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Ayers Rock Geodetic Station construction 1970

Ayers Rock Geodetic Station
Back in April we forked out some hard earned cash to digitise a copy of a file held at the National Archives of Australia titled: Ayers Rock - Geodetic Station.

NAA promised they would let me know when it was available. Checking the NAA website today I noted that the file was available for download. I guess that letter is in the mail (electronic correspondence received about 2 hours after we started writing this post).

Nevertheless, it's been money well spent as there are some fantastic photos in there showing the condition of the old cairn and the construction of the new, along with associated records including a guidebook for Ayers Rock. Follow the link above and search on "Ayers Rock - Geodetic Station" to download a copy of the file. We have requested the associated sub item titled "Ayers Rock - Geodetic Station - [Geodetic - Memorial Plaque drawing x 2]" also be opened.

We have transcribed the note in the file by Surveyor first class HA Johnson which contains some valuable information about how the pedestal was constructed and a remarkable admission (see below).

A few of the photos below:
Summit cairn 4 December 1969 
Sign at the base of the Climb, 4 December 1969. The small notice below reads: 
National Parks and Gardens Ordinance
Public Notice
This area is one of the reserves 
dedicated to preserving our scenic, 
scientific and historic heritage for 
public enjoyment.
(Not so after Oct. 26, 2019)
Directional Plaque ready to be installed at the top of the Rock
Pedestal under construction. 
The rocks used to render the pedestal were imported from Mt Conner. Carried up the rock by NT Parks Staff. Left to right George Page-Sharpe, Derek Roff (Head Ranger), Ian Cawood and Darrel Toon.

Job well done! Roberta Roff indicates the cast is as follows: left to right - Darrel Toon and Ian Dawkins - both maintenance workers, then Ian Cawood - Ranger - Derek Roff's 2 IC - and George Page-Sharpe - Ranger. (Thankyou Bobbie you are legend!)

Close up showing the space for the logbook.

Photo taken by xnatmapper Paul Wise in 1975, showing the wonderful render work and variety colours of the rock from Mt Conner. 


Photo from 2003 illustrating how poorly Parks Australia have maintained the summit marker. Insignia missing, the beautiful rock render covered with peeling paint and the log book space poorly covered.  Is this how Parks Australia maintain our cultural heritage?

From the file, the story of the pedestal's construction by Surveyor Class 1 HA Johnson:

Division of National Mapping
Internal Minute
Subject: Ayers Rock Geodetic Station
To: Director
From: H.A Johnson 

My ref R70/28 
Your Ref NM70/57

Mr W T Hare, of the Northern Territory Reserves Board, was told of the progress of the direction plaque in June 1970, and it was delivered to the Board’s Office on its arrival at the end of September, with arrangements made to erect it in late November when most of the tourist stream would be drying up.  
2 On Tuesday 24 November 70, the original, undisturbed ground and reference marks (all unobtrusive) were located, the remains of the old cairn having been dismantled by the Ranger staff of the Reserves Board on the previous Sunday.
3 After offsetting the original small section of ½” diameter copper tube was removed, along with an area of softened, decaying crust, to give a solid flat base for the 7” diameter pedestal footing plate.
4 Holes were then drilled in this solid rock to take the three loxons holding the plate. The ground mark hole was also deepened into solid rock and a 5 cent coin forced in a tight fit to the bottom, then cementing in a 2” spring-head nail upside down to centre the footing, with the original small copper tube forming a collar, as shown in field book NM801.
5 It took all Tuesday to clear the general pedestal area of rock, remove the decaying crust, drill the holes and to erect, centre and orient the pedestal column and plaque exactly over the original ground mark (using close measured offsets and the theodolite for orientation on Mt Olga, the latter fortunately visible each morning before obscured by dust and heat later). However, it was emplaced firmly enough to support without masonry, and with no measureable movement, a young man and woman who were observed early next morning using it as a thoughtfully provided photographic dias.
6 Reference marks were re-measured, and the difference between the eccentric mark and the original ground mark (24.83ft in 1958 and 24.75 ft in 1970) was possibly occasioned by a warped oregon centre pole and the difficulty of centering its top (11 ft high, and to which measurements were made) exactly over the ground mark, doubtless, too in a strong wind as prevalent on Ayers Rock.
7 The masonry was completed on Wednesday 25th, the outside facing being straight splitting, lightish coloured sandstone brought from Mt Conner. This looked well when completed, and had been collected and carried up by the Rangers with some effort, since they thought the local rock (arkose, a granite sandstone) from the cairn might be too soft and decayed – though in fact it was mostly very solid and hard.
8 The facing was veneered over internal rocks from the old cairn placed around the galvanised 2” pipe pedestal column, with two reinforcing horizontal rods, and all cemented together into one block. Fortunately a thunderstorm on Monday night filled many gnamma holes near the summit with plentiful water for concrete making, drinking and for cooling down generally in the reverberating heat of midday. At least 20-30 points must have fallen near the summit, but less than a point had managed to penetrate the extra 1100 feet of heated air to the ground immediately below – a saddening sight so frequently seen in the summit storms of curtains of falling rain vapourizing again before reaching the ground. 
9 When dismantling the old cairn, most of the stone was thrown down an adjacent slope (and this was subsequently carried further down and thrown out of sight, and the slope swept clean of the dangerous, slippery gravel and sand - not without thought and appreciation of the heavy arduous work of Mr RA Ford and his small sub-party, who had collected it, barred it off and carried it up that slope to build the initial, neat cairn in 1958). Some stone, however was thrown into a handy gnamma hole, and some other stone and debris used to form a small rock platform close to the monument.
10 It seemed obvious enough, as the loose rock and sand were raked and swept up, that these untidy arrangements of loose rock and grit detracted from the scene and from the appearance of the emerging pedestal, and were defeating much of the aesthetic neatness the direction plaque had been set up to achieve.
11. At the time it was not possible to get this across (another hours work by the five of us could have completed it) but it was subsequently suggested, along with several other points, to Mr Hare in a personal letter (copy attached).
12 A Department of Works survey camp engaged on locating a new and straighter road from Curtin Springs to Ayers Rock, was visited on the way out. This road should be located and formed in time for the 1971 tourist season, and its position will be obtained as soon as possible, for inclusion in a new edition of the 250,000 Ayers Rock sheet, which should have a big demand from the rapidly accelerating tourist invasion. Besides being so much out of date, the current sheet (and one of our earlier ones) seems rather pallid.
13 A point just noticed whilst drafting these letters and collating the photographs is the spelling of “Territories” in the circular legend “Erected in collaboration with Northern Territories Reserves Board” – it should be “Territory”. It was on the diagram sent to Mechanized Methods, despite the repeated checking, and it passed unnoticed apparently even by the Board’s personnel who all seemed to be pleased with this beautiful piece of metallurgical art.
14 Enclosed are:-
14.1 Set of prints of the erection of the Ayers Rock directional plaque for your records;
14.2 Suggested draft letter to the Chairman, Northern Territory Reserves Board and sets of prints (large and small)
14.3 Suggested draft to Mr F Bamford Gay of Mechanised Methods and prints of the plaque. 
HA Johnson 
Surveyor Class 1
3 Feb 71







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