Sunday History Photo / WA

Submitted: Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 00:38
ThreadID: 69352 Views:3725 Replies:3 FollowUps:2
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Rabbit Proof Fence
Construction began in December 1901. The No 1 Rabbit Proof Fence was completed in 1907, running from Starvation Harbour to near Cape Keraudren. When it was completed, it was known as the Barrier Fence. The construction of a large part of the fence was the responsibility of Richard Anketell, who also surveyed the last 70 miles (110 km) of the fence, which took from 20 August 1904 to 30 September 1907 to construct. During this time, his crew consisted of 120 men, 210 horses, 41 donkeys, and 350 camels.
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Unfortunately, the fence did not stop the rabbits from moving westward. There were parts of the fence which eroded underneath, holes in the wire developed, and sometimes gates would be left open, enabling the rabbits to pass through.
Following the First World War, there was a plague of rabbits in farmland in Western Australia. Farmers had to use individual fences around their paddocks, and poison baits, fumigation machines, and trappers or even school children trapping rabbits for pocket money; rabbit skins being valuable during the Great Depression. Later, "warren ripping" was used, with a tractor or truck pulling a plough over a rabbit's warren to destroy rabbit tunnels.
Fence No. 2
Before the first fence had even been completed, rabbits had made their way through it. Rabbits had been found west of the line in 1902, therefore more fences were needed. Fence No. 2 begun in 1905, which is further west, started from a point near Bremer Bay in the south. It is 1,166 kilometres (725 mi) long. It joined the first fence at Gum creek near Murchison. There were not many rabbits west of the Number 2 fence until the 1920s.
Fence No. 3
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Fence No. 3 is a shorter east-west fence running from near the Zuytdorp Cliffs north of Kalbarri to meet with the No. 2 fence. Construction of all the fences was complete by 1908. No. 3 fence is only 500 kilometers long. Fence number 3 was built by no more than 10 men.
The fence posts are placed 12 feet (3.7 m) apart, and have a minimum diameter of 4 inches (10 cm). There were initially three wires of 12½ gauge placed at 4 inches (10 cm), 20 inches (51 cm), and 3 feet (91 cm) above ground, with a barbed wire added later at 3'4" and a plain wire at 3'7" to make the fence a barrier for dingoes and foxes as well. Wire netting was placed on this, which extended to 6 inches (15 cm) below ground.
The fence was constructed with different materials due to the local climate, and availability of wood. At first salmon gum and gimlet wood were used, although these attracted white ants and had to be replaced. Split white gum was one of the best types of wood used in the fence. Others used were mulga, wodjil, pine, and Tea tree, based on where it could be found close to where the fence was to be built. Iron was used in parts where there was no wood.
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Reply By: Member - Dunworkin (WA) - Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 00:49

Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 00:49
Hi Doug (and Dusty), as usual a great History lesson. As a young girl on the farm I remember trapping rabbits with Mum & Dad, they also use to use a Ferret, as I recall, but they were unpredictable because they would go down the burrow and go to sleep and forget to come out. Then in later years of course we use to rip up the warrens with the tractor and a ripper on the back.

Thanks again for the great read and another trip down memory lane.



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AnswerID: 367700

Follow Up By: Member - John L (WA) - Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 08:40

Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 08:40
Wonderful photos. I went to first school (Bodallin) east of the fence which crosses great Eastern Hwy at Burracoppin. We had an extra weeks holiday in Feb because of the heat but poor Burra missed out- just half a mile west of fence was deemed to be in the cooler coastel area! Watch out on ABC TV for 'Three Parts to Murder' which tells the story of the Snowy Rowles murders on the Rabbit Fence during the 1930's. We also ripped the rabbit burrows but Dad always left 1 burrow so we could have 'underground mutton' as a change from the sheep a week he killed for 52 years. And yes I still love lamb & rabbit. Cheers Heather
FollowupID: 635335

Reply By: Member - Redbakk (WA) - Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 10:17

Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 10:17
Doug....they built the emu proof fence as well..........

