Gibson Desert - The crossing is completed! Now the Gary Hwy to Veevers Crater & Whau Whau well

Wednesday, Jun 16, 2010 at 00:00


Whau Whau WellGibson Desert

A bright sunny morning greeted us this morning. I’m pretty sure that most were feeling a bit tired after a few big days of rough travel and high drama. It wasn’t to end there either! Having finished breakfast, I was in the midst of doing my usual walk around and pre-departure inspection when I noticed a slight issue with the trailer springs. I say “slight” but it had very nearly caused some serious grief and certainly would have it had remained undetected. In brief, the front spring clamps on the right hand spring had broken, allowing the rebound assisters to drop off. This also meant that there was nothing in place to maintain leaf collation so the leaves had begun to twist outwards. The levering action had twisted the rear clamp out of whack to the point where it too was beginning to break along the bottom angle. Even more of an issue is that the shortest spring had twisted towards the tire and had worn a groove a couple of millimetres deep on the inside wall of the Cepeks. Phew, talk about lucky. Thankfully the groove was in the thickest part of the sidewall.

Removing the wheel, I managed to find an old U-bolt of just the right size to slide over all four leaves. This was done up tight with a plate between the prongs of the U. The rear was straightened, the hanger bashed back into place and the spring pack wound with half a roll of gaffer tape. Never underestimate the power of the “Hundred mile an hour” tape. It should hold the pack together and prevent lateral movement while allowing the leaves to slide as required. Time will tell.

Because the springs were now unevenly tensioned, the left hand unit retaining it’s rear rebound spring, we decided to remove the it and even things up. Removing the wheel, we found that with no load on the trailer, the clamp was impossible to get undone as the rebound was fully tensioned. The solution was to get everybody standing on the trailer to provide some lengthening on the main spring and ease the rebound assist leaf. While it looked funny, it worked a treat and the rebound was soon off.

With better light we again visited the line of stones that indicated the presence of Patience Well and walked back through the trees to examine the well before leaving. We had approximately 8 kilometres to cover back to the old cut line that would take us the remaining 25 km up to the Gary Highway. Initially we travelled across a dwarf spinifex which gradually gave way to mulga flats, that while requiring the odd twist and turn around a copse of mulga, was generally good going. Somewhat dusty though. Our 4 vehicle, three trailer and 3 quad convoy leaving quite an impressive trail for other visitors to follow.

On reaching the cut line, it began to dawn on us that our Gibson adventure would soon be over. Our 10 days traversing some of the remotest country Australia has to offer was drawing to a close. While overgrown in places, the old cut line still provided a good traverse of the hills and ridges to the Gary. We arrived in good order and the quads were lined up for a final photo session. I don’t think it dawned on Alan K that he and Gaby were probably the first people to have ever travelled over the entirety of the Gibson on quads. We certainly haven’t heard of anyone else doing it. Bugger, now I was going to have to make room in my Cab for him.

After nearly two weeks of being empty, there was a certain amount of reorganising required to fit the quads back on to the trailer and their riders back into the vehicles. It was with a fair degree of sadness that we farewelled the McCall boys. Alan was retreating to Hedland to effect repairs to the fair Maid and to get Big John to an airport for a trip south. We would be taking a more leisurely route into Rudall before tackling the Great Sandy.

The Gary was a mixed bag of gravel, gibber, washaway and encroaching flora. It was good going though but one had to be vigilant for the odd branch sticking out onto the track beckoning for a tyre. Scotty missed one resulting in a staked trailer tyre on the rear right. Damn those splits. It required a tyre change which is a little more time consuming than a plug! We also managed a stop at the forlorn wreck of an old Nissan short wheel based 4x4. I reckon it was actually a scouting mission by Mr fixit. Nothing lying about that was of particular value to us though and we were soon off towards Whau Whau well.

The track junction to Veevers is easily discernable being located right next to Whau Whau Well. As we veered north east towards the crater, I took note of the stands of low gums just to the east of the intersection as they would make a fine camping spot if the pickings were slim out east. Again no real difficulties with the Veevers track. A little bit of sand about the place, some washed out sections but pretty easy to navigate. Veevers crater is an impact crater located on a flat desert plain between the Great Sandy and Gibson Deserts in the center of the state of Western Australia, Australia. The site is considered very remote and difficult to visit. The crater was discovered in July 1975 during a government geological survey and named in honor of Australian John James Veevers who had led a field team into the Canning basin in search of oil and minerals in 1957. At the time of discovery a meteorite impact origin was suspected, but could not be proven. The subsequent discovery of iron meteorite fragments around the crater by famous comet hunting Shoemakers in 1990 removed any doubt about its origin.

The crater has a symmetrical bowl-shape and is considered to be one of the best preserved small meteorite craters on Earth. The 20 metre wide rim rises about 1.5 metres above the plain, while the deepest point of the central depression is 7 m below the rim crest; the rim to rim diameter averages about 70 metres. The crater is less than 20 thousand years old and some have argued less than 4 thousand years old. It has been suggested that the original meteorite was in the size range of 100-1000 tonnes.

While nowhere near as spectacular as the Wolfe Creek crater, it’s impressive none the less, it’s remoteness and difficulty of access adding to the appeal (for some like us). There were a couple of rough, hand made markers from one of the earliest expeditions out this way. Shade was non existent, the only significant flora being shrubs. We sheltered in the shade of the Guppy for a late lunch. It looked a bit strange to see everyone huddled in on camp stools trying to fit into the limited amount of shade. Scotty in the elevated position of the passenger’s seat looked like he was holding court or telling a story to a group of avid listeners.

With a fair bit of daylight left and the desolate country failing to offer much in the way of suitable camp sites in the vicinity of the crater, we decided to head back the 16 kilometres to Whau Whau and pull into the scrub on the eastern side of the well. It was a lovely little spot that had been used by travellers in the past. This little band of eucalypt providing plenty of timber. Scotty got his shower set up and set about mending that damned trailer tyre. The amount of animal tracks in the sand either side of this band of trees was amazing. I spent quite a while on the trail of a perentie hoping to find his lair. He was a bloody big monitor by the size of his claw prints and tail drags. We also found a large dead tree that had been hollowed out by fire. What remained of the trunck was about 3 metres high and reverberated like a drum when the outer shell was hit with a stick. Amazing what will amuse one out here.

BBQ dinner with vegies and a couple of bottles of good red to toast our crossing. There was the usual story telling, Scotty and Al still at it when I headed off to bed.

''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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