I   had   just   driven   from   Port   Hedland.      It   had   been   a   forced   stay   there   due   to   some   repairs   being   required   to   my   vehicle’s   suspension   after   I had   crossed   a   substantial   section   of   the   Gibson   Desert.      All   the   time   spent   in   Hedland   was   time   I   had   planned   for   exploration   of   some remote   areas   in   the   vicinity   of   the   Southesk   Tablelands.      I   was   a   bit   disappointed;   however   I   had   to   make   the   most   of   the   situation.      Now   two days later I was at the end of all tracks, having arrived at Helena Spring this afternoon.  It was Friday 25 th  June 2010 1:40pm. The   spring   is   at   the   end   of   an   81   kilometre   track   that   leads   eastward from    the    Canning    Stock    Route;    arguably    the    longest    track    without crossing   any   other   track   leading   to   a   single   feature   in   Australia.      This spring    is    a    good    place    to    start    an    off-road    journey,    a    journey    not following   any   tracks   but   just   the   general   direction   of   certain   landmarks northward.      It’s   a   long   way   from   anywhere   here,   and   it   brings   forth   to one’s   mind   that   feeling   of   uncertainty   and   risk   that   comes   with   such journeys. I   was   suitably   equipped   with   all   the   normal   items   of   safety   such   as communications   and   GPS,   and   had   120   litres   of   water   on   board.      One can   only   hope   I   have   a   better   run   this   part   of   my   journey   and   my vehicle,    especially    the    suspension,    holds    up    in    the    varying    harsh conditions.      A   trouble   free   trip   I   was   hoping   for.      I   had   to   be   back   on the   Canning   Stock   Route   before   nightfall   the   day   after   tomorrow   so   I could then head homeward.   spring   itself   was   buried   under   clay   and   sand   and   I   wished   I   had   more time   to   spend;   to   have   a   go   at   digging   it   out.      So   I   now   left   the   spring following   the   rim   of   the   claypan   before   turning   towards   the   north   east.     I   was   planning   first   to   visit   some   outcrops   that   explorer   David   Carnegie probably   visited.      These   were   26   kilometres   away.      If   I   had   no   problems I   could   make   it   before   sunset.      This   was   sandridge   country,   and   there were   many   of   them   running   east   west.      I   was   to   head   north   north   east so I would be almost heading straight into the ridges. I   got   bogged   on   the   second   ridge,   and   spent   a   fair   bit   of   time   digging myself   out.      The   Fair   Maid   was   sunk   into   the   sand   right   on   top.      It   was my   fault.      I   had   my   tyres   at   a   high   pressure,   and   I   had   to   lower   the pressure   by   10psi   in   each   tyre   to   enable   me   to   get   over   the   ridge.      I fairly   knew   this   would   happen;   it   is   always   hard   to   try   to   find   a   balance between   a   pressure   which   is   the   most   drivable   and   one   that   prevents most    punctures.        This    time    I    knew    I    had    to    lower    the    pressure, otherwise   I   would   have   some   difficulty   getting   anywhere.      I   still   had about   40   sandridges   to   get   over   before   dark.   I   also   changed   the   gearing to Low Range 4WD.  It was 2:25pm. The   sandridges   varied   in   height   from   about   four   metres   to   twelve   and they   were   no   longer   a   problem   getting   over,   Low   range   3 rd    being   my new   favourite   gear,   apart   from   a   couple   of   times   where   I   had   to   find another   crossing   point.      Most   of   the   swales   contained   huge   patches   of Turpentine   bush   and   sometimes   it   was   quite   difficult   to   find   a   way   past and through them. I   saw   the   rocky   features,   Mad   Buck   Rocks   as   I   nicknamed   them,   as   I crossed   one   final   sandridge   today.      On   that   sandridge   I   also   noticed   a very   prominent   hill   to   the   west   some   kilometres   off   that   is   labelled “small   rocky   outcrop”   on   my   map.      I   headed   to   the   rocks   though, where    they    were    situated    nestled    in    the    side    of    the    adjacent sandridge.      I   arrived   just   before   5:00pm,   just   before   sunset,   and   spent the    spare    daylight    checking    the    place    out,    before    then    setting    the camp up, lighting a fire, unrolling the swag and relaxing. Mad   Buck   Rocks   consists   of   many   detached   blocks   of   weathered   sandstone.      Native   artefacts   are   present.      