The longest serving and toughest Mercedes-Benz passenger vehicle in production, the G-Class, will take on the longest and toughest stock route in the world, the Canning Stock Route located in Western Australia.
This remote location will play host to a group of International and Australian media who will put the Mercedes-Benz G 350 BlueTEC and the rugged GProfessional (which is under evaluation for Australia) through their paces on this famous stock route. Other than the tyres, the vehicles do not stray from their standard showroom specification.
Labelled by many experts as one of the toughest off-road journeys in the world, the Canning Stock Route stretches over 2,000 kilometres in length and takes some 14 days to complete.
The fourteen day drive kicks off in Perth on July 28, 2011 when the first group of media and support crew fly to Wiluna for the first seven day leg of this 14 epic off-road challenge.
The Managing Director, Mercedes-Benz Cars Australia/Pacific, Mr Horst von Sanden said “This modern retracing of the steps of the early Western Australian explorers needed a vehicle that was going to be up to the task of taking on the inhospitable and dangerous (when not prepared) but dramatically beautiful far north of WA. Just as the G-Class has stayed true to its unique heritage, we wanted to demonstrate the unique heritage and challenge of the far north of WA, the Canning Stock Route delivers that and more.”
The Australian outback has a rich history where the early explorers risked and in some cases lost their lives in opening up some of the largest sparsely populated regions. It is easy to be entranced by the raw beauty and majesty of the outback and to forget just how inhospitable it is to be so far away from the services and comforts we take for granted.
“The G-Class is more than up to the challenge of taking on this terrain and environment without punishing the drivers and passengers. I can’t think of anywhere else that would challenge the G-Class quite as comprehensively as the Canning Stock Route.
When we launched the G-Class earlier this year we more than demonstrated the off-road capability of the vehicle in Tasmania, The Canning Stock Route gives us an opportunity to further cement, showcase and demonstrate the G-Class’ off-road credentials in some of the most rugged and remote regions of the world. We have chosen to do what we believe no other manufacturer has chosen to do and that is – the Canning Stock Route from start to finish. This trek is the perfect G-Class challenge”, concluded Mr von Sanden.
To follow the Canning Stock Route trip and access daily updates visit www.mercedes-benz.com.au/csr
History of the Canning Stock Route
In the late 19th century the Carnegie and Calvert expeditions unsuccessfully and at the cost of a few of the explorer’s lives explored the route that would later become known as the Canning Stock Route. David Carnegie later wrote that the route could not be used as a stock route as it was “too barren and destitute of vegetation”. Despite the loss of life and the scandal that followed some of the events on these expeditions the need for such a stock route was very high.
Less than a decade later at the turn of the 20th century the cattlemen in the East Kimberley region were still looking for a way to bring their cattle to market in Perth, Western Australia (WA) and to the goldfields in the south. They wanted to break a west Kimberley monopoly that controlled the supply of beef to Perth and the Goldfields. The East Kimberley cattle were infected with a malaria-like parasitic disease carried by ticks. The cattle were not permitted to be transported by sea due to a fear that the ticks would survive the journey and spread. This gave West Kimberley cattlemen a monopoly on the beef trade and resulted in high prices for their herds.
In 1905 an East Kimberley’s beef farmer and Member of the WA Parliament, James Isdell started lobbying for the exploration and establishment of a route through the desert for cattle.
The West Australian Government supported the proposal and appointed Alfred Canning a surveyor from their Department of Lands and Survey to survey the proposed route. It wasn’t just a matter of surveying the route though. The availability of water would be crucial to the successful future operation of the route. From 1908 to 1910 canning and his crew managed to find water and sink 52 wells that could be used by the cattlemen to water their cattle along the way. In 1906, with a team of 23 camels, two horses and eight men, Canning surveyed the route completing the difficult journey from Wiluna to Halls Creek in less than six months. On 1 November 1906, shortly after arriving in Halls Creek, Canning sent a telegram to Perth stating that the finished route would “be about the best watered stock route in the colony”. Canning was forced to delay his return journey because of an early wet season in the Kimberley that year. The survey party left Halls Creek in late January 1907 and arrived back in Wiluna in early July 1907. During the 14-month expedition, they had trekked about 4,000 km (2,500 mi), relying on Aboriginal guides to help them find water.
After a period of rest and refurbishment of supplies Canning left Perth in March 1908, along with 30 men, 70 camels, four wagons, 100 tonnes of food and equipment and 267 goats (for milk and meat), travelled the route again to commence the construction of well heads and water troughs at the 54 water sources identified by his earlier expedition. Canning arrived back in Wiluna in April 1910 having completed the last of 48 wells in 1910 bringing the total cost of the route to £22000 (2010: $A2.6 million).
Canning provided a detailed map to the Department of Lands and Survey of the stock route, The plan of Wiluna–Kimberley stock route exploration (showing positions of wells constructed 1908–9 and 10) on which he also recorded his observations of the land and water sources along the route. The map has become a symbol of Australia’s pioneering history.
Commercial droving along the stock route began in 1910. The first few droves were of small groups of horses — the first started out with 42 horses of which only nine survived the journey. On the 7th of September 1911 it was reported that the first mob of cattle to traverse the entire length of the stock route had successfully arrived in Wiluna. The cattle had apparently gained condition on the long drove which increased their value at market.
Drovers were afraid to use the track and it was rarely used for almost 20 years. Between 1911 and 1931, only eight mobs of cattle were driven along the Canning Stock Route. However despite Canning’s good work between 1910 and the late 1920’s the route had little use and started to fall into disrepair. A 1928 Royal Commission into the price of beef in Western Australia led to the decision to repair and re-open the stock route. In 1930, Alfred Canning (then aged 70) was brought out of retirement and commissioned to reopen and repair the work. Canning successfully completed the commissioned work in 1931 and then the route was used regularly until the late 1950’s. With these improvements, the route was only used on 37 recorded cattle drives between 1910 and the last run in 1959. None of the larger cattle station owners used the track as it was found that only 600 head of cattle could be supported at a time, which were 200 less than was estimated when first completed.
The first vehicle to travel the Canning Stock Route was in 1925 when Michael Terry travelled from Billinula to Well 48. Four years later in 1929 two surveyors transversed the route by vehicle between Wiluna to Well 11.
During the Second World War the track was upgraded at considerable expense in case it was needed for an evacuation of the north if Australia was invaded.
Interestingly it wasn’t until 1968 that a vehicle driven by a surveyor drove the full length of the Canning Stock Route. Following this there were more vehicle trips but until a fuel drop off point was established at Well 23 in the 1980’s that the Canning Stock Route gained in popularity amongst recreational four wheel drivers.