Maralinga/ Emu

Is this one and the same place . I am going to tour Maralinga in May . Is this in fact EMU RGds teago
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Reply By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 at 17:27

Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 at 17:27
No Teago, Maralinga and Emu are two separate locations.

Emu, or Emu Field is where the first series of atomic weapon tests were carried out. It is in S.A. close to the Anne Beadell Highway.
The test site was then relocated to Maralinga some 180km south.
There is a track connecting the two sites but is currently closed.

The Maralinga 'Range Tour is unlikely to include a visit to Emu but it is easily accessible from the Anne Beadell Hwy.

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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 at 19:05

Thursday, Feb 16, 2017 at 19:05
Hi Teago

Emu is the site where the first two land based Atomin tests were carried out in Australia, but due to its very remote location and costs involved of transporting goods and supplies into the site, a site that would have easier access was chosen around 200 kilometres south west of Emu, and that site was to be known as Maralinga.


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 19:12

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 19:12
G'day Stephen,

The reason for the relocation of the atomic tests from Emu to Maralinga has never been officially stated, at least not that I can find. Certainly it has been expressed in journalistic accounts and in Len Beadell's books that it was for reasons of accessibility and that seems to have become popularly accepted.

I have long suspected that the remote site of Emu was selected for reasons more to do with preferred isolation and was never intended to remain as the site for the expected 30 year life of the programme.
I have a number of reasons to believe this and the most perceivable is the very temporary construction of Emu. Compare its "tent city" to the permanent buildings promptly erected at Maralinga and to the airfields of those two locations. The only structured buildings at Emu were the generator shed and a radio shack.

The selection of Emu Field is almost singularly described by Len Beadell who described his brief as "needing to be extremely remote". Both he and the British team led by Penney would have been immediately well aware of the difficulty of transporting supplies to that location. It was however within the already proclaimed Woomera security zone and in fact this placed it close to the flightpath of missiles launched from Woomera, an inconvenient position. However in 1953, at the time of the Emu tests, the missiles were not reaching that far down the range so it would not be a problem for the initial atomic tests although it would become unsuitable in the longer term as expected missile flights extended down range. Beadell, Penney and the entire LRWE team would have been well aware of this.

It seemed to me that the "extremely remote site" was selected for reasons relating to the unknown expectations of the consequences of the early atomic blasts. A site that could be simply abandoned.

On reading Elizabeth Tynan's "Atomic Thunder" I felt that she also was not giving full support to the "too remote" argument for relocation. So I had a long conversation with Elizabeth and found that she had similar thoughts as myself that Emu was never intended to be the 'permanent' site for the tests. Even though expressions were made that Emu was too remote it may be expected that the British were unlikely to declare that they were unsure of outcomes and that it was only a temporary site needing to be abandoned after the first tests. Beadell's later tales and reminiscences would also be likely to echo this line of 'information'.

Given the accolades heaped upon the expertise of Beadell and the inspection of the proposed Emu site by Penney, is it likely that a 'mistake' was made in the location of a test site that was nominated to be used for 30 years? I think not. This bit of sleight-of-hand was probably another deceit imposed by the British on an unsuspecting and compliant Australian nation.


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Follow Up By: batsy - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 21:13

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 21:13
Allan I am just in the throws of reading Elizabeth Tynan's "Atomic Thunder" & the impression I have is that Emu was chosen quickly because Britain had no further use for the Monte Bello Islands as the type of tests required now were land based & Britain needed to keep going with urgency to regain some "legitimacy" as a leading atomic nation. Len Beadell was used as he had an acute knowledge of remote area which was essential to maintain the secrecy of the British intention. This was evidenced by the speed (as at that time) that he was seconded to the meeting of six & the urgency thereafter. Apart from the remoteness Emu had a major water problem. The east west trajectory from Woomera was very close to the Emu site as was the prevailing west north west wind which at the times of the tests were going almost opposite. As I understand the chronicle of events a new agreement between Britain & Australia was penned near the end of the Emu series of tests. This may also have led to a more permanent base with a water requirement & better logistics availability . Come in Maralinga & 35,000 people.

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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 23:34

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 23:34
Batsy, consider this from Elizabeth Tynan: page 92...... "A 'permanent" site was the next logical step, but the significant logistical difficulties ruled Emu out. ...... A search had begun even before the Totem series in October 1953." So even before their first tests at Emu they were surveying for another site.... Emu was always destined to be temporary.
If the first site of Emu was such a quick failure in the 30 year plan, then both Penney and Beadell were pretty poor performers. No, I don't think so. Both of them were very good at their jobs and are unlikely to make such a stupid mistake....... it was planned to begin at Emu then promptly move to a permanent site with a 30 year life..... Maralinga.