In   the   morning   two   Major Mitchell   Cockatoos   flew   by   and   circled   around   me   as   I   was   climbing   a section   of   rock.      I   wondered   where   they   drank   from!!      The   sandridge   on which   the   rocks   sit   adjacent   reveals   more   sandstone   on   the   other   side –   and   there   is   more   on   the   other   side   of   the   next   series   of   ridges   about one kilometre away to the north.   I   found   a   small   rockhole,   dry,   amongst   the   rocks   on   the   other   side   of the   ridge.      There   were   small   creeks   that   have   flowed   in   times   past,   in times   of   rain   –   not   often   by   the   looks.      I   have   been   in   this   area   before, in   2003.      I   was   on   a   Quad-bike   and   my   Dad   and   brother   were   backup for   me   in   a   ute   on   the   Canning   Stock   Route.      I   was   in   a   hurry   then   too, well, some things may never change!! I   would   head   for   the   rocks   at   the   next   sandridge,   leaving   the   camp   area at   8:15am.      Spending   a   quarter   of   an   hour   at   the   last   of   this   “patch”   of sandstone     I     then     turned     towards     the     Forebank     Hills,     or     more specifically   at   the   moment,   Three   Conspicuous   Conical   Hills   nearby   that Carnegie   mentioned   in   his   journals.      These   were   reached   just   after 9:00am,   as   they   were   only   a   few   kilometres   away.      I   stood   upon   the   easternmost   hill   and   admired   the   view;   which   took   in   all   of   the   Forebank Hills   area   and   also   the   headlands   of   the   tablelands   ahead   at   least   40   kilometres   away.      I   would   hope   that   I   reach   them   tonight   –   yet   still   have to try and see as much of the Forebanks as I can. Now   I   wanted   to   see   a   line   of   rocks   I   found   in   2003;   this   was   nearby   and   it   didn’t   look   like   anything   had   changed   since   my   last   visit.      I   doubt very   much   that   anyone   has   seen   these   since   I   found   them.      The   line   of   rocks   seem   to   be   of   aboriginal   origin,   and   30   metres   away   at   the   base of   a   hill   there   are   another   three   rocks   in   a   line,   pointing   away   to   the   tablelands   to   the   north.      There   is   a   rockhole   about   one   kilometre   to   the north   from   here,   at   the   side   of   a   low   ridge   of   conglomerate.      There   was   no   water   in   the   rockhole.      This   could   have   been   a   rockhole   that Carnegie   went   to,   as   he   said   he   found   one   in   the   area.      However   there may   be   others   about,   who   knows?      On   the   other   side   of   this   ridge there   are   signs   of   an   old   shotline   or   track   that   passed   by   going   west east Now   I   would   meander   from   hill   to   hill,   stopping   when   the   view   was good   or   if   there   were   interesting   formations   worthy   of   exploring.      I   can say   now   that   if   anyone   is   thinking   of   coming   to   the   Forebank   Hills expecting   great   vistas   of   bluffs   and   cliffs   and   challenging   terrain   then there   will   be   some   disappointment.      There   are   bluffs,   with   their   faces to   the   west,   and   a   few   hills   here   and   there,   however,   they   are   of   not great   height   or   width,   indeed   they   are   significant   only   by   their   isolation, perhaps   being   just   the   guardians   of   the   more   isolated   country   to   the east. After   the   first   few   hills   of   the   south   the   country   became   rocky,   gibber like;   dry   creeks   were   all   about   –   the   main   stretch   of   hills   were   in   a   line of    about    five    kilometres.        An    isolated    hill    is    to    the    west    a    few kilometres;   this   is   the   “Fort   like”   hill   of   Carnegie’s,   and   it   remains unvisited,   by   myself   and   Carnegie   anyway!!      It   is   the   leftmost   “small rocky outcrops” on my map. There    are    at    least    two    caverns    within    these    hills    which    contain aboriginal   paintings,   and   if   water   was   available   nearby,   would   be   a pleasant   place   to   stay   –   for   a   while!!      Water   does   run   down   the   inside of   one   of   these   caverns,   making   me   think   that   by   digging,   a   supply may   be   found.      I   wondered   when   the   last   person   resided   here,   doing   it hard in the desert. The   truth   was,   I   had   to   move   on   again,   those   headlands   to   the   north beckoned;   and   I   knew   my   way   was   going   to   be   made   easier   by   a   large plain   without   any   sandridges,   not   far   ahead.      