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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
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
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
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
An all-weather airstrip provides ready access for mail, passengers and the
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
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
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
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
Its location near the core of the subtropical jetstream makes the station vital
for forecasting over most of eastern and southeastern Australia, particularly
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
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
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
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
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
Giles' second expedition commenced on 4 August 1873 with Tietkins, Gibson and
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
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
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,
Phone (08) 8956 7358
Fax (08) 8956 7979