The diamond in the desert: the story of the giant Readymix logo on the Nullarbor.
Dedicated to Allan Hoare (21.11.1936-21.6.1989), who carved the diamond
Thirteen kilometres north-west of the John Eyre motel, at Caiguna on the Eyre Highway, topographic maps and aeronautical charts depict a mysterious diamond shape, labelled "Readymix sign" or "Aerial landmark". Larger scale topographic maps portray the word 'READYMIX' in capital letters inside the diamond. For twenty years from 1972, Guinness Book of Records listed the word as the world's largest letters. This paper investigates this unique cartographic feature, to determine the history of the diamond: who created it, when and why, using surviving documentary sources and interviews with those involved. A possible controversy over the original purpose of the diamond is analysed and explained, and a cartobibliography of maps and aerial photographs depicting the diamond is included.
EARLY NULLARBOR HISTORY
The vast treeless Nullarbor Plain isolates the inhabited areas of Western Australia from those of South Australia. The plain is generally considered to extend 400km west and 300km east of the Western Australia-South Australia boundary, and up to 250km inland from the Great Australian Bight. McKenzie & Robinson (1987, ix) contains an excellent, if now somewhat dated, bibliography for the Nullarbor.
Formed of limestone, the Nullarbor Plain is fairly porous so that any rainfall drains underground, resulting in no surface watercourses and few distinguishing features (Bolam, 1924, 51). The main vegetation includes saltbush (Atriplex spp.) and bluebush (Kochia/Maireana sedifolia), the former being "of the greatest value as forage, succulent and nutritious food for sheep and cattle in the driest season of the year" (Bolam, 1924, 45), and supporting about one sheep per twelve hectares (Reardon, 1996, 82). In non-drought seasons, these well-spaced subshrubs "almost disappear in a sea of grasses and forbs" (Beard, 1975, 40). The Aboriginal groups Mirning, Kokata and Wirangu lived on the periphery of the plain, which they called by the Mirning name of Gondiri, but only after rain would they venture far into it. The remarkably Aboriginal-sounding name 'Nullarbor', Latin for 'no trees', was given to the plain by South Australian surveyor Edmund Delisser, who explored into it in 1865-66 (Reardon, 1996, 13 & 33; see Delisser, 1867).
Before the arrival of Europeans, the southern fringe of the Nullarbor was crossed by Aboriginal traders (Reardon, 1996, 31). The first recorded crossing of the plain--from east to west--was by Edward John Eyre, John Baxter and three Aborigines in 1841, searching for an overland stock route. The expedition predominantly hugged the coast. Two of the Aborigines killed Baxter, south of present day Caiguna, and ran off, leaving Eyre and the other native, Wylie, to complete the journey to Albany (see Eyre, 1843 & 1845).
The second crossing--from west to east--was made by John Forrest, later premier of Western Australia, and his brother Alexander in 1870, travelling slightly inland (see Forrest, 1875). As a result of their report, a telegraph line was constructed along their route to connect Perth with Adelaide via Esperance. The line was completed on 8 December 1877 when the Western Australian and South Australian lines met at Eucla (Main Roads Department, 1969; Reardon, 1996, 64). A connecting line via Balladonia and Norseman to Coolgardie was added in 1896 (Beard, 1975, 3).
Meanwhile, Ernest Giles had also crossed the plain, westwards to Perth in 1875, travelling 250-300km inland, north of the present railway. He returned to South Australia through the centre of Western Australia in 1876, demonstrating the superiority of camels over horses for such journeys (Main Roads Department, 1969. See Giles, 1889). Further trans-Nullarbor crossings included Alfred H.G. Heath in 1894 who drove camels for the merchant Sultan Mohammed of Kandahar, from Marree to Coolgardie (Main Roads Department, 1969; Kimber, 2002), and the remarkable Arthur C. J. Richardson, who in 1896 cycled from Coolgardie to Adelaide in 31 days of "sweating and swearing" (Opperman, 1977, 203; Serle, 1988, 379). Sheep stations were established on the Nullarbor's fringes about this time: Noondonia in 1880, Balladonia and Nanambinia in 1883, and Mundrabilla in 1892. More stations were developed in the 1930s (Beard, 1975, 4), and the 1960s.
In 1906-7, filmmaker and overlander Francis Birtles cycled from Perth to Sydney unaccompanied, carrying his water, food, spares and a rifle "for protection against hostile blacks, although legend claimed, as a competent bushman, he understood them and, if need arose, could live with them" (Opperman, 1977, 204). He crossed the continent seven times by bicycle, his crossing in 1911 setting a record from Fremantle to Sydney of 31 days. Turning to motorised transport in 1912, Birtles, Sydney Ferguson and a terrier named Rex made the first motor-vehicle crossing of the Nullarbor, from Fremantle to Sydney in a 10hp Brush automobile in 28 days (Main Roads Department, 1969; Nairn & Serle, 1981, 278-9; see Birtles, 1935). The Trans-Australian Railway was begun in September that year, connecting Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta. Completed on 17 October 1917, it opened up overland travel to Western Australia to all from the eastern states. The telegraph was rerouted along the railway for ease of maintenance, and transmissions via Eucla ceased in 1927 (Burke, 1991, 243 & 262 fn4; Reardon, 1996, 66 & 76).
Then in 1937, Hubert Opperman, champion cyclist and subsequent politician, outdid Richardson's and Birtles' feats by cycling from Cottesloe beach in Perth to Bondi beach in Sydney in 13 days 10 hours 11 minutes. His backup crew included Herb Elliot, who while carefully noting road conditions for "Oppy's" attempt, was probably the first to tow a caravan across the plain. Another in the crew, Aubrey Melrose, had crossed the plain seven times. Their route followed the railway from Kalgoorlie to Rawlinna, and then turned south towards Madura Pass (Opperman, 1977, 204-5 & 211).
THE EYRE HIGHWAY
Before the Second World War, the 'road' to South Australia followed tracks used to transport poles during construction of the overland telegraph line, and was little more than a stock route connecting pastoral stations, hard to locate in places and impassable after rain. Wartime strategic necessity dictated that the Department of the Army, through the Main Roads Department of Western Australia, form more useable road. A road paralleling the transcontinental railway was ruled out due to the cost and effort required for construction through the numerous limestone outcrops. The eventual Norseman to Ceduna route avoided such difficulties, and was constructed from July 1941 to June 1942. Road metal was used on weak sections, but the passes at Madura and Eucla were fully constructed and sealed. Even when formed, occasional rain could still render the road impassable for several days (Main Roads Department, 1972, 1; Edmonds, 1997, 93-97 & 442-443). Traffic volume was light, but grew steadily after the war as private vehicle ownership grew. From fewer than 10 vehicles per day in June 1951, volumes increased to 20 per day by 1957 and almost 40 per day by 1963 (Main Roads Department, 1972, 1). This latter increase was due in part to the hosting of the Commonwealth Games in Perth in 1962 which attracted a reasonable number of interstate visitors (Main Roads Department, 1969).
The long unsealed road was notorious for its potholes and difficulties after rain, as attested by entries in the John Eyre motel register:
16/2/61 You don't need a licence to drive on this road. A grader or two maybe.
19/2/61 The words to describe this road aren't in the dictionary.
23/4/64 I haven't come across a road yet.
2/5/64 Please put lights in the potholes.
7/5/64 No wonder Eyre found the going tough.
11/5/64 C--t of a road.
29/5/64 So that's why kangaroos hop. Caution: blow horn before entering potholes--there may be another car in it.
11/7/64 First man to swim through Caiguna.
