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Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 12

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)

Luckily, we woke up and the weather was cool. And there were clouds. Right this is it! Action stations! We can get a lot done today! We wolfed down breakfast and made some wraps for lunch to have on the go, filled camelbacks and prepared for a whole day out there. Or at least, while the weather held. We lined up like a battle fleet coming into formation.  Totally epic!

Entering the search area

Entering the search area

Off we went. This was our first day of searching to be uninterrupted by deadly heat. We got all the way across the salt lake and round the high mass end before the temperature soared. Wait. Or was that yesterday? I’m really not sure. The days are starting to merge and sleep deprivation is setting in … I know the following events happened, I’m just not sure of the order …

One of many salty dry lakes

One of many salty dry lakes

We completed searching the area around The Saltlake of Death. My rousing “Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more” rallied the troops. This started a chain reaction which first involved Phil pointing out that the next line was something about ‘filling up the walls with our English dead’ – not the best sentiment we could have had …

Sarah then spent the rest of the search remembering the entire speech and did amazingly well! We all tried to help of course, but I think all we collectively managed was ‘does it at some point go stiffen the sinews and replace [something] with hard [something] rage?

After checking when we got back, Sarah had got to the bit about hard-favour’d rage, and knew something about the sea came next …

Act 3, Scene 1 from Henry V [http://shakespeare.mit.edu/henryv/henryv.3.1.html , Designed by Freepik]

Act 3, Scene 1 from Henry V [http://shakespeare.mit.edu/henryv/henryv.3.1.html, parchment Designed by Freepik]

We were dead impressed.

At lunch time I gave one of my rousing speeches/team talks drew formations and tactics in the sand and told them a fabled story of a tragic meteorite hunter who didn’t find a meteorite. And to not be like him!

Our afternoon involved Sarah and Trent resting at camp, preparing dinner and filling in the search area around camp. Those of us with more energy left marched up the other end of the fall line and back. We generally tidied up areas along the fall line we had missed before the weather just got too much. Every one of us became walking fly cities.

Luke the walking fly city

Luke the walking fly city

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, day 13.

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 11

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)

I was up this morning feeling refreshed and noticed still a light pitter-patter of rain from a gloriously overcast morning. Leaving camp early, we embarked on a massive four hour hike down the fall line. The weather was amazing. It was a cool 31 °C, with a nice breeze. I did run out of drinking water and we still didn’t find that damn meteorite but hey-ho, next time eh?!

Phil and Ellie check coordinates

Phil and Ellie check coordinates

We had a nice lunch of spag bol sandwiches as the clouds sadly started to abandon us. As soon as we hit the saltlake the clouds evaporated like morning dew and we baked. Phil made the decision to take the team back to camp.

Out here, to look at it, you would be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in Siberia. The ground is covered in a thick frosting of salt, however, not snow. It’s not Siberia. Siberia is a pipe dream. It’s 43°C here. We got back to camp, whacked up the AC and are still here. No space rock yet, and just waiting for that temperature gauge to drop. We need a break in this weather! 40°C+ every day is killing us and sapping our willpower, resolve, and strength. It’s also bloody dangerous to be out longer than an hour. We found some poor soul’s flip flop earlier. Well, a melted remnant of it anyway. I hope the owner met with a better fate than his shoe! We are in short need of a bit of luck and some good weather! At least we get to sleep in swags tonight. No storm has come to spoil the party …

Meteorite searching on a Nullarbor salt flat

Meteorite searching on a Nullarbor salt flat

Daly Idea 2, by Rob: This area is seemingly barren of all animal life except spiders, although larger animals have clearly been here – there are cow pats everywhere! These, annoyingly, are the same size as the meteorite we are searching for. BUT this means that we could attach a GoPro to all of the cows. They would record and keep data about GPS locations of all the dark rocks they walk over and when they go past each other, the GoPro could be programmed to share the data to with the other cows’ equipment automatically. THEN, when they pass the station house, the system could upload the data to our server. AND we could have it so that the images are automatically sifted and sent to us, and then we just go pick up the rock. Easy!

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 12.

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 10

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)

So yesterday blended into today. The lucky ones maybe got 1 hour of sleep. The sun rose far too early and the flies even earlier. We (zombie like) got up, got the tea on, sorted some breakfast, and headed out. The temperature was already soaring and it was only 8 am! We went the opposite way this time and hit the salt lake, which was a double-whammy of brutal: the sun beating down from above, and the salt reflecting it back up at you from below. I started feeling a bit light headed and proceeded to drink a tonne of water. Hunting mantra: Little sips often.

