Great Sandy Desert - Finding Griing Spring and counting the cost of confluence hunting!

Saturday, Jun 20, 2009 at 00:00


Saturday 20th June, 2009
Pegasus drill camp access road
20 05 17.09 123 57 12.66 Od 208419

Another intense day involving exploration, adventure and hardship that has left us tired and exhausted. One could be forgiven for thinking we had woken inside a bird aviary this morning as it was the most birdsong we’d ever heard in the morning. Awoke to a day with a few clouds blotting the eastern horizon and providing a red skyed dawn. I went for a wander over to the soak to find the hole that I had dug the previous evening, totally full. The spring was a hive of activity as far as the bird and wildlife were concerned. In particular, the amount of birdlife was amazing. Galahs, budgies, finches, honey eaters all perched in the nearby branches observing the peck-order for drinking at the spring. There was also some very fresh camel poo left about the edges of the soak but those big padded feet ensured we weren’t disturbed during the night. We were camped 150 metres away from the spring as well

For me it was a breakfast of jaffles while Mrs Incredible did another marvel fry up. I was expecting to see half a dozen truckie materialise out of now where and tuck into the huge breakfast. On packing up, Suzette discovered a minor disaster in one of the storage tubs. The rough travel had caused the bottoms of the UHT milk containers to burst or wear through to the point of leaking. Those that had let go were now a lovely yoghurt slurry in the bottom of the container. It was a matter of saving what she could, drinking all we could and emptying what could not be salvaged into more robust containers. I was forced to drink a litre of Milo.... uuuurrrp!

After breakfast, we parked the Ultimate near the edge of the salt pan intending to leave it there while we headed overland to locate Griing Spring. Attending at the Johanna Spring marker, we buried a cache at the base and ensured that the other jar was protected from the elements before heading out into the dune country to the north west. Some of the dunes were huge and it became a matter of picking the best way across. The spinifex was very much “old growth” and was thick and difficult to negotiate. We had a bit of luck initially as we weaved our way through the thick tea-tree to the immediate north of our camp suite coming across a large, long salt flat. This gave us a bit of clear distance towards our destination before plunging back into the spinifex again.

While only a few kilometres distant, the trip provided some interesting terrain. Huge sand dunes and bowl shaped blow-outs made the going cautious lest you nose dived the vehicles over a sudden crest. After 30 minutes or so, we finally arrived at the area marked as the “approximate position” for Griing Spring. Indeed it was with a circular depression filled with dry, dead reeds. The area was situated in a large bowl shaped depression surrounded by dunes. It was very similar to the actual spring area of Johanna but nowhere near as open. The soak area also supported the tell tale tee-tree scrub. We dug down in several places looking for moisture but turned over only dry sandy clay and loam.

After taking the obligatory photos and marking the position with GPS, we retraced our route opting to tackle a return path a little further to the west. Again some interesting dune crossings before we arrived back at Johanna and hitched up the Ultimate and farwelling Johanna. From here it was simply a matter of retracing our tracks as best we could along the old cut lines. The going is never easy in this country and we had to be extra careful as sticks and shrubs that we had flattened the previous day were now all to keenly pointing towards our approaching vehicles.One casual moment of inattention could easily mean a destroyed tyre or holed radiator. It was slow going. We had lunch along the way formulating our plans for reaching the confluence 20 south, 124 east. What materialised was the decision to drop the Ultimate at the Pegasus drill site turn off. From there we would back track again for 3 kilometres to an old cut line that ran north-south and utilise that to head to the general vicinity of the confluence. It would then require an additional few kilometres of cross country work to reach the point itself.

All went to plan until we started our trip north. We had 10 kilometres to cover and it soon became apparent that if we wanted to claim this confluence, it was going to cost us. The scrub was merciless. Kilometre after hard kilometre of turpentine thickets. The terrain was treacherous, the cut line having all but disappeared forcing us to bludgeon our way over dunes and through the relentless scrub. It seemed like the turpentine thickets tried to rip the very duco from the vehicle. Thank god for the Scratch-pro! I suffered three stakes on the way in and John, one. Finally after cresting a large dune, the Trackranger and GPS indicated we were crossing the 20th Parallel and that it was time for us to veer right for the run to the confluence. Thankfully, the swale had been burnt out some years previously and was only lightly covered in scrub and spinifex. It was getting late though as it had taken a lot longer to get in than we anticipated. Ironic that the last section of ground was the easiest of the terrain to navigate.

As first time confluence hunters there was great excitement as we watched the gps co-ordinates descend to zero’s. We arrived at our confluence at exactly 3.00 p.m.John and I tookthe opportunity to capture the moment for posterity on the video and camera while Suzette did the confluence shuffle with the GPS I grabbed the grinder and old tail shaft recovered from the scrap heap along the Wapet and ground the word “DIG” and an arrow pointing ground wards. It was then given a quick couple of coats of Killrust and mounted over star picket. There was a bit of consideration about what we should bury in our cache but in the end we opted for a note, some business cards and an Exploroz sticker. The contents were sealed in a zip lock bag and placed inside a glass jar. The lid of the jar was then well sealed with gaffer tape and then the jar was wrapped in two plastic bags before being lowered into the hole at the base of the picket. Hopefully it will be sufficient protection to last for many years should some other foolhardy individual ever venture out this way again.

4:00 p.m. saw us retracing our steps again on our route home. We had fading light but could not afford to rush things through the thick, tyre destroying scrub. As it was I staked another two tyres on the way out making a grand total of five for my first confluence. One on the front left caught the tyre just on the edge of the tread pattern and broke off wedging a piece of timber as thick as a thumb in the tyre. Thankfully this also inhibited the escape of air as well. We managed to collect a bit of firewood on the way back and once we reached the main east west line, made better time pulling into camp as the light faded. I had camp set up in quick smart time and then pulled out the jack and attempted to extract the monster piece of timber from the Cepek FC2 before the light faded entirely. The area around the wound was deformed by the intrusion and it took both John and I to extract it using screwdrivers, multigrips and pliers. It was a monster all right. Five plugs saw it fixed though. I also located numerous other slow leaks in several of the tyres and plugged those while I was at it.

Our campsite is at the intersection of the cut line and what would have been one of the access Roads to the Pegasus drill camp. As such they have topped the intersection with red gravel and rolled it in times past giving a nice solid base for our camp. The bush has found it much harder to reclaim these areas because of the hardness of the surface. They are winning though. Dinner of steak and vegies. And then Suzette, the ever amazing, stewed up some apples on the camp oven to which I contributed the custard. Bloody luxury for weary explorers. I capped off the day with a billy bath and then found the front right hand tyre going down. Had to slip the jack under it while wearing nothing but towel. Lucky no one was about to frighten. The desert floor was alive with critters as I climbed the ladders. The scorpions were particularly active. That’s why I prefer to sleep and keep things off ground.

Authors Note: The Degree Confluence Project is a fantastic initiative aimed at having people visit each of the latitude and longitude integer degree intersections in the world, and to take pictures at each location. The visits, including ours, are recorded on the DCP website. Have a look. Mick.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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