Category Archives: Geology

Kalbarri and Perth

Thursday 3rd to Saturday 5th October 2013

This was a very long day! We drove almost 550 miles and were still 9 miles short of Kalbarri. We set off at 7:15, filled up at Meekatharra, turned off the Great Northern Highway at Mount Magnet, passed through Yalgoo and Mullewa to the North West Coastal Highway and then almost to Kalbarri, getting to the camp site after 5.

Between Mullewa and the North West Coastal Highway we spotted several blue tongued, fat tailed lizards crossing the road. We managed to avoid squashing any of them but when we stopped to look at them they showed no appreciation and showed us their teeth.

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.

Kalbarri1
Geological map of the Kalbarri area. Get the full size HERE

We camped at the camp ground at Murchison House Station, on the banks of the Murchison River. This was Chris’s favourite camp site but i thought it was too sandy.

Kalbarri Campsite-2-Edit-Edit
View of the Murchison River from our tent.

Friday 4th October 2013

It was obvious that we were getting nearer Perth. All about were more people than we were used to seeing. It was the Perth schools half-term and many of them were taking the break in Kalbarri!

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.

We drove to Nature’s Window in Kalbarri National Park. The road crews had mistimed their work and were finishing off extensive roadworks in the park. As a result there were long waits while graders ran along the roads. The visitor facilities at the car park were still being built; the car park was full and there were more people about than i had seen in any National Park!

Nature's Window
The valley of the Murchison at Nature’s Window.
Nature's Window
People walking along the ridge at Nature’s Window. This ridge is the neck where the Murchison forms a loop.

Most of the people we saw seemed to be families with kids. I suspected that the country around us was as wild as Australia was going to get for them. We felt we were very experienced bush walkers!

Nature's Window
Chris and me at Nature’s Window

However an advantage of lots of people about was that a nice lady took the picture above! This is Nature’s Window which appears on countless postcards i Western Australia.

Nature's Window
The Silurian Tumblagooda Sandstone is colourful and rather soft.
Nature's Window
Nature’s Window is not the only hole in the ridge!

We had intended to go to the Z-bends, also in the park, but the agony of following slow moving cars along the dirt roads decided us to head into town.

Kalbarri Lookout-2-Edit
View of Kalbarri and the mouth of the Murchison River

We drove up to a lookout to view Kalbarri, took a photo and went into town for lunch. Then southwards along the coast where we called in at a bird sanctuary called Rainbow Jungle. This was rather better than we expected – the birds seemed very well looked after.

Rainbow Jungle
Green-winged Macaws at Rainbow Jungle

Then back to camp for supper and a last night under canvas!

Saturday 5th October 2013

It was almost 400 miles back to Perth. It was strange to have to deal with other traffic on the road!

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.

On the outskirts of Kalbarri we looked for whales at Natural Bridge lookout and saw some dolphins, but the cliffs made a better picture.

Natural Bridge Lookout
The Natural Bridge carved in Tumblagooda Sandstone

We continued south stopping to look at the Pink Lake which really was pink! The pinkness is caused by Dunaliella salina and is harvested by drug and cosmetic companies.

Pink Lake
The Pink Lake

We pressed on stopping for fuel at Geraldton  and eventually got to Julie’s where we got a warm welcome!

Marble Bar

Monday 30th September to Wednesday 2nd October 2013

Did about 240 miles today, much along empty dirt roads after we turned off the Great Northern highway. The route from the highway to Marble Bar is featured in a publication of the Geological Survey of Western Australia called “Discovery Trails to Early Earth” by Martin Julian Van Kranendonk and J. F. Johnston (ISBN 1741682452, 9781741682458). A file, which can be opened with Google Earth, detailing the sites mentioned in the book, can be found HERE. Further information about the book can be got HERE. This latter link is probably the only place you can get the book from.

Marble Bar1
Geology map of Marble Bar area, with our routes. Get the original size HERE.

HERE is the route and pictures of today’s trip. Open with Google Earth.

Once we left the highway our first geological stop was to look at a granite tor which was not far off the road.

Granite tors
A granite tor – part of the Yule Granitic Complex

Great batholiths of very ancient granite are characteristic of this part of the Pilbara. They are almost 3 billion years old and are easily seen on Google Earth.

Marble Bar Granites
Granites of the East Pilbara, with some other features of geologic interest.

The tors are the most prominent features in a flat landscape.

Granite tors
Granite tors

Up close they become much more interesting. They are a pile of huge almost spherical boulders with lots of interesting grottos between the boulders. Many have petroglyphs, although we did not see any.

Granite tors
Chris on one of the tors.

The next geologic excitement was when we came upon the Black Range dykes. there is one prominent one – labelled in the Google Earth extract above – but if you zoom in to the area you will find several others with the same trend. The next photos are of a relatively minor one, but even this is pretty big!

Dolerite dyke
One of the Black Range dykes. It forms a linear ridge with blocks of dolerite running down its flanks.

The age of these dykes is considerable – 2.77 billion years. The amount of material in the dykes must be huge. The main dyke is 70 km long and 250 metres wide. They are thought to be the feeders for the Mount Roe Basalt at the base of the Fortescue Group.

Dolerite dyke
A closer view of the dolerite dyke.

The injection of so much material up and along this dyke had a great influence at the tip of the crack formed by the injection of magma. Even a crack as big as this has to have an end and this is seen at our next stop.

