is a public service project published by the editor Kevin Murphy for the purpose of recounting the experiences of the French Line construction team."

The following extracts are from that site:

"In 1963 a Brisbane seismic survey operator, the Paris-based Compagnie Generale de Geophysique (CGG) was given the job by French Petroleum (TOTAL) to chart the Simpson Desert for geophysical prospects, and work began in the Hamilton Creek region of northern South Australia in April that year."

"The task was to break through from Dalhousie to Birdsville via Poeppels Corner."

"The French Line began as CGG Party S6507's bulldozed 'Line B' at Dalhousie Springs in South Australia on July 1st 1963 and ended at Poeppels Corner at the tri-State border two months later. In another month they had reached Eyre Creek."

The track headed NNW from Poeppels and the site says "CGG didn't take the QAA Line used today, instead made their own Line N some 25km east of Poeppel then 25km NNW between the sand hills."
"That road is now known as the French Line"

"A dimunitive stone cairn dedicated to Compagnie Generale de Geophysique (CGG) Party S6507, builders of the French Line in 1963, stands opposite the Birdsville pub."

Then, as you have said, Delhi Petroleum constructed the QAA Line from Birdsville to Poeppels. From what is said above, an impression could be gained that the 1963 French Line did go all the way to Birdsville but not along the same path as the QAA. Or maybe not?

We are still no closer to learning the origin of the QAA name.


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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 02:49

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 02:49
It was only 1979, maybe someone at Delhi Pet Co is still there that knows ?
Possibly they have records ?

It would certainly be interesting to find the answer.

I just Googled Delhi Petroleum, and it appears it was an acquisition and subsidiary of either or both Beach Petroleum and SANTOS !!
Guess you might have been aware of that with your past SANTOS association ?
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 11:02

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 11:02
Delhi is a short title for any one of many petroleum companies spawned from the original Delhi-Taylor Oil Corporation of Dallas, Texas.
In Australia, the division was Delhi Australian Petroleum Ltd who entered a joint venture in 1958 with Santos. Essentially, Delhi carried out the surveying and drilling while Santos managed the production, but in reality it was somewhat more interwoven. My early relationship was with Delhi as Santos at that time was little more than two men, John Bonython and Bob Bristowe. Santos grew rapidly following the success of the Gidgealpa 2 well.

Beach Petroleum Ltd was the company formed by Reg Sprigg in 1962. Sprigg was closely related to Santos as a consulting geologist and became interwoven with the Santos history. There were (and are) many companies involved in the exploration and production of oil & gas in Australia and they are frequently merged for varying periods. It can get quite confusing.

You raise a good point about someone still at Delhi (or Santos) who may have memory or records regarding the WAA Line. All my contacts would be long retired but I may try making enquiries.

One problem of matters such as this is that a person may make assumptions and publish them on a website. They then become irrefutable facts. "He who writes history, makes history."


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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 11:34

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 11:34
Allan, thanks for the update and read, it was certainly an interesting time in that era of exploration . . . I really enjoyed the book Rock Star about Reg S's life, totally enthralling . . . I actually considered becoming a geologist after reading that book !!! :)

Ok, you just opened up a whole new field there with the mention of WAA line . . . we were talking QAA line, but do we have a definition of WAA ??

If so, it might give a clue to the other.
I'd suggest having the similar characters, they could be related in some way in their make up.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 14:53

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 14:53
Sorry Les, I meant QAA Line, but the same could apply to the WAA Line.

I thought I had a document that described the history of all those Simpson tracks but alas, since moving house I cannot find it.

Those early days were good. When you went into offices such as Delhi or Santos there were only six people and I knew all their names and they knew mine. Bit different today!

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 17:26

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 17:26
Yes, maybe tracks were named by first letter at some stage, and the AA is the key.

I have emailed Friends of Simpson Desert as suggested below by Trooper, to see if they have some info, or can put me onto someone that could know.
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Follow Up By: LineB - Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 19:10

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 19:10
The QAA Line was built by Ivor Nicholls of Nicholls Bros. Ivor's section is the one used these days. Our earlier similar path to Birdsville from Poeppels Cnr back in 1963 has long fallen into disuse. Its rough path can be seen on my front page,, north of QAA Line.

Kev Murphy
CGG Party S6507
The French Line Construction Team
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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 20:28

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 20:28
Thanks for posting Kev, must have been an incredible experience to be up there in those times.
Would have seemed a lot further away from civilisation than it does now.