3/9/64 Oh! My aching arse! (John Eyre Motel, 1964)
Such traffic and tourism increases, and the economic importance of the road to Western Australia, convinced that state's government in 1960 to seal the highway all the way to the South Australian boundary. South Australia began sealing its section of the road in tandem, but the work was less critical to that state, so was given a lower priority. The sealing of the Western Australian section was planned to be completed in stages from Norseman, by the end of 1971. The long duration of the work was the result of Commonwealth refusal to fund the road, forcing the state to find the monies itself (Edmonds, 1997, 223).
From Norseman to Madura, the new sealed road was built alongside the original to allow both construction and traffic to operate unhindered. Some curves were added between Madura and Eucla to reduce driver fatigue and boredom, and the Main Roads Department considered in retrospect that this policy would have improved the 90-mile (146km) straight from Balladonia to Caiguna (Main Roads Department, 1972, 4), which is claimed to be the longest straight sealed road in the world (Reardon, 1996, 82).
Between Balladonia and Madura, soil surveys revealed an absence of suitable natural gravels for roadmaking. While "stabilising both the in situ soils and poorly graded, high plasticity index gravels with bitumen, lime or cement" was considered, this was more expensive than utilising local limestone, if quarries were strategically placed and operated at a reasonable scale (Main Roads Department, 1972, 5). Between Balladonia and Madura six such quarries were eventually established, providing a total of 300 000 cubic yards [230 000 cubic metres] of crushed limestone for use as base. These quarries also produced sealing aggregate. Together with a seventh quarry between Madura and Eucla used only for this latter purpose, a total of 57 000 cubic yards [44 000 cubic metres] of sealing aggregate was produced. The bitumen for sealing was initially trucked in from Perth, in drums. With the development of road tankers, up to 4500 gallons [20 000 litres] could be delivered by each truck. A total of 2 100 000 gallons [9 500 000 litres] was used (Main Roads Department, 1972, 7-8 & 11).
Another limiting condition was the availability of water. Dams were considered, but tests proved them unworkable due to the porous limestone bedrock. Even if lined with polyethelene, the dams were of little use due to the low and unreliable rainfall, less than 250mm annually, and high evaporation rates exceeding 1500mm (Main Roads Department, 1972, 5; Reardon, 1996, 14). A total of 27 million gallons [123 million litres] of water was instead sourced from bores and underground caverns, despite salinity higher than normally used for construction (Main Roads Department, 1972, 5; Reardon, 1996, 84). Potable water for the workforce was trucked in from Norseman, up to 300 000 gallons [1 360 000 litres] per year, and a total of 1 400 000 gallons [6 400 000 litres] (Main Roads Department, 1972, 9 & 11; Reardon, 1996, 84).
The workforce grew over the initial years to about 90 men when large scale work began in earnest in 1965-66, reaching a peak of 125. This does not include wives and children, some of whom lived alongside their men for several years out on the highway project. The Main Roads Department provided the labour and most equipment, although some plant was hired. Part of this hired plant included mobile crushing units sourced from the Ready Mixed Concrete Co (the Readymix Group (WA) Ltd. from 1964).
Radio communication was maintained between the workgangs, their camps, and operational headquarters in Kalgoorlie. Motel-roadhouses were established at Balladonia, Caiguna, Madura, Cocklebiddy and Eucla during the project. (1) The John Eyre Motel at Caiguna was constructed in 1962, for example. These were the only sources of entertainment for the men, apart from a movie projector provided along with the mobile kitchens and ablution blocks for the construction camps. Air strips were constructed at each of the camps for pay runs, deliveries of urgent spare parts, personnel transfer and emergency medical use (Main Roads Department, 1972, 9).
Sealing to the South Australian boundary was completed ahead of target, on 17 October 1969 (see Table 1 & Figure 1), for a total cost of $9 645 000.2 On the South Australian side, the South Australian government sealed the highway from Port Augusta to Ceduna by 1968. This was extended to Penong in the early 1970s, leaving 266 miles (428km) to the border, which was completed on 29 September 1976 (Edmonds, 1997, 450). On the South Australian side the road was significantly rerouted in places, particularly between Nullarbor homestead and the border, where it was diverted to hug the scenic coast.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
With the Eyre Highway fully sealed, annual daily average traffic volumes rose from 150 vehicles in 1969 to 250 in 1976, though as high as 800 per day during the Christmas period that year (Uren & Parrick, 1976, 28). The current annual daily average is 700 vehicles per day. Demonstrating how effectively the sealed road now competes with the railway, 45% of Eyre Highway traffic is heavy transport (DOTARS, 2003).
READYMIX AND THE DIAMOND
Readymix Ltd had been founded in Sydney in 1939 as the Ready Mixed Concrete Co., expanding into quarrying in 1957 with the purchase of Australian Blue Metal (ABM) Ltd. In 1964, the Colonial Sugar Refining Co (after 1973 CSR Ltd) bought a half share in Readymix, as part of its own expansion into building products. In 1981 CSR acquired the remaining 50% of Readymix, and merged its quarrying and concrete operations to form Readymix-Farley. This was renamed CSR-Readymix in 1988 (Grolier, 1977; Readymix, c.2002). On 11 April 2003, a shareholder-approved demerger was effected, with CSR split into two groups, CSR Ltd and Rinker Ltd, with Readymix falling to the latter (CSR Ltd, 2003).
Readymix won each annual tender by the Main Roads Department of Western Australia to undertake quarrying operations along the Eyre Highway during its sealing, beginning at Balladonia in July 1964. About 1965, (3) probably in winter (Hoare, 2003), a decision was made to construct a giant rendition of the Readymix company logo virtually exactly halfway along the Eyre Highway, north of the 225 mile peg. One of the quarry surveyors was given the task of marking the logo out, and Allan Hoare, (4) a grader driver, graded it into the plain over a holiday weekend (Hoare, 2003; Hovingh, 2003; Keeris 2003; Kenny, 2003). The grader easily cut through the few inches of soil, revealing the white limestone bedrock underneath. The absence of trees or large rocks obviated any need for bulldozing prior to grading, or rolling afterwards (Green, 2003; Tarling, 2003b). (5)
The diamond, its long axis at a bearing of 82[degrees] true, measured two miles long by one mile high [3.2 x 1.6km, so each side was 1.8km], with each letter being 800x600 feet [240x180m]. It was carved several kilometres north of the highway, 13km from Caiguna on a bearing of 305[degrees] magnetic (in aeronautical terms, 7 DME Caiguna 305 VOR radial (6); 32[degrees] 13' S, 125[degrees] 21.5' E), on the Nightshade pastoral lease. Permission was not given by the MacLachlan family, the lessees (MacLachlan, 2003), although it may have been granted informally by the station manager at the time (O'Callaghan, 2003a). The station was first leased only in 1963, and was not fenced off from the Eyre Highway until the mid-1980s (MacLachlan, 2003) so that there was probably no indication that the land was not open range.
The location just out of Caiguna, halfway between Norseman and the South Australian boundary, was serendipitous to say the least. During the 1960s and 70s, Ansett and TAA domestic flights (Qantas was then a purely international operation) used Caiguna's VOR station as a turning point on routes to and from Perth (7) (Fox, 2003a&b; McIlhagga, 2003), so the logo was beautifully visible to crew and passengers on flights between Perth and the eastern capitals. In fact, the July 1967 issue of Readymix (WA) Ltd.'s company newsletter, Readymix Report, reproduced on its front page a photo taken out of an aircraft window, the logo appearing very clear and beautifully proportioned, against the natural landscape. Already it was "a subject of particular interest to the 400 airways passengers who, on average, fly daily across Australia to and from Perth" (Readymix Report, 1967) (8).
