Monday, June 7, 2010

What’s in a name? Part 2: The Bungle Bungles

The Bungle Bungle Range is a captivating area of very old sandstone that has been eroded by wind and rain over millions of years to create strange, striped bee-hive like domes in the southern part, and deep chasms in the northern part. The name ‘Bungle Bungle’ is also an oddity, no-one seems to know how it came about. It’s not a traditional aboriginal name, at least not a literal version of an aboriginal name. Anyway, again the name seems to suit, because it looks like something out of an Alice in Wonderland type story. Curiously, it wasn’t until the early 1980’s that it became known by anyone outside of the indigenous people and local pastoralists. Now it is a World Heritage Listed site, and protected inside the Purnululu National Park.

The BBs are about 250 km from Kununarra by road, but we decided to take a flight from Kununarra first (8-seater, there are 4 companies that run basically the same flight path from Kununarra), which also tracked over Lake Argyle (created by a dam on the Ord River in 1970) and the Argyle diamond mine (produces about ¼ of the world’s diamond supply!). This was a 2 hour flight and it got a bit, ahem, bumpy, such that I spent a fair bit of the journey with my head in a paper bag rather than seeing all the sights. Jen fared a bit better, so we got some good shots.

The next day we drove into the National Park, and walked Echidna Chasm and Mini Palms Gorge in the northern part of the BBs on the first day, and then Cathedral Gorge and Domes Walk in the southern part the next day (yep, more gorges, but these are different from the Kimberley).

Hard to describe the BBs really. Maybe best left to the photos. The stripe effect is due to different porosity of different layers of sandstone. The more-porous layers are covered on the outside by cyanobacteria that leave a dark stain – hence the dark stripes. Less-porous layers have a coat of iron oxide, which gives them the red colour, hence the reddish strips. Both the bacteria and the iron oxide protect the surface of the structures, but you can see how they are eroding in large chunks, slowly. So, if you want to see ‘em, don’t leave it too long but any time within the next 300 or 400 million years should be fine. It’s interesting how the vast age of rock in Australia gives rise to these totally different types of landscapes - only time can do it.

The Argyle diamond mine is huge – see photo. It is basically a big hole drilled down into a volcanic ‘pipe’ or plug that is rich with diamonds. The first diamonds were found in 1979, just lying among the stones in the beds of Bow River and Smoke Creek, by a geologist working for a company that was looking for uranium. They traced the source back to one hill. Or, rather, what was a hill - it has pretty much been hollowed out since. Not possible to visit the mine except as part of a one-and-only tour. All very tightly controlled – they don’t want anyone else accidentally finding some of their diamonds (which apparently was the case when there was a visitor area and a look-out – which was promptly removed!).

We arte now in the Northern territory, en route to Katherine, having had a fabulous 5 weeks or so in Western Australia. Great place … if only they could squeeze all the attractions a bit closer together, so it doesn’t take so long to reach them.

Bye for now

The Chappies

Ord River Dam and Lake Argyle

Bungle Bungle Ranges - aerial shot

Argyle diamond mine

Echidna Chasm in the BB range - vertical panorama

Mini Palms Gorge walk, BB Range

The Domes walk

Cathedral Gorge. This cavern is huge.

1 comment:

  1. The Bungle Bungle National Park is located in the East Kimberley. ungle Bungle National Park is also called the Purnululu National Park and is home to the peculiar rocky stripped mounds. The rocky mounds (or Bungle Bungles) are all black and orange stripes, caused by the black lichen and the orange silica.