Gibson Desert - The search for Carnegies "Deep Rockholes" and a quad expedition to the west.

Tuesday, Jun 08, 2010 at 00:00

Mick O


Camp beneath some Desert Oaks a long way from anywhere!


Up with the sun and a leisurely breakfast of jaffles by the fire. Another brilliant sunrise with bands of cloud stained red and gold. We have decided to embark on a two pronged search mission later in the day, the quads splitting off to check out Deep Site 8 while the vehicles head further to the north east to a main camp site for the search. John will lead the quads and Equinox, the vehicles.



The days travel began at 8:30 a.m. and we headed north into the dunes and plains again. There were a few thickets of woodland that had to be negotiated, again causing keen observation of the ear trailer tyres as Scotty and I wove our way about. At 0930, we crested a highpoint to gain a great view of the surrounding countryside. A few finches heralded our arrival with their peeping indicating that there must be a source of water nearby. It wasn’t long after departing that we entered a thicket of Gidgi that saw me having to jackknife the trailer at nearly every twist. To make matters worse, the scrub ran alongside a small dune that we had to cross. It was a torturous route that unbeknown to me, one of my front hubs had unlocked. I went in a bit slow intending to let the hubs do their job and down I went, deep! There was nothing for it but to be snatched by Michael J after doing a bit of clearing and letting the tyres way down. To add insult to injury, Scotty cleared it first time. I must have bulldozed the track down for him! Yes I copped a big ribbing and every camera and then some were there to capture the moment…damn. The scrub was very thick in places and so tight in areas that I was often forced to reverse and jackknife the trailer just to get enough space to clear the trailer tyres around the more obvious stakes and trees. Here the foresight in having the trailer drawbar in such a position as to be able to slide back under the rear quarters of the vehicle really paid off. If jack-knifing left I can get back to 140 degrees or so before it stops against the rear spring shackle and a little less on the other side due to the exhaust. Thankfully we broke into open space before too long and continued on in relative ease to our lunch spot.



Lunch was taken on a knoll. There was no natural shade available but judicious vehicle placement overcome that. There was a bit of activity as we gave the quads a once over, ensured they were full of supplies and gave last minute instructions to all concerned. The maps were examined and way points determined and entered into GPS units. Sat phone times were agreed upon as was our most likely destinations for that evenings camp. While I’m not adverse to a bit of adventure, it has to be said that I felt a bit of trepidation during the preparation. The quads would be heading to a point 40 km to the north west and would then have a run to the east of roughly the same distance to link up again. This meant more than a good days travel by vehicle if there was a mishap or recovery was needed.



After a few dry biscuits and sardines washed down with a cup of tea we bade farewell to our three intrepid explorers and headed off north east. I wonder what feeling the quad riders had when the crossed the first sand hill knowing their support crew was moving in the opposite direction in the middle of truly uncharted country. Very alone I’d reckon. The going was initially great but that situation didn’t last long believe me. The easy going gave way to thickets of turpentine that pulled the protective coating of Auto-skin right off the duco. It was nerve wracking stuff. We got little respite and our speed dropped dramatically to walking pace at best. It was terrible country with underlying hummocks and the sand hills, although not enormous in their own right, offered a degree of technical difficulty due to the tight circumstances of the surrounding scrub.



As a result of the underlying conditions, it was not until after 4:00 pm that we reached Alan’s waypoint for the most likely position of the Deep Rock holes. Alas it was nothing more than a sand bowl in an elevated position (See Google earth images at the bottom of the page). From the adjacent Sand hill we spotted a glade of desert oak some 300 metres to the south so beat a track there to set up camp. Scottie and I bulldozed our own track a little further to the west. It was getting late and I had grave fears that the quads may be completing their homewood leg in the dark or probably more sensibly, spending a night out if need be. We got camp squared away pretty quickly and while gathering wood from the nearby hilltop, I took the radios with me and could occasionally pick up the feint chatter of our quad team as they headed west towards us. They sounded like they were having fun although it was difficult penetrating the last 7 km of scrub. They arrived in due course at 5:00 p.m. dusty and exuberant having had a great time although their search had proved fruitless and Site 8 was scratched having been declared of no value. They had traversed nearly a hundred kilometers of treacherous country. All were filthy and a shower night was called, as was can night by the cook.


Scotty, MJ and I dragged a large log down from the top of the sand hill exhausting ourselves in the process. At least we have a substantial log to burn tonight. While walking the hills I noticed that the local ants were all frenetic above ground. That coupled with the number of moths about tonight leads me to think that a bit of moisture might be headed our way tonight or tomorrow. We have decided to base camp here and spread out in search pattern on the quads tomorrow. Showers at the Guppy, cans for dinner and dessert of pears and custard. Lovely. Our camp is in a small bowl that is sheltered on three sides by surrounding sand dunes and open to the west. It’s a spinifex carpet for us but we are also shaded by a stately Desert Oak. It was a beaut day of travel but were all exhausted. We’ve covered some amazing desert country and a variety of terrains to boot. Fun on the quads for me tomorrow.




''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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