Your website is a great resource, is it complete or are you still adding to it ?
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 20:39

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 20:39
Thanks for that Kev.

I saw that track on your Simpson page. It heads NNW from Poeppels and then off the map. I can only imagine that it eventually turned Eastwards and headed toward Birdsville north of the existing track.

What this thread originally explored was how the names "WAA" and "QAA" came about. Do those letters have some significance or are they just arbitrary identifiers? Do you know the answer to this?

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Follow Up By: LineB - Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 22:50

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 22:50
Les first. You've picked it. It isn't finished and I should be working on it, updating the photos past 6x4s as required in 1996 when the website began.

And Allan, the reason our parallel route from Poeppels never lasted was because we shot up the Eyre Creek to our dump at Dickerrie Waterhole. The seismic survey of the Channel Country continued from there as shown in the map that someone linked earlier in the Forum (I forget where I put it or I'd link it here for you). Our supply trucks reached the dump from Brisbane via Birdsville without the need for further bulldozing, and I began driving a Lannie straight across to the Bedourie/Birdsville Road to get to town to the nurses and the pub via a well-established criss-cross lot of tracks formed by previous/current occupiers of Annandale, Kamaran Downs and Glengyle in reaching their outstations, etc. No wonder the QAA took over, once the popular traffic started coming through.

Re the Nicholls Bros - Rhyna Nicholls is the widow of Ivor. I last knew of her as licensee of the Quilpie Post Office. I met her a couple of years ago just as she sold out. I'd love to talk further to her if someone would put me in touch with her. She and Ivor had a background in Innamincka but as for now, I don't know where the lovely lady is.


Kev Murphy
Line B
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 23:02

Monday, Apr 20, 2015 at 23:02
Thanks Kev.
Glad to see that you had your priorities in the right order when you got to town! lol

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Reply By: Omaa - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 08:42

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 08:42
Certainly enjoying all the information & one of the couples who raised the subject on Sunday will be here for lunch to-day so shall show them all the comments form the various forums.
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Reply By: Member - Trouper (NSW) - Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 15:43

Tuesday, Mar 10, 2015 at 15:43
maybe the volunteer group "Friends of the Simpson Desert" have some knowledge.

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015 at 09:34

Wednesday, Mar 11, 2015 at 09:34
Friends of Simpson Desert has a gathering / meeting this Friday.
The Secretary I contacted is going to ask around about QAA and WAA.

Hopefully might dig up some sort of answer.
If we solve this, I will put on several forums so people can easily find the answer if it comes up anytime further on.

I am really surprised it is so cryptic and info can't be found, how many have travelled these tracks and even though about it before, not me.
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Reply By: cruza25 - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 00:21

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 00:21
Hi all
After a bit of googling it appears the cooper basin is strewn with hundreds of Seismic lines put in all over the desert
WAA seems to be just one of hundreds of similar but unique names used for the lines
Most seam lost but because WAA and qaa go somewhere they seem to have survived and the others have been reclaimed by the desert

I found some maps showing hundreds of lines but without names
Some good info and photos if you search
I will post a few links tomorrow

AnswerID: 549807

Follow Up By: cruza25 - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 00:26

Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:02

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:02
I think you're onto it cruza . . .

An email received from the Secretary today said "I do know they're seismic lines put in by French Petroleum company, but I will try and find out why they were named."

And that doc in your link, maps on pages ~ 46 onwards . . . they have lettering such as WLA, WKZ, WKY, WNM etc on the lines (shot or sectional lines for their own locations references ?) explored nearby.

Page 51 shows 74 WAA, and page 109 mentions WAA Line 7.

Personally, I now think they are sectional references for location points for the exploration, but will see if the Friends secretary comes up with something to confirm.
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Follow Up By: cruza25 - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:24

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:24

Some great old photos in this document at the end of it.

love the dining kitchen bus

This is a really interesting thread started by Omaa.
having recently been throught the area and again heading that way in April, its good to read about the recent history.

keep digging guys, i am sure more info will come to light.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:30

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 09:30
Very cool find Mike, will have a bot of a read of vol 2 later, got to go do some work !!

