Turning up pieces of the past.

Submitted: Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 15:07
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It’s been a great year for rediscovering some of our early explorer history. We’ve all read of Larry P turning up the abandoned equipment of the 1904 Barkley expedition which was an amazing find and a testament to Larry’s research and hard work. Well against all odds, I was fortunate enough to turn up a little piece of history left over 116 years ago by members of the R.T. Maurice Fowlers Bay to Cambridge Gulf Expedition of 1902.

There is an inordinate amount of detailed work that goes into plotting a 116 year old route onto todays modern maps. An awful lot depends on the skill and accuracy of the person initially recording the bearings and distances during the original expedition and also crucial for those who follow are the physical observations of the country and of any rare or distinctive features.

For us, 116 year later, unless it’s a known mark like a mountain or lake, any feature recorded by Murray and Maurice are only ever ’approximate’ until proven by being on the ground and matching the observations, bearings and descriptions to actual physical landmarks. Given the nature of the territory, that’s also difficult and takes a lot of planning and resources.

Scott and I were three days into an eight day quad expedition and were approaching my estimated position of a feature recorded by William Murray and you can imagine the rising excitement on finding the physical location matched Murrays description perfectly.

“Our guide took us ESE and in two miles we reached the water which proved to be a soakage well, and from all appearance a good one”.

And on the next day Murray wrote; “Marked a large Black Oak north of the well ‘R.T.M.’”

Following the well worn camel trails down to the scrub in the centre of the pan, we searched through the scrubby acacia with no real sign of a soak. Widening our search pattern into ever broadening circles, we found a long disused native well. It was still 1.7 metres deep and had been covered with heavy branches to prevent camels gaining access. This was solid evidence that my extrapolation of the expeditions route had been accurate. Could it be possible that after 116 years and the harsh desert environment, a blaze tree remained.

On the northern edge of the bowl and about 150 metres from us, we spied an old gnarled Black Oak. So old was this tree that it had had developed a distinctive lean to the west. It was certainly larger and much older than any of the other trees in the surrounding area. Daring to hope, we headed over, a large blaze becoming more apparent as we got closer.

So ancient was this tree that the central heart wood had been eaten away and the living bark ran up the side and rear of the tree only. This probably contributed to the lean to the west, that side being the heaviest but to have survived the ravages of a desert environment for so long is a miracle in itself. Exposure to the elements had taken its toll on the inscription but the detail of the letters was still detectable. Wetting the blaze also made it easier to trace the outline of the letters. The left hand upright of the ‘R’ and the right hand stroke of the ‘M’ were obscured by the thick bark but the letters were still visible as well as the tell tale characteristic of the curved lines in the ‘M’.

To our knowledge this well and Blaze tree have not been visited by Europeans since the Maurice Expedition in 1902, and its sheer remoteness would certainly contribute to that. In an environment as harsh as the Australian desert, these finds are rare and all the more precious for it.


Cheers

Mick













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Reply By: Idler Chris - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 17:58

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 17:58
Very interesting. Hard work and persistence is the best recipe for success and you have certainly proved that. What a great find, no wonder you were excited.
Well done Mick and Scott.

I see you have solved the problem of punctures, and it also looks like a new quad. Hopefully you will give a bit of a story on it one day.

Chris
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:48

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:48
Cheers Chris. The quad in question was the prototype Argo ATV shod with Michelin 'Tweels'. Scotty and I were doing some real world testing for the Argo Company of Canada (A division of Ontario Drive and Gear) to evaluate the tweels on both their ATV and XTV platforms (see photo of XTV below). Great system and highly recommended for this type of work.....if you can afford them! Nearly a grand a pop in $AUD.....OUCH!

The Argo quad, a 500cc petrol unit performed well. Unfortunately they won't be releasing them in Australia.



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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 22:19

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 22:19
Mick that was good of you to test these vehicle out for them. I hope it was not a too arduous job for you. For what you found it must have been well worth the effort.
Cheers, Chris
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Follow Up By: Candace S. - Friday, Nov 30, 2018 at 12:20

Friday, Nov 30, 2018 at 12:20
I was going to ask about the "tyres" on the quad! Thanks for the explanation. Those are pretty cool, and I'm sure this expedition was a great test of them.

Ol' Len sure would have appreciated some puncture-less tyres! :)
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Reply By: Member - ACD 1 - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 19:04

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 19:04
Fantastic effort Mick!

I know the excitement I feel when I come across something 'undiscovered' on an of the track tourist type route.

To actually replot and relive the journey and find such a significant treasure must be simply extraordinary.

It's a shame that the relic will soon be lost to time.

Look forward to a full blog on the trip - by next week would be good, I've got a few days off.

Cheers

Anthony
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:50

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:50
You'll need to wait for the book Anthony :-)

That'll be when I retire (fortunately closer than you think...roll on 2019)

Cheers mate and a safe and happy festive season to you and yours

Mick
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Reply By: MarkHugh - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 19:12

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 19:12
Congratulations Mick! A lot of intuition and hard slog paid off. Its so good to read something positive for once. And I hope to read about the quad.

