Monthly Archives: January 2017

An Aside – Awed by Antiquity

As an aside, before continuing on with reporting on this adventure, I think it’s worth noting that this remarkable barrier reef, heaved up from the ocean floor to become the Napier Range, is not the only stunningly ancient bit of rock in this corner of Australia. It’s all mind-bogglingly old here. In fact, the Hamersley Range, a bit south and west of here, and which I visited on my first trip Down Under, is believed to be the first part of the Earth’s crust to have cooled after the planet was formed.

Here’s one of the posts I did a few years ago about my time in the Hamersley Range, after a visit to Hamersley Gorge, one of many breaks in the range, but one that is famous for showing clearly the effects of the tremendous pressure that formed and shaped some of these ancient rocks.
https://waltzingaustralia.wordpress.com/2008/07/20/hamersley-gorge/

Then, just a few years ago, on a sheep ranch at Jack Hills, not too far from the Hamersley Range, scientists found what they believe to be the oldest chunk of rock on the planet—a zircon crystal that they estimate was formed at the planet’s dawning.

Here’s an article with more details on this ancient zircon—and a photo.
http://www.livescience.com/43584-earth-oldest-rock-jack-hills-zircon.html

So I was traveling through a region where phenomenal antiquity is the norm. One more reason to love this remarkable place.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Australia, Geography, History, Nature, Science, Travel

September 2, Part 3

We headed back the 30 kilometers to where we had set up camp. We had no need to change clothes, as the hot weather had already dried everything after our wade through the tunnel, but we did drop off flashlights before walking the short distance to Windjana Gorge. Tall, mostly black, deeply striated walls, in places touched with red, rose before us, but a short cave in those walls gave us access to the main gorge. Wow.
approachingwindjana
The rock formations were wonderful, black, red, pink, and cream. Weird, knife-pleated stone covered parts of the wall and rose to peaks in some places. It was easy to imagine the formations being at the bottom of their original ocean.
windjana-ancientcoral
The gorge was remarkably beautiful, with clear water down the center, surrounded by pale sand, with paperbark trees and lovely green ivy adding a touch of color.
windjana-boulder-light windjana-reflections

Athena and I hiked for about an hour up the gorge, stopping to photograph freshies and a white egret, vines, trees, the rocks, and glassy water. When we met up with Belinda, we turned back toward the entrance of the gorge. Belinda and I stopped to swim, but Athena was worried about the freshies, so she sat on the beach.
windjana-longview-egret
The most astonishing thing was the cockatoos. There were hundreds upon hundreds of little white cockatoos (corellas). It must be the mating season, because we saw them exchanging “gifts,” rubbing heads, and flapping wings in little dances. They covered the beach, filled the trees, and stood on the cliffs. It was astonishing.

When we got back to camp, I headed for the shower–an outdoor affair, with walls but no roof and only cold water—but it was bliss getting cleaned up. (We got wet in the underground tunnel, but not clean.) Then it was have a cup of tea and circle the chairs around the cooking fire, for another friendly evening.
Butcher birds were very brave, and approached us to see if we might have food to offer. The willy wagtails were on hand, but they were skittish and never got close. Blue-winged kookaburras were nearby, noisy but out of sight. Wonderful.

Among the birds, only the crows are annoying. Two nights running, the crows have destroyed our garbage bags, tearing them apart to look for goodies. It’s not hard to imagine how the expression “Stone the crows” arose. I’m told the crows here will even kill newborn lambs. So not all the birds have endeared themselves.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australia, Geography, History, Nature, Travel

September 2, Part 2

After setting up camp and having lunch, we jumped back into the 4WD and headed the 30 kilometers back to the King Leopold Range, and to Tunnel Creek. Wow! Tunnel Creek is a river that flows under a mountain, and, with a bit of wading (from mid-calf to about chest deep) and scrambling over rocks, it is possible to traverse the half-mile distance of the tunnel, to the far side of the mountain range.