This   plain   was   about   17 sandridges   ahead   so   I   moved   on   slightly   west   of   north   leaving   the Forebank   Hills   behind   to   tackle   the   sandridges.      I   reached   the   plain about 1:30pm. Out   on   the   plain   I   was   thinking   of   how   using   low   range   wasn’t   too bad   here   either,   as   even   though   there   were   no   sandridges   there   were many   different   types   and   sizes   of   plants   and   trees,   which   took   some avoiding   –   and   a   high   speed   could   never   be   obtained.      I   had   used   low range   so   far   and   I’m   quite   happy   to   continue   to   use   it.      I   crossed   the 13   kilometre   wide   plain   in   45   minutes.      The   headlands   ahead   were   in my field of vision now and it was quite exciting. Point   Cornish   is   the   name   Carnegie   gave   the   part   of   the   headland that   he   headed   to   after   first   naming   it   Cornish   Head.      This   point   was easy   to   identify   as   even   though   there   were   a   number   of   headlands,   this   one   is   on   Carnegie’s   route,   and   there   are   caves   matching   his descriptions.  The small cairn of rocks I put upon it seven years ago was still there, only just, albeit no doubt with tales of woe.  The   view   from   this   point,   Point   Cornish   is   spectacular;   isolated   outcrops   and   headlands.....no   one   around   except   me   by   the   looks   of   it!!!      This place   is   part   of   the   Southesk   Tablelands,   and   they   wind   up   gradually   to   the   north   west   leaving   outcrops   and   isolated   hills   in   their   wake.      Two things   immediately   caught   my   eye   out   there;   two   separate   hills   in   fact   to   the   north.      After   some   prior   researching   in   Perth   I   had   chosen   three features   in   this   area   as   possible   meteorite   impact   craters   and   now   from   ground   level   I   could   see   that   two   of   the   features   were   hills   and   not craters.  I was half expecting this though as these craters must be pretty hard to find!!!  I will check them out tomorrow with a closer look. This   place   does   have   its   fair   share   of   caves   and   crevices.      I   encircled   it   and   inspected   some   of   its   features   before   heading   north   west.      It   was about   3:20pm   now   and   I   was   now   conscious   of   the   rapid   approach   of   sunset.      The   next   area   of   interest   was   only   ten   minutes   away,   a headland   which   has   a   creek   or   stream   coming   from   the   highest   points; a worthy place to stop and explore. I    started    to    climb    to    the    top;    I    passed    a    washed-out    overhanging section   near   to   the   top.      It   was   not   really   big   enough   to   be   a   cave however,   caught   my   eye   as   there   was   a   small   cairn   placed   in   there.      I wondered   who   had   put   this   here   as   there   were   no   other   indications   of human   presence,   aboriginal   or   otherwise.      I   pondered   who   it   may have   been   before   climbing   up   and   summiting   the   outcrop   and   then was again afforded nice views. There   was   a   huge   crack   in   the   outcrop   which   no   doubt   had   a   creek   at its   base;   this   was   easy   to   see,   as   the   crevice   was   wide   and   what   else would   form   such   a   feature.      I   made   my   way   down   a   small   crack   in   the rocks   that   form   the   valley   and   followed   my   way   down   the   creek.      Soon I came    across    a    dry    rockhole    and    I    rested    for    a    moment.        At    the moment    the    rockhole    was    dry    and    I    suspect    would    not    be    filled frequently,   and   if   filled   would   only   hold   about   1500   litres.      –   I   made my   way   down   the   creek   or   valley   until   I   found   a   spot   where   I   could climb   up   to   near   where   I   first   ascended.      I   again   went   to   the   summit and   climbed   down   again,   past   the   cairn,   until   I   reached   the   Fair   Maid (my vehicle) below. Now    my    mind    was    set    upon    Point    Massie    Rockhole.        I    saw    Point Massie   from   the   summit   of   this   headland   and   I   made   haste   for   it   and the   rockhole   to   its   west   as   the   daylight   was   getting   scarce.      In   2003 this    area    was    covered    with    bushy    spinifex;    now    the    way    forward, westward,   was   made   easier,   as   at   some   stage   in   the   recent   past   a   fire had   passed   through   the   area   and   the   spinifex   was   reduced   in   number, paving   the   way   for   a   smooth   journey   to   Point   Massie.      