Camel Trek to Lake Frome: Day 2

We camped the night of the 2nd day on 3rd plain between two range of hills. I photographed along a creek bed in the late afternoon and then in the following morning. Most of the photographic subject matter on day 2 consisted of creek beds and river gums with some melaleuca. The vegetation on the two plains was wattle (accacia victoria). It was a similar weathered landscape to that of our 1st camel trek to Mt Hopeless, though it was not as dry due to the monsoonal rains in January. This had cleaned the creekbeds out, but there was no water in them.

3rd plain, pm.

I assumed that the various tributaries that we walked in and across whilst on 3rd plain would flow into Balcanacana Creek, and that the latter went in an easterly direction to eventually reach the southern end of Lake Frome. I kept on thinking we are walking over what was once a shallow seabed that had deposited sediment over the area.  That was 140 millions years ago and the rugged Flinders Ranges have been steadily rising since 40-50 millions ago. I struggled to get my head around the timescale of this natural history (in the sense of historical nature).

The idea of Australia as the timeless land was a big myth. Lake Frome, like the other salt lakes (Callabonna, Blanche, Gregory and Torrens), are isolated, dehydrated remnants of former larger lakes that deposited clay and dolomite around the periphery of the Flinders Ranges. These current salt lakes once formed a mega lake (Lake Mega-Frome) until 45,000 years ago. Temperatures were much cooler then, and the mega lake was full of water at times. Then it started drying out as the rivers flowing into the various parts of the Lake Mega-Frome increasingly lost water. It was possible for me to imagine the water flowing through these creeks criss-crossing the plain as I walked along them.

3rd plain

Another myth is the sense of being the first person in this space. As I walked through this landscape I imagined human beings living and hunting megafuna, (eg., the Diprotodon) as well as different types of wallaby on the plains. and taking their kill back to their shelters in the ranges. We know that people had started spreading throughout the Australian continent — or more accurately the supercontinent of ‘Sahul’ that originally united Tasmania, Australia and New Guinea — around 50,000 years ago. The subsequent archaelogical excavations of the Warratyi rock shelter in the northern Flinders Ranges, adjacent to the Gammon Ranges that was discovered by Giles Hamm and Adnyamathanha elder Clifford Coulthard, indicated that people were living in the Flinders Ranges 45-49,000 years ago.

stones + tree roots

At an international level, 20,000 years ago people in Western Europe were only beginning to paint the walls of their caves, and as a matter of fact, Altamira, the famous painted bison site in Spain was another 10,000 years in the future. The aboriginal people had made their home in the Flinders Ranges in  the late Pleistocene before the region became really arid.

However, I found geological time very difficult for me to imagine, picture or even comprehend. It’s timescale is so vast. The history of the Flinders Ranges reaches back to the glacial period (715 million years ago and which lasted 120 million years) and the emergence of an ancient, shallow seabed in the Cambrian period (approximately 830–500 million years ago). This period includes major changes in the Earth’s physical environment and in the latter part of the period key evolutionary events in the emergence of animal life (approximately 541 million years ago).

strand of gums on 3rd plain

None of this history could be photographed by me as I could not interpret the geological layering of the rocks in the gorges. I just concentrated on taking photos of what was presented to me in the present.

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