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It’s been ages since I’ve written a Skywatch post. I hope you didn’t miss me too much 😉
When we visited the Flinders Ranges on our whirlwind geocaching tour, we were surprised to find no caches in Beltana. So we decided to place one there – it being full off historical significance and all. The Smith of Dunesk Mission is signifacant in the history of the outback of South Australia. It is strongly linked to the Overland Telegraph and the Royal Flying Doctor Service with John Flynn (the RFDS founder) serving as minister here in the early 20th century. If you would like more information about the role this little church played in the outback, read on here.
This is the entry from our cache page (thismechanican)
“If there was ever a town that should be singing the blues – it’s Beltana. It’s about as close to an “Old West” style ghost town as you can get. Established in 1873, it was earmarked to be nothing short of a thriving metropolis. A hub for the Great Overland Telegraph and the Transcontinental Railway, a staging post for the Afghan traders, a service town for the copper mines to the east and a base for the outback services of the Australian Inland Mission. Famous Australians such as Sir Thomas Elder and Reverend John Flynn have all been part of this community.
By the early 1900’s the population had steadied at about 150 and there were up to 65 trains per week passing through the town. But unlike other ghost towns like Ferns and Simmonston, Beltana was a thriving community. At one stage, there were 52 children attending the one room school. There was a pub, a brewery and an eating house. There were 3 policemen and 6 people manned the telegraph office.
Then, in 1941, coal was discovered about 40 km to the north in Leigh Creek. By 1956, the rail-line, the life blood of the town, was re-aligned to the west. Services in the town were gradually wound down. The nursing home closed in 1956, quickly followed by the pub and the police station in 1958, and the general store in 1959. In 1967 the school closed and the remaining children were bussed to Leigh Creek daily. The final nail in the coffin was in 1983 when the road was re-aligned to the west, so that it no longer passed through Beltana.
Most of the town is a declared State Heritage Area. Some of the buildings are privately owned and are being restored. The Dunesk Mission (pictured above) is being restored by volunteers through the Presbyterian Church in Port Augusta. But who visits this forgotten town? Well, we did. On a day when the temperature was over 40C and the humidity was below 10%. It’s hard to imagine living here in the days before air conditioning or even electricity! The visit was to commemorate our Great Northern Adventure (50 Flinders Ranges caches in 5 days). So take the road less travelled. It might be dirt, but it is passable to most vehicles in all but the wettest of weathers. There’s plenty to see in this forgotten town.”
Here’s hoping you have clear and friendly skies