CROSSING FROM THE BIRDSVILLE SIDE

The French Line across Australia's Simpson Desert, today used as the gateway for academic and recreational drivers alike seeking to cross the dunes, began service in July 1963 to give access to the thousands of oilworkers who would soon swarm in from both sides in their fruitless search for black gold.  Then it was known simply as "Line B" by the men who carved it through from Dalhousie to Eyre Creek.   Beckoning them across was the oasis called the Birdsville Pub.

BIRDSVILLE
CIRCA 1993

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One of the realities quickly reached by many 4WDriving Simpson crossers is the fact that coming in from the east to tackle the Simpson and heading west along the French Line or using a combination of the K1 Line, the Rig Road, WAA Line or Colson Track, they actually leave the famous Birdsville Pub behind in their wake and there is nothing that matches it on the other side (or anywhere else, for that matter)!  That's not to say it might be not a good thing passing up temptation half-way through the trip, with the toughest part yet to come.

It is prudent to take care with what you pack in terms of supplies and vehicle spares and how you plan to stow and carry them, for there is no easy way out for an injured traveller or a crippled vehicle if things go wrong.   For instance, the loss of a trailer or a roof rack will suddenly cramp your storage space by 20-30%.   Repatriation is expensive and your comfortable independence at the wheel vanishes abruptly once you need mechanical or worse, surgical help from another party who is extremely remote from where you are stuck (and your home, too) and isn't concerned you have to be back at work on Monday.  Early 1964 an American employed by Oilfield Caterers, the CGG camp contractors, came out from Brisbane to visit his client in a new Ford Falcon passenger sedan with 2-ply tyres fitted and to our amazement, made it clear past the Eyre Creek and into camp.  A couple of days later we found him nearly carked, broken down not 20 miles out on his homeward journey.  Lucky boy.

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This is a public service project published by the editor Kevin Murphy for the purpose of recounting the experiences of the French Line construction team.  The ideas and information expressed in these pages may not have been approved or authorised by any of the persons or companies or organisations featured either explicitly or impliedly within.