April hey ?
A reasonable month to do it.
We did it April last year, west - east and was mid 30's.
A bit wet Mt Dare side, but dry once we headed east of Dalhousie.
FL, Rig, WAA, Lone Gum, Rig, Knolls, on to BV the usual way.
Saw one other group of 3 vehicles heading down Knolls for the whole trip :)

We are doing it east - west twice this year, May is BV - Geo Centre - Geosurveys - Old Andado - Mt Dare . . . July a straight French Line crossing BV - Dal.
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Reply By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 10:17

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 10:17
I have found the key.

Survey shotlines are identified in accordance with an industry standard.
The first three letters identify the operator and further digits define the individual shotlines.
Example: NNN10010-01012 (Operator NNN, survey NNN10010 and line id. 01012)
So 'QAA' and 'WAA' would be the operator identification.

The document I found this in is Guidelines for reporting geophysical data. beginning on page 7.

"French Line", "Rig Road" etc would be colloquial names for access routes.

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Follow Up By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 23:03

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 23:03
Well done Allan, I posted below minutes after you and missed this earlier post of yours.

Yep, think you may have found the answer with the info in that doc.
Obvious with the Line part of the name too with QAA, WAA, would have been seismic / shot lines.

Page 75 of your original linked PDF Eromanga Basin shows a result named Line 74 WAA.

Obviously QAA / WAA placement and usefulness in 'going somewhere' or shortening a route saw then used and developed into regular tracks for vehicles.

I'm not even going to try and think about who WA or QA companies might have been, suspect Delhi was WA, but we'll see if any more info comes to light from FOSD meeting.
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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 10:26

Thursday, Mar 12, 2015 at 10:26
I posted this over on 4x4 Earth forum as well, as I know there's some experienced Simmo travellers there too . . .
It reminded me of one of the members there having a close tie to the Simmo, so a search revealed the topic and treads concerned . . .
Trivia Question - Simpson Desert

In short following, Bushnut (Simmo) replied with comprehensive info about the Simpson and naming (sorry, long, and nothing about QAA / WAA, but a good read) . . .

The naming of the Simpson.

There is a family connection, by default Allen Simpson was my Grandfather . Harry Simpson his son formally adopted me in 1954.

The desert was originally called the Arrunta desert. My Grandfather was the president of the south Australian Geographical society - the society engaged the services of Cecil Madigan to do the first crossing of the now called Simpson Desert. Allen Simpson was the head of the Company AM Simpson when it was still a family company and financed the expedition , hence the naming of the desert " The Simpson Desert ". Allen Simpson was also mayor of Adelaide for a time.

The crossing of the Simpson was a very well planned affair. the route chosen was firstly mapped out by air and there was a big lead up to the crossing by Madigan's party.

The madigan line is a whole different ball game ! Our group the "Loose Nuts " hope to do it one day do but for all of us able to get the time of 3 weeks minimum away from our respective business's and employment, at the moment is out of the question.

To do the exact Madigan line,you have to have a permit that is hardly ever granted by the Elders of the aboriginal tribe of the area . This means that 6 camps are not given access to, so anyone who states they have done the Madigan line nowadays, in fact hasn't, but a shortened version of it.

Logistically fuel is the problem too, from accounts it is very heavy going, a lot of winching , and you are very lucky if you average 10 kilometers an hour. Even on a new rig ,it is said be prepared for vehicle damage or breakdown, it is more than likely to happen .

It is a trip that is on my Bucket List, I think it would be the last stretch of the real outback .

In our group, we may even get to go into the restricted areas as one of our group has had a lot to do and has lived in these aboriginal communities, Bees Knees seems to open quite a few doors in the past.

A book that is worth reading is Cecil Madigans account of the crossing of the Simpson, it was a well organised, planned expedition first the route was plotted from the air, they even had radio and they still struck problems . The Expedition was funded by the Royal Australian Geographical Society,Adelaide ,whose chairman was A M Simpson hence the renaming of the Arrunta desert to being the Simpson Desert, the radio operator for the expedition was a nephew of his also.