This is not quite the earliest documentary evidence of the logo. That honour goes to a vertical aerial photo, presumably contracted by Readymix, dated 1 May 1967 (9) (DOLA, 1456/70; see Figure 2A). A track can be seen running from the southeast, up to the western vertex of the diamond. This was presumably the starting point for its creation. Another track, presumably an antecedent farm-track, runs slightly northwest of vertical across the centre of the logo.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
The diamond was soon recognised as the largest advertising sign in Australia, if not the world (Readymix Report, 1967). The world title was bestowed when the logo appeared in the nineteenth (1972) edition of the Guinness Book of Records. The category of "largest advertising sign" appears to have been reserved for vertical signs only, so that the logo was entered as the new titleholder of "Largest letter". (10) The entry read:
The largest permanent letters in the world are the giant 600ft 183m letters spelling READYMIX on the ground in the Nullarbor near East Balladonia, Western Australia. This was constructed in Dec. 1971. (Guinness, 1972, 89)
In 1988 the entry was grammatically corrected to "Largest Letters", and "These were constructed ...", and the word "Nullarbor" was qualified by the addition of "Plain". However Guinness never corrected the erroneous date, despite the error being known to Readymix (for example Lindsay, 1978). Intriguingly, the entry in a 1970s Norwegian edition of the Guinness Book gives the date as December 1967 (Readymix Report, 1980), although this is still incorrect.
While the diamond was maintained by "occasional grading" from soon after its creation (DLS, 1970), by the mid-1970s, the diamond was becoming overgrown (for example see CAF 8690, 1975). Some company executives viewing it while flying to Perth noted its deteriorating state (Green, 2003). Jimmy Merrick, a grading contractor and former Main Roads employee who had worked on maintaining the Eyre Highway in the 1960s, was initially asked to do it, but by then he was based in Esperance, and so declined (Merrick, 2003). John Crocker, owner of Balladonia station, was subsequently employed, and regraded it several times until about 1980 (Crocker, 2003; Green, 2003). Crocker took several days to do the job each time. His grader had a 12 foot [3.7m] blade, which when angled for grading made an 8-foot [2.4m] wide cut. The diamond's edges required 10-12 cuts and the letters required five. This suggests the diamond's edges were 24-29m wide, requiring 70-85 km of grading, and that the letter strokes were 12m wide (Crocker, 2003). Green (2003) estimated 90 miles (145 km) of grading was involved, but this may include the letters as well.
The maintenance grading was initially permitted by the MacLachlan family, who first became aware of the logo when their sheep musterers stumbled across it (MacLachlan, 2003). But permission was revoked about 1980 (Crocker, 2003; MacLachlan 2003). This withdrawal of permission was due to the regrading "further exacerbating terrible degrading created by Main Roads on both sides of the highway" (MacLachlan, 2003).
Once more the diamond began to fade. Increases in aircraft size, coupled with modern navigational technology, allow aircraft now to fly direct to Perth from the eastern states, across the Great Australian Bight, no longer needing to remain over land for navigation purposes. So by the 1980s scheduled domestic flights no longer overflew the logo, and it was left to deteriorate unseen, except for occasional scenic joyflights over it offered by the John Eyre motel (Across Australia ..., 1990, 98). By 1998, the diamond was barely visible, and the letters all but overgrown (eg see WA 4074, 1998). Even the Guinness Book of Records lost interest. The category of "Largest letters" last appeared in the thirty-seventh "1991" edition (Guinness, 1990), Readymix still holding the title. Hugh MacLachlan, the head of Nightshade stations' lessees, Jumbuck Pastoral, remains opposed to re-establishing the diamond, asserting that besides previous damage to an electric dog fence by Readymix employees, the grazing value of the land is marginal enough, and would be adversely impacted by the sign (MacLachlan, 2003).
Some misunderstanding and controversy has developed around the logo over the years.
The first claim is that the diamond was concreted, and even painted:
R was for Readymix, a concrete company. Back in December 1971, some bored surveyors on the remote Nullarbor Plain in Western Australia, decided to survey letters spelling out their employer's name, READYMIX. These letters were dug into the desert, filled with concrete and painted white. So large are these letters that they can be driven on like roads. The letters now have a practical use--as a navigational device by pilots flying over the otherwise bleak landscape. The only way I could obtain a photograph of this incredible typographic phenomena [sic] was from the Australian satellite mapping bureau. How quickly the typographical can become topographical. (Banham, 1996, 50)
However, such claims are purely the result of misinterpretation of the aerial photo that Banham (1996, 51) reproduced. The "white-painted concrete" is actually the limestone base of the Nullarbor stripped clear of its covering soil. Banham's date, presumably obtained from the Guinness Book (1972, 86), is also wrong as has been shown above.
More significantly, there has been some controversy over the purpose of the logo. The accepted explanation of the logo is that is was an emergency airstrip. However, there have been suggestions that it was nothing more than a giant advertising sign. The evidence for each of these explanations will be examined in turn.
A number of current and former Readymix staff have independently explained the diamond as an emergency airstrip (eg. Cross, 1999 & 2003; Green, 2003; McIlhagga, 2003; O'Callaghan, 2003 a-d). But what documentary evidence is there?
A wall-map-sized enlargement of the 1967 vertical aerial photo of the diamond, framed and mounted in Readymix's Perth office, has a plaque reading:
Diamond in the desert This 4-way Airstrip of individual design is in the Nullarbor Desert near the W.A.-S.A. border. It was put down by Readymix for forward use in quarrying aggregate for the Eyre highway and ballast for the Transcontinental Railway. An airline landmark, the airstrip makes the largest sign in the world, measuring two miles by one mile with letters 600ft. in depth. This photograph was taken from 31,000ft. (Readymix, n.d.)
