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This Day in History

Australian History

Thursday, September 15, 1870. :   Construction begins on Australia's Overland Telegraph Line, stretching across the continent from Adelaide to Darwin.

     The Overland Telegraph Line was a major feat of engineering, which connected Australia to the rest of world via a single wire. The motivation for building the Overland Telegraph Line came from the fact that a submarine cable already reached from England to Java, and the British-Australian Telegraph Company was prepared to lay a submarine cable from Java to Darwin. It remained only to connect Darwin to the rest of Australia.

The line was to connect first with Adelaide, as Adelaide was the closest point linking to the major centres of Melbourne and Sydney. Thanks to the influence of Charles Todd, superintendent of telegraphs and government astronomer in South Australia, the South Australian government agreed to build the necessary 3200 kilometre overland telegraph line connecting Darwin with Port Augusta, north of Adelaide. The Line would closely follow the route charted by explorer John McDouall Stuart on his final expedition in 1862.

Begun on 15 September 1870, the Overland Telegraph Line was completed in 1872. It was an exceptional feat, carried out in searing heat through the Australian desert, and six men lost their lives during the construction. The northern and southern sections were joined on 22 August 1872, finally bringing Australia into telegraphic communication with the rest of the world.

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