Simpson Desert
2nd - 16th September 2005

On this organised tour with Treks Across Australia, in their 4WD Oka bus,
 we travelled up through Hawker in the Flinders Ranges to Maree,
then along the Oodnadatta Track through William Creek to Oodnadatta.
 A few kilometres from there we headed north past the old Central Australian Railway ruins
 at Pedirka and the Dalhousie ruins to Dalhousie Springs.

This is where the classic Simpson Desert crossing begins.
 We travelled along the French Line past Purnie Bore to Poeppel Corner.
  Then along the WAA Line eventually reaching Birdsville.
  From Birdsville we travelled back home through Innamincka and the northern Flinders Ranges.

Beautiful Sturt Desert Peas and other native flowers growing in the gardens at the caravan park at Hawker.

Poached Egg daisies

The Oodnadatta Track near Oodnadatta

The ruins of Dalhousie Station. They were constructed from springs limestone and were built between 1872 and 1885.
Well before Europeans sighted the springs in the area, Aboriginal groups had used the area for rituals for many generations.
The first Europeans to see the springs were surveyors working on the Overland Telegraph Line in 1870. 
Prior to the surveyors leaving Adelaide, Lady Edith Ferguson, the wife of the South Australian Governor
and daughter of the Marquis of Dalhousie, had presented them with boxes of books.

Dalhousie Springs
Water from Queensland and NT soaks underground and flows here slowly under layers of hard rock. 
The high temperatures of the Earth's core heats the waters of the Artesian Basin. 
It takes some water up to 3 million years before it can escape to the surface through rock faults as springs.
The water that flows out from the springs has many minerals dissolved in it. 
As the water evaporates the minerals are left behind as solids.
Over time they accumulate with the ancient sand and clay to form mounds around the spring outlets. 
This large natural pool is one of a of a number of  mound springs in the area. 
The water was a very warm 370C. degrees. It is a pleasant camping area.

The start of the classic Simpson Desert crossing.  Along the French Line not far from Dalhousie Springs. 
Dr. Cecil Madigan, a geologist, carried out an aerial survey of the desert with the aid of the RAAF in 1929. 
He named the desert after Allen Simpson who was the then President of the South Australian branch
of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia. He had also once been the Lord Mayor Adelaide.

A thunderstorm in the desert!!! At our overnight camp at Purnie Bore
Purnie Bore was an oil search well that struck artesian water.
A lot of water has flowed from this bore and it has now created a wetland which is a haven for wildlife.

In a farm-out agreement with Santos (SA & NT Oil Search Co.) and Delhi International, 
the French Petroleum Company was active between 1963 and 1966.

In 1964 they blazed the French Line. It was an access track through the centre of the exploration area. 
It provided the first major access route through a hitherto inaccessible wilderness.

The first vehicle to drive across the desert belonged to Dr Reg Sprigg's company, Geosurveys of Australia. 
They were conducting a gravity survey under contract to Beach Petroleum. 

In 1962, Spriggs, his wife Griselda, daughter Margaret (then 10) and son Douglas (then 7) completed
the first west to east crossing of the desert.
 Leaving Andado Station near Mt. Dare, the Spriggs travelled along an easterly course along the
approximate line of latitude 260S to Poeppel Corner and then on to Birdsville. 

Poeppel Corner, where the Northern Territory, Queensland and South Australia meet  (260S, 1380E). 
Augustus Poeppel of the South Australian Survey Department carried out the first survey of the border in 1880.

He put the corner right in the middle of the dry lake that is named after him. 
Back in Adelaide it was found that the chain used to survey the border had lengthened by 2.5cm.

In the 1884 resurvey, Lawrence Allen Wells, of the SA Survey Department,
repositioned the post 315 metres to the east out of the lake to its present position.

A replica of  the original post.  Poeppel's camels dragged it 90km westwards from the Mulligan River. 
At the same time of  Reg Sprigg's trip, another survey team from Geosurveys of Australia found Poeppels's 
original post lying flat on the ground in poor condition. 
Spriggs took it back to Adelaide where it was restored and is now in the State Library of SA.

Big Red (Nappanerica)
The last and most notorious of the sand dunes before the easy 36 km into Birdsville. 
We took the easier, but still challenging crossing over "Little Red".  It is part of the same dune.


