The gorge walls were limestone but they were orange in colour as they had iron through them. The walls were high and hard to photograph whilst on the move. I kept on falling behind the camel train as I tried to photograph the walls. Creek beds in gorges provide the best way to get through a range for the camels as they do not like walking downhill.
There was no water in the gorge, not even a small rock pool. Where were the donkeys, goats, birds, rabbits and wallabies getting their water from I wondered? How long could they go without water?
Towards the end of Tea Tree Gorge Kym, who was helping Ryan the cameler to keep things running smoothly, came across a fossil. It was a fossil sponge lying on the ground amongst the shale and stones: an Archeocyatha from the lower Cambrian period. Such sponge-like creatures lived in low-oxygen waters and represent a halfway stage between single-celled microbes and multicellular animals. So historical traces of this period — a shallow sea—were all around us; but you had to have both the scientific knowledge and an eye of a paleontologist to see these traces. I was no Jim Gehling. I just saw stones:
Our camp that night was next to a creek bed. I wandered around in the late afternoon photographing red gums in the creek bed. I had in mind Cazneaux’s tree in the southern Flinders Ranges near Wilpena Pound. This has become a prime tourist site. I was fascinated by the way the old river gums just hung on in an increasingly arid climate.
Happy hour was nibbles and wine. Dinner was baked potatoes, ham and salad plus red wine. I cannot recall the sweet. During happy hour Kym talked about the Ediacaran period –roughly 635 to 541 million years ago that came after the great glaciation of the planet (the Cyrogenic Period 750 -635 mya) and before the Cambrian period.The earth warmed, the super continent Rodinia began to break up, which created more coastline and shallow seas, the amalgamation of fragments led to the formation of Gondwana and multicellular life appeared. This is deep time in which the tectonic plates are continually shoving the continents around and crashing them into each other.
The Ediacaran Period was a time of immense geological and biological change, and it records the transition from a planet largely dominated by microscopic organisms, to a Cambrian world swarming with animals. The Ediacaran biota were the first soft bodied, multi-cellular life. These fossils are difficult to classify. There is a fossil site in the western Flinders Ranges. The first discovery of multicellular life was in the Ediacarian Hills in southern Australia in 1953.
So why did complex life form during the Ediacaran Period? Could not complex life have started to gain a foothold during Snowball Earth?
I had stripped the sprockets in the film in the Rolleiflex TLR whilst I was winding the film after taking a photo. I was in a rush and I was too heavy handed. Unfortunately, I rewound the film spool the wrong way in the swag that night and, as a result, I lost all the film-based photos that I’d had taken up to that point.
I swagged in the creek bed that night annoyed with myself.