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Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 14

The weather in Australia has turned cooler again, and we’re set to start hunting down some more meteorites. To give you a taster of what that’s like, here’s some more of Luke’s blog from a recent trip … (the story started with On the Road Again)

The search team from left: Martin C, Sarah, Rob, Phil, Luke, Trent, Ellie

The search team from left: Martin C, Sarah, Rob, Phil, Luke, Trent, Ellie

Martin has to fly out from Coober Pedy tomorrow morning, so we need to clear out of camp today! We had some torrential rain last night that made the journey somewhat treacherous. The road we had come in on was definitely not an option. We had been bogged on that road before and would probably drown in the salt lake now. A new route to forge then! We got up, packed the tents away, loaded up the vehicles, and set out. We had all day, so the plan was to do a final check of the low mass end we had scouted a few days ago on the way through.

Nullarbor mud between the toes

Nullarbor mud between the toes

The route there wasn’t too bad. We had to double check a few places but got out with just a few detours around salt lakes, soft ground, and avoiding the standing water that had cropped up everywhere! We made it to the fall line, this is it – last chance. We hit out, looking for a 25g rock about the size of a 50 cent piece. It felt like there was a fever pitch in our searching, everyone was desperate to come out of here with something. We were against the clock, the sun was already high. We powered through, searching everywhere. We covered vast swathes of the low mass area in a few hours, but too soon, it was time to head out again. We were gutted that we didn’t find anything, but confident if we or the next group could only get back here again, it would be only a matter of time before we found it!

Phil, Sarah and I lead the way out. There were a few hair-raising moments while we were picking our way around the huge salt lake. We were treading a fine line between running aground on the dunes to our right, or sinking into the muddy gunk of the salt lake on our left. At one particular moment, we thought we were buggered. We came across a flowing stream that was about 30 cm deep and 10 m wide. Looking at the map and the ground in front of us it only got worse to our left and right. We had to cross, and it had to be here. This could be it, if we can’t cross here, we’ll be walking out – 40 km to the road and across 50 m dunes. Not a fun prospect.

Phil and I went out into the creek to test the ground. It felt surprisingly solid and there were enough reeds that they could provide the traction we would need. Being the lead car can be a curse at times. This, I thought, will take a portion of my cunning … No, wait, all of my cunning! Handbrake off, gas down, 3000 revs, hit it! The key to all of this is momentum. Things in motion stay in motion, things at rest stay at rest. Don’t stop, keep moving, crushing reeds, and sending up huge splashes. The ute bounced across aaaaand through to the other side. Boom! One down three to go. Following my example, the others smashed and splashed through and we all felt invincible. Bam! Have that nature! After the beating we had been taking, we finally got one back!

Next up was a dune field. This was less like driving and more like surfing. Up and down we went and finally to the other side where we faced potentially the worst of the lot. The creek where we had been bogged on the way in. This could be a raging torrent at this point. After everything we had been through and fought through we could be scuppered here … And it was bone dry! Finally, a bit of luck. We still gunned it across to be sure, but we were out!

Or so we thought. The road itself was waterlogged with standing lakes all the way along the last section. We had to make huge detours off the beaten track to avoid the spongy ground beneath. Eventually we figured it was actually best to ignore the road and bee lined to the main track. Once there, we had a bite of lunch, and refilled the tyres to a real pressure so they wouldn’t overheat and explode at 110 km/h.

The time was 3 pm. It was 400 km to Coober Pedy and the bottle shop. The road was slippery, and creeks and floodways had washed sections of the road away, and the bottle shop closed at 7 pm. 400 km in four hours was our challenge. I have never driven so carefully but efficiently in my life. Some of the floodways were so difficult that it meant that you had to drop to nearly 20 km/h. We arrived with 10 mins to spare, and even the STIG would have been impressed. We also saw the sign on the highway entrance which confirmed our fears – the road back to our site was closed.

We ran in to the shops, restocked, and then went up to the hotel. We ordered pizzas and I had a blissful shower. I’ve decided I’m going to reclaim a word and give it a proper meaning. That word is ‘clen’ it’s a northern England-ism that also means clean. However, as we already have ‘clean’ it is largely redundant and I think my new definition is better. ‘Clen’ will now mean the result of cleaning which is ultimately futile. Like this shower. I mean, I even had soap, shampoo and conditioner, and I had a good long shower and a good ole scrub but the white towel was still orange at the end! Although I had cleaned myself, I was not clean. Therefore, I was clen. But I still felt a million times better. And now we did one of the best traditions of this trip. We got our glad rags on, went to collect the pizza and then sat drinking beer with a view over Coober Pedy. The juxtaposition and contrast  of eating pizza in a 3-piece suit pleased me immensely! This was the ‘smart’ dinner we meant to have on the day of the drowned lamb but, despite not being in the bush, we agreed it was still suitably silly to fit the bill for our group.

Taking a moment to rejoice in pizza, beer silliness and civilisation

Taking a moment to rejoice in pizza, beer silliness and civilisation

Daly idea 4: How were we going to tell Phil we found the meteorite (if we are so lucky to find it?)

Luke: put on a south African accent and treat it like some venomous skittish animal and hail everyone with something like “Alright brew, come here! No, shh, shh we don’t want to frighten it! Come close, come close, don’t be afraid …”

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, day 15

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