We need to see this incident in perspective. It’s worth …

Comment on Did Wilfred and Gisela Thor have to die? by Alex Nelson.

We need to see this incident in perspective. It’s worth noting that over the years the demographic that has suffered by far the worst casualties in Central Australia from dehydration and heat exposure are Aboriginal people, even entire families have perished.
These incidents invariably occurred in conditions of extreme heat and arose from the bogging or breakdown of poorly maintained vehicles while travelling in remote areas, with insufficient or no provision of food and water for their journeys, however they were never lost in the sense of not knowing where they were located.
By comparison there are very few visitors to this region that have died in such conditions. By far the greater risk that tourists face are traffic accidents, they suffer far more often from road fatalities in the outback than from dying of thirst and heat. This has never dissuaded tourists from travelling here.

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Did Wilfred and Gisela Thor have to die?
Only the week before the tragedy that befell Wilfred and Gisela Thor an injured German woman in her 50s (who had slipped and broken her leg) was found in the Valley of the Winds walk at Katatjuta and was physically carried out by local tour guide David Sargaent during a scorching hot day.
She was lucky, other tourists have perished there before.
Over the years German visitors seem slightly more prone to this kind of misfortune than other nationalities.
The first to suffer this fate (that I’m aware of) was Ms Iris Kadau, who disappeared soon after her arrival in Alice Springs in early November 1983. She was last seen cycling to Simpsons Gap and there was an extensive search for her as far afield as Glen Helen without success.
A witness reported having seen Ms Kadau riding back to Alice Springs which led to the search being suspended and fears that she may have met with foul play. However, in early February 1984 a helicopter pilot flying over Bond Springs Station sighted a bicycle close to the Stuart Highway about 25km north of town, and upon closer inspection found Ms Kadau’s body attached to it.
Whether she had taken a wrong turn or not is conjecture but the subsequent coronial inquiry found she had perished from exposure and heat exhaustion.
Another example, this time a 60 year old British woman perished from heat exhaustion on a 40C day on the rim walk at Kings Canyon in late January 2003.
Having written all this, it’s important to stress these kinds of events are very rare.
In addition to the obvious risks taken when venturing outdoors in extremely hot conditions, it’s probably also the case that newly arrived visitors (especially from overseas) are likely to be disoriented when they arrive.
I know from my experience what this is like – as a lifetime resident in Central Australia I don’t have any difficulty finding my way with a clear sense of direction but when I travelled to Europe in 2008 I found myself completely disoriented for the first week. That was no problem to cope with over there but here in the bush only a short distance from town this could quickly prove lethal.

Recent Comments by Alex Nelson

Federal study casts light on future source of town water
Our family visited the Rocky Hill lucerne operation in the early 1970s when an open day for the public was held there. It continued to operate throughout the 1970s but was long abandoned by the mid 1980s.
I still have in my possession the Primary Industry flow charts for the development of the horticulture industry in Central Australia from the mid 1980s onwards, courtesy of permission from then Horticulture Senior Technical Officer, Frank McEllister.
One aspect stood out for me, there was no mention of potential horticulture development at Rocky Hill.
I inquired of this with Frank, and he told me that area was excluded from consideration because it was reserved as the future water supply for Alice Springs.
This was at a time when it was still expected the town’s population would reach 50,000 by the turn of the century and the NT Government had officially announced the development of a satellite town on Undoolya Station would proceed.
All of this is now forgotten but history always comes back to bite us in the end.

Cops hush up dangerous joyride
I witnessed a similar incident that evening too, which I think was the same vehicle.
I was walking on the footpath next to the ANZ Bank along Parsons Street when this utility came screeching around the corner from Todd Street and raced towards the Leichhardt Terrace intersection.
The utility turned left and charged up towards Wills Terrace where I lost sight of it.
When I got to the corner of Leichhardt Terrace, I observed the utility speeding over the Wills Terrace Causeway where it spun around the Sturt Terrace roundabout, tyres screeching, and then charged back along the causeway onto Wills Terrace past the Todd Tavern, when I again lost sight of it.
Despite being a block away from most of the action I witnessed, I had no difficulty hearing the young hooligans yelling and shouting. They were clearly defiant and rebellious, and deliberately challenging authorities.
Presumably they felt they had nothing to lose by indulging in this behaviour and were heedless of the possible consequences of their actions.

A good spot for the art gallery?
Hal, this is just the latest attempt to re-purpose Anzac Oval as a village green, first proposed by the Alice Springs Town Council in 1979 and firmly resisted by the rugby codes (and especially by John Reeves, then ALP Alice Springs branch president, rugby league president, elected as alderman on the town council, and not long afterwards elected as Member for the Northern Territory. He is now a Federal Court judge.).
The village green concept was tried again in 1994 when the ASTC attempted to relocate the rugby codes to the Ross Park Oval, enticed there by the promise of lighting to facilitate games at night; and stoutly resisted and defeated by local Eastside residents, led by the Eastside Residents’ Association of which I was then a committee member.
And now here we go again …
Quite apart from the old high school complex, Anzac Oval itself is of considerable historical value as it is the first turfed sports oval in the NT and it was established entirely as a community effort over the summer of 1951-52 – no government assistance involved.
Part of that work was done by the town’s children who were organised by the new Youth Centre into an emu parade on one weekend that cleared the whole area of rocks and sticks.
Ah yes, the bad old days of Commonwealth control.

A good spot for the art gallery?
A follow-up to my previous comment, I’m informed that the asbestos has been removed from the old Anzac Hill High School complex so that is not an issue for the use of those buildings.
I’ve no doubt that old school site is of considerable historical importance to Alice Springs. Nothing should be done to remove them until that history is assessed. There should be no return to the situation that existed in our town in the 1980s, which in fact was the origin of heritage protection legislation in the Northern Territory.

A good spot for the art gallery?
@ Hal Duell (Posted March 10, 2018 at 10:53 am): It probably is the case there is asbestos in the buildings, Hal, but the place has been in use for a variety of roles since its construction in 1952 and I’ve never heard of anyone contracting asbestosis from that place or any other of similar age in Alice Springs.
I’m rather suspicious that asbestos is suddenly being raised now, it’s strongly reminiscent of the “concrete cancer” that became the excuse for the demolition of the legendary Hotel Darwin in 1999.
Hmm, are we witnessing history repeating – the old CLP regime overseeing the destruction of a city centre landmark in Darwin almost 20 years ago, and the current Labor government seeking to do the same for a historically valuable education landmark in Alice Springs? (Maybe it’s relevant to note the CLP government in 1999 had 18 members, as does the current Labor government. Warning! That big majority didn’t save the CLP from losing office for the first time at the next Territory elections in 2001).
The fact is the old Alice Springs Upper Primary School cum original Alice Springs High School cum Community College of Central Australia cum Anzac Hill High School complex is in remarkably good – and I note there is some use being made of it at present, too.

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