This was where the road crosses a stream at the end of the Black Range. All of the dyke is south of this spot. The crack which allowed the magma injection ends here. And here there is an unusual conglomerate. The big blocks are rounded but the small fragments are angular. In a normal, water lain, conglomerate it would be the other way around. In a normal conglomerate the smaller fragments have been transported farther and therefore would be more rounded. There are some small rounded basalt pebbles present.

Unusual conglomerate
The conglomerate at the tip of the Black Range

It is thought that the conglomerate was formed as a result of the emplacement of the Black Range dyke. As it was injected into its fracture it grew a fracture in front of it. this would be full of hot gases from the dolerite, groundwater and granite boulders plucked from the sides of the fracture. The gases and groundwater would form high pressure steam which milled the boulders making them round. The milled fragments would be angular. At a late stage some basalt clasts entered the mix. Then it stopped and what was there consolidated into what we see now.

Unusual conglomerate
The unusual conglomerate. There are some basalt fragments, especially below the triangular boulder on the left. Note the chert on the middle right.

After a few more geological stops we continued to Marble Bar and got a powered site at the caravan park.

Tuesday 1st October 2013

Today turned out to be a long drive but we did see some nice geology.

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.

We started by going to the terrestrial equivalent of a black hole! This is in the Warrawoona Syncline, found between the Mount Edgar Granite and the Corunna Downs Granite. As these granite domes rose, the heavy greenstones, through which they rose, slid off the tops and down the sides. As the older rocks went down, the younger ones rose and, as a result the greenstones were stretched vertically. You can see the position of these unusual rocks in the Google Earth extract above.

Greenstone stretched vertically
Vertically stretched greenstone

These greenstones are not very green! In fact they are felsic volcanics (quartz rich lavas, probably) but the whole sequence in which they appear contain lots of more basic lavas, which weather green and these give their name to the whole.

Greenstone stretched vertically
A closer view of the stretched rocks.

Unlike a black hole this process did not go on for ever – it eventually froze preserving a very unusual rock.

These are very old rocks – 3.45 to 3.31 billion years old. the granites are not much younger – about 3.3 billion.

We then decided that we would like to go for a swim and decided thar Carawine Pool was the place. We must have been blasé about distances by this stage the round trip distance between Marble Bar and the pool is about 235 miles! But it seemed a good idea at the time. And we did have the consolation of having our geological guide book to inform us of what we were passing through.

Nullagine1
Geological map of our trip to Carawine Pool. Download the full size version HERE.

The highlight of the trip was a look at some stromatolitic limestone.

Stromatolitic limestone
Stromatolitic limestone on the way to Carawine Pool.

This is part of the Tumbiana Formation which is about 2.72 billion years old. These were once thought to be the evidence for the earliest life on earth but, not far away, there exist stromatolites which are 3.4 billion years old. Dealing with such ancient rocks it takes a little thought to remember that there is 680 million years between the two!

While I was at the outcrop a road train passed by. It was carrying manganese from the Woodie Woodie mine to Port Hedland – a round trip distance of 465 miles. It is along tarred roads all the way but it still must be quite a job. It is slightly less than the distance from Bristol to Aberdeen. Seeing this shows how essential the railway from Newman to Port Hedland was. How many trucks per day would be required to get a quarter a million tons to the port?

Road train passing our car
Manganese road train on its way from Woodie Woodie to Port Hedland.

We pressed on and eventually got to Carawine Pool. As a swimming hole it was a bit of a disappointment. A recent flood had cleared a lot of the vegetation and deposited a vast quantity of gravel so it was a bit bleak. But there was a lot of water in the pool – it is actually a part of the Oakover River.

Carawine Pool
Carawine Pool.

The rock on the other side of the pool is the Carawine Dolomite – 2.55 billion years old.

After our swim in the rather murky water we returned to Marble Bar and had a welcome drink in the Ironclad Hotel.

Wednesday 3rd October 2013

By this stage we had determined that we would be back in Perth on Saturday so we had long distances to cover. We would drive to Perth from Kalbarri. It would take one overnight stop to get there and there are few attractive places en route, so we decided to wild camp when the time and place looked right.

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open with Google Earth.

But first we needed to see THE “marble bar”. This bar across the local river is what gives the place its name.

Marble Bar
The “marble bar”

The first Europeans to look at this knew a little about rocks and called them marble. Later people recognised them as being made of silica, not calcium carbonate and so called them chert. Red chert has a little haematite (iron oxide) as impurity and is called jasper. The blue-black chert has pyrite and carbonaceous impurities. Chert without impurities is white.

Marble Bar
Chert showing regular banding

The bedding indicates that these were originally laid down as sediments. They have been tilted and are actually overturned.

Marble Bar
Lots of jasper

The rocks may have started as sediments but that was not the end of the story. The sediment laid down was nothing like the rock we see now. It seems that they started out as a limestone! (So Marble Bar was not completely wrong!) Then silica bearing sea-water circulated into the crust, was heated up by the underlying granites and transformed the limestone to chert. It was not a passive process – the hot fluids returning to the surface, besides transforming the rock, fractured it. You can follow regularly banded chert into zones where it is broken and disrupted.

