We drove east towards Gregory Downs. Along the way, we saw more termite mounds than you can poke a stick at.
On the way back to Adels Grove, we stopped by an abandoned mine called Lilydale. Back in the turn of the 20th Century, Lilydale was a silver, lead and zinc mine that supported hundreds of miners. The only problem (and it was a big one) was lack of water. The nearest creek or river was at least 10km away, and as a consequence many miners died of thirst, and the mine was eventually abandoned.
All that was left were the trenches where they dug, the small mounds of slag, and the odd scrap of metal.
As with many ventures in the Outback, this was one that nature won.
Glimpsing their haul from the previous day, I saw that all the significant finds were neatly marked for sorting and transportation. There were piles and piles of rock, exposing jaws, teeth, and vertebrae.
A jaw bone.
Cross-section of bone (from a giant leg?).
As the morning drew on, the pile of ‘potential’ rocks grew, but as a novice, I couldn’t identify anything without professional help. Later, I found out that the team had found the jaw of a nimbadon (a sheep-sized diprotodon), but unfortunately for me it had already been bagged-up, ready for transportation.
What were inside those rocks? It was frustrating that unlike at Wellington Caves, where the fossils were preserved in loose sediment that could easily be washed away, extracting fossils from limestone required time and effort. I guess it’s like the difference between digital and film photography. Wellington was like digital photography, where you could almost instantaneously view your finds. However the fossils in Riversleigh limestone, like developing film, required the rocks to be transported back to the labs at UNSW, where they would be submerged numerous times in a weak acid solution. Eventually the limestone would dissolve to reveal the bones inside it. Like an expectant photographer developing film, hopefully I can one day visit UNSW to get a glimpse of this year’s finds. It would really round-off my Riversleigh experience.
I got to see more of the dig team in action the next day when we visited a site called South GAG Plateau. Early in the morning, there was a lot of scanning for potential sites. It also meant the carrying of equipment, including crow bars.
Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything being blown up that morning, so Lizard, the bushy-bearded explosives expert, wasn’t called to do anything more strenous than haul a few rocks.
That didn’t stop the eager palaeontologists and volunteers from wielding sledgehammers, crow bars, geo-picks, and shovels in an effort to extract more rocks.
After breaking the limestone into manageable chunks, they would carefully examine each piece to see whether it had bone (and hence ‘potential’).
What were inside those rocks?
At the top of the hill, I could see the country side in all its glory – the lush grove, the dry plains beyond, and the sandstone plateau on the horizon.
The sandstone plateau wasn’t as dramatic as those in Central Australia, but it did yield a lot of good things, which I will post about in the future.
I was greeted at the top of the hill by a series of cairns, built by past visitors. They have almost been as industrious as the termites.
Adels Grove was far below, under the trees. There was also an airstrip that you can just glimpse.
Airstrips are the lifelines of the outback, especially in an emergency. Speaking of emergencies, the Royal Flying Doctor Service are the heroes of the outback, and the focus of a lot of fundraising. During our stay the local mine invited Ernie Dingo (of Getaway and other things) to do a fundraising show for the service. I was glad to see that it was well attended by locals and visitors alike, and that the audience made a significant donation.
Past the wattle bushes, I encountered the first termite mound of the walk. Termites in Australia are very industrious creatures, and the best examples of their work are in the north of Australia. The mounds around Adels Grove aren’t massive (I’ve seen 3 metre high ones by the roadside) but it is a good example of a typical Savannah landscape.
As I started to climb Lookout Hill, I saw more of the surrounding landscape, and how quickly it changed. The strand of trees running through the middle of the shot (some 200 metres away) was where Lawn Hill Creek ran. Yet on the hill, all was dusty and rocky.
We’re starting a walk to Lookout Hill this week, but the walk really started from our tent. We stayed in one of the permanent safari tents on the site. As you can see, it was a big family tent and very comfy, especially when it was only for the two of us. It was made up with proper beds and bedding. I’m a big fan of ‘glamping’, I must say.
But a tent is a tent, and as Joan noted on her recent road trip to Central Queensland, it’s been a bit cold this winter, even in the Outback. Hubby said that it was the coldest visit he’s ever had to the area, and it was his sixth trip. Temperatures got down to as low as 5C during the night, but rose to the mid 20C’s by the afternoon. I was just thankful for the clear weather after living through months of rain down in Sydney.