This drive may be only short in distance, but is big in features, so do not under estimate the time taken to do this very enjoyable and historic drive. From the rolling hills of Mount Bryan to crossing that invisible barrier of Goyder’s Line of Rainfall, this will be a very rewarding drive and give you a chance to see what lies over the ranges as you travel down the Barrier Highway. Travelling during early spring can be very rewarding with the contrasting countryside - from various crops growing, through to wilds flowers further east in the trip.
See the Birth Place where one of Australia
’s least known Arctic Explorers
and aviators, Sir Hubert Wilkins was born and went to school, many historic old ruins from the 1800’s to Aboriginal Rock engravings and paintings that are hundreds of years old. The historic train platform where American General Douglas MacArthur gave is famous speaks “I came out of Bataan and I Shall Return”.
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The area that this drive covers is import for one reason, and that it covers two quite distinctive types of terrain and vegetation. The southern section, is typical of any rural area in Australia
, which is a good cereal growing country, while once the invisible Goyder’s Line is crossed, you leave the reliable cropping and grazing land and into true pastoral country, which would dominate the rest of trip. Goyder’s Line of rainfall is an imaginary line marking off a very large area of rural South Australia
that receives 254mm of rainfall a year or less. This line was named after the then South Australian Surveyor General, George Goyder, who in 1865 travelled nearly 5000 kilometres on horseback to distinguish a division between arable (guaranteed rainfall) and arid land. North of the Goyder’s Line was deemed Pastoral land and should not be cropped and was also the start of Saltbush and Blue bush country.
The complete area that this route traverses through was the home for thousands of years of the Ngadjuri Walpa Juri Aboriginal people. Just north of the old Ketchowla Homestead, can be found some of the best examples of Ngadjuri rock engravings, ceremonial markings and rare rock paintings in any of their areas of travel.
The first European to visit this area, was the then Governor of South Australia
, George Gawler who named the largest hill in the area on the 12th December 1839 after a young visiting Englishman, Henry Bryan who was in Governor Gawler’s care and the youngest member of his exploration expedition.
Wanting to play a part in the field of exploration, Governor Gawler, proposed a voyage along part of the Murray River well before it was fashionable to do so. With his small team gathered, they set off and were guided by the then South Australian Surveyor General, Charles Sturt. At one point, a group of hills in the northern distance caught their attention, and with the possibility of finding good pastoral lands, and a spur of the moment decision, the group set out for these distant hills and the massive peak on the horizon. This large Peak was then named “Mount Bryan” by Governor Gawler after his young English guest. Nearing theses hills, the group separated and neither group then knew anything of how the others fared until they returned to the River. Charles Sturt and Henry Inman survived by killing and eating one of their horses while Governor Gawler returned in a state of exhaustion. Henry Bryan was lost and was never seen alive again. His death remained a mystery of the bush, as his body was never found, and the high peak in the vicinity became his memorial.
The ruins of William Dares “Piltimitiappa Homestead.” offer a lot of history. .” Born in London in 1824, William and his elder brother, George sailed to their new homeland of Australia
in 1838. Undertaking various jobs, William headed from Adelaide to Victoria
’s Eaglehawk gold diggings and returned in less than 12 months, with over £700 in his pocket, which in those days would have been a huge sum of money. Securing the lease of 80 square kilometres of land to the east of Hallett, William engaged local Aboriginals to guide him to his yet unvisited lands. Being led to the top of the largest hill on the way to his property, the very same hill that we had just previously visited, namely Dares Hill Summit, William noticed that the foot of the hill was a swathe of dark green vegetation across a narrow creek valley, and decided at once that that was going to be the location of his new homestead. William selected his head station close to the creek, fenced the property and stocked it with sheep. Over the years William built the stone homestead, stone woolshed and stone water tanks. For over 35 years, William and his family went through the ravages of Dingos and drought and the big job of taking his wool clip had to Kapunda by Bullock wagon, many days travel away back in the 1800’s. Over the years, much of William’s property was resumed and subdivided, but William retained his homestead at Piltimitiappa until the 1880’s and died in 1892 and was buried on a nearby property.
The ruins of Ketchowla also offer some very important history. In the 1850’s, Christopher Giles, father of the famous explorers
, Ernest and Alfred Giles, acquired Ketchowla Station and originally established his head station approximately 3 kilometres north of the now derelict homestead, at a place known as “The Springs”. Because of its permanent water supply, it made the perfect place to establish the homestead in an otherwise waterless landscape. Like all parts of Australia
, a permanent supply of water also meant that is was an important place for the local Ngadjuri Aboriginal people.
Another very important piece of Australian history also has its origins in this area as well. Australia
’s least known Adventurers and Polar Explores was born here in Mount Bryan East. On the 31st October 1888, George Hubert Wilkins was the youngest and 13th child born to Harry and Louisa Wilkins. George was born in this now restored homestead and attended his schooling days at the nearby Mount Bryan East School. In search of adventure and something out of the ordinary, he was a stowaway on board of a ship from Port Adelaide hoping to make it to England. Being removed from the ship in Algiers, he was captured by gun runners and rescued by a young Moslem girl, and finally made it to London just after his 21st Birthday.
Learning how to fly in 1910, he was the first person to take moving pictures in a war zone in the Balkan’s in 1912. In 1914 he walked more that 300 kilometres to rescue Stefansson in the Arctic. With the outbreak of World War 1, he returned to Australia
and joined the AIF and went to France as an Official photographer, was awarded the Military Cross twice and was described by Australian General Monash as the bravest man he had ever met. In 1928 his dreams were fulfilled when he became the first person to fly more than 3000 kilometres in just over 20 hours across the Arctic, for which he was knighted by King George V. By the end of 1928, he was the first to make flights over the Antarctic. In 1929 Sir Hubert became the first and probably the only Australian to circumnavigate the world by airship, the “Graf Zeppelin” in a 22 day journey. In 1931, in another world first, Sir Hubert purchased a submarine from the US Navy for $1 named the Nautilus, and made the first ever attempt for an under-ice voyage by submarine under the Arctic Ocean to the North Pole. From 1942, Sir Hubert was employed by the United States Army, as a consultant in their planning division and later as Arctic consultant. In February 1958 on his way back to Alaska from the Antarctic, Sir Hubert returned to his birthplace here at Mount Bryan East and spent several days in the area. On the 30th November 1958, Sir Hubert died from a heart attack and the British Government wanted to bury him in Westminster Abby. At the request of his wife, Lady Suzanne Wilkins, he was cremated and on the 17th March 1959, his ashes were scattered at the geographical North Pole by US Submarine Commander Colvert from the nuclear submarine “Skate”.
On Sunday 29th April 2001, over 300 people gathered to see the official opening of the restored cottage by Dick Smith.
As you pass over the grid and enter Collinsville Stud, you will be passing through Australia
’s most important Merino Sheep Stud, which has been synonymous with the Australian Wool Industry for over 100 years, and which was responsible for up to one third of all sheep genetics in the Australian Sheep Industry. Collinsville had a massive impact on the quality of merino sheep, here in Australia
and overseas and has scored dozens of world record prices paid for stud rams, with one ram being sold for an astronomical $400,000.00