Marble Bar
Regularly banded chert and fractured chert just above Chris’s toe.
Marble Bar
More disrupted chert

You are not allowed to collect specimens at this site, so we drove along the strike to a spot where someone has dynamited some blocks off a cliff face and there we collected a nice specimen.

Then to the Comet Gold Mine which was once a very profitable venture but now exists as a purveyor of tourist stuff. Chris was hoping for a gold nugget pendant but settled for some jasper earrings. I got a T-shirt.

Then it was a long slog southwards. The road past Nullagine was dirt for most of the way. Nearer Newman it was tarred as there was a lot of mining activity. I think a new BHP iron ore mine is being developed here.

We did some shopping in Newman and continued on our way. In late afternoon we started looking for a suitable site for wild camping and eventually found a suitable spot a few hundred yards off a side road.

Our first wild camp
Chris at our wild camp site

And there we spent a quiet night beneath the stars.

Karajini Part II

Friday 27th  to Sunday 29th September 2013

A long drive today – more than 400 miles. A lot of it was along dirt roads and, as we got near Tom Price, along roads being used by heavy mine construction equipment.

At Tom Price we refuelled, bought food and wine and then headed for Karijini Eco Camp. There we got the same site as we had last time which felt like coming home -almost!

HERE is our route from Exmouth to Karijini. View with Google Earth. Also tomorrows route and pictures.

Karijini2
Part of our route from beyond Exmouth to the Eco-camp at Karijini

Saturday 28th

Today we decided to revisit Knox Gorge but to go downstream when we got there, instead of upstream as we had done last time.

But first we went to the lookout over Joffre Gorge.

Joffre Gorge
The Joffre Gorge Amphitheatre from the lookout. We swam there on our previous visit.

And if we look the other way – – –

Joffre Gorge
Looking downstream – the view from the Joffre Gorge lookout

HERE is the route and pictures of today’s trip. Also the route we took yesterday.

Then we continued our drive to Knox Gorge and descended the steep slope to the stream.

Knox Gorge
Chris descending the scree into Knox Gorge. We headed left – downstream when we got to the bottom.

It was fairly easy walking and we were able to wave to people on the lookout far above us.

Knox Gorge
In Knox Gorge. Note the people in the lookout (top left)

After a bit of easy scrambling we got to the end of the tourist route and contemplated the serious stuff.

Knox Gorge
The debouchment of Knox Gorge into Red Gorge. This carries part of the Fortescue River on its way to Wittenoom, Millstream-Chichester and the sea.

The man in the photo above runs trips into the difficult parts of the gorge. He supplies ropes, harnesses and hardware for descending the steep places. You have to supply a certain level of fitness and several hundred dollars.

While we were there he tried to persuade a couple of young guys to book him for the next day. He glanced at us and passed by with a smile.

Knox Gorge
Just before you get to the end of the easy bit you pass this lovely pool which is great for cooling off. We met a couple of Italian guys who were having a break from working at Karratha.

On our way back up the gorge we took time to look at the rocks. In many places they look like a construction of Roman tiles.

Knox Gorge
The Brockman Iron Formation looking like stacked Roman tiles.

We were able to see the lookout from a different direction.

Knox Gorge
The lookout from inside Knox Gorge

When we got to the exit of the gorge we decided to continue upstream to the swimming hole we discovered last time we were here.

Knox Gorge
Knox Gorge swimming hole
Knox Gorge
Chris at the swimming hole. I presume a waterfall comes down here in the wet.

It is a lovely spot and we stayed here for a couple of hours. Two couples arrived, swam, moved on and came back. The confirmed that this is the best bit!

Knox Gorge
View from the swimming hole, Knox Gorge.

Eventually we moved back to camp, caught up with our emails and bank account at reception, then had a nice supper at the reception.

To end what had been a very good day, a playful breeze caught a contact lens as I took it out and it disappeared. If you find it (Site 90 at the Eco camp) let me know! Thankfully I had my spare so all was not lost!

Sunday 29th

By Western Australian standards today’s trip was a short jaunt – only 112 miles! It was to Hamersley Gorge which is in the north west corner of Karijini National Park, but you have to go out of the park to get there.

HERE is today’s route and photos. Open in Google Earth.

Hamersley Gorge is impressive. there is a new approach road, parking, toilets and a lookout. Geologically it is impressive with some rather impressive folding and a very good demonstration of competent and incompetent beds. But more of this excitement anon!

Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge from the lookout. For scale note the people in the bottom of the gorge.

The upper walls of the gorge are folded and the thin beds show this very well. Note the whitish rock near the top of the gorge. These are thought to have had the iron removed from them by the action of humic acid produced when the local vegetation was steamy jungle! The iron was deposited in the colourful rocks below.

Hamersley Gorge
Folded beds in Hamersley Gorge.

But the lower beds are not folded – they are dipping but, if they are folded, it is on a much grander scale than can be seen here.

Hamersley Gorge
Folded upper beds resting on unfolded lower beds. Note the white rocks at the top and the colourful ones below.
Hamersley Gorge
Another view of the incompetent upper beds resting on the competent lower beds.

 

One speculates that when the area came under sideways pressure the weaker beds crumpled while the stronger ones did not – the difference between competent and incompetent beds. So the incompetent beds folded and therefore became shorter; the competent ones did not fold and retained their length. So there must be a slide between the two – a fault parallel to the strata.

The gorge gives several swimming places, separated into pools.

Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge
Hamersley Gorge
Another pool at Hamersley Gorge

We enjoyed our time at the gorge but soon we drove back to our camp. The next day we would be on our way to Marble Bar.

Hamersley Gorge
Chris swimming a Hamersley Gorge.

Ningaloo

Saturday 21st to Thursday 26th September 2013

This was our fastest start – up at 6:30 and on the road at 8!

We first went to the Burrup Peninsula which is, nowadays, an awkward mix of ultra modern oil and gas facilities (pipelines from offshore fields come ashore here), and timeless aboriginal art. We, of course, were after the art but were rather disappointed. Perhaps we were at the wrong place, or did not venture far enough, but what we saw was not as good as what we saw near Newman. I don’t have any decent photos so will have to leave you with a gas flare!

Gas Flare
Gas flare seen fro the Aboriginal art area on the Burrup Peninsula

HERE is a link to our route and photos taken between Dampier and Exmouth.

Yardie1
Part of our route from Dampier to Exmouth

The route was long and tedious – lots and lots of not very much.

Exmouth1
Part of our route from Dampier to the Exmouth area

It did become more interesting as we drove up North West Cape along Exmouth Gulf. There are some expensive looking properties with boat anchorages.

 

Ningaloo Saturday
Detail of our route in the Exmouth Peninsula

When we got to Exmouth we stopped at the Visitor Centre and booked a bungalow at the Lighthouse Caravan Park seventeen km beyond the town – we fancied a bit of luxury and wanted to be assured of our bed before driving onwards.

We were told that accommodation in the Cape Range National Park, if you have not booked in advance, is assigned on a first come, first served basis at the camp entrance, when the ranger comes on duty at 9 in the morning.

Then into town to get some supplies. At the Caravan Park we signed in and settled into our nice bungalow.

Sunday 22nd September

We got to the Ranger station at 8:30 and joined the queue. 45 minutes later we got to the front of the queue and found that the only camp sites available were on the other side of Yardie Creek. This is a long way south and a very long way from Exmouth and possibilities of resupply. So we decided not to go there.

We decided that we would stay at the Yardie Homestead Caravan Park. This is nowhere near Yardie Creek! In fact it is north of the park, on the road to Exmouth. Because I was feeling a bit under the weather and my back was complaining about too much activity, we decided not to camp but to indulge ourselves with a chalet. And we decided to stay for five nights.

After lunch we headed north, had a swim and went up to the lighthouse which gives its name to last nights accommodation. Then back home for a barbecue.

And the temporary filling I got in Port Hedland proved all too temporary! It came out – I will get it replaced when I get back to the UK.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes tomorrows activities.

Monday 23rd September

This was rather a lazy day. Taking advantage of the availability of a pay phone and telephone card at the camp site, we arranged where we would stay on our way back to Perth. Shark Bay was on our list so we arranged four nights at a place near there, also a place on the way – it was  450 miles to Shark Bay!

Then we hired snorkel, masks and flippers from the camp site and headed off to the Lakeside snorkelling area in the National Park.

Lakeside Snorkel Area
The Lakeside Snorkel Area. the white at the skyline is the edge of the reef. The back reef runs from the waters edge to the reef. The fore reef is the slope beyond the reef down to the deep sea floor. It is covered in broken coral.

But it was very disappointing. There was a strong current from the south west and this stirred up a lot of sand, making the water very murky and visibility poor. Also the current meant that you had to paddle like fury to stay in one place.

We stayed in long enough to see that there was a lot of coral and lots of fishes but we were soon back on shore.

Lakeside Snorkel Area
Chris suffering from being unable to snorkel at Lakeside Snorkel Area

We tried again after lunch but conditions were even worse. So we packed up and headed south to look at Turquoise Beach and Mandu Mandu Gorge. We found lots of coral fossils in the gorge – the formation includes Middle Miocene coral reefs, mirroring the modern ones offshore.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes yesterdays activities.

Tuesday 24th September

Tuesday morning was a very lazy time, hanging about the chalet, watching the emus walking past. After lunch we drove south of Exmouth and headed for the hills.

There are a couple of tracks which lead into the Cape range. One goes along a valley – Shothole Canyon Road – and the other goes along a ridge – Charles Knife Road. Both roads were made when the area was being explored for oil deposits.

Shotover Gorge
Our truck parked at the end of the Shothole Canyon Road

Shothole Canyon gets its name from the shallow holes drilled for explosives to aid the seismic exploration of the area. Strangely enough someone found another reason to visit the canyon. See HERE.

Charles Knife Road goes up to the top of the Cape Range to an old wellhead where an oil exploration well was drilled. Parts of the road go along knife edged ridges but that is not the reason for the name. Charles Knife worked for the oil company and laid out the line of the road.

Charles Knife Road
View toward the Indian Ocean from the Charles Knife Road

After our tour of the inland bits of the Cape Range we returned to Exmouth and bought our supper from a local fish merchant – there is a lot of fishing in the area.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. This includes tomorrows short excursion.

Wednesday 25th September

This was a remarkably lazy day! Most of it was spent round the Caravan Park. Before lunch we went to a nearby beach to see if we could see turtles – we couldn’t so we sunbathed.

Chris on the beach
Chris on the beach

Late afternoon we went back to this mornings beach and watched the local windsurfers. Then walked south to something odd we could see in the distance.