The initial agreement between the British and the Australian Prime Minister Menzies was struck on 27 December 1951. Following the satisfactory totem tests at Emu in 1953 further negotiations between Britain and Australia resulted in an agreement to establish the 'permanent' Maralinga site. Emu had served its purposes.

Maralinga had not much better water availability than Emu. A couple of low yield subterranean bores of low quality and then the harvesting of rainwater from the immense aircraft runway supplied from a marginally better rainfall than Emu. A runway at Emu of the size of Maralinga would have resulted in about the same water yield. But the Maralinga site was eminently more amenable than Emu, and it had been available from the very start when Emu was chosen for the first uncertain tests. However Emu had the benefit of remoteness and could be abandoned when of no further use. And so it was...........

In Len Beadell's "Blast the Bush" he tells how at Emu he was called to a meeting of Penney and other 'high rankers' and informed that a "more permanent test site was required and safety studies had shown that it could be nearer to the railway". He went on to say "The results of the present trials at Emu would have by then added much to the knowledge of the behaviour of the bomb, and the layout of the new proposed site would benefit from the experience gained there."

Frank Walker in his book "Maralinga" asked "Why did the scientists suddenly order the entire Emu Field camp be immediately abandoned and everyone flee after the second explosion on 27 October 1953?"
He goes on to relate that immediately following the second Totem blast, a wind change brought the radioactive cloud back toward the blast zone resulting in a rapid evacuation. Walker relates "Three years later Australian military men visiting the site discovered a "Marie Celeste" like atmosphere at Emu where everything had been abandoned: tools, food, tents, tables and equipment were all left lying around exactly as they had been left three years earlier."

Clearly, Emu was not abandoned just because of location or climate. It was because it had served its purpose as a temporary site for preliminary tests of unknown outcomes. Having contaminated a substantial area of Australia they would now move on to a new site and continue the programme.


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Follow Up By: Member - pandora - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 09:54

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 09:54
thanks folks. I was a child when the "woomera" tests took place. I've been confused about where the blasts took place too and had no idea that this was at Emu, in fact had never heard of Emu, which we will pass on the ABH which we intend to drive this year. It is only now that I am doing the research on this iconic track that I am finally becoming aware of these nuclear experiments and the aftermath there and at Maralinga. Most of Lens Books are in our local library, as well as Elizabeth Tynans " Atomic Thunder''. I have lots of reading to do to catch up on what I should have known.
thanks for the information everyone.
cheers Pandora
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Reply By: Member - Balvenie Pastoral - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 08:52

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 08:52
Atomic Thunder:
A book by Elizabeth Tynan, published last year and reviewed in EO at that time.
If you are going there..... Read it. !
Enjoy the trip & understand the history.
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Reply By: Member - Teago - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 08:53

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 08:53
Thanks Alan and Stephen . I am now clear on the two
Rgds Teago
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Reply By: Danna - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 11:33

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 11:33
Hi Teago
Firstly, to put the facts straight first British atomic bombs on Australian land were conducted on Montebello Islands. This is very interesting site with all info and more:
Bombing of Montebello Islands
Then come The Emu and finally Maralinga. Whole exercise was just to make British Empire “counted”……
There is a beautiful book by Judy Nunn “Maralinga”. This book comes also as the audio book. Try your local library for free download. I have book – paper I read but I listened the audio as well.
It is very good, even part is sort of fiction, lots of it is truth
Cheers Dana
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 12:23

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 12:23
Danna, re "facts".
Teago asked about Maralinga and Emu, not Monte Bello.

In any case, the first test at Montebello was not "on land". It was Operation Hurricane detonated 2.7 metres below waterline in the hold of a frigate, HMS Plym on the 3rd October 1952.
The tests at Emu were Totem-1 and Totem-2 in October 1953 and the Kittens tests in September and Octber 1953.
The "land" tests at Montebello were not until Mosaic G1 & G2 in May and June of 1956.
Maralinga's first test was Buffalo-1 on 27 Sept. 1956 and continued with numerous tests until 1963.

The "facts" on these British atomic tests are extensive and often inaccurately quoted. There have been a number of articles and books on the subject, the latest, and in my opinion the most comprehensive and accurate, is Elizabeh Tynan's "Atomic Thunder". On the other hand, Judy Nunn's book, "Maralinga" is a novel and impossible for the reader to distinguish between actual events and literary fiction. A good read but liable to spawn more myths on the saga of Maralinga.