Emus and humans

In the wild, brooding males on the nest or with young chicks to protect are dangerous to approach too closely: they have powerful leg muscles, ferocious talons and are perfectly capable of disembowelling a predator of human size. In general, however, emus are harmless: shy creatures that prefer to simply use their long legs to go somewhere else if disturbed. They also have a great sense of curiosity. Someone with bush skills can easily persuade a wild emu to come close and investigate by, for example, hiding in long grass and waving a coloured handkerchief on the end of a stick.

The emu has long been a central part of Aboriginal cultural and economic systems. Europeans too quickly learned to value emu meat and emu oil, and how to cook with emu eggs (they should be broken and allowed to stand overnight so that the oil can be skimmed off). But until recent times, the emu was primarily thought of as a pest to be destroyed rather than as a resource to be harvested.

Europeans wiped out two species and a sub-species of emu on the smaller islands early in the 19th Century, and considerable effort was put into exterminating the last remaining species as well, but the emu's ability to disappear into the vast semi-arid mainland plains meant that it was never seriously threatened. Graziers regarded the emu as a competitor for food and water - a charge with some foundation, but which ignored the beneficial effect emu grazing has for soil, and their capacity to eat enormous quantities of plague insects like locusts or caterpillars.

Wheatgrowers had much more serious concerns: emus like to eat both soft young wheat shoots and ripe seed. Worse, they are difficult to fence out and the passage of a large number of emus through a paddock of ripe, stiff-stalked wheat tramples it flat, even if they do not stop to eat it. In 1901, Western Australian farmers built a tall, emu-proof fence 1,100 kilometres long. This protects the crops, but disrupts migration patterns. In the worst years, over 50,000 emus die, crushed up against the fence and starving.

In 1932, the anti-emu campaign briefly took on a bizarre flavour worthy of the Keystone Cops[?]—particularly when one bears in mind that, along with the kangaroo, the emu is one of the two native animals making up the Australian coat of arms.

At the end of a dry summer at the height of the Great Depression, Western Australian farmers called in the army to fight an "Emu War" - with machine guns mounted on trucks. For several days, Lewis gunners tried to engage the enemy: farcical scenes resulted, with the birds taking few casualties and teaching the soldiers a thing or two about rapid battlefield manoeuvres. The artillery commander, a Major Meredith, later said, "If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world." The experiment was quickly abandoned, amid debate as to who should pay for the wasted ammunition.

In 1988, long after emus had been protected by law, Western Australia took the lead again, but in a different direction and with a great deal more success. The WA Government issued a permit to the Aboriginal people of Willuna Station, allowing them to sell emu chicks to the public.

Aboriginal and European landowners in all states rapidly began learning how to farm emus, and the market for emu products grew explosively. The initial boom quickly faded, but there are about 250 emu farms in Australia today, and many more overseas.

Emus have a high bodyfat content, and emu oil is used for many purposes, particularly treatment of muscle aches and sprains. Emu skin makes excellent leather, and emu meat has very low fat and is rich in protein. The flavour is similar to beef and said to be delicious, if rather gamey. Emu eggs, because they have such thick shells, are popular for carving, and emu feathers are readily marketable.

Emus are particularly suitable for degraded, overgrazed properties: unlike cattle and (especially) sheep, they do not cause soil compaction or destroy grass roots, and emu dung gradually helps native vegetation recover.

AnswerID: 367727

Follow Up By: Member - Redbakk (WA) - Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 10:33

Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 10:33
some more........

Vermin Proof Fence
The vermin proof fence bisects the Shire from east to west and marks the south boundary of the Karroun Hill Nature Reserve (300,000 ha). The fence was constructed in the late 1950’s. This fence is important in keeping both emus, goats and wild dogs out of farming areas.

FollowupID: 635353

Reply By: Member - Axle - Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 18:03

Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 18:03
G/day doug, Interesting History of this country!.

It was a hell of a project back in those times, imagine the conditions..But it was work for many , different breed back and i don't think Tyres where a big issue

Cheers Axle.
AnswerID: 367793

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