Great Victoria Desert - Maralinga Tjarutja - Wyola Lake September 6 - 8 2018
  Next morning a circumnavigation (on foot) of the bit of the lake we can see from the campsite.

Wyola Lake is a collection of lakes with no creeks or rivers shown flowing in or out.

The small lake we are camped on is a couple of km long. The collection of lakes covers 20 km.

About the same latitude as Lake Maurice to the east and Nurrari Lakes to the west.

Further west, inside Mamnugari Conservation Park, is Serpentine Lakes which are a long interconnected north south string. More obviously a "palaeodrainage" flow to the south that dried long ago.

  To the west is the plain we were traveling north on. North and south the lake is contained by sand dunes.
  We followed old camel tracks across the narrowest part of the lake that we could see from the campsite.
  To find some exposed rocks.
  In the centre of the lake were different, darker, not so hard, brittle, rocks.

A line running across the lake, visible in the middle and each side.

  Back at camp an ant lion.

They live in those nice funnel shaped holes.

  A less than healthy Quandong.

Part eaten by camels.

  The rock finds from around the lake placed on a mud map.

The rim we drove down is a sandstone. Quartzite around the edge and the band of black crystalline rock across the middle. The little island of rock we first saw was too hard to chip some off.

  The desert oaks are considered to be ancestors. Devoid of bark the ritual scars are revealed.
  Quandong fruit on a partly healthy plant.

These are high up. Out of reach of consultants and camels.

The low hanging fruit and growth tips have been grazed. Without growth tips the branches die.

Low down it looks as sad as the last plant.

Propagation of Quandong fruit is apparently by Emu. Unfortunately we haven't seen any emus, nor their tracks.

  Northwards again on the Voakes Hill Road.

Its been re-aligned to avoid native wells.

  Camels are like me and thee. They have to sleep.
  We hear birds in the morning, but see few. These were a chance sighting. But hard for us to identify.
  We've stopped to investigate an anomaly on the map. Its quite different on the ground.

The centre is recognisably different, a circle of grass. A band of desert oaks is also recognisable. But beyond that the features on the ground are insufficient to draw any conclusions. A drone flight failed to provide any more significant information.

But it was fun.

  Coffee and chocolate biscuits were served .....

...... life is tough in the desert.

  The re-alignment of the road can cause some confusion. A party of motorcyclists having traveled from WA along the Anne Beadell Highway seemed a bit relieved to be given directions to confirm their path towards Oak Valley.
  We travel west on the Airport Road. At the western end, where it joins the Rig Road is Rodinia Airport. Rodinia was the company that did seismic investigations and drilled for oil. But found none.

There are no tyre marks easily visible.

  We stopped to look at Marble Gums (Parry?). And happened on this military dragon.

Marble Gums regenerate after fire either by germination of seedlings or basal epicormic growth.

  The road is straight. A little bit south of west. Diagnonally across the vaguely east-west longitudinal dunes.
  The dunes are a little soft in the afternoon sun. Some air out of the tyres.
  Witchity Grubs.

Break off a desert poplar close to the ground and dig them out of the holes they bore.

  Near our campsite, about a 1 km walk, is a "degree confluence".
  29.000000000 degrees south, 130.000000000 degrees east.

There is an american website that collects pictures from every degree confluence in the world.

We don't know if we are first to have visited this location. Peter and Margaret have been first to two others in Australia.

  The confluence is in the swale between widely spaced longitudinal dunes.

Our campsite is behind in a similar swale.

  At the morning brief we studied a fire map. Fire effected areas in different colours for each year.

The map was prepared to help corelate Marble Gum health to fire incidence.

The minimum time between fires is about 6-8 years, the time it takes for sufficient regrowth to support a fire. After that, the longer between fires the hotter the fire as there is more fuel.

Without human intervention there is a sense that natural fires are fewer, longer between, and hence more destructive. Information, in the form of old aerial photos have been sought to trace the fire history of the area.

  A quick diversion to look at a trench dug on an earlier field trip.

The trench bisects marsupial mole tunnels.

Near the base of a mallee tree where there is ground litter supporting the bugs that the moles eat.

They rarely surface.

  Further westwards.

I try to match the ridges (and swales) shown on the map to the vegetation.

In general, the Marble Gums like sand, the Desert Oaks like the swales. But obviously more complex than that.

  Shot lines (for seismic surveys) have been ripped up where they leave the main track.

To limit their use.

The shot lines are roughly north west to south east and at right angles to that in a grid.

There has been more rain in this area than further east.

  Sometimes the predictions of vegetation are successful. We see some marble gums just where they should be.
  We are used to seeing epicormic growth, where new shoots emerge from old branches when growing tips are destroyed by fire. We aren't used to seeing basal epicormic growth. This is a mallee.

Though we are reminded of copicing in forestry practice.

  The Marble Gums can grow suckers. When the parent tree is dying it can send out suckers that grow.

The gums have juvenile leaves which are different to adult leaves. We don't know how the transition occurs.

  They also produce seeds, and thus seedlings, which germinate after a fire followed by rain.

This plume of seedlings was carried eastwards by a westerly wind.

Seeds close to the parent trunk don't germinate. The suspicion is of a chemical signal from the parent that suppresses germination or growth rather than no seeds landing there.

  At last.


And a very young calf.

It looked like it was going to investigate us, but parents won.

  Desert Poplars.

A photo site to monitor regrowth after a destructive fire.

An obvious difference from previous pictures.

  Another military dragon.

We are beginning to "get our eye in".

  Rodinia Airport is just a little north of where the Airport Road meets the Rig Road.

The Rig Road is a substantial engineered road. The airport is capable of landing large planes.

There were big plans for the area as a substantial oil find was anticipated.

Unfortunately sufficient oil was not found. Or the rock was "too hard". Either way we are left with some infrastructure.

We camp on a short road running west from the rig road, a little south of the airport road, towards an old, capped, unproductive, well.

Great Victoria Desert - Maralinga Tjarutja September 9 - 11 2018

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