Murchison River Gorge - Day 2

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Things seemed to brighten up (in more ways than one!) as the warm sun beat down upon us and wildflowers seemed to begin to crop up. Vivid splashes of colour would appear every now and then - purple splashes of the five-petaled Fairy Fan-flowers (Scaevola aemula - Scaevola meaning 'left-handed'), pinks of the Geraldton Wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum), yellows of Calendulas (Calendula sp.) and Wattle flowers (Acacia cyclops), and the bright, intricate structures of Grevillias (Grevillea sp.). The River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) were ubiquitous though, a fact that all other hammockers would be very appreciative of.

River Red Gums

River Red Gums



We made another river crossing shortly after but this time we had to wade across the knee-deep green water instead of hopping across from rock to rock. We came across some emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) tracks on the other side, the middle toe measuring approximately 15cm. Emus are ratites and are the largest birds that are native to Australia, and the size of the tracks left no doubt in my mind that that was most likely true.

We crossed the river again, walking across and along long sections of sand that once again reminded me of portions of the Cape to Cape Track. We came upon an area that had large swaths of flat grass that would make a nice campsite not too long after that, and I was a little glad to be stopping for the day since all the exposure to the sun had left me a little drained.

I spent some time watching the sky that night. The stars were bright, brilliant jewels glittering in the dark, cloudless sky. The Milky Way was also very conspicuous and blazed across the sky to the West, and closer to the horizon were a few planets - both Mars and Saturn - that were about to set. The Delta Aquarids were also close to their peak, and so, in the time of an hour or so, I ended up seeing a total of 13 meteors.

Hover over the image to see the labels

Speaking of emus (Dromaius novaehollandiae), this was the first time the 'Great Emu' was very obvious to me. The 'Great Emu' is one of the constellations in Australian Aboriginal astronomy, constellations that use the dark dust clouds that sweep across the Milky Way instead of patterns made by the stars. I personally find the use of the dust clouds to be far more intuitive but this method means that constellations are then restricted to just along the Galactic Plane. The head of the 'Great Emu' is very easy to find as it is basically the Coalsack Nebula, which lies just below the Southern Cross (Crux Australis). The rest of the body of the emu is made up of the dust lanes that stretch across the Milky Way, with the neck and body trailing out just before Scorpius, and the legs just after. I felt really small and insignificant then and completely understood how people could (and still somehow can) attribute the vastness and sheer splendour of the night sky to divine origins.

Hover over the image to see the outline of the emu (head and beak on the lower right)

I found it somewhat humorous when the temperature plummeted soon after, as it almost seemed as if my previous thought had angered some deity somewhere. Starting to shiver, I decided that it was the perfect time to head back to my warm and comfortable sleeping bag...

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Next : Murchison River Gorge – Day 3 - Hawk's Head

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