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Day 8: 20 December: Avon Downs to Cloncurry: (370 km)

Takeoff was at 7 45 am, and the 500 km journey to Cloncurry took three hours, averaging 100 mph, obviously with the help of favourable winds. The population gathered at the chosen airfield, being well informed by telegraph of the estimated time of arrival.

Mr Denman was the first to see the aircraft, the machine ‘seeming to be about the size of a magpie’. Gradually it grew larger, ‘passed over the town and sailed to the landing ground where it alighted gracefully’ amidst deafening cheers.

Lieutenant McGinness (who had been involved in the exploration of the northern route from Longreach to Darwin via Normanton) took a wing and guided the aircraft to a parking spot. Councillor Hensley welcomed the aviator, and presented Ross with an address (an elaborate manuscript message in a frame, which must still be retained somewhere). Ross Smith replied, telling of their recent adventures.

Cloncurry was the first major town reached by the airmen since leaving Darwin. The settlement was largely based on grazing and a large copper mine that had been established in 1867. It was quite a wealthy area and had been greatly boosted by the opening of the railway in 1907. From Cloncurry the world received definitive news of what had happened at Warlock Ponds and Cobb’s Creek, and here the Smiths learnt that they had been awarded knighthoods. Apparently one of the welcoming committee had knowledge of telegrams addressed to Sir Ross and Sir Keith Smith, and thus knew about the honour before the recipients did!

Newspaper report

Memento produced on silk for Sir Ross Smith and crew by Cloncurry Shire Council