Cecil Madigan was educated at Adelaide High School, then Prince Alfred College. He won a scholarship to the University of Adelaide and was selected as a Rhodes Scholar to study geology at Oxford. He took leave from his studies at Sir Douglas Mawson’s invitation to join the Australian Antarctic Expedition 1911 to Cape Denison. He was awarded the Kings Polar Medal in 1914. He served as a Captain of the Royal Engineers in WW1 in France, and after some time in Africa, returned to Adelaide to work under Mawson at the University of Adelaide. Madigan was fascinated with the Simpson Desert, and flew several reconnaissance flights over the area in 1929.It was this year that Madigan named the desert after Allen Simpson, the then President of the Royal Geographical Society in Adelaide, and a major financial backer of his work. It had previously been referred to as the Arunta Desert, or the far more evocative “Great Ribbed Desert”. In 1939, Madigan mounted a very heavily equipped scientific expedition and crossed the Simpson Desert north of Colson’s route. Madigan’s crossing achieved such publicity that it completely overshadowed Colson’s. Madigan’s scientific contribution was considerable.

I rather like the fact that with all the planning, Cecil Madigan wasn't the first to cross this desert, Colson was.

Ted Colson was the first European to cross the Simpson Desert. An accomplished bushman and explorer, he had travelled from his native South Australia to the W.A. goldfields and worked on the construction of the Maroondah dam in Victoria. He had constructed roads in Central Australia, and in 1931 after a stint working on the Ghan railway construction; he took over the abandoned station of Bloods Creek near Abminga. In short, Colson had seen good rains falling to the east; so, together with an Aboriginal companion, Peter Ains and five camels he departed Bloods Creek on 26th. May 1936 traversed the 26th.parallel to Poeppels Corner and on to Birdsville. Legend says he had a beer at the bar of the Birdsville Pub then turned around and re traced his tracks home. Whether he only had one beer seems unlikely, as he spent four days in Birdsville before commencing his return, which took a more southerly route. Nonetheless, his feat was truly remarkable, travelling over 900 kms through mostly unexplored hostile country in just 36 days. His accomplishment remained largely unheralded, which seems to fit well with this man, a master of understatement.

I love the underdog, the proposed Madigan expedition and its planning was well publicised, Colson did the Degroot thing and rained on their parade- just love it , the laconic nature of the out back !

So do the French Line and all the other tracks well travelled, the Madigan line would be the Ultimate for man and machine.

I have crossed the Simpson now twice , it has been on the route most travelled. To my knowledge I am the only one of the Simpson family to cross the desert since Madigans crossing, I am only one of two of the Simpson Family to cross , the other was a cousin of my father ( step father ) Bob Simpson , who was in Madigan's party - he was the radio operator.

Of the Simpson family today there are some distant relatives still in the company but it is a public company now in fact it is listed as Simpson Pope .

Where did all that money go ? Good question , it didn't filter through to this little black duck that is for sure ! My step father did manage to blow it all . From being brought up in the belief that all you had to mention that you were one of the AM Simpsons of Adelaide and doors would open, to dying an aged pensioner living in assisted housing in Mornington 18 months ago took some doing.

I did live in the Simpson family home , 17-19 Rochester Street, Leabrook , Adelaide in my very early years at the time I started kindergarten - it was a large two story house with stables at the rear that had buggies in it that I used to play around in . That all seems a very distant era now and I have travelled along way from it and I am the better for it [- what little I have achieved is been my own doing, not handed to me on a plate.

For those who are interested . This Photo was found amongst old family papers , it is of Bob Simpson who was the radio operator for the Madigan Expedition , So far no other photos of the madigan expedition have come to the light of day .

It looks to be in surprising condition , I guess we can be thankfull for it been lost in family archives all these years . If any more come to light , I will post them up as well.

See pic here

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Reply By: Les - PK Ranger - Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 10:29

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 10:29
Received an email from Friends of Simpson Desert this morning.
The question was put to members at the meeting a couple of Fridays ago, and no one knows or has been able to figure out the naming of QAA / WAA.

So I emailed the results / all the links etc of the sleuth work beack to her for their info, and hopefully if ever any more (or contradictory) info comes up, it can be added.
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Member, SunCoast) - Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 10:39

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 10:39
Good one Les.
I was involved in Santos production, not exploration, but I am surprised that no-one who has had exploration experience has not offered an explanation.

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Follow Up By: get outmore - Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 12:48

Monday, Mar 30, 2015 at 12:48
well ive been involved in exploration but a different type
exploration holes are generally a code meaning nothing to anyone other than those using the holes
a combination of letters which may designate such things as which tenement the hole is drilled, if its a surface or underground hole and what sort of rig drilled the hole then followed by a number which is just sequential identifying the hole

I like the explanation that these shot lines may well be just code to identify the line ultimately the name meaning little to anyone else
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