Welcome to Tunnel Creek

Welcome to Tunnel Creek


I had forgotten to bring my flashlight, so Athena and I stuck close together, which benefited both of us–she was nervous in the water, and I needed her light. We scrambled down a tumble of quartz and pink-and-white marble to the mouth of the tunnel. The roof was high, and, in places, decorated with stalactites. We waded into the chilly water, flashlights barely piercing the intense darkness, and we picked our way in and out of the water and along boulders and sand spits, stopping to admire caves and look for “freshies” (freshwater crocodiles—the crocodiles that don’t kill humans).

About half way up the tunnel, a light became visible and grew brighter till it was daylight, where a wall had caved in. There was an immense, braided, fig-tree root reaching from the cliffs above, through the break and into the water in the tunnel. Remarkable. We climbed over the rocks of the collapsed wall and continued up the tunnel, back into the darkness.

The end of the tunnel was a wonderful, bell-shaped opening that let out into a narrow gorge, where trees crowded around the clear stream emanating from the mountainside.

We splashed and chatted for a while, then headed back through the astonishing tunnel. We stopped at one point and all turned off our lights, to see how truly dark it was–and it was, totally.

Continuing on, we saw a yabby (a freshwater crustacean–like a crawdaddy, only much bigger) perched on one of the sand spits. The sound of falling water drew our flashlights to a far wall, where a small cascade sparkled as it descended. Eerie, lovely, and strange.
Definitely an odd little adventure, walking under a mountain, chest-deep in water and quite dependent on our flashlights working. But some fascinating things to see.

I had decided to not take my camera through the tunnel, which was absolutely the right decision. So after reemerging, I grabbed my camera bag out of the truck and went back to at least photograph the entrance of Tunnel Creek.

Tunnel Creek entrance

Tunnel Creek entrance

Leave a comment

Filed under Geography, Nature, Travel

Trip 3:Saturday, September 2 Part 1 (of 3)

It is almost inconceivable that the trip is so nearly over. It seems odd, too, that I can spend so much time with people I really like all the while realizing that I’ll probably never see them again. I am battered and bruised and weary, yet I am sorry to have this part of my current Australian odyssey end. It is so fresh and beautiful out here, and though it is hard, it is uncomplicated.

We arose this morning to a noisy flurry of cockatoos. There were a few clouds in the sky, and they were tinged pink by the rising sun. Soon the magpies added their caroling to the other morning sounds.

We were breakfasted, packed, and on the road by 8 a.m., crossing the miles, climbing into the next mountain range, stopping to look back over the plain we’d just crossed.

The mountains rose before and around us, red and stained, in slanted slabs and layers jutting out of the ground, like the bones of the earth with the skin peeled away. I was reminded again that much of what one sees in the Australian landscape is owed to erosion. So, in a way, it is the bones of the earth we were seeing. Up and through Inglis Gap, a pass in the King Leopold Range, and down the other side, to continue our drive to the Napier Range.

From Inglis Gap

From Inglis Gap


King Leopold Range

King Leopold Range

Birds were wonderfully abundant. In trees, on the ground, or on the wing, they were delightful, and we occasionally stopped just to enjoy them. There were galahs, pink and gray and handsome; wompoo pigeons, with their “woop, woop, woop” call: butcher birds, black and white and noisy; a wedge-tailed eagle, always impressive.

We rolled into Windjana Gorge National Park, and this evening’s campsite, around lunchtime.

Camp near Windjana Gorge

Camp near Windjana Gorge

Windjana is cut through the Napier Range, which was once a barrier reef that got thrust up long ago from the ocean floor. The range is Devonian-era limestone, with the outlines of coral polyps and even older pre-coral skeletons still visible in places. The rock is strangely worn, with sharply defined, black pinnacles in some places. Fascinating. I look forward to exploring—later.

6 Comments

Filed under Australia, Geography, Nature, Thoughts, Travel