Winburn Rocks - WA



DEG: -26.056601 127.518669
DMS: 26º 03' 23.76" S 127º 31' 7.21" E
UTM: 52 J 7117206mN 351813mE
Altitude: 520.87m


Address & Contact

Central Reserve
Western Australia
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Winburn Rocks is a large cap of granite like rock that rises as a high point out of the surrounding plains. The top of this dome stands 30 metres above the surrounding plains and again, is littered with sentinel like boulders. In the crevasses at its edges, huge native fig trees have grown providing shade and a source of bush tucker as the fruit ripen. Winburn was first visited by John Forrest and was the site of his camp 73 on the 15th August, 1874.Forrest recorded;
"a tremendous rock hole full of water...between two large rocks and completely shaded from the sun."
(J.Forrest, Explorations in Australia)

Forrest was fortunate to locate a significant sized Rockhole which was actually a fold in the granite forming the domes. Situated near the base of the formation, long, narrow and shaded by the high walls, the bowl would be capable of holding many thousands of litres of water and is ideally situated to catch run off from the expanse of granite around it. While not named at the time it was visited by Forrest it is referred to in journals of the Elder Exploring Expedition of 1891 and later explorers as Forrest’s Rockhole.Forrest simply described it as a couple of fine rockholes that contained insufficient water. He did manage to feast on the native figs nearby.

12 August 1874. Left camp with Tommy Windich to find water ahead, instructing my brother to follow on to-morrow. We bore East-South-East for a few miles over grassy flats towards some high hills, but, seeing what we supposed a good spot for water, we turned east towards it, over miserable spinifex sand-hills, and found some splendid granite rocks and holes, but not much water--enough, however, to give the horses a drink. If there was rain, there would be enough water here for a month or more. Near these rocks found a tree resembling the figtree (Ficus Platypoda), with ripe fruit about the size of a bullet, which tasted very much like a fig. I ate some of the fruit, which was very good. Fine hills and ranges to the eastward, and country very promising, and in many places beautifully grassed. After resting two hours we pushed on about east, and, after going five miles over spinifex sand-hills, came to a granite range and found two fine rock holes, sufficient to satisfy the horses. Continuing on, we camped close to a peaked granite hill, which I named Mount Elvire. No water for the horses. Found the old horse-tracks, just before we camped, coming from eastward. I cannot make them out to be Mr. Gosse's; they must be Mr. Giles's. There appears to be a great number of horses', but am uncertain if there are any camel-tracks.
Sir John Forrest – Explorations In Australia (1875)

Exploring the expanse of granite near the rock hole it’s not hard to find the carved inscriptions “Sir John Forrest – 1874” and below it, “Giles Tank – 1873” each some 30cm high and beautifully carved into the rocks. The nearby engraved names of F. HANN, Talbot and S. Giles give some clue as to the origins of the carving (See below).

Possibly the most ambitious Australian expedition of all time the Elder Scientific Exploration Expedition led by David Lindsay, left the railway at Warrina, south of Oodnadatta, on 2 May 1891 on a 6,886 kilometre journey that was to last 12 months. The party was one of the strongest and best equipped expeditions ever sent into inland Australia and consisted of 14 men (three of them scientists) and 44 camels. Conditions for travel were favourable at first, with abundant feed and, fresh water. However, in mid-July the Expedition crossed into Western Australia and experienced very difficult, drought affected country. Many of the surface waters considered permanent by earlier explorers like Giles, Gosse and Forrest had dried up.

Lindsay reached Winburn Rocks on the 30th July, 1891 and noted trees near there marked by A. Forrest and W.W. Mills (William Mills carried out explorations in the area in 1883). With the supply of fresh water at Forrest’s Rockhole being one of the few places capable of sustaining the expedition for an extended time, Lindsay moved his whole party here establishing a ‘depot’. Over the next month Lindsay instigated a series of unsuccessful probes or ‘flying trips’ into the west and northwest with little net return. Plagued by doubt as to the supply of water available to them and lacking enough water to both water their camels and fill their water casks, Lindsay finally decided to strike southwest to Giles' Queen Victoria Spring. After 25 days and 400 miles, the Spring was reached on 23 September 1891 and found dry prompting the party to head to the only known water at the Fraser Range some 125 miles further north west. After one of the longest waterless forced marches in the history of Australian exploration, safety was reached at the Fraser Range after 34 days, the camels having covered 868 on an allowance of only 36 litres of water per animal.

Photographs taken by the Elder Expedition of 1891 provide the earliest pictorial evidence of these areas and despite an interval of 125 years, they remain much the same with even the fig tree that Forrest feasted on the fruits of still alive and thriving.
(Insert Historical and comparison Photos here)
That wily old prospector and seriel engraver Frank Hann reached the rocks on 12th April 1906. Hann who noted the letters "W.F.96" on a burnt mulga & "FJE, SURGN, EEE, XXX111, Aug-4-91" cut into a bloodwood tree. The latter would have been marked by Medical Officer F..J Elliot during the Elder Expedition's stay 10 years previously. Hann named these rocks "Sir John Forrest Rocks" and had his men cut into the rock "Sir John Forrest-15/8/74" as well as their own names "F.Hann, Talbot & S. Giles". He returned there on 15th April after spending three days unsuccessfully searching for Giles Tank south of Mount Squires. Hann was convinced (wrongly) that Forrest's Rock Hole and Giles Tank were one and the same and his men cut "Giles Tank-1873" into the rock.

Surveyor H.L. Paine, leader of the 1931 Warburton Range Expedition visited the rocks on 16th and 17th September, 1931, recording their name as Winburn Rocks. He states:

"Filled tanks and watered camels. Emptied large gnamma hole left small one full for Aboriginals. Many fig trees with loads of fruit at this place, as Forrest records. Many visiting cards here. The ubiquitous F. Hann and Talbot - J.O. and Cable Bros., also some misguided individual has carved in foot high letters "Sir John Forrest 1874" and below it "Giles Tank 1873". This isn't Giles Tank. That being a gnamma hole about 15 miles to the south, according to the litho. There are two groups of rocks, one about 30 chains north of this, no water in the northern ones."
H.L. Paine, Journal of the Warburton Range Expedition 1931,

From the summit, ranges and individual hills stand out clearly in the distance.
iMapPlot Reference Image


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Closest Weather Station

Warburton at 19/05:30pm WST
Distance from Winburn Rocks 93.66km W
TemperatureFeels LikeRel. HumidityDew PointPressureRainfallWind DirectionWind SpeedGusts

Closest Climatic Station

Warburton Airfield
Distance from Winburn Rocks 93.66km W
Mean Max. °C38.036.533.929.324.320.720.723.127.931.634.336.6
Mean Min. °C22.922.119.915.
Mean Rain mm28.536.731.418.015.417.912.99.85.714.824.731.5

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