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giles meteorological stationgiles meteorological station

Giles Meteorological Station


On a prominent hill overlooking a break in the Rawlinson Range that explorer Ernest Giles named in 1873 the Pass of the Abencarrages (the children of the saddle) stands Australia’s most visited meteorological station – named in his honour – Giles. 750kms west-southwest of Alice Springs, the station sits on the edge of the Gibson Desert on the famous Gunbarrel Highway constructed by Len Beadell.

The station was established in 1956 by the Weapons Research Establishment to provide weather data for the UK atomic weapons tests first at Emu and then at Maralinga. It was also used to support the rocket testing program at Woomera and is located close to the Centre Line of Fire surveyed by Len Beadell as the path the rockets would take from Lake Hart in South Australia to the Eighty Mile Beach on the Indian Ocean south of Broome.

When the station was established the local Aboriginals were nomadic, but now the town of Warakurna has grown around the station, with public access to a roadhouse and campground. There is also a mechanic and an all weather airstrip which is used for passenger flights, mail and the Royal Flying Doctor.

In 1972 the station was transferred to the Bureau of Meteorology, and today four observers work at Giles on six month tours. The station carries out a full range of meteorological observations including upper atmosphere observation using hydrogen balloons. The hydrogen is manufactured onsite, and balloons are launched twice daily, in the morning and afternoon. Giles is the only staffed weather station in an area of 2.5 million square kilometres, and its location near the core of the subtropical jetstream makes the station vital for forecasting over most of eastern and south-eastern Australia. Whilst once the data was transmitted to Melbourne by HF radio, it is now sent by landline and satellite.

Tours of the station are available, and of interest the caterpillar grader that was used to construct the Gunbarrel Highway is displayed on the site, as well as some original murals painted by Len Beadell.

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Western Deserts legend David Hewitt at Giles
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