Wednesday, June 23, 2010


Coming into Arkaroola, with its observatory, tucked into the hills, the creek circling the settlement.

Leaving Lake Eyre, the plane swung south toward Arkaroola, a remote wilderness sancturary (600Km north of Adelaide) in the North Flinders Ranges, just north of the Gammon Ranges and west of Lake Frome, another of the great inland salt lakes (Frome, Callabonna, Blanche, Gregory, Eyre, Torrens) which together form an almost horseshoe shape, with the legendary 'tracks' - Oodnadatta, Birdsville and Strezleki - fanning out from its centre. The dreamtime story of the local Adnyamathanha people is that the Rainbow Serpent drank from the Arkaroola Creek and drained Lake Frome dry, the serpent's urine then creating the water holes of this spectacular country.

The centre of this inverted U of salt lakes is really the little outpost of Maree, once a critical rail and stock transport stop on the original Ghan railway (now moved further west), the rail line dividing the town into Europenas on one side and Aboriginals and Afghans on the other. The Afghans and their camels were brought to Australia for the otherwise impossibly difficult desert. And in Maree they built Australia's first mosque. More recently, Marree Man has drawn much interest and speculation, although he is now fading fast, and flights don't bother to fly over any more.

The Arkaroola story is one as fascinating as the landscape, a story of the initially incongruous meeting of geology and conservation, as exemplified in the man responsible for its current circumstance, Reg Sprigg, whose biography is the one link you should be reading. This is a story extending back to Sir Douglas Mawson, yes, that Mawson, with whom Sprigg had studied. It was because of Mawson's South Australian experiences, where he had discovered uranium and where he had come "face-to-face with a great accumulation of glacial sediments of Precambian age, the greatest thing of the kind recorded anywhere in the world", that Mawson, through Shackleton, began his historic association with Antarctica.

Arkaroola is now in the guiding hands of Reg Sprigg's children and it is first and foremost a sanctuary, and one surrounded by circling mineralogists. We were there the day the news of a new discovery came in.

A roller coaster ride through the hills took us up to the spectacular Sillers Point (for afternoon tea with lamingtons, good ones too, and a thermos),

with Lake Frome in the distance, and the Beverly uranium mine in between. We could see a plane land on the mine strip. Nearby, and nearing completion, is a geothermal emergy project anticpated to supply 20% of South Australia's energy needs, and the first customer will be Beverly. Ying Yang.

Around and above, this place was wild and beautiful.

And, remember Don Dunstan?

Too many highlights, too little space. We were lucky enough to see two gorgeous Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies. I was hypnotised and tested the patience of the driver. Click click click, and still the focus defied me.

Now, that's a tail. One of their major predators is the Wedge Tail Eagle, and as we headed home, there he was, the sun lowering, the temperature dropping, the hills blueing.

(as usual, clicking on pics should enlarge them)


The Sentimental Bloke said...

I am enjoying your photos and commentary. You have some interesting material and a different perspective.
I am enjoying your presentation too. Hope you are enjoying your trip.

wanderer said...

Thanks for your kind comments. The trip is over and was far too short, although it does give a much greater appreciation and understanding of what you are posting.

The headwaters of the Cooper is an astounding capture.

Martin said...

You ripper!

wanderer said...

Well spotted! Great news. Excellent.

Reposting Martin's link here in case the former doesn't open.