Meeline Astrocamps

For several years during the early 1990's, the Murdoch Astronomical Society journeyed to Meeline Station for observing camps of up to a week in duration. Meeline station is a sheep station some 650km north east of Perth in Western Australia. For observing it is almost unbeatable. The station is a little over 100,000 acres in size and the nearest neighbouring homestead is just over 40km away. There is no light visible at all as the nearest town in Mt Magnet, a small mining town of about 500, and is about 50km away. The annual rainfall is around 8 inches per year so cloud is rarely a problem.

While staying at the station, members would stay in the shearer's quarters, which meant there were beds, a fridge, and cooking facilities available.

Showers were also available although there required a fire to be lit under the water heater first!

Telescopes were set up close to the shearer's quarters, in a large open area.

Sometimes the observing area would be moved to another area so that the open area could be used for games, however most times observers would be too busy sleeping after a long night observing! Sometimes observers would get a little carried away!!

The skies were unbelieveable! The usual limiting magnutude was 7.2 with once reaching 7.5! The Milky Way near Scorpius was so bright that it would cast clear shadows on the ground.

For the first two years, there were a large number of members attending the camps.

Unfortunately, after a couple of years many of the members finished their studies at the university and moved away. Very few of the newer members had much interest is driving all that distance "just for observing". As a result, the number of people attending the camps dwindled and after 6 years they were discontinued. The last one was held during May 1997 to observe the eta aquarid meteor shower and comet Hale-Bopp, which had recently reappeared low on the western horizon for south hemisphere observers. On this occassion, 6 members made the effort to attend, although only 3 of them stayed for more than 2 nights. In reality, one of the main problems was that people just did not want to leave all of their creature comforts such as telephones, TV's and the like.

Since 1997, a couple of members have visited the station for a few nights for particular observing projects, but no organized group visits have been held. Virtually none of the members who attended the Meeline camps are left in the society, while the new members have no idea of what it is like to be on one. To my mind these people have missed out on a great experience. The camps were a great time of fun and observing with no distractions. All observers should make the effort to attend at least one astrocamp in their lives.