While the photo can be dated, the plaque cannot, although it is likely to be from the late 60s or early 70s. The first dateable description, then, of the logo as an airstrip appeared in the July 1967 issue of Readymix Report:
Australiawide [sic] interest has developed in a Readymix forward operations airstrip on the Nullarbor Plain in the form of the Group's traditional motif. A departure from the usual X-type emergency landing ground, the strip was put down as a faithful replica of the familiar Readymix sign. It forms the largest advertisement in Australia and probably the largest in the world. The horizontal points of the diamond are two miles apart while the letters forming the word Readymix are 800ft. long by 600ft. wide. The strip was simply bulldozed into the Nullarbor scrub slightly north of the transcontinental Eyre Highway 183 miles east of Norseman. It services remote Group operations of quarrying in that area to supply road surfacing materials used in sealing the highway. Ansett-ANA and TAA Boeing 727 captains report the diamond and its lettering to be clearly visible from 35,000 ft. and a subject of particular interest to the 400 airways passengers who, on average, fly daily across Australia to and from Perth. (Readymix Report, 1967, 1)
More details of the reason for the airstrip's construction emerged once the Western Australian Department of Lands and Surveys (DLS, now the Department of Land Administration: DOLA) became aware of the diamond. According to one account, Noel Semmens, Western Australian Branch Manager of Mobil in the late 1960s (see Mobil News, 1970, 8), saw the logo soon after it was constructed, while flying to Perth. He contacted the DLS to obtain permission to construct a giant Mobil logo, similarly under the domestic flight-paths to Perth. The Department knocked him back, not wanting to turn the Nullarbor into a billboard. Semmens asked how Readymix had gotten permission, and suddenly the DLS wanted to know too (O'Callaghan, 2003a). On 29 June 1970, the Under Secretary for Lands wrote to "The Manager, Readymix":
My attention has been drawn to the fact that vegetation has been cleared from Nightshade Station, approximately 560 air miles east of Perth, on Crown land. The clearing takes the form of a large diamond with the word "Readymix" in the centre and is being maintained by occasional grading. Will you please advise by whose authority the sign was created. (DOLA, 1456/70)
The General Manger of Readymix (WA) Ltd., Eugene O'Callaghan, replied on 16 July:
We acknowledge your letter of the 29th June, reference 1456/70, in which you refer to an emergency light aircraft landing strip which was constructed by our company some 4 to 5 years ago. At about that time our company had been continuously engaged in the fulfilment of a series of quarrying contracts for the Main Roads Department related to the construction of the Eyre highway, commencing at Balladonia in July 1964 and completing at Eucla in May 1967. During the whole of the progress of these works the various project sites were serviced using a range of chartered light aircraft, the size of which on any particular occasion depended on the nature of the individual need. (11) Initially, having been invited to use various light aircraft landing strips available along the route, it became apparent that these were not to a standard in conformance with our insurance requirements. Subsequently similar "X" shaped strips were constructed by ourselves. However, as these were not readily distinguishable from other unreliable strips, it was resolved that a clearly identifiable emergency landing strip in the form of a diamond should be constructed in such a manner that it could be reliably called upon for use in any circumstance when our aircraft, caught by unfavourable weather conditions due to a lack of weather reports in this remote area, would be able to safely land in the area. The particular urgency for this arose when as the result of two occasions of severe unseasonable and unforecast weather it became necessary to obtain D.C.A. [Department of Civil Aviation] and M.R.D. [Main Roads Department, Western Australia] approval to land on the Eyre Highway--with the removal of guide posts and need for road closing protection, etc. The consequence of establishing this strip permitted the completion of the project, involving 7 quarry locations and approximately 500,000 c.yds. of road construction materials, without further incidents of concern or danger to aircraft operating safely. (DOLA, 1456/70)
Other groups besides the DLS became aware of the diamond about the same time. On 2 December 1970, the Western Australian branch of the National Trust of Australia wrote to the DLS:
I have been requested by the Council of the National Trust to write to you on the subject of the sign which the Readymix Group (W.A.) appear to have bulldozed in the Nullarbor Plain. Council feel that while there is no objection to this one sign, it would be unfortunate if the practice became general. Council, of course, is not aware if approval was given for this sign, but I am to request that consideration be given to preventing the making of any other such signs. (DOLA, 1456/70)
The DLS replied on 9 December, enclosing O'Callaghan's explanation of the logo:
In connection with your letter of the 2nd December I attach copy of a letter from "Readymix" dated 16th July 1970 which will explain the circumstances under which the Readymix sign was bulldozed in the Nullarbor Plain without approval from this Office. In a discussion with the Manager of the firm, it was agreed that although the diamond shape could remain as a landing strip, the word "Readymix" would not be maintained. I am unaware of any other signs and it is most unlikely that any applications will be approved unless they are for bona fide landing strips. (DOLA, 1456/70)
Strangely, the DLS made no mention of Noel Semmens' idea for a Mobil logo in this letter.
In March 1971, the DCA asked Readymix for details of the exact location, size and orientation of the diamond to include on World Aeronautical Charts (WACs). Readymix obtained precise information from DLS, and forwarded it on (O'Callaghan, 1971a-c). Interestingly, while these Readymix letters all refer to the "diamond in the desert emergency landing strip" or "emergency airstrip", and despite the supposed urgency of the DCA's request, the diamond has only ever been depicted on WACs as a landmark. It has never been recorded on any aeronautical charts or other maps as an airstrip, whether disused, abandoned, unmaintained, emergency or other. (12)
In June 1978, W. Cooper of the Australian Information Service's North Asia desk contacted Readymix's head office in Sydney about the diamond. He wanted colour slides of it for a "big Japanese colour TV show Children of the World" (Sherman, 1978). It is not clear whether this was a request from the TV show via the AIS, or direct from AIS itself. The request was passed to Clive Lindsay (13), Readymix's safety manager in Perth, who, through DLS, supplied an 18-inch enlargement of the 1967 aerial photo and the 1967 Readymix Report article. Lindsay's covering letter, besides mentioning that the logo was an airstrip, noted that the Guinness Book date of 1971 was wrong, and gave a correction of 1964. He also enclosed "a 6-inch x 8-inch Black and White print of aerial photograph 3661-1" (Lindsay, 1978), of which I have been unable to trace any further information.
TAA's in-flight magazine Transair published a small feature on the diamond in December 1979, along with the ubiquitous 1967 aerial photo:
Desert diamond Passengers on TAA flights to Perth will probably recognise the Readymix symbol in this photograph (above). The Readymix diamond-shaped symbol is part of a disused emergency airstrip on the Nullarbor Plain, 800km east of Perth, on the western side of the Great Australian Bight and close by the major air routes followed by TAA. It is probably the largest corporate symbol ever displayed by a company, measuring 3.2 km by 1.6 km. Each letter of Readymix is 262 m by 196 m. Origin of the diamond goes back to the sealing of the Eyre Highway No. 1 in 1967. Readymix performed contract work on the remote section between Balladonia and Eucla. Eight campsites were necessary, each with its own airstrip. It was possible to identify each camp by the shape of its airstrip, and the diamond shape of the emergency "between" strip was commissioned as an interesting variation on conventional design.
This airline blurb was reproduced in the Summer 1980 edition of the Readymix Report, which once again featured the diamond:
Spreading the Word They say a picture is worth a thousand words ... The diamond shaped Readymix symbol shown in the photograph was bulldozed out of barren earth on the Nullarbor plain near Balladonia, 800km east of Perth, in the 1960s--for use as an airstrip! At the time, Readymix was engaged in a series of quarrying contracts related to the construction of the Eyre Highway between Balladonia and Eucla. The variouse [sic] project sites were serviced by light aircraft and it soon became apparent that the existing X-shaped landing strips were below standard. It was decided to construct a clearly identifiable airstrip which could be used with confidence. The diamond-shaped design was commissioned as an interesting variation to a convention theme. The message for pilots was loud and clear--and so it should have been. The symbol measures 3.2km (2 miles) across its horizontal axis and 1.6km (1 mile) across the vertical axis. The Readymix diamond in the desert is still an acknowledged landmark in Australian aviation today, as shown by the recent extract from T.A.A.'s December 1979 issue of "Transair" magazine. And talk about spreading the word. The symbol has found its way into the Guinness Book of Records, including its Norwegian edition. The entry reproduced below was recently shown to a Readymix couple holidaying in Norway. A teenage son of the host family quickly produced the article in their Guinness book when he learned that their guest worked at Readymix in Western Australia (Readymix Report, 1980).
Also included was the Norwegian Guinness Book entry, and a translation, although the incorrect logo-creation date of December 1967 was neither corrected nor commented on.
It is perhaps not coincidental that this was the last story of the diamond in print, in the same year that permission to maintain the diamond was withdrawn. The diamond has therefore slowly faded from both memory and the Nullarbor ever since.
Not an airstrip?
The evidence for any other explanation of the diamond is sparse, mainly negative in character, and so highly circumstantial.
