A Brisbane seismic survey operator, the Paris-based Compagnie Generale de Geophysique (CGG) was given the job in 1963 by French Petroleum (TOTAL) to chart Australia's Simpson Desert for geophysical prospects, and work began in the Hamilton Creek region of northern South Australia in April that year. Ultimately CGG was to break through from Dalhousie to Birdsville via Poeppels Corner, working all the way along as they built the French Line.
Because CGG's road is virtually straight across the middle of the Simpson, drivers today can take their chances on which direction to take - and there are interesting detours along the length of the French Line to add to the variety of journeys that can be undertaken. It is noteworthy that every other access road used in the desert today is an offshoot of CGG's original Line B.
The oilmen of CGG went months without rain in the desert from July 1st 1963 and didn't get their first drop until about March 1964 when they were well east of the moody Mulligan, yet still they were stymied by flooding on both sides on separate occasions during that period - while skies above remained azure blue or otherwise cast over them a blanket of grey that threatened, without delivering rain at all. On completing the initial survey on Hamilton Creek, it was planned to work as far as Erabena along Line B (the original name of the French Line) and then withdraw. The next goal was to perform another survey of the eastern desert perimeter, poking in from the Birdsville side before advancing up the Eyre Creek to work a sector in the Channel Country towards Boulia.
CGG had every intention of evacuating along Line B and retreating up Spring Creek to Dalhousie from whence they had started out. Then it was hoped to take the easy path south and in just a few days skirt around Lake Eyre and travel on up the Birdsville Track to the area of the next seismic survey commitment centred around the old Alton Downs homestead, but like clockwork the Diamantina and Coopers Creek Autumn run-of-waters put a stop to that. The party chiefs considered pushing CGG's road through past Poeppel, seeing all the earthmoving equipment was in place and the CGG camp was midway through the desert anyway. Then abruptly, the Finke came up too, cutting off the established line of supply from the west. That sealed the issue totally. A way had to be carved all the way to the Birdsville-Bedourie road and as the map on the Home Page shows, CGG chose a slightly different course onwards from Poeppel to that used by contemporary travellers and expediently surveyed the Channel Country prospect earlier than planned.
In no event shall the editor Kevin Murphy or his former workmates of the French Line construction team be liable for any damages whatsoever resulting from any action arising in connection with the use of this information or its publication, including any action for infringement of copyright or defamation.