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Follow Up By: Danna - Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 14:35

Friday, Feb 17, 2017 at 14:35
Hi Allan
Yes, I totally agree with you.
I didn't described the Montebello bombing right as I meant Australian land as a sovereign territory of Australia.
The book I mentioned written by Judy Nunn, big part is a fiction, there is a lot of facts as well. But never the less it is nice reading.
Cheers Dana
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Follow Up By: Member - Blaze - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 23:47

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 23:47
Hi Danna,

I hope you can correct me then if I am wrong, but as far as I know Montebello was 1956 and Emu was was 1953. I looked at my pictures and that's the dates showing on the Totems
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 at 00:56

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 at 00:56
Hi Blaze,

I'm not trying to steal Danna's thunder but this list shows all the test details:


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Follow Up By: Member - Blaze - Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 at 02:24

Tuesday, Feb 21, 2017 at 02:24
Hi Allan,

Tanks for the Info, I stand corrected. I had never heard about the test in 1952 only the others in 1956 on Montebello. Glad to be corrected.

Cheers Glenn
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Reply By: Mick O - Sunday, Feb 19, 2017 at 23:10

Sunday, Feb 19, 2017 at 23:10
An adjunct to the story if interested.



THUNDER - Waking The atomic dragon

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Follow Up By: Member - pandora - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 09:35

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 09:35
absolutely fascinating Mick. thanks for the link. I was a child when the "Woomera Rocket Range" was on the news on the radio! no TV then, no social media either. Obviously easy to keep it all a secret and keep the Australian public in the dark. What a legacy?
Its only now that we are attempting the ABH this year that in my research I am finally being enlightened.
cheers pandora
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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:20

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:20
Thanks Mick. The video re R.T. Maurice was great.

In your "Thunder- Waking the Atomic Dragon" it seems that maybe you have experienced the popular myth that an aboriginal family was found in the Marcoo crater. Reliable accounts tell that they were found "near the crater".
Here is a video of an interview with the serviceman who first sighted them.
Also look at the photo below of the Marcoo crater. Can you imagine anyone being able to enter & leave it, let alone camp in it?

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:33

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:33
There you go Al. I must admit my source was fairly reliable too! Mind you, In the videoclip, the Aboriginal fellow seems to have informed the chap telling the story that they drank the water in the crater and it didn't taste too good!

They spent a fair bit of time decontaminating them though the poor buggers.


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Follow Up By: Allan B (Sunshine Coast) - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:55

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 13:55
No Mick,

He said "that they had used the water and it didn't taste too good". He did not say that the water came from the crater.
By "reliable accounts" I refer to unchallenged published narratives.

And if I correctly guess who your "fairly reliable" source was I could add that I have also determined some other errors. Don't let the truth get in the way of a good story!

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 15:06

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 15:06
Thanks Al.

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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 21:27

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 21:27
Gday Mick,
Great video, awesome achievement and an awesome trip! Thanks for sharing it with us.
I was aware of Maurice's earlier trips via Ooldea, and out past Muckera Rockhole and up to Voakes Hill but hadn't appreciated the 1902 trip. I gather Maurice was very good with aboriginal people and his aboriginal companions on these trips were invaluable.
The other fascinating place with an often sad aboriginal history was the Ooldea soak - worth a visit if you haven't been there.
The Pickaxe beer bottles were the refillable ones in SA. The one in your video looks like a Coopers "Hand Grenade" - Coopers stopped using pickaxe about 20 years ago - I expect it was left by mining exploration in the early 1990's.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 22:09

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 22:09
Thanks Mick, another great video. I am always interested in exactly where you are in your video's. Your screen shots of your track on Google Earth have no real reference points to make it clear where you are. So what I do is watch the video and every time you mention a place, I pause the video, go to OziExplorer and endevour to waypoint the place. When I finish I link up all the waypoints and watch the video again. It just means that it takes me 2 hours to watch a 35 minute video. Worth every minute of it.
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 22:13

Monday, Feb 20, 2017 at 22:13
Thanks Phil. Yes I've been to Oldea and also the site of Daisy Bates Camp.

I've been very fortunate in some respects as I've gotten to meet a bloke by the name of Neville Collins from Adelaide who recently published a book on Maurice's life. It touched on the exploration history but not in a lot of depth. Neville had done a lot of research, as had I but his notes and copies of Murray/Maurices original Journal notes was fascinating.

I've now translated the full course all the 1902 expedition onto our modern maps and google earth (what an invaluable tool that is) and will enjoy retracing as much of it as we can on the quads over the coming years.

Maurice's relationship with the aboriginals was indeed a strength and from my research, he appears to have had a very special relationship and ease with them. He was given many opportunities that a white man would normally be excluded from including initiation ceremonies, corroboree, mens ceremonies and pitched battles (as a witness and not a participant).

I think you're spot on with the mining company as well as it's in the right area for the big Comalco exploration push around that time.

Glad you enjoyed it.


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