Turtles mating on the beach
Turtles mating on the beach. Romance plays an unimportant part in the process.

It turned out to be turtles mating – but we originally thought that the big one was dead! The owner of the caravan site told us what was really going on.  The female has a gash on the back of her neck which you can see in the photo HERE.

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures. Includes yesterdays route and photos.

Thursday 26th September

After breakfast we decided that we were not beach people and that we would not go to Shark Bay. We much preferred the inland parts of Western Australia. You might conjecture this by the number of photos I took on the coast compared to inland. So we phoned and cancelled our Shark Bay booking.

For our last day on the coast we decided to give snorkelling one last chance and hired what we needed and headed to South Mandu Beach.

And found that the sea was too rough to snorkel! So carried on south to look at Yardie Creek. It does not reach the sea but the pool extends up the gorge. We resisted taking the boat trip up the gorge.

Yardie Creek
Looking inland up Yardie Creek

After lunch (at the Caravan Park) we tried our snorkels at Oyster Stacks but again the sea was too rough, but we had better luck at Turquoise Beach. The water was turbid but at least we got the snorkels wet.

At Turquoise Beach
Corulla eating grass seeds at Turquoise Beach
At Turquoise Beach
Golden sand, turquoise sea, blue sky – another boring Western Australia beach!

HERE is a link to today’s route and pictures.

Port Hedland and Dampier

Thursday 19th and Friday 20th September 2013

This morning was a long, uneventful, drive into Port Hedland. By this time we were using cruise control and so passed the place of our speeding fine with an easy conscience.

HERE is our route and pictures of our route to, and within, Port Hedland. Open with Google Earth

Port Hedland1
Geological map of the Port Hedland area and our route from Eighty Mile Beach

In Port Hedland we booked a tour of the port, spotted a dentist and booked an appointment for later that afternoon.

The tour of the port was very disappointing. We were not allowed off the bus, could not get near the interesting bits such as the rail wagon unloader and I think I knew more about the nature of the business than the guide. She did not know the capacities of the boats or how fast they could be loaded. Photos from the bus were poor – the best I have got is of an ore carrier passing the end of the main street of Port Hedland.

Ore ship at the end of the street
Huge Chinese ore carrier at the end of the street. Note the sign for the dentist.

I suspect that the reason that they are so reticent is that relations between BHP and the people of Port Hedland are not very good. Many of the workers on the site fly in to Port Hedland, work for their shifts and fly out to spend their money in Perth.

Also the stacks of iron ore in the older part of the complex often cause dust problems and low level annoyance. BHP does not want to give any information which would cause them grief. But they are trying to move the dirty bits of the operation further away from the town.

Then off to the dentist where I had a replacement filling put in for A$255! Then to the camp site where, to celebrate my birthday, we hired a cabin which was very comfortable.

Then back downtown to have dinner at the Esplanade Hotel.

Friday 20th September

We left our comfortable chalet and went to the retail delights of Port Hedland – shopping and diesel at Woolworths. then a long and uneventful drive to Cossack.

HERE is our route from Port Hedland to Dampier via Cossack. Open with Google Earth

Cossack1
Geological map of an earlier part of our route from Port Hedland to Dampier
Pelican at Cossack wharf
A tame pelican at Cossack wharf

Cossack is an old, almost abandoned, settlement which was once a centre for the pearling industry. A dangerous business – the highlight of Cossack are the graveyards, one European and one Japanese. But the highlight for us was a tame pelican which posed shamelessly.

Dampier1
Geological map of the latter part of our route from Port Hedland to Dampier

Then we drove to Dampier where we found the smallest camp site of our trip. We were next to a guy from Victoria who was in the area looking for a job – he was a mechanic of some description. He thought he could get a job very easily but was more worried about finding some place to stay. The camp site had a rule that you could only stay for three nights and no returns for a week.

This was typical of the mining and oil and gas areas of WA. Most hotels are filled with workers who fly in for one or two weeks then fly back to Perth. In many cases what are described as hotels are really a collection of dressed up shipping containers.

(We did hear of a few workers who stayed in Bali and flew on the frequent tourist planes between Perth and Bali – only three hours. For the same money you can live a much more luxurious lifestyle in Bali than you can in Perth.)

Because many of these towns will be abandoned when the mine closes, there is a reluctance to provide permanent facilities, release land for house building and establish communities.

Iron ore loading at Dampier
The RTZ iron ore loading dock at Dampier. There are four ships here – they dock on both sides of the pier.

From the camp site we had a good view of the RTZ iron ore loading facilities. In the evening we saw a huge bulk carrier start being loaded. It was high in the water showing much of its underwater paint protection. When we got up next morning it was low in the water with hundred of thousands of tons of iron ore in its holds and getting ready to sail to China.

Iron ore loading at Dampier
Ship being loaded with iron ore at the RTZ pier at Dampier. Note another ship on the other side of the dock.

Eighty Mile Beach

Tuesday 17th to Wednesday 18th September 2013

We set off from Middle Lagoon and got through the sandy road without incident. We refuelled at Roebuck and made good time to the caravan park at Eighty Mile Beach.

HERE is  a link to our route from Middle Lagoon to Eighty Mile Beach. Also my walk along the beach on Wednesday. Open with Google Earth once downloaded.

