"OODNA-BLOODY-DATTA!!" Oodnadatta by tiabunna
Oodnadatta Travel Guide: 21 reviews and 44 photos
“Oodna-bloody-datta!!” was my reaction when, on leave after returning from a year in Antarctica, I received the telegram advising me the Weather Bureau were posting me there until I returned south to Macquarie Island. They sure had a sense of humour in Head Office, as they shuffled the chess-pieces who were the field staff!
To explain my reaction, the name ‘Oodnadatta’ has much the same resonance in Australia as ‘Timbuktu’ does worldwide. It’s one of those near-mythical places, past the legendary black stump and out in the ‘back of beyond’, with an image of “good to know it’s there – but who’d want to go?”
Let’s go back in time a little. In 1863, what later became the Northern Territory was placed under the care of South Australia: in those days, Australia was a collection of competing colonies. Central Australia had been reached by the explorer John Stuart in 1862 and later the Overland Telegraph Line was built northwards along his route. That led enthusiasts in SA to propose a north-south railway and, in 1876, work on the project began, following the telegraph line. It was a trifling distance of 3000km across some very tough desert country, but it seemed realistic to the population of under 250,000!
Eventually the new line reached Angle Pole (now Oodnadatta) on 7 January 1891, six and a half years after leaving Hergott Springs (now Marree). And, for many years, that was as far as it went – the funds had run out about 1000km north of Adelaide! Travel past Oodnadatta was by camel trains driven by “Afghans”, leading to the train becoming famous as “The Ghan”. Finally, after Federation, in 1908 the SA and the Australian Governments stitched together a deal: SA would relinquish its claim to the Northern Territory, the Commonwealth would take responsibility for the railway and would develop it to Darwin at some time in the future.
Work on the railway extension was delayed in part by World War 1 and it was 1929 before trains were able to steam northward to Alice Springs. And that was where the railway again stopped, though Oodnadatta (Oodna to the locals) retained its role as an important station and administrative post. In 1972, the Australian Government agreed to build a new railway to the west of the old route, which had been built with light tracks and had various problems (not least, unlikely enough, from flooding). The new track to Alice Springs, bypassing Oodna, opened in 1980 and later was continued to Darwin: over a hundred years after the genesis of the idea – the train still is called “The Ghan”, but there the resemblance stops!
Time may have flown since my time there but, apart from the few manmade components, this country is timeless! So these are ‘historical’ photos from 1967, and from a subsequent trip in 1971 when we returned to visit my father-in-law, who at that time still was the Aboriginal Patrol Officer there. Yes, I managed to get myself engaged in Oodna-bloody-datta!
Update 7 Feb 2007 Since creating this page, I have been unhappy with the way the photos appeared much duller in VT than in the originals. From advice in the VT Tech Forum, I now have a 'workaround' to correct the photos and have updated the photos throughout this page. The photo at left shows the heading photo as it was previously.
- Pros:The desert country does grow on you
- Cons:Definitely not everyone’s cup of tea!
- In a nutshell:To my surprise, I actually wanted to stay longer.
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