Cheers,
Mark
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:51

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:51
Cheers Mark. Bit of a follow up on quad and 'Tweels' in a response to Chris (Idler Chris)

Mick
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Reply By: equinox - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:26

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:26
Well done guys.
To think that Maurice and Murray blazed that tree just for you :-)

You deserve to find these special places, I know how much work you've put into the research.

Those branches in the well look fairly modern. What's your opinion on that?
I'm off to Boundary Dam next week (hopefully it won't be hot)

Cheers
Alan
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:54

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:54
Hi Alan

I presume you will come in from the south?

I should give you a great friend of mine in Ceduna his phone number.

He knows all that area out there like the back of his hand.

It's been wet here in SA lately and not real hot , warming up by the weekend.

Have fun.


Cheers


Stephen



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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:02

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:02
Thanks Stephen,
I only mentioned it as Maurice also went there, though your pics give me an idea I guess of what's happening :-)

South is the only option for me at the moment as I am time poor.
Cheers
Alan
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:39

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:39
I know that you have shared the feeling as well Al. It's always simply amazing to find something so unexpected.

As to the trees, I did consider the origins at the time and checked for signs of mechanical intervention ie; axe marks or similar. There were none. Given there is simply no easy access to this location, there were no obvious signs of 'recent' visitation. It is a fairly clear gypseous flat immediately around the well so light on plant life. There were some older burn marks on the logs that indicated they had been burnt on situ but the fire did not take.

My research indicated that the traditional owners were beginning to gravitate from this area to the new communities as early as the 1930's (corresponding to a horrendous drought in the area) but there were still those living the traditional lifestyle as late as the 60 and early 70's. Camels would certainly have been an issue then. Mulga timber, how long does it last in the right conditions and not lying in damp soil? (Some of the Paine-Barklay markers along the Great Central have survived since 1931 - Same along the early stages of the Hann track)

The well has changed in it's nature from a 'soak' recorded in 1902, to a fully fledged 'well' at some stage in the past. It has subsided somewhat and the animals have got in to dig down to water (I wasn't brave enough to drop down and check. A snake bite to the face so far from anywhere is not a survivable option :-) - besides the thought of scotty having to suck the poison out....well you've travelled with him!!) I'm reminded of your discovery of Carnegies 'Black Soil Soak' which was probably of a very similar nature sans protective covering.

I've checked with a few Maurice experts and the RGSSA as well as Dick Kimber in Alice and no one is aware of any Maurice retracing work short of that around Yalata and Fowlers Bay. Dick was as excited as we were to know that such a tree still existed.

In other words Al ....no flaming idea lol but if had to guess I'd say sometime in the last 40-50 years.

Cheers,

Mick
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Follow Up By: equinox - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:54

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:54
Thanks for that explanation Mick.
It's mysteries like that, that make it all so much more interesting a tale.
Once again good work and look forward to hearing more about the "8 days" later :-)



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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 23:30

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 23:30
;-)
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Reply By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:35

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 20:35
Great find Mick, well done


Cheers


Stephen
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:53

Tuesday, Nov 27, 2018 at 21:53
Always fun mate. First people I called were Dick Kimber, your mate Nev Collins (the author) and Rick Maurice, RTM's Grandson.

Trust you, Fiona and the boys will have a fantastic festive season

Cheers

Mick
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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 06:58

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 06:58
Well done Mick and Scott, isn't it great to find such a long forgotten blaze or inscription and then to think back in time about the explorer and his group, where they were going and what they were experiencing.

When we were in RRNP this year, I thought back to W Rudall exploring there in 1896-97 searching for the lost members of Calvert Expedition. It was so hot they put up shade– in his words:

‘We threw a tent fly over bushes getting underneath. The camels squatted and poked their heads underneath. The temperature 124ºF. Rudall 30 12 1896.’


With regard to the Argo ATV shod with Michelin 'Tweels', after a couple of back jarring and teeth shattering rides with you guys when we were in Rudall River NP earlier this year, I would they weren't that good in rocky terrain. Having said that I’m sure they’d do well in other terrain.

ATB

We threw a tent fly over bushes getting underneath. The camels squatted and poked their heads underneath. The temperature 124ºF. Rudall 30 12 1896

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Reply By: Baz - The Landy - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 07:19

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 07:19
Well done Mick and Scott, a great achievement.

Cheers, Baz
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bother the person doing it…”

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 23:02

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 23:02
Hard yards Baz but 'fun'! You know what I'm sayin!

Cheers

Mick
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Reply By: Phil B (WA) - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:15

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:15
Well done Mick and Scott, isn't it great to find such a long forgotten blaze or inscription and then to think back in time about the explorer and his group, where they were going and what they were experiencing.

