Pony Express - Australia

xp-australia The Overland Telegraph, built by the colony of South Australia in 1870 - 1872, provided Australia's first electric communication with the rest of the world. It was an extraordinary feat of construction across 2,000 miles of land largely unexplored by Europeans. The Overland Telegraph assisted the new federated nation of Australia to advance trade and defence.

The wet season had been horrendous. Around 500mm of rain had fallen in each of December and January and it was not until April 1872 that the construction parties on the northern line could resume their work.

By June they had finally reached Daly Waters. Here a pony express was organised to carry messages over the 430km gap in the line. It was hoped to relieve some of the pressure the government was facing in penalties as the contract completion date of January 1 had expired and the submarine cable had already landed at Port Darwin some months before.

The man responsible for the building of the Overland Telegraph Line, Charles Todd, had arrived at Daly Waters on June 22 1872. Two days later, John Lewis and one of his men, Hands, rode south from Daly Waters with the first private cables ever to reach Australia.

In an amazing stroke of good fortune, the Pony Express had only just disappeared from sight when news came through from Port Darwin that the submarine cable was dead. Two days later Todd rightly assumed the repair could take months and sent a man, Boucaut, after the Pony Express.

Boucaut caught up with them at Frews Pond and they rode together to Powell Creek where fresh horses were waiting. The Pony Express arrived in Tennant Creek on July 1, by which time Boucaut had been in the saddle for one hundred and one hours out of the one hundred and thirty hour journey. He had covered 421 kms over rough terrain. A truly remarkable feat.