Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflections II: Wetness

The pictures are: 1) Fortescue Pool, Karijini NP, 2) Splash Pool, Karijini NP, and 3) Weeli Wolli Creek

This field season had the most water in it of any I can remember. Before the trip, I think I told Louis that surface water would be rare. During Australia Fourteen, we saw a stream or a pool every day, in both the Red Centre and the Pilbara. Two days of rain in the latter is unprecedented. Perhaps it was predictable. The Pilbara does have a few more millimeters of rainfall in June than it does in July or August, when I’ve usually worked there. In any event, the centimeters of rain we experienced made for drama, ranging from our epic Bee Gorge-Tom Price dirt road commute to finding the missing layer just as rain began. The potential of crisis – becoming trapped off road by mud, for example – added to the adventure.

Water was also abundant on and in the ground. Pools and streams in Karijini were fuller and higher. Better swimming. Better light reflections off the cliffs. Groundwater made a special appearance during Fourteen. The swag out at Palm Springs was unique: an actual pool created fed by groundwater. It was lush, verdant, and unexpected. Moreover, the former presence of groundwater at the “undisclosed location” is probably what attracted Aboriginals to the area. Their time there resulted in the petroglyphs we discovered. This was also true at Uluru and at N’Dhala Gorge in the Northern Territory.

Postscript - looking over previous entries, I see I did not write about N'Dhala Gorge. This was a stop in the NT, on our last day. A recommendation by the truck rental company. N'Dhala is east of Alice along the MacDonnells. Another wet gorge: rock holes close to year long. It's known for petroglyphs. Like many such sites in the NT, it remains active and sacred in Aboriginal culture.

My impressions. An hour plus east of Alice, a nice bit of 4WD at the end. Much to explore, little time. Good track, petroglyphs hard to find for a couple reasons. First, I think many are still in use as it were. Second, I was tired. Third, high fly density. Not epic levels, but enough that I kept inhaling them. Distracting. What was interesting with respect to the subject of this post was an observation of Paul's, and maybe the signage. The visible petroglyphs were concentrated on the flat rock surfaces around the waterholes. It was easy to imagine Aboriginals having the time and energy, via abundant water and probably food (via water), to create carvings in N'Dhala. More likely than a random rock among the dunes. Another bit of information about place.

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