02-Jan-2004 -- Map: NATMAP SI 5402 - Olary
The New Year festivities were over for another year and the day time summer temperatures of inland South Australia were rising rapidly. This was not the season to be on foot in the bush.
During the Christmas/New Year break we had set ourselves a target of reaching two Degree Confluence sites and, to make that effort very worthwhile, being the first to successfully “claim” the site on both occasions. This was to be our second (the first was 33°S 141°E) confluence site.
With a forecast of rising day-time temperatures we were off to an early start. Fiona and Darren of Plumbago Station, on whose property this was, had gladly agreed to us making an attempt, and wished us well. As land managers this couple have a very well deserved reputation in conservation circles within our State. Surprisingly, perhaps, they had not heard of the Degree Confluence Project.
By mid-day we were driving (4WD) on bush tracks through some marginal pastoral country – mallee trees, blue bush, sand with rocky outcrops; with kangaroos, sheep, emus and raptors to keep us company. There was no wind and the outside air temperature was rising – already 40º centigrade!
During our planning, and looking at where the tracks on the map ended, we had made allowance for a short dash on foot to the confluence. We were now concerned that the rising outside air temperature was working against us. As we opened and closed more gates (and finding them almost too hot to touch) along the tracks, we were very much aware the heat could become a problem and influence the success or failure of our mission. Further frustrating our efforts - a track on the map no longer existed (we made three passes)! After looking again at the map, we did a few “dog–legs” and, at last, coming from the north, arrived at our closest point of approach (CPA). What was it like outside the vehicle? We had 700 metres to make on foot across open ground in a shade temperature of 45°C. The song “…mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” came to mind! In Australian bushwalking circles this exploit would not normally be condoned – even if we did come from England originally!
It was hot – water, GPS, camera, and hat – and we were off, making sure we were in sight of our vehicle at all times. The area is sandy, there is gully erosion to be seen, but the going underfoot was not a problem. The vegetation was low growth bushes, widely dispersed (if somewhat prickly) and it was easy to see where we had to go. I did give a passing thought to the maximum operating ambient temperature of the GPS! Would it operate satisfactorily in this environment?
At the confluence site we wasted no time in checking the position, taking the photographs, having a drink of water, and then legging it back to the air-conditioned vehicle. Having got so close by vehicle we were determined not to let a little heat ruin the experience and thwart our goal. It was very worthwhile and we had an enjoyable day.
On the way back out to the highway, 60 kilometres distant, we saw a few “willy-willies” (mini tornadoes). I was able to photograph the most impressive and I have included that picture on this site.