The   journey, unhindered   by   the   horrendous   spinifex,   and   the   sight   of   nearby   headlands   and   hills   made   for   interesting   scenery.      Point   Massie   was   grand,   a huge   block   of   sandstone   standing   alone,   reflecting   a   beautiful   red   image,   an   icon   looking   down   upon   what   is   the   Southesk   Tablelands   and surely would have many a tale to tell!!! There    was    another,    smaller    headland    that    was    passed    by    until    the valley   upon   which   the   rockhole   lies   was   soon   reached   about   5:00pm and   I   set   up   camp   just   beyond   the   western   bank   of   the   creek.         After running   towards   the   rockhole   I   saw   that   it   was   at   a   very   low   level, much   lower   than   when   I   last   saw   it.      There   were   many   animal   tracks leading   into   the   basin   surrounding   the   rockhole.      The   sun   was   almost down   so   I   headed   back   to   the   camp,   lit   a   fire   and   settled   down   for   the night.      Later,   a   single   dingo   howled   from   the   immediate   north,   and   it was   a   fitting   moment   too,   as   the   moon   was   eclipsed   by   the   earth   that night,   Saturday   26 th    June   2010,   and   it   felt   like   a   scene   from   one   of those horror movies, I thought with a chuckle!!!! Awaking   the   next   morning,   I   got   out   of   my   swag   and   stood   up.      I   then feigned   a   charge   towards   where   the   dingo   was   last   night   and   sure enough   the   dingo   sensed   the   aggression   and   I   saw   it   dart   away   into the   distance.      What   a   life   this   dingo   must   lead.      With   the   water   in   the rockhole,   surely   this   predator   would   have   a   fine   time   here,   awaiting   in silence for the prey that would come to drink. Today   was   always   going   to   be   a   big   day.   The   Canning   Stock   Route   was   less   than   ten   kilometres   from   here   and   there   now   is   a   defined   track   in to   Point   Massie,   though   I   didn’t   follow   it.      I   had   planned   to   cut   the   stock   route   much   further   north   from   here.      To   be   on   schedule   I   will   have to   cut   it   before   nightfall,   hopefully   sooner!!!      I   had   many   plans   though.      To   start   with   I   wanted   to   have   a   good   look   at   the   rockhole,   so   I wandered   up   the   creek   and   admired   the   inscriptions   upon   the   wall   as   I   passed   them.      The   rockhole,   which   was   right   at   the   head   of   the   creek was almost empty, and the full extent of the large rockhole can now been seen. I   walked   along   the   side   of   the   eastern   ridge   of   the   valley   until   a   point which   overlooked   a   vast   area   of   desert.      Here   Carnegie   took   a   bearing of   16°   to   Mount   Stewart.      I   read   13°,   though   the   variation   would   have changed   over   the   years.      Mount   Romily   was   also   visible   from   here   and of   course   the   nearby   Point   Massie.      I   clambered   down   and   took   some time   to   get   back   as   the   side   faces   of   the   ridge   were   much   harder   to traverse than the top. By    the    time    I    returned    to    the    vehicle    and    packed    up    ready    for departure   it   was   9:30am.      Now   I   was   to   visit   the   first   of   the   hills   that prior   to   yesterday   afternoon,   were   possible   impact   sites.      The   first   was about   fifteen   kilometres   away,   to   the   east   and   to   the   north   of   Point Cornish.        It    took    an    hour    to    get    there    from    my    camp    near    the rockhole.      An   unspectacular   hill   really   it   turned   out   to   be,   with   a smaller   satellite   hill   to   the   immediate   south   east.      The   views   were good   as   the   Southesk   Tablelands   made   their   way   past   nearby.      Mount Fothringham   was   part   of   the   tablelands   and   was   to   the   north   east   –   to it I would head. This   general   area   was   fairly   devoid   of   sandridges   and   made   travel   easier,   with   only   the   odd   shrub   or   tree   blocking   the   way.      Mount Fothringham   lay   at   the   south   western   side   of   a   section   of   tableland and   displayed   its   prominent   side   towards   the   west.      I   drove   around the   southern   side   so   I   could   find   an   easier   section   to   climb   up,   which   I did.      Again   there   were   nice   views.      Away   to   the   east   were   many   other hills   near   and   far,   and   I   wished   that   I   had   more   time   to   explore   there.     To   the   north   is   Mount   Stewart   at   the   leading   edge   of   the   tablelands and   some   similarly   sized   outcrops   in   between.      