South Australia is one of Australia’s driest states. Most people live along the coastline, mainly close to Adelaide, the state capital. Large parts of the state are desert or semi desert not good for farming. I remember learning at school how an early Surveyor-General, George Goyder went to inspect farmlands in the northern part of the state after a bad drought in 1864-5. Goyder noted that much of this area received less than 30cm (12″) of rain a year. After his inspection he advised the government of the colony (this was before Federation) that they should discourage colonists from planting crops north of an imaginary line which became known as Goyder’s Line.
Goyder’s observations eventually led to the Waste Lands Alienation Act 1872, which permitted farmers to only purchase land on credit if it lay south of the line.
However, after a few good seasons of rain in the north the government was persuaded to repeal the act in 1874. Farmers once again began to purchase land north of Goyder’s Line. A few years later droughts came again. Farms failed and were abandoned. If you travel to the northern part of the state today you will often pass the ruins of these places.
Goyder was right.
I became fascinated by the Flinders Ranges when I was in my late teens. David, Naomi and I made several trips to the Pichi Richi Railway based at Quorn during the 1970s, 80s & 90s and as well as enjoying the railway I loved to see the mountains in the distance. I was only able to travel further north once when David and I went on a camping trip in 1988. We visited Hawker, Parachilna Gorge, Angorichna, Lyndhurst and Leigh Creek. In many places we saw the ruins of abandoned farms and other old buildings. Here are a few photos from that trip.
Manuscript map of area between Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre, South Australia. Includes detailed notes on natural features and shows Eyre’s tracks.
Goyder drew this detailed map of the area between Lake Torrens and Lake Eyre in the far north of South Australia, using ink and water colours. It includes detailed notes on natural features and shows the tracks of the Edward John Eyre who had explored the area in 1840 in an attempt to open up the far north of the colony to pastoralists.
Map and information courtesy of the State Library of South Australia