Gibson Desert - Nipper Pinnacle, spinifex grasslands, island refuges and more bush welding!

Monday, Jun 14, 2010 at 21:25


Atop a ridge island, Gibson Desert, WA.

I was up before dawn to take some photos of the early morning sunlight hitting Nipper Pinnacle, Alan and Gaby having climbed it to greet the sun. Outback Al got to washing up the dishes after last nights banquet while I got things ship shape and then dropped off the front right hand Quad tyre to replace the leaking mushroom plug. A bit of cautious work grinding back the inside ridges of the tyre as the rubber is very thin. I opted for a radial patch mounted longways instead of towards the bead. Plenty of blue goo and it seems to have held. The wind picked up with the sun blowing sand across the campsite. After all this there was simply another three punctures in the quad tyres to be mended and then a group climb to the top of the pinnacle to bury our cache.

It was a windswept photo opportunity atop the pinnacle and we decided on placement of our cairn (more a replacement and addition to Alan Mac’s cairn of several years past) in a large hole in the flat slab of the summit, offering some protection from the elements. I was surprised to see the feint outline of McPherson’s pillar on the horizon far to the south west. Whilst still a good number of kilometres away, it put our location into perspective for me having over-nighted there back in 2006. With everything packed and the sun well up for the morning, it was time to continue our slow amble west. Our days activities also involved checking a couple of anomalies that Alan had identified on Google Earth including one he suspected of being a meteorite crater some seven kilometres west of Nipper.

That seven kilometres was eaten up quickly across a mixture of open spinifex plain and the occasional thicket of mulga which required some twisting and turning. Unfortunately the meteorite crater turned out to be a circular shaped patch of dead spinifex so it was on the kilometre or so to the next, a green tightly packed thicket. On arriving there about 11.00 a.m. we were forced to face the sad realisation that last nights weld on the front coil had not held. Unfortunately our work location was an open plain that provided little shelter from the sun. Never the less, out teh tools came and the process of renewal began again. Grinding, welding and this time, reinforcing the coil with some steel strap. There was a bit of fun playing with the amperage, Scott and my experience of two years past giving good insight into battery needs and regulation of resistance using jumper cables. The bonus on this occassion was having sizable chunks of metal to weld rather than the 3 mm RHS of our trailer frames back on that fateful Sandy Blight trip. Three batteries were used. Again my trailer ramp as a template. This time, a piece of strap was tacked then folded around the double length of spring, both inside and out of the coil radius. This was then fully welded along it's edges, the boys having to go down to two batteries to compensate for the thin strap. The end result certainly looked robust. The welds were quenched using water boiled in the eco-billy. We improvised a shade of sorts using Al Kennedy’s ground sheet, the unoccupied members of the team holding a corner each.

Everything was put back together and we finally got moving when Al indicated a banging noise from the area of the spring. It seems the welded piece was hitting the bump stop and internal spring guide. Off it came again and they tried rotating the spring, to no effect. Then it was deliberately 'mis-aligning' the bump stop using a piece of left over strap and finally grinding down some of the rubber stop. This seemed to work and we were off again just after 3:00 p.m.

It’s amazing the views you get with just 30 metres height difference above the surrounding countryside. We have been traversing an area of wide open spinifex expanses bordered by low rises, some of which sport rocky breakaways. On each peak there is often a clump of trees while the wide valleys are almost grassy in appearance. We've likened it to being in a grassy ocean where the hilltop clumps of flora truly resemble islands. We only made and an extra 8 kilometres or so from our coil repair site before calling it a day at one of these tree clad 'isalnds'. The views across the surrounding oceans of spinifex are simply amazing. On collecting firewood, Outback Al found two small perentie in a log which provided a great photo oportunity. The night sky was spectacular, the deepest of blues with a ribbon of gold on the horizon. The merest cuticle of a moon was setting in the night sky followed closely by a super bright Venus. So calm, clear and still. A million dollar sunset for sure.

Tube steak and vegies for dinner and I reckon an early night for everyone. I’ve had a fair bit of sun today and I'm feeling it. We had a few laughs around a fantastic fire before retiring about 8:00 pm.

Some extra Bush Mechanic shots surrounding the welding of the front coil.

''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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