The most explicit, and the only real documentary evidence, comes from Readymix itself. While stories in the 1967 and 1980 issues of the Readymix Report clearly note that the diamond was an airstrip first, and an advertisement second, these were not the only time the diamond featured in the company's newsletter. In between, in 1978, the second Readymix Report to mention the diamond not only failed to mention its airstrip origin, but almost explicitly suggested it was no such thing. The central four pages of the December 1978 issue were a Report on Mobile Quarry Operations, and ended with the 1967 aerial photo of the diamond, captioned "After hours activities on mobile units are few, but one crew in the Nullabor [sic] produced this gigantic Readymix diamond". The associated blurb read:
The big demand [sic!!] As a lasting reminder to [sic] the part played by the mobile crews, the Nullabor [sic] Plain carries a unique company advertisement. One mobile quarry plant was established on the Nullabor [sic] desert plain hundreds of miles from anywhere right on the former air-route between Perth and Adelaide. The quarry team found the desert top soil carrying the coarse spinifex grass is a dusty brown sand, only a few inches deep with white limestone beneath it. So as an after-hours exercise the surveyor calculated dimensions and angles for a giant-size company diamond symbol about two miles long and one mile wide, each letter being 180m tall. The workmen then bulldozed and graded out the brown surface sand to produce a giant famous 'Readymix' company trademark in brilliant white limestone, helping to relieve the monotony of the flat scenery viewed by the airlines' passengers, and provide Readymix with an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest advertising sign in the world. (Readymix Report, 1978)
Banham's brief discussion of the letters also attributes the logo to "bored surveyors" (Banham, 1996, 50), as does the Western Australian Tourist Centre (Hull, 1999). Such an explanation has been supported by former Readymix quarry division manager Bill Fox, who claims to have come up with the whole idea of the diamond, without reference to headquarters in Perth. The logo, large enough that it would fill the standard thirteen-inch [33cm] window of passing passenger aircraft, was built both to keep Fox's men busy during a delay in work on the Eyre Highway, and for advertising (Fox, 2003a,c).
Further, a number of sources contacted had never heard that the logo was an airstrip, and had always assumed it was carved purely for advertising purposes (eg Crocker, 2003; Hoare, 2003; Kennedy, 2003; MacLachlan, 2003; Tarling, 2003b).
The inordinate distance of the diamond from both the Eyre Highway and Readymix's quarries is highly peculiar, especially since the only access to the diamond appears to have been an unformed vehicle track, which was difficult to travel on in the wet (Hoare, 2003). Together with the facts that the diamond has never appeared on any charts as an airstrip, and was only graded and not rolled, this does not sit well with an explanation of the diamond as an airstrip built because existing strips were not up to insurance standards (14).
TOWARDS SETTLING THE CONTROVERSY
The suggestion that the logo might not have been an airstrip has been rejected both by Readymix (WA) Ltd.'s current staff, and by its former regional manager (Cross, 1999 & 2003; O'Callaghan, 2003a,b&d). O'Callaghan himself (2003a&b) disproves the suggestion stating that he was present on a company aircraft, flying from Kalgoorlie to inspect the highway work, which was forced by bad weather to make a choice whether to land on the existing clay strips rendered dangerous by the weather, to make an emergency landing on the highway, or to turn back. Therefore he himself ordered the construction of the emergency strip for reasons of safety and efficiency.
Two explanations have been offered for the apparently anomalously large size of the diamond compared to other airstrips along the Eyre Highway. First, that the original instructions from headquarters in Perth called for a diamond-shaped strip of standard proportions (1km legs), and that Fox, or other staff on site, decided that it would require little extra effort to make the diamond twice as large for advertising or other reasons. This could explain competing claims to ownership of the idea. Second, that Perth headquarters themselves decided to increase the size of the diamond, so that it could be used not only by their own small aircraft, but even by even larger private aircraft if necessary. Whatever the explanation for the diamond's size, O'Callaghan agreed that the lettering inside the diamond was Fox's idea, and was useful not only as advertising but also to increase the visibility of the airstrip for pilots, whether needing to use the strip, or just overflying it and using it for locational purposes (O'Callaghan, 2003a-d).
That people directly involved with the logo like Crocker (2003) and MacLachlan (2003) were unaware of its airstrip origin might also be explained. O'Callaghan admits that the diamond was probably never used for emergency landings, although its presence at least provided greater peace of mind both to Readymix's pilots and executives (O'Callagan, 2003a-d) (15). After the completion of the sealing of the Eyre Highway on the Western Australian side in 1969, the diamond would no longer have been needed as an airstrip, and subsequent maintenance appears to have been solely to retain its advertising and aerial landmark functions. This could explain why Crocker was unaware of any original airstrip function. For MacLachlan the explanation is probably similar, particularly if it took several years for his pastoral company to become aware of the presence of the diamond.
If the airstrip utility of the diamond was only temporarily necessary and never actually required, and the logo was maintained for alternative reasons in the 1970s, this could also account for the fact that the diamond has never been shown on aeronautical charts and other maps as anything but an aerial landmark.
Another problem with the airstrip explanation is the diamond's distance from the road. O'Callaghan (2003b) suggests that this was due to the distance of the nearest limestone outcrop into which the diamond could be easily graded. Yet unless there is a significant difference in the soil depth between Caiguna and the diamond, which appears highly unlikely given the geology and topography, this suggestion is not borne out by geological survey. The Nullarbor limestone extends south across the highway for tens of kilometres either side of Caiguna. The clay which overlies the limestone even further south, bulges north across the highway at Caiguna for only four kilometres west and north of that locality. Even positioned where it is, the diamond's western sides still overlie a large clay pan (Geological Survey of Western Australia, 1969). Therefore if the intention really was to avoid clay, the diamond need not have been built so far from the highway at all, and could have avoided even minor clay pans by using aerial photography taken during the sealing project.
If Readymix (or Readymix employees without head office's knowledge) had created the diamond purely for advertising purposes or out of boredom, then it is possible that a myth was created to cover this up and that it has persisted for more than 40 years. Given that all staff involved at the time have now retired, one can speculate that the airstrip explanation, if created as a cover-up, has come to be accepted by current staff as the actual explanation.
However, to dismiss the airstrip explanation as a myth, would mean belying not only the documentary evidence, but also the accounts of a number of former and present staff. As there is so little evidence in the other direction, this would seem untenable. Given that the diamond was carved nearly forty years ago, it is not surprising that memories of those involved do not tally exactly, and intriguing discrepancies exist.
Whether or not the giant Readymix logo was carved for use as an emergency airstrip, it certainly appears it was never required as one. It was, however, aeronautically utilitarian in other ways, as a visible and recognisable aerial landmark on the otherwise featureless Nullarbor, particularly for about 15-20 years when commercial airliners still flew overland to Perth. The lettering inside the diamond also provided an important secondary advertising function. With the rerouting of airliners over the Great Australian Bight as a result of improvements in aircraft and navigation technologies, both of these functions declined, and the diamond was left visible only to occasional light aircraft. Together with a prohibition on further maintenance, the logo became overgrown, and today is only barely visible from the air, although it still survives on a number of maps, including some issued very recently.
Carved c.1965, the Readymix diamond on the Nullarbor may possibly have been no more than a giant corporate graffito: lettering littering the landscape. But its inclusion in the Guinness Book of Records for twenty years, and its interest to the thousands of airline passengers who saw it in its heyday, make it an Australian icon. It demonstrates the ability of maps to record a story, and shows how beautifully, in Banham's words, the typographical can become topographical. While it seems a shame that the diamond has not been maintained as a local tourist attraction akin to other geoglyphs such as the ancient Nazca lines in Peru, or the 50 or so ancient and modern chalk figures in Great Britain (16), its slow fading demonstrates that in the remote dry environment of the Nullarbor 'desert', not even diamonds are forever.
PHOTOGRAPHIC AND CARTOGRAPHIC REPRESENTATION
While documented by aerial photos as early as 1967, the diamond first appeared on maps only from the early 1970s. It continues to do so, not only on aeronautical charts, but also topographic maps, roadmaps and tourist maps, despite now being virtually totally overgrown. All known vertical aerial photos, atlases, aeronautical charts and maps depicting the diamond are given below, along with information on earlier editions not showing it.
Vertical Aerial Photographs
(all indexed to 1:250 000 map sheet "Culver" SI 51-04)
CAF 4009, Run 2, Frame 5725, 30 November 1961, Commonwealth of Australia. Scale ~1:86 300. Does not show the diamond.
WA 1024, (no apparent run number), Frame 5143, 10,000ft, 1 May 1967. Titled "READYMIX MARKER Lat. 32[degrees]13S. Long. 125[degrees]22.30 APPROX". This Longitude is incorrect, and should be 125[degrees]21.30E. Scale ~1:20 000. The photo is not in the DOLA aerial photo archive, but a print is held in DOLA file 1456/70 (q.v).
CAF 8690, Run 10, Frame 91, 3050m, 4 Sept. 1975, Commonwealth of Australia. Scale ~1:33 500. Diamond is clear but becoming overgrown.
WA 4074, Run 3, Frame 5051, 1:50 000, 22 Feb. 1998, Department of Land Administration (DOLA), Western Australia. Scale ~1:50 000. Diamond is only barely visible. Letters are no longer visible.
"The Reader's Digest Complete Atlas of Australia including Papua-New Guinea", 1st ed., 1968, The Reader' Digest Association Party Ltd, Surry Hills, New South Wales, p43. This atlas of 1:1 000 000 scale maps does not depict the diamond.
"Reader's Digest Atlas of Australia", 1st ed., 1977, Reader's Digest Services Pty Ltd, Surry Hills, New South Wales, p132. Labelled "Readymix Sign" the diamond shown by a solid line 5mm x 2.5mm, when it should only be 3mm x 1.5mm at the atlas's scale of 1:1 000 000. There is no lettering in the diamond.
"Reader's Digest Atlas of Australia", 2nd ed., 1994, Reader's Digest (Australia) Pty Ltd, Surry Hills, New South Wales, p194. Labelled "READYMIX" the diamond shown by a solid line 5mm x 2.5mm, when it should only be 3mm x 1.5mm at the atlas's scale of 1:1 000 000. There is no lettering in the diamond.
1:100 000 Natmap 3933 "Caiguna", 1st edition, 1982. Labelled "Aerial landmark area", the diamond is shown as a thin dotted line, with "READYMIX" in bold characters inside. The diamond is correctly scaled, as is the lettering, but the font is symbolic rather than accurate.
1:250 000 Series R502 SI-51-4 "Culver", 1st edition, compiled 1963 from 1961 aerial photography, does not show the diamond.
1:250 000 Natmap SI-51-4 "Culver", 1st edition, 1980. Labelled "Aerial landmark area", the diamond is shown as a thin dotted line, with "READYMIX" in bold characters inside. The diamond is correctly scaled, but the lettering is a fraction too large and the font is symbolic rather than accurate.
2nd edition, 1987 (effectively a reprint of the 1st edition, with bathymetric information added. Sheet forms part of National Bathymetric Map Series). Depiction as above.
3rd edition, 2000. Labelled "aerial landmark area", the diamond is shown as a thin dotted line, with "READYMIX" in characters inside. The diamond is correctly scaled, but the lettering is a fraction too large and the font (no longer bold) is symbolic rather than accurate.
1:250 000 Geological series SI-51-4 "Culver", 1st ed. 1969, compiled from 1961 aerial photography, does not show the diamond.
1:500 000 Tactical Pilotage Chart (TPC) R-11B, 1st edition (topographic information 1982, aeronautical 30/11/82). Labelled "aerial landmark area", the diamond is shown at the correct size by a thin dotted line, too small to include any lettering.
1:1 000 000 Australian Geographical Series, "Esperance", 1958. Does not show the diamond.
1:1 000 000 International Map of the World (IMW), SI-51 "Esperance",
Diamond not shown:
Provisional ed. 1971.
1st ed. 1975.
2nd ed. 1980.
Both editions: labelled "Readymix Sign", the diamond is shown by a solid line, but too large. It is 5mm x 3mm, but should only be 3mm x 1.5mm at this scale. It does not include any lettering.
1:1 000 000 World Aeronautical Chart (WAC), 3461 "Esperance",
Diamond not shown:
1st ed. [n.d.], aeronautical information 12/56, topographic information 1/57.
2nd ed. [n.d.], aeronautical information 8/60, topographic information 6/60.
3rd ed. [n.d.], aeronautical information 9/64, topographic information 7/64.
4th ed. [n.d.], aeronautical information 1/67, topographic information 7/64.
5th ed. [n.d.], aeronautical information 6/71, topographic information 1969.
6th ed. 1975, aeronautical information 11/75, topographic information 1969, amendments 1975.
7th ed. 1980, aeronautical information 5/80, topographic information 1969, amendments 1980.
8th ed. 1985, aeronautical information 9/85, topographic information updated 1985.
9th ed. 1989, aeronautical information 1/89, topographic information updated 1985, amendments 1989.
10th ed. 1992, aeronautical information 12/1991, topographic information updated 1991.
11th ed. [1999?], aeronautical information 1/99, topographic information 1999.
On all these editions, the diamond, labelled "READYMIX", is shown by a solid line, but too large. It is 5.5mm x 2.5mm, but should only be 3mm x 1.5mm at this scale. It does not include any interior lettering.
1:1 000 000 Operational Navigation Chart (ONC) R-11.
Diamond not shown:
1st ed. printed 8/67, aeronautical information 15/2/67, topographic information compiled 2/67 from sources dated 1940-64.
2nd ed. 1971, aeronautical information 20/3/70, topographic information compiled 6/70 from sources dated 1953-69.
3rd ed. topographic information 1974, aeronautical 22/3/74. Labelled "readymix sign", the diamond is shown by a solid line, but too large. It is 5.5mm x 2.5mm, but should be only 3mm x 1.5mm at this scale. The inside of the diamond is white, missing the surrounding green hypsometric altitude tint. It does not include any lettering.
4rd ed. topographic information 1982, aeronautical 4/8/83. Labelled "aerial landmark area", the diamond is now scaled correctly, and is shown by a dashed line. It does not include any lettering.
1:1 250 000, Australia's Great Desert Tracks, SW sheet, Hema, Queensland, 1999. A solid red circle, 1mm diameter, is labelled "Readymix Aerial Landmark". This dot is too small: as correctly scaled, the diamond would be 1.28mm x 2.56mm, an area twice the size of the dot. The inclusion of the landmark on this fourwheel-driving (4WD) map is curious, as the overgrown diamond would not be visible from the ground, and is several kilometres from the two 4WD tracks shown leading north from the Eyre Highway, one on each side of the landmark. No further explanation of the feature is given.
1:2 250 000, A tourist map of the Nullarbor Plain (Perth to Adelaide), Carto Graphics, Blackwood, South Australia, 1st ed., 1994. Labelled "Readymix sign", the diamond is shown as a thin solid line, with no lettering. At 2.5mm x 1.25mm the representation is too large. It should be 1.42mm x 0.71mm. While other tourist features have short descriptive paragraphs overprinted on the map, no explanation o the diamond is given.
