Len Beadell - Survey Exploration - Gunbarrel Highway

Gunbarrel Highway

Beadell's best known road is the Gunbarrel Highway, so named after the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party which was assembled under Len - he said he tried whenever possible to make the road as straight as a gunbarrel. The road was built with initial reconnaissance and survey by Len, usually alone, pushing through raw scrub in a Land Rover. He used a theodolite to observe the sun or stars for latitude and longitude calculations. Once the line of the road had been decided, a bulldozer followed to cut a raw track, clearing away the spinifex and mulga scrub to form a basic level track. This was then graded using a standard road grader.

The Gunbarrel Highway was begun at "Victory Downs" homestead which is 316 km (196 mi) by road to the south of Alice Springs, then pushed west to the Rawlinson Ranges, skirting south of the Gibson Desert, via the mission at Warburton, to connect to an existing road at Carnegie Station. Total distance was about 1,400 kilometres (870 mi). Len's stories of the building of this road are told in the first of his numerous books Too Long in the Bush, a reading of which will give some insight into the incredible feat that building this road was. Len suffered near starvation, many mechanical breakdowns, countless punctures and other mishaps, all in searing desert heat, but seemingly took it all in his stride with good humour.

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