Gibson Desert - Hard yards in the search for the Deep Rockholes and a chance discovery!

Wednesday, Jun 09, 2010 at 00:00


Deep Rock Holes Base Camp, Gibson Desert

A great day on the quads today with Al McCall and I getting away early to check out some of the nearer sites. I repaired six (yes six) punctures in the right front tyre of my quad before breakfast. I can only surmise that Alan K had not detected that he was running on a flat tyre for a fairly lengthy period the previous day. Mind you they were traversing some bloody tough country. Alan and I had elected to do a circuit to the north west around Deep sites 3,4,5 and 7. Scotty and John were getting some work done on Johns quad as we departed.

Alan and I headed out fast to Deep 3 a distance of 7 km to the east. It was overcast, cool and very windy as we shot across the rough country. It was tough riding by any standards and I was up o my feet more than I was sitting. There’ll be a few puncture today that’s for sure, the rugged country is bound to punish us for our audacity.

The first site (Deep 3), a rocky outcrop proved of no value so it was with our second site of the day some kilometres to the north (Deep 4), again for little result. Each site appeared to be located in the vicinity of a low rocky rise but what often appeared to be an area of possible significant drainage from a Google Earth image, often turned out to be nothing more than a region of different shading from the surrounding country. Our route was to take us more or less in a broad sweeping circle moving in a clockwise direction back to camp. We were only some 500 metres further north and starting to swing to the east on our way to site three when Alan Mc located another interesting outcrop of rocks. This outcrop was certainly more impressive than either we had visited that morning and was not a location marked for us to search that morning. The ridge formed a broad crescent roughly a kilometre in length that bent gently around to the west. The eastern side formed a sharp, rocky wall approximately 8 metres in height that overlooked the lower sand and gibber country. The southern tip of the outcrop formed a stepped bluff and it was here that Al indicated the remnants of a small rock hole. While is appeared to be nothing more than a shallow depression some 20 cm deep, it was a metre or so wide and ringed by a lip of rock. The dark oxidation of the surrounding rock indicated that the area held water after rain. Alan was off the quad in a shot and kicking at the dirt in the bottom of the depression to find his boot dislodging moist earth down to about 15 cm deep. This looked very promising indeed.

Scouting the area we found an abundance of camel prints as well as those of Kangaroo and wallabies, the latter not being something you see too often out here and certainly another plus as an indication of water being present somewhere in the area. There was plenty of birdlife about as well. The northern ends of this red sandstone ridge were slowly being subsumed by encroaching sand hills. On riding back along the base of the eastern wall, I located a strange stone standing eerily upright and not congruous to the area (24°19'10.52"S 126°48'41.43"E). Given it’s proximity to the promising holes we had found, the possibility of it being a marker or ceremonial stone were very real. The low bluffs were riddled with caves, abundant shelter for the local wildlife. We explored the area on quads as best we could recording points of interest and photographing what we could. This area could do with a lot more exploration than the two of us could provide that’s for sure.

Heading out back to camp very excited. I used the Garmin to good effect to guide us back across the dunes to camp. By god the country is tough. We saw a few camels here and there as we pushed our way along ridge tops and through thick scrub and spinifex. The occasional flat area saw a race of sort develop (boys being boys) and encouraged a final sprint into camp once we’d crossed our outward tracks a kilometre or so from camp.

The gods smiled. No punctures for me although I think Al may have picked up one or two. The team headed out again after lunch to cover off sites 7,8, 9 & 11.John and Suzette on one quad and Scott & Al Mc on the other. They found some promising locations but the punishing country still saw them pushing their way back to camp after sunset. Big John decided to utilise the old “lighthouse” manoeuvre and made his way to the top of the highest sand hill a few hundred metres to the north of the campsite with our brightest light. It wasn’t too long before the growl of the artic cats could be heard in the distance zeroing in on Johns Beacon and a welcoming campfire.

The evening saw a council meeting around the fire once dinner was out of the way to plan on the best way to cover off the remaining bases and capitalise on our most promising find to date. It was decided that all the vehicles and Al K on a quad would revisit the last area that the quads were at this afternoon to conduct a more thorough search of the area before then moving on to the west and the red bluff and rockhole Alan and I had located that morning. Scott, Gaby and John would take the other quads and visit another 4 targets circling through the locations to the left and meeting up with us at either of the two locations. This means a journey of some 40 km for quads but only a third of that for the vehicles. It should be achievable.

''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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