Also   well   in   view   is   the second of my possible impact sites, a conical hill with a block on top.  I   then   climbed   down   via   a   channel   on   the   eastern   side,   water   would rush   through   here   in   a   downpour.      I   followed   the   tablelands,   hugging the   western   side   for   a   few   kilometres   before   veering   off   to   have   a   look at   this   new   hill.      I   thought   it   quite   unique   in   its   positioning   here, worthy   of   a   name,   so   named   it   Heather   Pinnacle,   after   my   mother.      I climbed   up   to   the   base   of   the   block;   I   thought   it   too   dangerous   to   try for   the   summit,   there   was   a   side   block   I   could   have   stood   on   and jumped   from   –   another   time!!!      Once   again   the   view   was   great;   now   I looked   to   the   north   and   slightly   to   the   east   –   the   third   possible   impact crater was about seven kilometres away; I could not see it. I   left   the   pinnacle   at   12:30pm   and   started   heading   north.      There   was flat   terrain   first   up   and   then   a   few   sandridges.      Almost   straight   away the   vegetation   around   the   ridges   was   really   thick.      It   was   hard   to   pick a   good   run   up   line   to   the   ridges.      I   lost   one   tyre   and   severely   damaged others    in    this    section    driving    to    the    possible    crater.        Delays    and punctures   were   not   on   my   wish   list   right   now   as   I   was   running   out   of time.      I   saw   that   the   possible   crater   was   once   again   another   hill   shortly after   I   had   turned   to   the   east   toward   it.   Disappointing   this   was,   to   an   extent   that   these   hills   were   not   what   I   had   hoped   for;   however   they are now positively identified as hills. I   decided   to   continue   to   the   hill   as   I   hoped   most   of   the   rough   sections were   behind   me.      Sections   of   tablelands   were   quite   visible   to   the   west as   were   many   small   round   and   oval-shaped   smooth   hills   in   clumps   and ranges   to   the   east.      These   again,   as   before,   will   be   worthy   of   further exploration at some other time. 2:00pm,   and   I   now   would   start   to   head   to   the   Canning   Stock   Route about   20   kilometres   to   the   west.      I   started   to   head   around   the   ridges to   the   north   as   best   I   could.      The   country   was   again   pretty   tough   going though   not   as   bad   as   just   before.      I   eventually   arrived   at   the   general area   of   Mount   Stewart   however   could   not   see   it.      I   decided   to   go   there as   it   was   now   on   my   path   to   the   Canning.      I   was   briefly   confused   when confronted   with   the   top   of   a   low   flat   rise,   as   my   GPS   was   saying   that   I was   atop   of   the   mount.      I   had   no   doubts   in   my   mind   though,   when   I looked   to   the   west,   about   three   kilometres   away   and   saw   a   substantial mount.  This must be Mount Stewart, surely. I   was   on   top   of   the   tablelands   and   had   to   find   a   way   to   wind   down   to the   lower   ground.      I   arrived   at   the   mount   at   3:50pm.      Here   I   started   to   make   my   way   to   the   top,   climbing   the   lower   gradient   of   the   eastern side.      At   the   top   the   normal   view   in   this   area   was   afforded.      Here   I   took   a   back   bearing   with   the   compass   to   the   position   from   the   eastern ridge   near   Point   Massie   Rockhole   I   took   the   bearing   from   this   morning.      I   wasn’t   surprised   when   the   bearing   read   193°;   well   maybe   a   little!!!     I was standing on Mount Stewart. This   was   a   moment   of   thought   and   reflection,   I   had   almost   pulled   this trip   off   with   only   another   ten   kilometres   to   go   until   the   Canning   Stock Route.      I   made   my   way   down   and   thought   not   only   about   just   how much   I   had   seen   in   such   a   limited   time   but   just   how   much   more   I   could see if only I had more time!!!! In   this   the   last   section   I   was   more   relaxed,   and   I   must   admit   a   bit relieved   –   the   terrain   was   easy.      I   passed   a   couple   of   minor   dry   lakes and   enjoyed   the   views   of   Mount   Stewart.      I   cut   the   Canning   Stock Route   at   4:40pm,   51   hours   after   I   had   left   the   spring,   this   journey   over, and   just   enough   daylight   to   get   me   to   a   restful   camp   at   Mount   Romily, just up the track.
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