Our camp site at Eighty Mile Beach
Our camp site at Eighty Mile Beach

I thought the Dampier Peninsula was sandy but Eighty mile Beach is even more so – see the geological map below!

untitled-1
Geological map of the Eighty Mile Beach area

Whereas the beach at Middle Lagoon was deserted, here it was relatively crowded with fishermen. There seemed to be some sort of agreement that they keep a certain distance apart. They fish at certain stages of the tide and woe betide bathers when the fishermen are about!

Fishermen at Eighty Mile Beach
Carefully spaced fishermen at Eighty Mile Beach

We were closer to our neighbours than we had been in previous camp sites, which was no bad thing. One set of neighbours, on hearing that my birthday was imminent gave me a nice present – a  photograph of a Blue Winged Kookaburra which she had taken a few days earlier.

My birthday present from our camp site neighbours - a blue winged kookaburra
My birthday present from our camp site neighbours – a blue winged kookaburra

You keep bumping into people you met previously, which is not very surprising – there is a limited number of places one can go to.

But Eighty mile Beach has two sorts of people – those staying for just a day or two and the longer residents, And the longer residents are here for the fish!

Fishermen at Eighty Mile Beach
The tide is in so the fishermen are out – swim at your peril!

The second day I walked along the beach and did 3 miles out and 3 miles back – I can well believe it stretches for 80 miles. But you can collect lots of shells.

Fishermen at Eighty Mile Beach
There is 80 miles of this but I don’t think the fishermen extend all the way along!

So as we headed south along the coast we found things, by Australian standards, were getting more crowded.

Middle Lagoon

Sunday 15th to Monday 16th September 2013

After a regrouping for a couple of days in Broome – 3 machines at the laundromat!, eating at Matso’s, buying pearls, looking at the very hippyish street market, replenishing our food stocks – we set off for Middle Lagoon on the Dampier Peninsula.

Most of the journey was on dirt roads or, more accurately, sand roads. These were rather challenging as it was difficult to see shadows and therefore undulations came as a surprise. And some of the undulations were large! However we managed to stay on the road and got to Middle Lagoon unharmed.

HERE is a link to our route from Broome to Middle Lagoon. Open with Google Earth once downloaded.

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Geological map of part of the Dampier Peinsula

The geological map confirms my impression that the Dampier Peninsula is a pile of sand anchored by bits of Cretaceous rock!

On arrival at the caravan and camp site we were told that a salt water croc had been see a few days earlier and therefore sea bathing was discouraged – not a great loss for us. We pitched our tent and went to look at the beach.

Chris on the beach, Middle Lagoon
Chris on the beach, Middle Lagoon. Note the line of rocks going through her head. I think that is an aboriginal fish trap.

The tide was out and there were great areas of sand exposed. At one bay, just below our tent, we saw a line of stones across the bay which, I suspect, was a fish trap. At high tide the fish go to the landward side of the trap. As the tide falls they are trapped in the ever diminishing pool of water and can be collected at your leisure. The dam is incomplete and we did not see any trapped fish.

Chris on the beach, Middle Lagoon
Chris on the beach, Middle Lagoon

After supper I was using a toothpick and out came a large filling! I was from a molar and was not painful, but I decided That I needed to get it fixed soon.

The next day I went for a long walk along the beach. Once I was away from the camp site I was on my own. Lovely, lonely beaches seem to be an Australian speciality! And once again I noticed that the headlands, protecting the coast are Cretaceous sandstone. Everything else is sand.

HERE is a link to my wanderings at Middle Lagoon. Open with Google Earth once downloaded.

The beach at Middle Lagoon
Looking back towards the camp site from the beach at Middle Lagoon
The beach at Middle Lagoon
Looking away from the camp site along the beach at Middle Lagoon

After my walk Chris and I decided to sit on the beach – not one of our favourite occupations – and enjoy the sun.

Chris on the beach, Middle Lagoon
On the beach. we were not disturbed by crocodiles or anything else.

As you may gather, neither Chris nor I are beach people, so we began to think that a return to Perth along the coast might not be what we wanted.

But here is one last look at the beach at Middle Lagoon, with some mangroves!

The beach at Middle Lagoon
Mangroves on the beach, middle Lagoon

Windjana Gorge

Wednesday 11th to Friday 13th September

By this stage we were becoming old hands at breaking camp and we were soon on our way. It was 90km to the Gibb River Road and where  we headed west. We stopped at Imintji for some supplies. There was some smoke from bush fires to be seen but we never felt in any danger.

On the way from Monington to Windjana
Smoke from bush fires in the King Leopold Ranges

The Gibb River Road is largely dirt but it is characterised by occasional stretches of tar. Some of these are where the road is curvy but many others seem to be randomly distributed.

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Geological map of the Windjana Gorge area with our route to it from Mornington

As we got nearer to Windjana Gorge we recognised a well known head.

On the way from Monington to Windjana
Queen Victoria looks over Napier Downs

Shortly afterwards we passed a rubbish collection centre (where people can dump their rubbish from there cars and campers and keep The Kimberleys clean) and turned left towards Windana Gorge.

HERE is a link to our route from Mornington to Windjana. It is the GPS track I recorded en route. And linked to it are the photos taken with the actual spot they were taken! It is a .kmz file which you will need to save and then open with Google Earth.