When we were in RRNP this year, I thought back to W Rudall exploring there in 1896-97 searching for the lost members of Calvert Expedition. It was so hot they put up shade– in his words:

‘We threw a tent fly over bushes getting underneath. The camels squatted and poked their heads underneath. The temperature 124ºF. Rudall 30 12 1896.’


With regard to the Argo ATV shod with Michelin 'Tweels', after a couple of back jarring and teeth shattering rides with you guys when we were in Rudall River NP earlier this year, I would say they weren't that good in rocky terrain. Having said that I’m sure they’d do well in other terrain.

ATB

We threw a tent fly over bushes getting underneath. The camels squatted and poked their heads underneath. The temperature 124ºF. Rudall 30 12 1896

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Follow Up By: Mick O - Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 23:00

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 23:00
Mate funny you should mention that….From my journal of this years travels.

"It was with some trepidation that we drank in the view to the north for immediately surrounding XXXXXXX was the god-awful thicket of mulga that Tietkens had described over 129 years ago. Even from this high vantage point, we could not identify any clear or easy way to navigate through so the first stages of tomorrows travel will be fraught. I couldn’t help but wonder just what thoughts were in the minds of Maurice and Murray as they stood atop XXXXXX. Behind them to the south, over 800 kilometres of the harshest desert in Australia and to the north, a further 1400 kilometres of wild, unknown country that had only been narrowly explored by explorers traversing east-west some 25 years previously (Giles and Tietkens). What we realised was that the entire party would be reliant on the skills of its participants and in particular, the indigenous members of the expedition whose skill and bushcraft were widely known.

Though the mode of conveyance may have changed in the ensuing century, the dangers and concerns are no different. Scott and I would be totally reliant upon each other and our abilities to chart our course, sustain both ourselves and our machines".

Cheers mate,

Mick
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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Reply By: OBJ - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 14:13

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 14:13
Good result Mick .. well done.
Be nice to catch up in 2019.
Cheers
OBJ and BMJ
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:55

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:55
You coming my way bloke? You are the retired one after all. Would be very nice to share a campfire again in 2019. Let's make it a mission :-)

Cheers

M.
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Reply By: Ron N - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 14:56

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 14:56
Mick - Interesting, and no doubt, exciting find, for you both.

You didn't find any of the abandoned gear from the Maurice and Murray expedition, when they had to leave some behind, after losing 6 camels to Gastrolobium poisoning?

SA Memory - Taking it to the edge: Richard Thilwell Maurice

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:50

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:50
A long way from there yet Ron. Need to ascertain what was recovered and then like Larry there will be a lot of time spent sweeping the area. That leg will be a couple of years in the future.

Cheers and all the best for the coming festive season.

Mick
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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Reply By: gke - Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 15:02

Wednesday, Nov 28, 2018 at 15:02
Congratulations on your find and obviously the huge amount of work involved.

I am intrigued that the well was still so deep after all that time.

"Well" done. Graham.
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:53

Thursday, Nov 29, 2018 at 22:53
Graham it's been used and dug sine 1902 believe me. Just how long it is since the Traditional Owners officially 'moved out' of the area I'm not sure of. It had subsided an awful lot by the looks of the interior. I'd have loved to have the time and the energy to dig the well out just to see at what depth water was present. Perhaps a mission for another year.

Cheers

Mick
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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Reply By: Nick T2 - Friday, Nov 30, 2018 at 22:20

Friday, Nov 30, 2018 at 22:20
Mick O
Your Quads dont seem to be licenced, how do you go with that. I am a farmer so I can Licence my quad and side by side as farm vehicles. But I cant take them anywhere outside my Shire. I have enquired into licencing them to go on Beaches and 4WD tracks but the DOT in WA dont want to know

Cheers Big Nick
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Follow Up By: Mick O - Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 00:55

Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 00:55
I go really comfortably Nick. Lucky you're a farmer and can get some form of quad registration but tell me, how does that affect you're riding your quad anywhere off your farm in WA?

I live in Victoria where quads can only be registered for special purpose (council spray units etc) or limited primary production use(riding between paddocks). I can't get Rec Reg, I can't get third party insurance so the risk is entirely mine....just like riding a horse I suppose. I can get a fancy number plate for my quad in WA but as you just pointed out, it means shit!

P.S. I'm in the NT on this one. Good luck trying to work their rules around quads out. It is what it is mate and I'm entirely comfortable. You may as well ask me how I feel about getting bitten by a Dugite 600 km from anywhere...phlegmatic! It is what it is! Live in your lounge room or get it done!

Cheers,

Mick
''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: Ron N - Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 01:27

Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 01:27
This is the relevant legislation in W.A.

Control of Vehicles (Off-road Areas) Act 1978

There are exemptions (exceptions) regarding the restrictions on the use of off-road vehicles, under Section 8.
You could always claim to be prospecting.

Cheers, Ron.
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Follow Up By: Idler Chris - Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 09:20

Saturday, Dec 01, 2018 at 09:20
"Live in your lounge room or get it done!"

The best quote I have heard in a long time, its says it all.

Cheers,
Chris
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