On the Diamantina River, the small settlement lies between the sands of the Simpson Desert
and gibbers of Sturt's Stony Desert. 

The famous pub is adjacent to the airstrip. 

 Before the days of refrigeration, your beer was poured into a saucer ... you had to continually blow on it to cool it down
and of course to keep the flies away.

The area around Birdsville was first explored as early as 1845, while surveyor Charles Sturt
was searching for an inland sea.  

In 1869, Burke and Wills set up camp 76 on the banks of the Diamantina River
here on their return from the Gulf of Carpenteria.

After leaving Birdsville we headed east and then south into South Australia.

Cordillo Downs
Not now in operation, this was the largest shearing shed ever built in Australia.
Up to 88 shearers could shear at once.  In 1878 a pastoral lease was taken up for Cordillo Downs Station and by 1883,
10,000 sheep were being run on the property. 

  In 1900 Cordillo amalgamated with Cadelga and Haddon Downs and the property spread across 102,400 sq km, 
shearing 100,000 sheep a year. 

 Shearers caught the old Central australian Railway train to Lyndhurst or Farina (600km south)
and then cycled or walked the rest of the way!  Some may have been lucky enough to have a horse.

  The wool clip was transported by Afgan camel train to the railway. 
The domed roof of this old shearing shed is characteristic of the buildings on Cordillo Downs station. 

 On the flat gibber plains of the region, wood is very scarce, and a method of  construction to minimise
the use of roofing timber was sought. 

The solution was a domed, corrugated iron roof structure, supported by butrussed
stone walls more than half a metre thick.  Up to 88 shearers could shear at once; 4 shearers to a port hole.

 The sheep were penned down the middle. Other buildings on the station were built in the same style.
 Dingos and drought took their toll on the sheep. Since 1942 Cordillo Downs has only run cattle.

We camped at a pleasant spot on the banks of a creek, about 30 km south of Cordillo Downs.

In the creek beds along here there was a rare type of Mulga that we also saw much further west
 on the Canning Stock route trip.
These Red-barked Mulga or Minnaritchie trees (Acacia Cyperophylla) all appear as if they have been whittled
 by someone with a knife and present a most unusual sight.
They have curly red bark, sparse foliage and grow in a narrow band of latitude.

The restoredformer nursing centre, now a display centre and National Parks office.

 In 1845, Charles Sturt was the first European to pass this way. 
Innamincka is a small township on the banks of Coopers Creek.  
A police station was set up in a tent here in 1882. 

The township struggled to survive and in 1952 all facilities eventually closed.
It laid in ruins until 1971 when some township lots were sold to a syndicate who built a hotel-motel-store complex.

The Burke and Wills Dig Tree
It is in a very pleasant setting on the banks of Coopers Creek, about 70km from Innamincka.
The dig tree is a coolibah (Eucalyptus micronetha), a common tree along inland water courses. 

 Estimated to be 250-300 years old, it is relatively healthy. 
The cement plug shows where the tree was successfully treated for termite infestation in 1960.

It was here that Burke established Depot 65 and divided his party into two groups while he made his dash
 with Wills, Gray and King to the Gulf of Carpenteria.  
Brache and his party waited here for over 4 months for them to return.
 Burke, Wills and King  returned on the very day (21st April 1861) that Brache had departed nine hours earlier.
A great Australian tradegy.

After finding Camp 65 had been vacated, Burke decided to head west along Coopers Creek 
to Blanchwater Station near Mount Hopeless.

King died first, and after travelling about 60 km along the creek, Burke died.
He was buried here initially. However his remains are now in the Melbourne General Cemetry.

 Following Brache's return to Melbourne, a search party led by Brache and Howitt
was mounted and eventually located King further along the creek on the 15th September 1981.

He had survived as an uninvited guest of the Cooper Creek Aborigines.

We left Innamincka along the Strzelecki Track which joins Innamincka with Lyndhurst 470 km away.

The Strzelecki Track is well maintained as it services the Moomba oil and gas fields where
Santos has extensive operations. Oil is being pumped from a depth of 1150 metres in this well.

And so on to the northern Flinders Ranges and eventually home.

Go to the Northern Flinders Ranges