The quiet camp site (i.e. no generators) was almost empty so we were able to get a good spot under one of the few trees on the site. It had a good view of the reason we had come to Windjana – the Devonian Reef!

View from our campsite at Windjana
View of the Devonian Reef from our camp site at Windjana

After setting up our tent and having a badly needed cup of tea, we set off in the evening light to have a closer look at the reef. The Lennard River has eroded its way through the reef but there is a shorter way into the gorge. This is through a short cave which runs through the reef.

The walk to the gorge
Chris taking the short cut through the reef to the Lennard River Gorge

We did not go far up the gorge as evening was approaching and there were a lot of freshwater crocs in the river who, while not deadly, need to be treated with respect! But we did see a fossil, possibly some sort of nautiloid. The books suggest that there are lots of fossils but we saw few – perhaps the good sites are not publicised so as to discourage collection by tourists.

Fossil in the reef
“Our” fossil in the reef – it looks very like the one on page 370 in Bulletin 145 (see below)

 

Thursday 12th September 2013

We were up at the crack of dawn and walked into Windjana Gorge. It was very quiet at this time and the gorge is rather beautiful.

HERE is the route and photos taken this day.

The banks of the Lennard River
The banks of the Lennard River

The banks of the Lennard River

The banks of the Lennard River, looking to the entrance of the gorge

This was the dry season so the river was very low and scarcely flowing. There was a great deal of sand so walking was uncomfortable for persons like us wearing sandals or thongs (don’t get too excited – that’s flip-flops for us Brits!).

The walls of the gorge
The walls of the gorge

Our reason for coming to Windjana was to look at the geology of the Devonian reef. The Geological Survey of Western Australia’s Bulletin 145 on the reef can be found HERE.

The bulletin will tell you far more than I can. Essentially it was a “coral” reef in the late Devonian period. Coral is in quotations as true corals were rare at that time but beasties which filled the same ecological niche were common and built something remarkably like a coral reef.

The Classic Face
The Classic Face. This is a panoramic shot created from five individual photos.

The following are links to the five photos which you can download. Warning: – they are large files! Photo 1Photo 2Photo 3Photo 4Photo 5.

At The Classic Face we see a cross section through the reef. If you think of the Great Barrier Reef you can see that The Classic Face is a well exposed equivalent.

The reef itself is the bit against which the sea works, forming breakers. Bits are broken off the reef and these fall seawards forming a dipping fore reef of bits of broken reef. And behind the reef is an area of protected, shallow sea – a lagoon, in which flat lying coral – the back reef, is deposited.  It gets uplifted (or sea level drops), eroded and then drowned again so another reef forms.

And then it all gets planed off so that the fore reef is at the same elevation as the reef.

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The Classic Face annotated. This is based on a sketch on page 351 of Bulletin 145

Above I have put in various boundaries taken from a sketch in the WA Geol. Surv. bulletin 145.  Consult this for an exhaustive discussion of the reef – it certainly impressed (and exhausted) me!

Freshwater crocodile
A Freshwater crocodile in the Lennard River

Having had a good look at the fossil reef we set off back to the camp site, passing many freshwater crocs.

Back at camp we set off for Tunnel Creek which is where a stream runs through the reef forming a tunnel which you can walk and scramble through. It sounds more impressive than it is. Photographically it did not inspire me at all and we have been to “better” caves.

At any rate I took no photos and my only memory is looking at the tour buses. Because of the high price of these tours most of the people on them are rather old, but with a sprinkling of young bloods keen to see the great outdoors. It must make for tensions between the young and fit and the old and creaky.

On our way out we met a group racing through the cave and then passed a group of elderly who had got into the shade and were waiting for the young ones to come back so that they could get back on board the bus.

Also on the way to Tunnel Creek we stopped and helped a couple who had a flat tyre. Actually we did very little – we just stayed till they had the spare on and were good to go. We might have been of use if they had not been able to get the tyre on.

Bower bird nest
A Bower Bird nest at the camp site

Back at camp we found a group of people who had found a Bower Bird nest, right in the heart of the camp. The male bird builds and decorates an elaborate nest to attract a mate. I don’t know whether this one did the trick.

 

Friday 13th September, 2013

HERE is the route and photos taken this day.

The boab prison tree, Derby
The boab prison tree, Derby. A hollow tree used as a prison.

The only thing of interest on the long flat drive was the Prison Boab Tree near Derby. In the late 19th century workers were needed for the mother of pearl industry in Broome and other places along the coast. So Aborigines were “recruited” (enslaved might be more accurate) from the Kimberley and marched to the coast. To discourage defection they were kept in places like the prison tree overnight on their march.

Soon we were in Broome where we booked in to a hotel for two nights.

Mornington Wilderness Camp

Monday 9th September 2013

We drove the 211 km to Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary with little difficulty. We stopped in Mount Barnett to top up with some (very expensive) supplies and to fill up with diesel.

Chatting to the man in the store we were told that the Gibb River Road closes in the wet season and is no longer considered a road by the State. So, if you do not get a permit from the authorities in Derby, it is illegal to drive on the road! And your insurance will not cover you if you have an accident! He drives to Derby for the permit, but a lot of the locals do not bother.

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Geological map of the Mornington Wilderness Camp and area. Also our routes to and within the conservation area. Click on the map then download the original to see the details.

