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Sarah's Library

I read pretty much anything, from fantasy (City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett) to romance (Bared to You by Sylvia Day) to classics (Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad).  The only genres I don't read are self-help and comic books/graphic novels.

Currently reading

The Last Honeytrap
Louise Lee
Progress: 100/346 pages
Complete Works of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare

Great Desert Tracks - Atlas and Guide by Greg Cartan, Ian Glover, Frank Stoffels, Alan Whiting, Vic Widman

Great Desert Tracks - Atlas & Guide - Frank Stoffels, Greg Cartan, Alan B. Whiting, Vic Widman, Ian Glover

20/9 - I'm not reading this because I have plans to go 4WDing (my parents do, but I'm not that interested in spending a week enduring searing heat with not enough water to shower and nothing much to see except a lot of red dirt), I'm reading this because it has some very interesting information about some of the most remote places in Australia.

Some interesting facts I have learned from this book:

1. The Great Victorian Desert is the largest dune desert in Australia, approximately 420,000 km squared, which is about 5% of the Australian land mass.

2. The intensity of desert storms and the amount of rain dumped can be staggering. During such a storm on the Birdsville Track in 1993, Lake Harry, normally a sizeable dry claypan, filled with water in less than an hour.

3. In December 1963 all five members of the Page family died after their vehicle became bogged on the Birdsville Track and they decided to attempt to walk to find water. They were found a few weeks later and were buried together by the side of the road where they were found.

4. There is more than one famous Tom Kruse. Tom Kruse of Australia was the Birdsville Track mailman. He started delivering the mail as a 22-year-old in 1936, 21 years before a grader ever made the trip along the track. He retired in 1984, after nearly fifty years of driving the gruelling track.

5. Lake Disappointment was named by Frank Hann in 1897 because he was 'disappointed in not finding water in it'. It's likely he came across it during the dry season, I imagine it would have a completely different name if he'd found it in July.

6. There really is a Wolf Creek in Australia, and it has an associated meteorite crater which is 850 m wide, 50 m deep and is the second largest crater of its kind in the world.

7. Frank Hann and Talbot, an Aboriginal boy, made 25 exploration expeditions between 1895 and 1908. He named over 500 geographical features, more than any other explorer.

8. The Gibson desert was named by Ernest Giles after Alf Gibson, who perished in that desert in Giles' 1874 expedition. Gibson, a young stockman, disappeared after Giles sent him back for water barrels they had left in a tree. Gibson obviously took a wrong turn and disappeared into the desert. Subsequent searches by Giles and Tietkins were all in vain. "Who can tell his place of rest" wrote Giles.

9. Empress Spring was named by David Carnegie during his 1896 expedition. His party was dangerously close to running out of water before an Aborigine showed them this water supply down inside a cave.

10. Although the Simpson Desert was first visited by Europeans in 1845 (Charles Sturt), the first white person to successfully cross it was Ted Colson in 1936. He then re-crossed it again after spending three days in Birdsville.

11. Munga-Thirri (Simpson Desert) National Park is Queensland's largest national park.

12. Dr Cecil Thomas Madigan led a scientific expedition across the Simpson Desert in 1939. His party of nine men and 19 camels left the remote homestead of Old Andado on June 4 and, after considerable hardship, arrived safely in Birdsville on July 6. He named the desert after Allen Simpson, who was then president of the South Australian branch of the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia.

13. The 1860-61 Burke and Wills expedition met a tragic end when the support team gave up hope and left what is now known as The Dig Tree only hours before Burke and Wills and King finally made it back from their expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria. Burke and Wills succumbed, but King survived with the help of the local Aborigines and was rescued several months later.

14. Lake Eyre is Australia's largest salt lake, though it is more often a dry saltpan. The catchment area for the lake covers one sixth of Australia. Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia at nearly 15 metres below sea level.

15. The Simpson Desert is closed between December 1 and March 15 due to summer temperatures that can be above 50 Celsius.

16. On the direct crossing the Simpson Desert will put approximately 1100 parallel dunes in your path.

17. Lark Quarry Conservation Park has preserved footprints from a dinosaur stampede.

18. The Strzelecki Track was the route pioneered in 1870 by Harry Redford, a cattle rustler who stole 1,000 cattle from the Longreach area and drove them down into South Australia and sold them. He was eventually caught but not convicted for the offence, as the jury was impressed by his feat.

19. Peter Egerton Warburton's aim was to push west through the interior and reach Perth. After crossing the Western Australia border the party kept finding water to the west and northwest, pushing them into the Great Sandy Desert. The camels were killed for rations, and the party finally reached the Oakover River late in 1873 with only two of the original 17 camels. After resting, the party followed the river to De Grey Station and the onto Roebourne and a ship to Fremantle.

20. In 2005, two men died of thirst when their vehicle broke down on the Talawana Track, not far from the Parnngurr turnoff. If they'd had detailed mapping with them they could have seen where there were water sources. They made every other mistake in the book too: they didn't have a mechanically-sound vehicle; they did tell anyone where they were going and when they intended to arrive; they didn't have adequate fuel, food and water; they left their vehicle and after walking the wrong way had to return to it; they didn't have a satellite phone or UHF radio; and they were travelling at the very start of the desert touring season, so there was no passing traffic. And the Darwin award goes to...

And with that sobering tale I've come to the last of the 25 tracks described in this book. The rest of the book is maps showing every detail of all the tracks featured in the book. A very interesting book, even if you have no intention of getting into a 4WD or leaving the suburbs.