Gibson Desert - Lots of searching and the excavation of Red Bluff Rockholes

Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 03:40


Red Bluff Camp, Gibson Desert

An interesting day of rugged terrain and thorough searches of likely locations for the Deep Rock holes. The morning began with a bit of service work on the quads. I stripped out the guards from the front of Scott’s radiator and cleaned the Spinifex out and then repaired six punctures in his tyres. Five in the front right and one on the back left. Luckily Scott was driving mine so these all went to Al McCall’s credit. The team was again splitting into two to meet some final objectives. John and Gaby were taking the quads out to check sites 7, 11 (fifteen kilometres out), 10 & nine. They were then to join us at what ever camp we had decided to set ourselves up at. The vehicles and the remaining quad, ridden by Alan Kennedy would head to Deep 5 to search the area more thoroughly and then over to deep 4 some 5 kilometres west to dig out the possible holes we had located yesterday. We had prearranged times for Sat-phone communications between the two parties to keep each other abreast of activities as they took shape. Equinox had been busy carving a blaze for our GDEC expedition on a local Desert Oak. “GDEC MMX” marked our passing and a photo of the crew couldn’t be denied before leaving our old base camp.

Again it was a winding, lumpy trip through the scrub for the 6 kilometres to site 5. There were several dunes to negotiate and what they lacked in height, they made up for in steepness and ground cover. They were ornery indeed and one crossing saw Al McCall get the ute airborne losing a box from the rear in the process. Living by the maxim of discretion being the better part of valour, the remaining vehicles opted to scout for a better crossing point which was found in due course. After negotiating the crossing, we hadn’t seen AK and the quad for some time. I returned to find him bogged deep on the dune. That’s the first time I’d seen a quad bogged let me assure you. Ah well.

We reached the first site after about an hour. It was a rocky area surrounded by Mulga and crisscrossed by numerous shallow creeks and washaways. We quickly formed a search detail and performed two, double legged line searches of the surrounding area to no avail. The scrub was very thick in places tearing at skin and clothes. You also had to dodge the many orb spiders strung up between the trees. Some were quite large. After completing the grids, we moved location to the east and commenced again covering a couple of square kilometres in two line searches. We finished the location with a line search a little further east before departing for site four.

We endeavoured to keep to the high country as much as possible but we were eventually funnelled down into the dunes, small as they may be. We made good time though and soon completed the four kilometre journey to the west arriving at the red bluff rock holes site just before 1:00 pm. Pulling the vehicles up in the plain overlooked by the crescent shaped ridge that is the western edge of the bluffs, we opted to go check out the rock holes before lunch, taking a shovel with us. Well we couldn’t help ourselves and were soon shovelling in shifts in the main hole. As it deepened the extent of its classic shape and depth became apparent. In no time we were down to a metre and then further finally stopping at about 6 feet. The hole was beautifully shaped and rounded. It went down about 170 cm and also went sideways underneath the ground above for about a metre as well. There were several crevasses that run from the bottom down past our reach. We were all excited and at 2:00 pm all needed a rest and some sustenance, returning to the vehicles for a lunch break. Scotty took a nap in the back of the guppy. Grabbing the quad I scouted the area for a more suitable campsite opting for a location about 100 metres north that was nestled in the lee of the rocky buffs and sheltered by acacia on the southern side. It offered shelter from the breeze and ample timber. AK and I then cleared up some of the dead timber to provide space for all.Red Bluff views was open for business!


A short time later I retuned to the rock holes and commenced digging out number two. The holes themselves are located on the southern end of the low sandstone ridge. They are only a short distance from the top of the ridge and perhaps 50 metres from the sandy bottom edge of the ridge. The rock is formed of well worn slabs of sandstone. There are two large holes of a metre in diameter right beside each other with a small rock hole of only 40 cm depth to the east of the two main holes. The whole area is only 5 metres square but receives good drainage from the surrounding country. The second hole proved to be a bout 120 cm deep with a large crevasse running a further 35 centimetres in depth. We have commenced checking other key sites around these main holes and will continue on tomorrow.

John and Gaby blew in about 4.00 p.m. having successfully completing their scouting mission of the 4 remaining sites. They were impressed with the holes and were soon on the end of a shovel digging as well. We all returned to camp a short time before sunset, tired but chuffed at our discovery. They may not be the Deep Rock holes but they are a significant find none the less. Being stuffed, a can night was called which was duly enjoyed by the fire. A clear crisp night with the stars ablaze. You’ve got to love a desert sky.

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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