We eventually got to the turn-off for Mornington, passing some smallish bush fires on the way. At the turn-off we used the little radio shack to contact Mornington to enquire if there was a space for us. There was and we continued. It is more than 50 miles from the road to the camp and you are not allowed to stay if the camp is full. So it pays to call ahead. The map below shows our route and some points of interest along the way.

The app below allows you to download a .kmz file which, when opened in Google Earth (available HERE, if you do not have it already) shows our route as recorded by my GPS and the photos taken en-route at the place they were taken.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

At Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary we were welcomed, signed in and told where we should pitch our tent.

The place is held on a pastoral lease by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Which is a bit odd as one of their aims is to remove cattle from the bush! Apparently pastoral leases are the only leases there are in WA so they do run some cattle to keep the lease effective. I understand that new legislation will allow them to keep the land without running cattle.

Our camp at Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary
Our camp at Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary

After setting up our campsite we set off for the Bluebush swimming hole so that we could wash off the dust of travel. It was very pleasant except for the presence of March Flies – the biting ones!

On the Fitzroy River
Chris at the Bluebush swimming hole on the Fitzroy River

Tuesday 10th September 2013

After hiring paddles and life jackets we set off for the long drive to Dimond Gorge on the Fitzroy River. There we found our canoe and set off. We soon discovered that Chris was not a natural paddler. Eventually I asked her to stop paddling and to let me do it on my own.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

We found a nice spot to stop and stayed some time sunbathing and swimming – and talking to the other paddlers whose interests were more inclined towards the animals in the gorge.

At Dimond Gorge
Canoeing on the Fitzroy River – Dimond Gorge
At Dimond Gorge
Chris enjoying the sun in Dimond Gorge

 

At Dimond Gorge
Chris crosses the Fitzroy and contemplates the walls of the gorge

We went a little further then returned to camp. We decided to eat at the restaurant and had a very nice meal under the stars.

Then we listened to a lecture about the work AWC was doing at Mornington. Especially interesting was their work on feral domestic cats. Feral cats kill a huge number of small mammals and are a big problem. Several feral cats have been fitted with devices which indicate their position.

After a bush fire small mammals are concentrated round the burnt area and are very vulnerable. It was found that feral cats can, by some unknown means, detect where a fire has taken place and move tens of kilometres to the site to enjoy the abundant prey. Cats are cleverer than you might think!

So to bed and off to Windjana Gorge on Wednesday morning.

Mount Elizabeth

7th and 8th September 2013

After a very pleasant stay at El Questro we set off for Mount Elizabeth Station which is 326 km along the Gibb River Road. This was a fairly easy drive with occasional bits of tarred road and lots of road works. Even crossing the Pentecost River was easy – there was very little water and we could not get our tyres wet!

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

Most of the way was over Proterozoic sandstones which give a rugged topography.

Mount Elizabeth annotated
Geological Map of the Mount Elizabeth Area with our routes shown.

These geological maps, available for the whole of Australia, can be downloaded from HERE.

My expectations for Mount Elizabeth were rather low – we hadn’t stayed at any working farms and I worried that we would be regarded as nuisances. But when we got to the farm, twenty miles from the Gibb River Road, we found that the farm had recently finished its busy period – rounding up its cattle and sending many of them to market. So there was not much happening and we were the most exciting thing to happen that day! We were the only people at the camp site. However there were lots of little Wallabies and one, in particular, was extremely curious.

Mount Elizabeth Station
Wallaby at mount Elizabeth Station camp site
Mount Elizabeth Station
The wallaby had a joey
Mount Elizabeth Station
Our camp site at Mount Elizabeth

We set up and, following the directions of the lady who signed us in, set off for the Hann River. This was a journey of twenty five miles there and back, but it was worth it as the stretch of the Hann River was lovely. We got there in the latter part of the afternoon and the low sunlight did wonderful things to the colours. And it was a very good place to swim!

Mount Elizabeth Station
Chris, the Hann River and the evening light

The next day we drove to the other highlight of Mount Elizabeth – the Barnett River.

HERE is today’s route with photos. Open with Google Earth.

This involved a drive along a very rough track followed by a walk through the bush – about 7 miles in total. We may have got sweaty but the payoff made it well worth while. We found a wonderful swimming hole and an aboriginal art gallery!

On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
The Barnett River at Mount Elizabeth Station. In the wet this would be a waterfall. Note the ladder for the convenience of the hordes of visitors.
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
The swimming hole at the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Looking downriver at the swimming hole, Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth

If you walk a couple of hundred yards downstream from the swimming hole, you will find on the cliffs on the eastern side of the gorge some rather unusual aborigine paintings.

On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Aboriginal art in the Wunnumurra Gorge, Barnett river, Mount Elizabeth. This photo is used as an illustration for “Indigenous Australian Art” on Wikipedia!
On the Barnett River, Mount Elizabeth Station
Chris at the Aboriginal art site, Wunnumurra Gorge

We spent several hours at the swimming hole then set off back to the camp site.  A few more people had turned up, including a man who thought that we were insufficiently qualified to be alone in the bush. We had no idea of the dangers we were facing – did we take the track to the Barnett river without deflating our tyres?; did we know what to do if we were caught in a bush fire? etcetera etcetera. We refused to be impressed with his superior knowledge so he gave us up in disgust. Strangely enough he was travelling alone.