"The Western Australian Country Airstrip Guide", Flightace/Windsock Publications, Perth. While not mapped, the direction and distance to the diamond are indicated on sketch maps of the Caiguna airstrip in each of the editions of this (now) annual publication. 1st ed. 1983 through 23rd ed. 2003.
[FIGURES 3-8 OMITTED]
Table 1. Progress in Sealing of Eyre Highway 1960-69 Annual & Cumulative distance sealed from Norseman Date Annual total Cumulative total miles [km] miles [km] June 1960 5 8 5 8 June 1961 10 16 15 24 June 1962 25 40 40 64 June 1963 42 68 82 132 June 1964 45 72 127 204 June 1965 25 40 152 245 June 1966 59 95 211 340 June 1967 77 124 288 463 June 1968 67 108 355 571 Sept 1969 96 155 451 726 Source: Main Roads Department, 1972, 11.
I would like to express my gratitude to all those who responded to my request for information about the Readymix diamond, placed in the West Australian on 17 Feb 2003. I would also like to thank all those who agreed to be interviewed especially Eugene O'Callaghan and Bill Fox. Many thanks are also due to Nerryl Cross at Readymix's Perth office, Peter Murdoch at DOLA, Alison Hocken at the Battaye Library, Damian Cole at the National Library, and Iain Hosking at Exxon-Mobil all of whom dug out information for me; to Fatima Basic for the main map; and finally to Sarah Soon for her generous hospitality in Perth over the 2002-3 summer.
(1) At least some facilities existed at Balladonia and Eucla (but not Caiguna) before the 1960s. Balladonia motel was shifted from near Balladonia homestead to its present site in 1962. Mundrabilla roadhouse was established after the sealing project. Between the S.A. state boundary and Penong and Ceduna, there are roadhouses at Border Village, Nullarbor, Yalata and Nundroo. Ivy Tank motel was abandoned, and Nullarbor motel established in the mid 1970s when the Eyre Highway in S.A. was realigned south.
(2) The last square metre of bitumen and crushed metal surfacing was completed by Western Australian Premier Sir David Brand. Commissioner of Main Roads Don Aitken had flown a number of contributing participants to Eucla for the ceremony. This was followed by a dinner and dance at the Eucla Road House, nicknamed "The Battle of Eucla Pass", that anyone traversing the Nullarbor at the time was also welcomed to join. The ceremony and party was jointly intended to celebrate the sealing of the Western Australian section of the highway, and to highlight the need for South Australia to complete its section (O'Callaghan, 2003d).
(3) Green (2003) and Hovingh (2003) say 1963; Lindsay (1978) and McIlhagga (2003) say 1964; Fox (2003a) says 1966-7.
(4) Hoare died on 21 June 1989, from asbestosis contracted from working at Wittenoom Gorge in the late 1950s (Hovingh, 2003; Keeris, 2003).
(5) However the Readymix Report of July 1967 says it was bulldozed, and that of Dec. 1978 says it was bulldozed and graded (Readymix Report, 1967; 1978).
(6) There is a VOR beacon at Caiguna. VOR = VHF Omni-directional Radio Range beacon which sends out a 108-118 MHz band twophase signal through 360[degrees], allowing an aircraft to calculate direction in degrees to the signal. DME = Distance Measuring Equipment; usually coupled with a VOR beacon. A signal sent by an aircraft to the beacon's DME is returned after a fixed delay. Taking altitude into account, the aircraft's equipment uses the speed of light to calculate distance from the beacon in nautical miles. An aircraft can thus calculate its location in polar coordinates using the beacon as origin.
(7) TAA, Trans Australia Airlines, was renamed Australian Airlines in 1986. In 1992 it was bought by, and in 1993 merged with, Qantas, to give the latter a domestic arm. Ansett collapsed financially in 2001, its last flight being 5 March 2002. Inter-capital domestic services are now provided by Qantas and Virgin Blue (Australian Aviation Archive, n.d.; Qantas, n.d.).
(8) The Readymix logo's simple shape had been used before for aerial identification. Green (2003) recalls as mobile quarry manager setting up the prefab huts at mobile quarry camps in formation, facing in on a central diamond of land, which would be cleared, and red loam used to spell out Readymix, in the semi-cursive script of the original company logo. An aerial photo of such a camp can be seen in Readymix Report (1978, 4).
(9) Green (2003) used to possess the original scale plan used to peg out the diamond, but has since lost it.
(10) This category was first included in the Guinness Book in the 8th edition of Nov. 1960 (I have been unable to locate the 7th edition of Nov. 1958, but it is not included in the 6th of Dec. 1956). The first titleholder was "... a gigantic letter 'L', made in 1927 on a hillside behind La Verne College, east of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. It is 340 feet high and 45 feet wide". This survived to the 13th edition of Oct. 1966. It was replaced in the 14th edition of Oct. 1967 by "... the giant 'W' on the north side of Mount Tenderfoot, behind Western State College in Gunnison, Colorado, U.S.A. The 'W' was made with flat stones on 2 May 1923, when it measured 400 feet high and 300 feet wide, with 'legs' 16 feet wide. In c.1932 the size of the 'W' was increased to 420 feet high and 320 feet wide, making a total area of 25,560 square feet of rock". This entry survived until and including the 18th edition of Oct. 1971 (Guinness, 1956, 1960, 1966, 1967 & 1971).
(11) Readymix apparently owned its own twin-engined Aero 145, a Czech aircraft, and had long-term charters of various Cessna 185, 310, and 400 models for crew changes (Fox, 2003a).
(12) Only one map, the third edition of the Traveller's Atlas of Western Australia (DLS, 1986) shows an airstrip in the general location of the logo. However, this possible evidence for the airstrip explanation is coincidental. The supposed strip was not shown in the two earlier editions (DLS, 1978 & 1982), when the logo may have been more likely to be useable as a strip due to its concurrent maintenance by Crocker. The first edition shows only the John Eyre Motel on the south side of the highway and the microwave tower to the north. These are shown in their correct location, and named. Additionally, immediately west of the locality is a trapezium containing the letters CA, a depiction of the abbreviation for the locality used on road distance markers. The second edition adds two more informational symbols: a red-outlined letter 'R' and a similar letter 'A', indicating the presence of a roadhouse and accommodation at Caiguna. Both of these are placed above the correctly-located microwave tower symbol, leaving a small gap between them and the trapezium. In the third edition, this gap is filled with a landing ground symbol. It is entirely coincidental that the symbol is shown north of the Highway in the same direction from Caiguna as the Readymix diamond. The symbol in this case is indicative, not positional, and only denotes the presence of an airstrip at Caiguna, namely the one behind the John Eyre motel immediately south of the Highway. It has been placed as close to Caiguna as possible in a gap between symbols already existing rather than locating it correctly which would then obscure the detailed depiction and naming of various rock holes south of the highway on the original base map. Finally, while the airstrip symbol is shown in the same direction from Caiguna as the Readymix logo, it is only half the correct distance out, about 6 km instead of about 13km.
(13) Lindsay was called upon again in 1981 when Peter Winner of the West Australian newspaper phoned to obtain information on the diamond for an article ('Rita', 1981). Contact with Winner and the West Australian's library suggest the article was almost certainly never written (Bennett, 2003; Winner, 2003).
(14) While Crocker (2003) and Fox (2003a&c) maintain that the surface was too rough for aircraft, O'Callaghan (2003d) says that the Readymix pilot's own specification for making a serviceable emergency strip was "drag a heavy beam for 1km & then test for vehicle satisfaction at 90kmh.... If it can accept 90kmh adequately smooth travel over the finished surface ... that was the criteria."
