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Opening1 up Central Australia. t
A HINT TO CAPITALISTS AND s THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT. a
[By A. John Giles.]
Readers of tiie principal newspapers of the Southern and EastetVStates of the Commonwealth, will no doubt have come across articles descriptive of the awful effects of the prolonged drought, that has been in existence for four or five years over portions of those States ; the terrible losses that have occurred in the flocks and herds, amounting to millions of sheep and lens of thousands of head of cattle ; of runs wholly abandoned ; of scrub cutting on which to feed the remnants of stock; of widespread ruin and desolation ; and that it will take years of good seasons, to replace the losses, and for the country to recover from the destruction of the bush and herbage now destroyed, with at the same time the certainty that droughts will still be of-periodical occurrence.
And it is now -a question of grave importance with the States Govern- ments, and capitalists and stock owners, as to what is to be done ia the future to lessen the effects of thèse disastrous visitations. That the losses to a great extent have been the outcome of greed and speculation has been proved beyond qucston, but generally quite unavoidable". , Already a shyness on the part of the! capitalists to connect themselves in any way with pastoral country subject to these severe droughts prevails.
There have been many suggestions made for promoting or increasing the rainfall-such as planting forest trees, firing bigs guns at the clouds, explosive baloons, electric kites, and similar ideas-all of which, to say the best of them, are merely experimental fads, and should any one of them prove successful in iuducing rains to fall, it would be probably of very limited local
There* was a scheme brought prominently before the public some «years ago, that had the elements of common sense, and practical ability about it. This was by connecting Port Augusta with Lake Eyre, by a canal, utilising Lake Torrens as part of it. The scheme was considered practicable by engineers of high standing, but the estimated cost ranged from ten millions to thirty millions sterling. It must be borne in mind, however, that this took place about thirty years ago, and that dredgingmachineryandappliancesofall sorts have been invented and improved upon to a great extent since then, and
that the cost nowadays would probably be reduced by one-half.
Lake Eyre is about 135 feet helow sea level, and were the sea let into it, it would fill the lake basin and give a
water su i face area of somewhere about 10,000 square miles. It was claimed for the scheme that 'such a vast expanse of-water would materially affect the climate of the interior, hy re-
ducing the temperature and creating .i j]
monster atmosphere. Through lapse of f time, the mutter has prol>a»»ly. been a forgotten, but is worthy the attention » of capitalists and the Federal Govern | I ment in the near future, [fe would ' <"
also open up water carriage fiom Port Augusta iuto the very heart of the in-
About the time I speak of, I was en- gaged in the interior, and from observa, tions I made at the time, originating from the Lake Eyre Canal Scheme, 1
now for the first time nuke known to
the public a scheme which I then con sideied superior to the Lake Eyre C in'il, not necessarily to supersede it, but as supplementary to it, and owing to the enormous losses in sheep and cattle and the prevalence of disastrous droughts, I deem the present a fitting time to make my suggestions known.
Any one who has ever seen and
studied that mass or series of masses of mountains in Central Australia and known/ as the MacDonnell Ranges, could not help being struck with certain features peculiar to them. Those mountains extend westerly of the Over- land Telegraph Line some 250 miles, and easterly somewhere about the same distance. At the part I am about to describe they form a series of parallel ranges, varying in length from 30 or 40 to over 100 miles, and about 80 miles through from north to south, with valleys of varying width in between. The southern most range, known as the James* Range, has an average
altitude of about 1000 fret above Lake Eyre ; the next range running parallel to it, distant about 12 miles, is about 1500 feet above Lake Eyre ; the next,
'tttJBp&.the. same distance, attains an elevation of 2500 feet above Lake Eyre ; and the next, or main range, attains a height of 4500 to 5000 feet. The valleys, be it understood, rise in corres- ponding proportion, thus forming a series of parallel valleys, one above the other, the southern, or lowest one, being about 500 or 600 f<et above sea
level and the northern most 2500 feet. Now, all the rivers and large creeks run across the valleys and through the ranges at right angles, passing through the ranges through very narrow rocky cuts, no great distance through, but the walls on both sides more or less vertical
and from 70 feet to 150 feet in height, thence sloping upwards to many hun- dreds of feet. These cuts or gorges vary in width from 50 yards to 200 yards, more or less, and about the same distance through them. It is by build- ing dams across these, the only outlets,
that vast bodies of water could be re. tained-so vast that in the course of
years the water surface area would possibly amount to 20,000 or 30,000; square miles-which work ' could be
carried out at about one-fifth of the cost
of the Lake Eyre Canal.' This would also possess the immense advantage of being fresh water, at an elevation that, by gravitation alone, the waters could be distributed for hundreds of miles, south, east, and west. Forest culture, agriculture, stockraising and mining
could be carried on to an almost unli-
mited extent. Water power would be obtainable capable "of working electric plants of great power for lighting and mining purposes.
On the Great Northern- Plateau, situated a little below the summits of
and to the north of the northern or I j main range, is an extensive tract of land of the, very best description for agricultural purposes of aril kinds, and aclimate not to be equalled in Australia, owing to its altitude.
If, as is believed, the filling of Lake Eyre frem the sea would alter the climate of the interior, how much more should a similarly large body of water at a high altitude, and in a high mass of ranges in the centre of the continent,
conduce to an accumulation of mois- ture ?
I have seen the higher mountains envelopedjn mist for weeks in the dry months, whilst the lower country was under a cloudless sky^and a hot sun.
(To be Continued.)