Instructors: Profs Robert Winglee and Bruce Nelson

Students were involved in hiking/exploring some of the great wilderness areas of the Northern Territory and northern Western Australian to experience first hand its geology and its wildlife. Many of the formations in the region date back from 100 to 2000 million years ago (MYA), and the ability of students to gain first hand access to these areas provides a great geological experince for students. In addition to the geology, the area offers important insights into the living history of the Aboriginals through their rock paintings, story telling and cultural centers. The fauna and flora are also very different due to the geological isolation of the continent which started around 150 MYA when the southern supercontinent Gondwana started to break up.

The exact route for the trip had to be modified due to a vehicle failure but still covered a major portion of the Top End of Australia, and we were able to visit over a dozen national parks or wilderness areas. Below chronicles the visits to these different areas.

Try clicking large panoramas that I made for many of the areas. Also a few movies are available for flying foxes, students playing, leaves floating in El Questo gorge, and hermit crab on the move. They might best be played by downloading onto your own machine and them playing (Beware they are large files).

Aug 16th: First morning out, we stopped at the Adelaide River to view wild saltwater Crocs and Raptors living in the area. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

The afternoon of the first day we arrived in Kakadu National Park and visited Nourlangie Rock and the Aboriginal Art there showing creation stories. Large quartz embedded in the rock is common to the area. The second day (Aug 17th) we investigated an igneous intrusion before heading up Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls, both in the central eastern part of the Kakadu National Park. Kingfishers, White and Black Cockatoos were also seen. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 18th: We broke camp and headed to the southern part of Kakadu National Park and visited the Gunlom Falls area. We investigated stress features in some of the formations and ended the day with a swim. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 19th: We did a hike to Motor Car Falls (still in Kakadu; the gorge's name comes from the abandoned vehicle found there when the track was first developed). We spotted several wallabies moving through the bush. We also examined the insides of a termite mound. It was very hot so the swim at the bottom of the falls was very welcomed. After the hike we broke camp and headed for Katherine Gorge. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 20th: We undertook a full day canoe ride up the first three gorges of the Katherine Gorge system. We investigated the stratigraphy of the gorges, which consisted of much finer sandstone than in Kakadu. Rock art and ripple rocks were also seen. We also had time for coordinated rock jumping. Bird life was abundant in the gorges and wallabies came out and visited us at night. They also helped themselves to anything left out overnight. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 21: A big drive day as we headed toward Timber Creek, NT with a stop in Gregory National Park to visit Limestone Gorge where billion old stromatolites were examined. We also saw tufa dams of dissolved limestone forming new rock within a creek bed, and we played with boab trees that arrived on the continent 150 Million years ago. We took our first puncture for the trip here. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 22: Crossed the Western Australian Border and made our way into Purnululu National Park. Aug 23: Hiked into Mini Palms Gorge and Echnida Chasm on the north side of the Park.

Aug 24th Hike into Cathedral Gorge and the Domes on the south side of the park. One of the vehicles got lost so we were a little late getting through the day. An away team was sent for an overnighter in Picaninny Gorge (20+ km hike one way).

In the afternoon we exited the park. As we did so we investigated folded marble formations near the park entrance and a layered igneous formation just outside Halls Creek where we stayed the night. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 25th: Spent the first half of day resupplying the group's food and doing maintenance on one of the cars. The group then headed out to see China Wall, a large quartz intrusion, Palm Spring Gorge and Saw Tooth Gorge, where 300 million old glacial deposits were examined. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug. 26: Continued to head west and see the first part of the Devonian Reef Complex and stayed at Windjana Gorge that night. Aug. 27th we hiked the gorge with its 300 ft limestone walls, abundant fossils, fresh water crocs, archer fish and fruit bats. The campground was also hit by an intense dust devil. Spent the rest of the afternoon just chilling in 90+ temperatures. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 28: There is a growing need to find some igneous rocks - too much soft rock to date for the likes of some. We head further west into the King Leopold Ranges and Lennard Gorge. An away team is sent out early so that we could resupply at Fitzroy Crossing. The weathered diorite looks like a massive range of tombstones. The gorge is deep and narrow and the trail out is very difficult over round boulders. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Late Aug 28th: We encounter the away team pointed in the wrong direction with the left rear wheel fallen off the vehicle. The bolts are completely stripped, and the brakes are in bad condition. We are exactly in the middle of the only two towns in the neighbourhood, both 160 km away. We are rescued by two bush mechanics who reassemble the pieces so that the vehicle is at least operational. We head for the biggest town of Derby at 40 km/hr which is unfortunately in the wrong direction to where we want to be.

Aug 29th: It is Sunday and nothing is open so we hang around town. Because of these delays there is no longer sufficient time to make Alice Springs. It is decided we will reroute and head up the Gibbs River Road which is very spectacular but no Ulhuru.

Aug 30. The two good vehicles head back into the King Leopold Ranges to continue their search for igenous rock - one crew waits behind for repairs to be completed. In the mean time, I walked the salt pan to see the mirages, and group attempted to fish off the wharf - only caught sea weed. The crew is a little stir crazy by the end of the day. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Aug 31th: The delayed team heads out to catch the rest of the group but we make a detour to investigate Tunnel Creek National Park that we missed due to the car problems. A totally different subterranean world is experienced. We see our first goanna swimming in the creek and eating bugs and there are flying foxes moving in and out of the cave. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Late Aug 31st: We headed for Bell Gorge which the lead group would have seen the previous day, The waterfall has a series of steps and there is a highly folded rock formation above the falls. We catch up with the main group that night at the Bell Gorge campground.

Sept 1st: We continue up the Gibbs River Road to see additional gorges, including Manning Gorge. Time to unwind a bit and jump from really high rocks, including a certain instructor. Diesel for the cars is $8/gallon. Two of the vehicles get lost in the car park so that the last vehicle out is the first to reach the gas station on a one lane road - a unique accomplishment - maybe too much rock jumping for some of the drivers. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Sept 2: We arrive and camp at El Questo Gorge. Half the crew is exhausted, and they hang around the camp. The other half walk the gorge. This time the cars got a good swim instead of the students, with several deep creek crossings occurring. Half way up the gorge, a fault rock was encountered which is highly deformed from stresses associated with the fault line that the gorge follows. We also got our second and last puncture from a nail of all things in the middle of nowhere. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Sept 3: Head back into the Northern Territory and visit the Keep River National Park to see remains of an aboriginal dwelling and some heavily eroded sandstone features. One vehicle gets separated from the other two again and it takes a little while to find each other in the park. At the campground that night cane toads abound, which makes for interesting walking in the dark as they don't move out the way. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Sept 4: Half the crew exits at Darwin with one last hike at Edith Falls. The remaining crew resupplies at Katherine, does the Edith Falls walk but also gets a good swim in and then heads for Litchfield National Park just outside of Darwin. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Sept 5-6: Hike Litchfield National Park, including Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, Magnetic Termite Mounds, the Lost City, and an abandoned tin mine. Best of all though we had a close encounter with a mother wallaby with a joey in her pouch, and a golden orb spider. The last of these photos are from Laura King as my camera died the second day in Litchfield after we got caught in a monsoonal downpour. See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Afternoon of Sept 6: This turned out to be our last day on the road. We decide we would spend the night in Darwin with a free day to visit the sights in Darwin the next day. So for the last activity we decide to hit Wapita Beach, which is rarely visited by a soul, with lots of pristine shells, coral, and hermit crabs to play with. And the last chance to stick your feet into the Indian Ocean (albeit the Timor Sea). See Slide Show or Table of Slides

Earth and Space Sciences