Our final destination on the Stuart Highway was Alice Springs. Upon reaching Alice Springs, we would have completed all but 160 miles of it's 1,761mile length. I think the explorer John McDouall Stuart would approve.
Alice, as they like to call it, is the third largest city in the NT at 30,000 residents. It is located almost exactly in the center of Australia. It is half way between Darwin and Adelaide, but both of these cities are almost 1000 miles away.
Alice Springs is full of characters...we saw them in town, learned about them in history, and certainly ran into them at the park where we were camping.
A Walk to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station
Along our walk to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, we saw these red-tailed kangaroos.
We also saw several Black-footed Rock-wallabies.
This is where it all started...the Alice Springs Telegraph Station. Early explorers picked this site for a repeater station for the Overland Telegraph Line; it was named Alices' Spring. It was picked because of a water hole nearby, but unfortunately, it was only full after a huge rain, there was no spring. The town that grew up a couple of miles away was called Stuart. In the 1930's the name was changed to Alice Springs.
The Charles River and the Todd River meet in Alice Springs; like the waterhole mentioned above, they are almost always dry. We followed this dry river bed (Todd River) to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station; we were hoping to see the dingos which hang out here. No such luck...but we could hear their howling at night, from another section of the riverbed by our campsite.
We went to the top of ANZAC Hill which overlooks Alice Springs.
This view over Alice Springs is looking toward "the gap" created by this natural separation in the Macdonnell Range.
The Residency was built in 1928 to house the Government Representative. It has become a symbol of the brief legislative independence that Central AU had from the NT. In the background is the Supreme Court building of the Northern Territory.The Alice Springs School of Air
One of my favorite things in Alice was a stop at this school. It was the first of its kind in the world, and also claims the largest classroom in the world. Started in Alice in 1951, it is called the Alice Springs School of the Air. It covers 521,000 square miles in the Northern Territory of AU. Now all AU's states have a similar program.
They joke that having visitors pay to come here is their "bake sale". It is their means of providing some of those "extras" that the government doesn't provide.
The majority of the teachers work out of the main school here in Alice. The students come to Alice for a week long stay 3-4 x year for special events and to meet their classmates. If they happen to be in town, they also come to see their teachers. We observed two students doing just that on our visit.
Initially, everything at the school was done by radio and mail, but now it is mostly computer. The school (government) installs about $10,000-$15,000 worth of satellite and computer equipment at each site. The equipment is picked up at the end of each year.
Visitors can observe the teachers through the glass, see the kids on a screen, and also hear their interaction with the teacher. This was especially fun, as she was an entertaining kindergarten teacher.
This shows the two classrooms used at the ASSOA. Coincidentally, our guide had a great grandmother from Kansas City; it is a small world, even in Alice Springs, NT.
There are currently 140 students from all over the NT enrolled in the Alice Springs School of Air. They live at national parks, road houses, military bases, but probably most often at a cattle station. Some are also students in aboriginal communities, but generally these communities have their own schools and just need help with early childhood education portion, if the kids aren't fluent in English. Currently, the furthermost students live on the Melville Island, above Darwin.
The Central Australian Aviation Museum
This museum came about after a tragic suicide flight into the Connair Complex at the Alice Springs airport in Jan of 1977. The attack killed 5 people and injured 4 others. One of the those killed was the 32 y/o son of Connair's founder Edward Connellan. A group of locals sought to recognize those who lost their lives in that event and to preserve and display the the history of aviation in Central AU.
There are numerous interesting stories of pilots/planes represented here:
The Central Australian Aviation Museum is housed in the Connellan Airways Hangar which was Alice's original aerodrome.
This airline started as a mail run between Alice Springs and Wyndham in WA in 1939. During WWII, the founder Edward Connellan consolidated his air services, and registered the company as Connellan Airlines.
In 1970 Connellan Airlines was renamed Connair. In 1980 it was unable to overcome financial difficulties and was sold to East-West Airlines and liquidated. The Connellan Airways Trust was started by Edward Connellan in 1981 and continues to provide educational funding for students in the outback.
The Royal Flying Doctor Service used planes and pilots from Connellan Airlines for several years.
Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was a famous Australian pilot perhaps best known for the first trans-Pacific flight from the US to AU. He also made the first non-stop crossing of the AU mainland, the first flights between AU and NZ. In 1929, while flying from Sydney to London, he had to make an emergency landing in the Kimberly region of WA. He was rescued the next day unharmed. While searching for Kingsford Smith, two of his friends were forced to land their plane the Kookaburra, in the Tanami Desert. Both Keith Anderson and Bobby Hitchcock died of thirst and exposure as they were unable to repair the Kookaburra. Both the public and media accused Kinsford Smith of a publicity stunt, but he was later exonerated. His reputation in AU never fully recovered. In 1938, Kingsford Smith would disappear on a flight from India to Singapore while attempting to break an England-Australian speed record. His body was never recovered.
This stop was Greg's favorite as he had read all about Kingsford Smith.
This is 25% scale model of Westland Widgeon III- Kookaburra that was donated to the museum. It took 6 months to build and has 30 hours of flight time.
The wreckage of the Kookaburra was recovered in 1978. It was found undisturbed in the Tanami Desert, after lying there for almost fifty years.
We passed by this artwork outside the Araluen Arts Center, on our way to the aviation museum..
It was too bad that we didn't get to meet the occupants of this vehicle that was parked next to us in Alice.
So long Alice...we sure enjoyed our stay. Your cast of characters made us feel welcome.