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Simpson Desert 1992
contributed by RayLucas
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NORTH SOUTH CROSSING OF THE SIMPSON DERSERT.
In May 1992 I was one of eight people who did a north, south, crossing the Simpson desert in three 4 wheel drive vehicles. Our starting point for this venture was the Tarlton Downs Homestead situated on the Plenty Highway, in the Northern Territory some 416 kms northeast of Alice Springs.
Leaving Tarlton Downs homestead we would be without any human assistance or back up for the next 550 kilometres until we reached the small outback Queensland town of Birdsville. Contact with the outside world would be through the Royal Flying Doctor Service (high frequency) H/F two way radio system, which we used daily to report our position and welfare; until we fully cleared the Sturt Stony Desert, south of Marree two weeks later.
Driving south into the desert it would be 125km before we reached the the end of Tarlton Downs property; passing through Junction Bore one of there cattle yards, we would find vast numbers of Red Tailed Black Cockatoos, and Zebra Finches tenaciously clinging to the sides of the cattle troughs while they drank; then fly off to the safety of the large river redgum trees found along much of the dry river bed.
Our trip through the desert was to take ten days, at times driving over and between the sand dunes; occasionally bulldozing our way through low lying scrub, at all times keeping the Hay River in site. Dry washouts and creeks were at times a challenge to navigate through and around as we made our way south following the Hay River to the very end, where it delters out across the Simpson Desert. At this point we were to navigate to a point called Madigans Tree, a blazed tree marked by Cecil Madigan the second person to do an east west crossing of the Simpson Desert back in 1939. From this tree (which is still there) our party drove east, to the old Annadale Ruins, crossing hundreds of sandhills along the way.
Apart from our lastest - up to date maps, our navigation was mainly by kilometres travelled, and dead reckoning. These maps also showed the Australian Army had also surveyed the area twice. In 1962 they carried out a reverse survey and used used wooden markers to indicate the peg's position. A few years later they conducted a further survey, this time marking the way with 3 star metal drop pickets with aluminium tags attached, these carried the pickets location and were to be found every 5 kms; fortunately we found many along our trip, and it always gave us a little boost in confidence, to know we were still on track. Two years prior to our trip Geoff Portman a well known trip leader did the same traverse as ourselves, and we were amased to find tracks which they had left. Once or twice we were lucky enough to across the much older tracks left probabaly by previous army surveys; proving very little rain had fallen in this part of the desert.
I made a number of bird sitings some of which are listed here. I also gave a comprehensive list to the Royal Ornithological Society to place on there records; for not many people would ever have ventured so deep into this area of the Australian continent.
I have attempted to tell the story through photographs; unfortunately a list of more than 50 different bird species has know gone missing, I have listed those I remember.
In the posted photographs, you will find a map of the route taken on our journey; generally heading in southeasterly direction from Tarlton Downs.
This story was uploaded into the Bonzle Digital Atlas of Australia entry for the Desert 'Simpson Desert'.
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- info about Simpson Desert: click here for the Bonzle entry on Simpson Desert (open in new window)
- map of Simpson Desert: click here for the Bonzle map of Simpson Desert (open in new window)
- pictures of Simpson Desert: click here for pictures of Simpson Desert (open in new window)