Think the South Australia-Victoria border is a straight line?


Looking at a map, everyone would assume the border between Victoria and South Australia is a straight line.

But a century-old surveying mistake resulted in a 3.5km-wide sliver of disputed land between the two then-colonies that nearly sparked a war.

NSW and Victoria are divided by the winding route of the Murray River with the South Australia border running perpendicular.

That imaginary line was supposed to cut straight through, but instead ended up sliding west and north and caused a 60-year battle. 

Irish surveyors in 1847 (pictured) began a journey to determine the borders between South Australia and New South Wales, but incorrectly gave Victoria an extra 1,420 sq km of land

Irish surveyors in 1847 (pictured) began a journey to determine the borders between South Australia and New South Wales, but incorrectly gave Victoria an extra 1,420 sq km of land 

The border between Victoria and South Australia is not a straight divide (pictured), thanks to a surveying mistake in the 1800's

The border between Victoria and South Australia is not a straight divide (pictured), thanks to a surveying mistake in the 1800’s 

Australian YouTuber Julian O’Shea took a deep dive into the two state’s misplaced borders, claiming that it all began with a simple ‘141 degrees mistake’ in 1847.

When the British started forming colonies in Australia, they split NSW to create Victoria and South Australia.

But the three numbers that caused the bungle, was the decision to make the border separating SA and NSW at 141 degrees – leaving farmers to figure out the boundaries among themselves.

The first attempt in 1847 by Irish surveyors Henry Wade and Edward White, began on the coast with basic equipment using rocks and burned trees to determine each side of the border.

South Australia and Victoria paid for the Serviceton Railway, located in rural Victoria for the transport of important goods and services

South Australia and Victoria paid for the Serviceton Railway, located in rural Victoria for the transport of important goods and services 

After three gruelling years that saw White drink the blood of his horse, the pair defined the border from the coast of the Murray River.

The boundaries were drawn 3.35km north and 2.96km south, incorrectly giving Victoria and extra 1,420sqkm of land.

The pair’s mistake was discovered nearly 20 years later in 1868 when new telegraph technology emerged.

But it was too late for the two states, and they reached a stalemate with neither governments backing down on the border. 

Despite Serviceton (pictured) serving as an important role for South Australia and Victoria, their bitter dispute continued

Despite Serviceton (pictured) serving as an important role for South Australia and Victoria, their bitter dispute continued  

Victoria was given an extra 1,420 sq km of land by Irish surveryors, sparking their long fued with South Australia

Victoria was given an extra 1,420 sq km of land by Irish surveryors, sparking their long fued with South Australia 

In an attempt to rectify the state’s mutual hostility, they built a railway to connect the two colonies – a train station they both agreed to pay for.

The Serviceton Railway station is still standing in the small rural town of Serviceton in Victoria, with a population of 120 people.

Despite the station serving an important role to transport good and services, the border rivalry between the states continued.

Henry Bournes Higgins confirmed in the High Court that the borders could not be changed despite technological advancements

Henry Bournes Higgins confirmed in the High Court that the borders could not be changed despite technological advancements 

The 64-year-old conflict came to a head, when the SA Government announced they would send in their own surveyors to subdivide the land.

Victoria saw this as an act of war and said they would be treated as trespassers and arrested.

So the states took their battle to the High Court, which ruled in favour of Victoria. 

The court also confirmed that the border was at 141 degrees and couldn’t be changed despite advancements in technology.

Finally on January 28 1914, the dispute was resolved.

The borders of NSW, SA and VIC now connect via the 11km of the Murray River, but still aren’t crystal clear.

Victoria agreed that the entirety of the river was in NSW, defining the border with NSW from the river’s southern bank.

Once again, still it’s ambiguous which state has sole control over the Murray River beyond the southern border, making it a legal grey area for authorities.

The ownership of the Murray River beyond the southern border (pictured: river shaded in blue) remains ambiquous, creating a legal grey area for authorities

The ownership of the Murray River beyond the southern border (pictured: river shaded in blue) remains ambiquous, creating a legal grey area for authorities 



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Written by bourbiza

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