Fwd: An Australian icon--the Nullarbor

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: Fwd: An Australian icon--the Nullarbor
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 16:10:47 -0800 (PST)
Subject: An Australian icon--the Nullarbor
Date: Mon, 30 Oct 2000 03:00:14 GMT

Hi everyone,

We are in Port Augusta in South Australia. We got here
yesterday after a journey that is a sort of Australian
rite of passage.

The Nullarbor Plain stretches from Norseman, West
Australia to Ceduna, South Australia. The word
Nullarbor is from the Latin for no trees. It is an apt
name for this harsh and unusual piece of land. There
are trees on the Nullarbor, but most are small and
twisted. There are many places where nothing but
grasses and low shrubs strech to the horizon on all
sides. It is hard to remember that you are usually
only a few kilometers north of the ocean. Edward John
Eyre, the first European to see these parts, said of
it, "A hideous anomaly, a blot on the face of Nature,
the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams."  Yet
crossing the Nullarbor Plain is a special pilgrimage
that every Australian has a hankering to do at least

Caravans, trucks, and tee-shirts proudly proclaim, "I
crossed the Nullarbor".  When we tell folks, we are
going all around Australia; they ask us if we have
croosed the Nullarbor yet and give us advice on what
need to do to be ready for it (check the tires and
fanbelts, be sure you have plenty of water with you,
take a jerrycan of petrol--just in case).

The Nullarbor Plain is the world's biggest single lump
of limestone--over 250,00 square kilometers. To put
this in some perspective, the Nullarbor Plain would
cover the combined area of England, the Netherlands,
Belgium, and Switzerland, with a 7,000 square
kilometer patch of limestone left over. It is bounded
by the Great Victoria Desert in the North and the
Southern Ocean in the south. It took us three days to
across it. Most of the way, we didn't see any
habitation except for the roadhouses set at intervals
along the way to provide food, lodging, and fuel for
those passing through.

When you start across the Eyre Highway, named for
Edward John Eyre who was the first European here, you
see a road sign with three animal silhouettes--a
camel, an emu, and a kangaroo. Under them it says,
"next 96
kilometers". We never saw a live animal during our
drive, but we did see a lot of dead kangaroos,
wombats, and one dead camel. On the eastern side of
the plain, there are large wombat "towns". These are
burrows made by small groups of wombats who live near
each other.  The tunnels they make are big enough for
a human to squeeze through. In size and shape, these
guys remind us of Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs that
have been to a gym. They are solid little tanks and
can move enormous amounts of soil to make their
burrows.  Anyone who is unfortunate enough to hit one
with their car would have the whole undercarriage
ripped up.  They
are built low to the ground so they would go under the
car instead of being thrown away from it. With all the
cautions and advice, we found it to be an interesting
and fairly easy trip. Nowadays, there are plenty of
roadhouses and caravan parks; lots of traffic; and
emergency phones provided at intervals along the way
if needed. Probably the most impressive sight we saw
the highway (apart from the sheer distances and
emptiness in terms of houses) was the Bunda Cliffs
along the edge of the Southern Ocean. The Bunda Cliffs
are the edge of the huge limestone slab that underlies
the Nullarbor. The lower part of the cliffs, washed by
the sea, is white. It was formed by the skeletal
remains of marine organisma deposited when the
Nullarbor region was the bottom of the sea some 45-50
million years ago. Above it is a dark brown layer
known as Nullarbor limestone some 30 meters thick,
laid down when the ocean rose around 20 million years
ago.  The cliffs are capped with a thin layer (1-2
meters) of rock and rubble mix of weather slimestone,
recemented by soil, chemicals, water and weather. The
cliffs are
interrupted by little bays and armlets of the ocean so
they have a scalloped look. When you stand on one of
the headlands and look down parallel to the coast, you
see the alternation of inlets and rocky headlands
receding into the distance. 200 meters below you, the
cold green waters of the Southern Ocean explode
into white tatters against the rocks.  It is so far
below you that the sound of the wind in your ears is
louder than the muffled thunder of the surf. 

Gulls and hawks play in the wind--either heading into
the wind and trimming their feathers to hang
motionless, riding an updraft up the cliff face like
an express elevator, or hurtling along just above
the surface of the waves with a tailwind driving them.

The Nullarbor was a terrific experience and now we are
headed for another one. We will leave Port Augusta in
a few days to drive up the Stuart Highway to Alice
Springs and the Red Centre of Australia. This is to be
the ultimate outback experience--at least it is the
closest we can come without a 4 wheel drive vehicle. 
We are not sure how often we will be able to get
online between here and Alice Springs so you may not
hear from
us for a while. We will be enjoying ourselves,
however, and will let you know all about it later.

Kind regards to all,
Sid and Sharon.

Do You Yahoo!?
Yahoo! Messenger - Talk while you surf!  It's FREE.

Birding-Aus is on the Web at
To unsubscribe from this mailing list, send the message
"unsubscribe birding-aus" (no quotes, no Subject line)

<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>
  • Fwd: An Australian icon--the Nullarbor, John Gamblin <=

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU