About This Website   |   Who Am I?   |   Site Map   |   Music   |   Contact Me










Woomera:  A Modern Day Ghost Town

(Reprint from News: March 8, 2002)

March 6, 2002


After driving for a few hours on the nearly-empty Stuart Highway, I pulled off shortly before noon and drove into the town of Woomera.  I didn't realize it at the time, but Woomera would be the first of many bizarre things that I'd see in the Outback.  


Back in the days of the Cold War, the U.S. government decided that they needed a large area of empty land to test-fire rockets and to closely track their progress.  So with the help of the Australian government, they set up a base here and built a town which they called Woomera (an Aborigine word meaning "Stuck in the middle of nowhere") to house the employees.  At one time back in the 1950s, over 3,000 people lived in Woomera and up until 1982, the city was closed to all visitors.  It was something like a "Los Alamos in the Outback," I suppose.  Workers in Woomera had all the creature comforts of modern life, though, including a nice public swimming pool, an air-conditioned bowling alley, and leafy streets lined with modern, suburban houses -- all surrounded by hundreds of miles of nothing.


The base has been gradually phased out, however, and today it's all but closed.  Only 300 people are left in Woomera and by the time you read this, that may be down to 200.  I strolled around this rather bizarre town in the middle of the desert for a while and got a pretty eerie feeling.  It's a bit unsettling to walk down a nice suburban street while knowing that just about every house is vacant.  I'll give it credit, though, because Woomera isn't quitting and the folks in this nice, modern community are struggling to hold on.  


I walked into the empty Visitor Center and talked for about 20 minutes with a pleasant woman about the town.  She was 25 years old and had lived in Woomera her entire life, but wasn't sure what the future held for her and her young daughter.  "I remember what it used to be like a few years ago when all the American families lived here," she said.  "Everything's closed down now and it's kind of sad."  It was indeed.


2-2535_Woomera_Rockets.jpg (43357 bytes)    2-2541_Empty_Streets_of_Woomera.jpg (29414 bytes)   

Above left:  Rockets on display at Woomera.

Above center:  The empty streets of Woomera.

Above right:  Woomera's shopping center has seen better (and livelier) days.


Home > Travels (2001-02) > Story List > Australia Stories > Woomera: A Modern Day Ghost Town