(15) There are claims aircraft unable to use the standard strips continued to land on the Eyre Highway if necessary (Fox, 2003a&c) as there was little traffic, parts were already sealed, and the highway was the worksite to which the aircraft were heading, unlike the diamond which was 7km away from the road.
(16) The largest figures at Nazca are almost 300m long, the lines up to 20km. In an ironic parallel, and at the same time that the Readymix airstrip story first appeared, von Daniken (1969, 30-2) famously suggested that the Nazca lines were landing strips for alien spacecraft, although this had been suggested in jest much earlier (for example Kosok, 1947, cited in Nickell, 1983). Other Peruvian figures include a 180m candelabra at Pisco Bay 200km away, and a 120m giant at Cerro Unitas, 1360km south of Nazca (Bast, 2001). The British figures include the ancient Long Man of Wilmington (70m high), the Cerne giant (60m), and the nine or so white horses in Wiltshire. More recent chalk figures in England date from the First World War and include the Bulford Kiwi (130m), Codford Rising Sun (an Australian military badge), and the Fovant Badges, which also include a nearby map of Australia at Compton Chamberlayne. The British figures now generally receive annual maintenance (Fovant Badges Society, n.d. a&b; Wiltshire-Web, n.d.; Staveley, 2002). Giant ancient American geoglyphs include a starburst at China Lake and a fisherman at Bouse, both in Ariz., 50m figures at Blythe, Calif., and a 400m giant in Paradise Valley, Mont. (Bast, 2001. For China Lake pictures see US Navy, 2002; for Paradise Valley pictures see IRFS, n.d.). Two other less permanent but still tourist-attracting figures in Australia are 'Marree Man' and 'Eldee Man' (see Figs. 7 & 8). Marree Man, a 4km tall Aboriginal figure near Marree, South Australia, was controversially and anonymously created in June 1998 (or earlier), but was rapidly fading by November that year (Daily Telegraph, 1998; Geoscience Australia, 2003). Eldee Man (or Mundi Man) was the head and shoulders of a smiling stockman, 2km x 2km in size, created in late 2001 near Silverton, New South Wales, by artist Peter "Ando" Anderson to celebrate the Year of the Outback (Ando Art, n.d.). Neither is known to be included on any map.
Interviews and Personal Communications
Bennett, Tracey. Perth. Chief librarian of West Australian. Email, 10 February 2003.
Crocker, John. Esperance. Former owner/manager of Balladonia station. Telephone call 17 February 2003.
Cross, Nerryl. Perth. Quarry Development Manager, Readymix (WA) Ltd. Emails 8 & 10 November 1999. Interview at Readymix HQ, Perth, 10 January 2003.
Fox, Bill. Terranora, New South Wales. Former Quarry Division Manager, Readymix (WA) Ltd. Telephone calls 22 February, 10 May, 10 June 2003.
Green, Frank. Hopetoun, Western Australia. Former Mobile Quarry Manager, Readymix (WA) Ltd. Telephone call 17 February 2003.
Hoare, Danny. Perth. Son of Allan Hoare. Telephone call 10 May 2003.
Hovingh, Elfreda, Perth. Widow of Allan Hoare. Telephone call 10 May 2003.
Hull, Emma. Perth. Holiday consultant, Western Australia Tourist Centre. Email 10 November 1999.
Keeris, Theo(dor). Perth. Main Roads, brother-inlaw of Allan Hoare. Telephone call 10 May 2003.
Kennedy, Steve. Busselton. Manager John Eyre Motel 1978-85. Telephone call 19 February 2003.
Kenny, Gary. Perth? Ex- Main Roads. Telephone call 2 May 2003.
McIlhagga, Basil. Perth. Former Group Accountant & Concrete Division Manager, Readymix (WA) Ltd. Telephone call 17 February 2003.
Merrick, Jimmy. Coolgardie? Ex- Readymix (WA) Ltd. Telephone call 7 May 2003.
O'Callaghan, Eugene. Perth. Former Regional General Manager, Readymix (WA) Ltd. Telephone calls 17 February, 10 & 12 May 2003; letter 4 June 2003.
Tarling, Ian. Perth. Ex-Main Roads. Emails 17 & 18 February 2003.
Winner, Peter. Perth. Former West Australian journalist, now media officer, Western Power. Telephone call March 2003.
Across Australia and return, Melbourne-Adelaide-Perth, (1990), 13th ed, Leisuretime Publications, Walliston, Western Australia & Holiday StopOver, Maylands, South Australia, p98. Held by Western Australia State Library.
"Ando Art--Mundi Man", (n.d.), Online at http://andoart.com/eldee.htm accessed 23 June 2003.
Australian Aviation Archive, (n.d.), "TAA--Trans Australia Airlines", online at http://users.chariot.net.au/~theburfs/TAApage.htm l ; "Ansett Airlines", online at http://users.chariot.net.au/~theburfs/ansettpage.ht ml both accessed 3 March 2003.
Banham, Steve, (1996), Ampersand, Letterbox, Melbourne.
Bast, Robert, (2001), "Other geoglyphs", Survive 2012 website, online at http://www.survive2012.com/nazcalines5.html accessed 23 June 2003.
Beard, J.S., (1975), "Nullarbor, 1:1 000 000 Vegetation Series, Explanatory notes to sheet 4, the vegetation of the Nullarbor area", Vegetation Survey of Western Australia, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.
Birtles, Francis, (1935), Battle Fronts of Outback, Angus & Robertson, Sydney.
Bolam, A.G., (1924), The Trans-Australian Wonderland, 3rd ed, Modern Printing Co, Melbourne.
Burke, David, (1991), Road Through the Wilderness, University of New South Wales Press, Kensington, New South Wales.
CSR Ltd, (c.2003), "Successful completion of the demerger", online at http://www.csr.com.au/investorcentre/demerger.as p accessed 27 April 2003.
Daily Telegraph, (1998),"Marree man is disappearing into the desert", Sydney. 6 November 1998. Online as "Marree Man is fading into the desert [news]" in the archived Ufomind mailing list at http://www.aliensonearth.com/misc/1998/nov/d06 -001.shtml accessed 23 June 2003
Delisser, E. A., (1867), Survey of a new port in the Great Australian Bight, South Australian Parliamentary Paper 137, Adelaide.
DLS (Department of Lands and Surveys, Western Australia, (1970), letter to The Manager, Readymix, dated 29 June. Held in DOLA file 1456/70 (q.v.).
DLS (Department of Lands and Surveys, Western Australia), (1978), Traveller's Atlas of Western Australia, 1st ed., the Department, [Perth].
DLS (Department of Lands and Surveys, Western Australia), (1982), Traveller's Atlas of Western Australia, 2nd ed., the Department, [Perth].
DLS (Department of Lands and Surveys, Western Australia), (1986), Traveller's Atlas of Western Australia, 3rd ed., the Department, [Perth].
DOLA (Department of Land Administration, Western Australia), File 1456/70 "Construction of advertising sign, Crown land Nullarbor--Ready Mix". Held by DOLA.
DOTARS (Department of Transport and Regional Services, Australia), (2003), "Transport Programmes. Road Programmes--The National Highway, Adelaide-Perth Corridor", online at http://www.dotars.gov.au/transprog/road/nat_hwy /corridors/ade_perth.htm last updated 11 April 2003, accessed 27 April 2003.
Edmonds, Leigh, (1997), The Vital Link; a history of Main Roads Western Australia 1926-1996, University of Western Australia Press, Nedlands.
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Dr Brendan Whyte, Geography Department, University of Melbourne, VIC 3010. firstname.lastname@example.org
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