Last changed 12 September 2021

1964 Vaughan & de Lemos levelling traverses

Norman Vaughan and Carlos de Lemos of the Survey Branch of the Commonwealth Department of the Interior ran third order levels, presumably under contract to the BMR. The purpose was surface control for a gravity survey carried out the following year, in the context of Commonwealth funding for oil exploration.

Oil search
Geophysical Branch

Party/Project: Dept of Interior Levelling NT; project file 62/634
Nature of Work: Georgina Basin and Wiso Plateau. Levelling required for 1965 helicopter gravity survey. Victoria River Downs (part), Daly Waters, Tanumbirini, Bauhinia Downs, Robinson River (pt), Normanton (pt), Westmoreland (pt), Calvert Hills, Wallhallow, Beetaloo, Newcastle Waters, Wave Hill, Birrindudu (pt), Winnecke Creek, South Lake Woods, Helen Springs, Brunette Downs, Mt. Drummond, Lawn Hill, Donors Hill, Croydon (pt), Millungera (pt), Julia Creek (pt), Dobbyn, Camooweal, Ranken, Alroy, Tennant Creek, Green Swamp Well, Tanami East, Tanami (pt), The Granites (pt), Mt. Solitaire, Lander River, Bonney.Well, Frew River, Avon Downs, Mt. Isa, Cloncurry, Duchess (pt), Urandagi, Sandover River (pt), Elkedra (pt), Barrow Creek, Mt. Peake, Napperby 1:250,000 Sheet areas.
Approx timetable: April-November 1964
Staff: 7 surveyors (plus non-professional staff)
Remarks: About 30 of these sheets will be covered by contract helicopter gravity in 1965; remainder in 1966.
(BMR 1964:6)

series station  date
DJ     01-31    Jul Aug 64
DD     01-12    Jun Jul Aug 64
DE     03-59    Jun Jul Aug 64

The route of the DJ and DD series (between Powell Creek and Wave Hill) is roughly along O'Brien's 1961 route. I do not know specifically of anyone subsequently following this route on the ground.

The DE series (between Tennant Creek and Supplejack) is along roughly the same route as Whitlock's 1941 track.  Signs of Whitlock's track is explicitly referred to in the descriptions of various nench mark stations: see the table. An unspecified track is referred to at DE22, DE24, DE25, and DE26.

excerpt from 1965 gravity survey map


Sightings of Whitlock’s southern track in 1964


Speedo reading miles (kms)*

Whitlock-related comments


82.2 (132.3)

86.3 (138.9)

Whitlock’s 1941 track follow west down hill


86.5 (139.3)

North of Whitlock’s track

90.2 (145.2)

Whitlock’s track across ironstone ridge


91.9 (148.0)

North of Whitlock’s track (faint)


96.4 (155.2)

North of Whitlock’s track on low ironstone rise

100.8 (162.3)

Follow well defined tracks to north-west


113.7 (183.1)

Follow tracks to right


125.1 (201.4)

South of tracks

126.7 (203.9)

Turn left off main tracks


194.1 (312.5)

0.2 miles south of Whitlock’s tracks

*Speedo readings indicate the distance from the traverse start point on the Stuart Highway.

The party marked an airstrip, called Vaughan Airstrip or Vaughan Strip, on the south of DE50. It was used for access later in 1964 as an Isogal Secondary Station at the base gravity station established nearby at 19°10.6'S 130°49.6'E, BMR station number 6491.9056, International Gravity Commission numbers (IGC) number 38390, IGC Letter J (van Son 1969, Barlow 1970, Wellman et al 1985).

map of central showing Vaughan airstrip
excerpt from 'Fig. 1. Locations of national gravity base-stations on the Australian landmass' (Barlow 1970, Wellman et al 1985:3)

The BMR surveys of 1965 used the eastern half of the track along the DE series, and the track was then shown on the Preliminary Editions of the geology maps of the Green Swamp Well and Tanami East sheet areas (1966), and of the Wiso Basin (1967), all appended to Milligan et al (1966).

In 1967 Some of the tracks and bench marks of the DD and DJ series were used to place aerodist stations NM/G/201 and NM/G/202 — see 1967–71 National Mapping Aerodist program,

DE series

The DE series of bench marks are marked on the map in McLean 2020 [2015], and the track along them (with some spot heights) is shown on the preliminary geology maps appended to Milligan et al (1966).

Most of the eastern part of the DE route was used subsequently. In 1965 the BMR used the eastern part for access in the Wiso Basin survey.

In 1968 the estern part was used to establish dumps of helicopter fuel for NatMap operations.

A 1972 levelling survey used the eastern part; see also for the basic reference on the establishment of the Australian Height Datum.

The investigation of Goddard's Prospect used at least the middle part of the route, first by prospector James Weir then in August 1974 the eastern two-thirds was graded (details here).

The part as far west as DE30 was followed by the Army in May 1983, and then graded again in September 1983 by the Lajamanu Council, as part of the Duck Pond-Warrego track, used over the subsequent decade or more. The tracks between DE30 to DE39 were followed by an RAOU survey in 1983, and here and there since 1987 in travels guided by senior Warlpiri people.


Barlow, BC. 1970. National report on gravity in Australia, July 1965 to June 1970. Record 1970/62. Bureau of Mineral Resources, Australia. Plate 2 'ISOGAL REGIONAL SURVEY 1964 TO 1970'

Bureau of Mineral Resources, Geology and Geophysics. 1964 Programme. BMR Record 1964/177.  Canberra ACT

BMR Gravity Traverse Description, Traverses DE, DD, DJ [Jun-Aug 1964] pp.36,38 [13 unpublished record sheets] [copy kindly provided by the Australian Survey Office]

de Lemos, Carlos Pereira. 2016. História de uma Vida. Chiado Books.  ISBN-13 ‏ ‎ 978-9895175949

Flavelle, Alan J. 1965. Helicopter survey by contract, N.T. & Qld. 1965, Part I.  BMR Record 1965/212 (unpublished).

Kitto, P.L. 1975. Annual report on Exploration Licence No. 632. Geopeko Limited, Central Australia, Tennant Creek, April 1975. 13 pages + appendices + maps Scanned April 2016 to CR19750112.pdf at

McLean, Laurie. 2020 [2015]. Norm Hawker (1926-1995).

McLean, Laurie. 2021. Wilfred Hercy Dominick (Jerry) Whitlock (1898-1978). * includes a description of the 1964 levelling traverses

Milligan, E.N., K.G. Smith, R.A.H. Nichols & H.F. Doutch. 1966. Geology of the Wiso Basin, Northern Territory. Bureau of Mineral Resources Gelogy and Geophysics Records 1966/47

Roelse, Adrian , Harry W Granger, JW Graham. 1975. The adjustment of the Australian levelling survey 1970–1971, Technical Report 12. Division of National Mapping. 2nd edition

van Son, J.R.H. 1969. Airstrip preparation and ground ties for 1967 Isogal survey. Record 1969/048. Geoscience Australia, Canberra.

Wellman, Peter, BC Barlow, and AS Murray. 1985. Gravity base-station network values, Australia. BMR Report 261.

Meeting with Carlos de Lemos: Canberra 25/11/90, Melbourne 25/3/92.

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Created 27 June 2021
Last changed 12 September 2021