Giles Weather Station

The Giles Weather Station was established in 1956 by the Weapons Research Establishment (now known as the Defence Science and Technology Organisation), a division of the Department of Defence.
The first weather observations were transmitted from the station by radio on 2 August 1956.

The purpose of the station was to provide weather data for the UK atomic weapons tests at Emu Plains and Maralinga.
It was also used to support the rocket testing program based at Woomera, being conveniently positioned at the edge of and about half-way down the testing range.

Giles Weather Station was transferred from the Department of Defence to the Bureau of Meteorology in 1972.
The station has a staff of four who run it on a six-month tour.
The staffing is arranged by the South Australian Regional Office of the Bureau of Meteorology and the Observing staff come from various Bureau offices throughout Australia.

The station is situated about 750 kilometres west-southwest of Alice Springs, just over the West Australian border, on the edge of the Gibson Desert, south of the Rawlinson Range.
The area was occupied by nomadic aborigines at the time the station was established, but there were no other settlements in the area.
The station was named in honour of Ernest Giles, who explored the area in the 1870s.

The Warakurna Aboriginal Community has become established nearby with their own power supplies, store, school and a Roadhouse on the Gunbarrel Highway which provides accommodation and food for travellers.
An all-weather airstrip provides ready access for mail, passengers and the Flying Doctor.

Giles is the resting place of the Caterpillar grader which was used to build the Gunbarrel Highway, and other roads in the area.
This grader was first used in the Emu Plains and Maralinga areas from 1953 to 1955.
It was then assigned to the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party, led by surveyor Len Beadell from the Department of Defence, commencing work in the area in 1955.
This grader was used to construct over 6 000 kilometres of road through the Great Victoria, Gibson and Great Sandy deserts, starting with the road to Giles.
As each section of the road was graded five times, the total distance worked was in excess of 30 000 kilometres.
The Gunbarrel Highway was the first eastwest link across Central Australia.
The grader ceased its working life, at Giles, on 22 November 1963, and has been preserved there since that time.

Len Beadell was also known as an artist and author, and has provided Giles with interesting murals on the walls of the mess building - a common talking point for many visitors to the station.

Giles Weather Station has satellite, radio and telephone communications facilities, and hydrogen gas is produced on site for weather balloon flights.

Giles Weather Station is a modern fully equipped station which carries out a full range of meteorological observations, including upper atmosphere observations using balloon flights and radar tracking.
It is the only staffed weather station in an area of about 2.5 million square kilometres.
Its location near the core of the subtropical jetstream makes the station vital for forecasting over most of eastern and southeastern Australia, particularly for rain.

In summer it provides data on convective situations for the assessment of severe storms etc.
Its central continental location makes it a key station for climate measurement and forecasting purposes over much of Australia, and also for the "local" weather be it for places such as Uluru and Alice Springs, or for aircraft operations to aboriginal communities.

Giles provides useful meteorological data in a remote region to the west and northwest of most of the major population centres of Australia.
This data is vital for global and local computer models for forecasting, and is particularly useful for international air flights.

For many years the weather data collected at Giles was transmitted by HF radio, which posed difficulties when radio reception was poor.
Since 1986, data has been transmitted much more reliably via landline or satellite to Melbourne where it is included in the national and international networks.


Ernest Giles - The Explorer
Ernest Giles was born in Bristol, England in 1835.
He came to Australia in 1850.
By 1861 he had learned sufficient bushcraft to undertake safaris along the Darling River.
He met two men in Melbourne in the 1860s who were to assist with his later expeditions - William Tietkins (explorer) and Baron von Mueller (Victorian Government Botanist).
Giles first explored westwards from the recently completed overland telegraph line (Adelaide to Darwin) in August 1872.
He had two men, a dog and some horses.
He failed to reach Mount Olga due to the boggy nature of Lake Amadeus (which he named).
Giles' second expedition commenced on 4 August 1873 with Tietkins, Gibson and Andrews.
They reached Mount Olga on 14 September 1873 and proceeded on to the Warburton Ranges where a lack of water stopped them.
They retreated to an area south of the weather station site and were held up for two months with sickness.
On 16 January 1874 they travelled north through through tha area surrounding the weather station.
In April 1874 Gibson was lost whilst exploring an area west of the Rawlinson Range - the Gibson Desert is named for him.
The party returned to Mount Olga and Ayers Rock (Uluru) in June 1874. Giles eventually succeeded in crossing the centre of Australia (west to east) in 1876.
He was something of an eccentric, giving colourful names to the features in the area. Under von Mueller's influence, his botanical collections were first class.
Giles turned to gold prospecting in the 1890s.
He contracted pneumonia, and died on 20 November 1897, aged 62, and is buried in the Coolgardie Cemetery.

This text is from a leaflet produced by staff at Giles Weather Station with the assistance of colleagues at the Bureau of Meteorology, Adelaide
Phone (08) 8956 7358
Fax (08) 8956 7979



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Last updated: Friday, 04.06.2010 1:05 PM