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Published September 30th 2014
Fact or fiction : In search of an imaginary line
Have you ever wondered what those roadside signs are that point to a historical monument or marker? We have all driven past them before, but recently I had the opportunity to stop at one such monument just north of Redhill on Port Wakefield Road. The sign referred to Goyder's Line, something of which I was vaguely familiar with, but held some doubts.
So after heading back home, it was time to dive in to the research books, and I discovered that George Woodroofe Goyder was a Surveyor in the 1850's who became famous by declaring that crops would only grow in fertile land that had reasonable rainfalls. While this statement itself wasn't that visionary, Goyder drew a line over a map of South Australia and determined that crops would have the best chances of growing in areas to the south or west of his line, and by definition he implied that crops planted to the north or east of his line would fail.
The mythbuster in me then thought that it would be appropriate for me to search for this imaginary line and to assess whether Goyder was right or not. Searching for an imaginary line is as difficult as it sounds. First stop was the monument at Redhill and an opportunity to observe the fertile land behind the sign, and the not so fertile land alongside the monument. It appeared as though Goyder could be right, but I needed more proof, so off to Melrose I headed.
The monument, similar to the last one, gave some indication as to Goyder's vision. On the western side of the rock, was some grazing land, while on the eastern side was some saltbushes. Still not convinced I headed towards the (perhaps) aptly named World's End on the Burra to Robertstown Road. The large sign, visible from a long distance, gave me hope. However looking in all directions around this sign, I could see nothing that resembled crop lands.
As the pictures highlight, Goyder's line is real. While rainfall in some years may blur the boundary of his line, on average it is correct that farmers who grow crops towards the north east of Goyder's Line will struggle. The three monuments in the mid-north of South Australia recognise Goyder's vision.
My late father always told me when Goyder marked the small map, his ink nib was 10 miles wide. So 16km in metric is the leeway for the line you think is imaginative. NO Goyder proved the doubters wrong!