Getting ready for the day

Getting ready for the day

We went back and forward a couple of times before diving back into the air conditioned paradise of the cars at camp. This weather was almost unworkable! We rested up, had lunch and then Phil and I went to do some more reconnaissance to try and find an alternative route out of here (just in case the rain had made the way back impassable). The first major challenge was the creek itself. We found one place where the ground seemed solid enough. Ironically this was also where the only standing water was located (this place makes no sense!) and it took some very interesting and precise driving to get across. I was dead pleased with myself if I do say so. Then we were through and plain sailing across the gravely top of the hill (I say sailing, it actually felt like we were swimming as the car was sinking a good few centimeters down into the sand). This place clearly gets some rain!

We had to avoid huge gullies, which turned into gorges, and basically had to drive round the whole catchment area to get anywhere. We got to the edge of the creek where the nice crossing was supposed to be and ended up on the edge of a huge salt lake instead. Lies google, all of it lies! We walked out to about half way. Our feet were sinking, but not that much. It was, however, too much to risk getting the car stuck 20 km away from camp in the middle of a blisteringly hot salt lake. What was more upsetting is that you could see the road on the far side. We trundled back, disappointed. The others had gone for a little search to fill in the near areas we had missed previously and arrived back at around the same time.

The temperature was stupidly high so after another tea we all had a chat and decided that the only way out of here was the way we had come. So we would just have to hope. We decided it was too hot to go out searching again so Phil, Ellie and I went out in the car to try again to get to the low mass end of the fall line. We were met with much more success! We managed to skirt round the dune further up before it rose up into the monster we’d hit before, and we’d found a better way around the salt lake. We threaded the needle between two huge dunes and got there much quicker than we could have hoped for. We even had a quick search for the small fragments and the area looked great for searching, but still no luck.

The evening brought a lovely meal of spaghetti bolognese and a new fire. We had just set out the swags when storm clouds appeared on the horizon and they were flying towards us! Down came the camp, the cars were made ready, our food was wolfed down, nature’s calls were attended to. In my case, this led to a slightly creepy moment: I walked out towards the storm and saw two green specks in the distance. They were reflective and my initial thought was the generator. That was dashed when they blinked out and disappeared … ‘Guys, what in Australia has reflective green eyes?’ … no response.

The camp was made safe as the rain started. We got into the cars and this time turned on the air conditioning to make the temperature in the car sleep-able. The lightning show was amazing. We sang some rather inappropriate songs from our old college days which are not suitable for print (or anything really) and got a much better night sleep!

I should probably introduce the Daly idea at this stage (no, it was not my idea to call it that and yes, I agree it’s awful). Basically, searching is very quiet. Everyone is concentrating so hard not to miss anything. The only real conversation that happens between people is ‘Can you see over that dune?  Check that poo there just in case?’. However, a lot of conversations happen inside everyone’s heads. I think it would be very entertaining if I could hear what people were thinking on a search but alas. Rob in particular liked to share his searching thoughts at the end of the day or during breaks. All of them seemed to revolve around how to make meteorite hunting easier or so that it’s completely automated and he didn’t have to do it anymore.

Rob: My thought today was that we should automate the whole system. Buy a 4×4 lorry that we convert into an automated self-setting-up base of operations. It would have tracks to cover any terrain and when we arrive the sides open up, and swags and tents unfurl automatically, solar panels rise up from the ceiling, powering a fully-functioning kitchen and fridge, as well as a fleet of drones and an army of rovers. The drones fly out like a scene from Battlestar Galactica and around the fall line, automatically picking out black rocks which the rovers then roll on out to with on-board mass spectrometers to analyse them there and then. If it is a meteorite they bring it back and the rest of the team drive around the area on dune buggies. Our whole convoy would look like a scene from Mad Max-meets-Star Wars and all we have to do is sit there, wait, drink and eat. Bliss!

Rob, and the search line

Rob, and the search line

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 11.

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 9

Sunset in the Nullarbor

Sunset in the Nullarbor

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)

It was hot already when we woke up and the sun had only just risen! We had a chilled breakfast and tea. Tea is very important. We filled up our Camelbacks and set out walking, each 20 m apart, towards the fall line. This is the predicted area where the meteorite fell. The dunes gave way to some amazing flat areas with red rocks. You could see for miles and you couldn’t (surely!) miss any meteorites there. We kept walking. The dunes returned, briefly giving way to a salt creek and then yet more dunes before Phil turned us around. Heading back was really slow going as we wanted to make sure we didn’t miss anything.

About three quarters of the way back, Sarah asked for a break in the shade – she had the beginnings of sunstroke: a bit nauseous and dizzy. We quickly called halt and the team got into some shade whilst Ellie and I quick-marched back to camp to get the vehicles. We had a fun drive over the dunes and quickly got everyone into the air conditioned cars. The outside temperature was really soaring. We took shelter in the vehicles for a bit and Sarah started to feel a bit better, so we made a quick lunch of ham and cheese sandwiches. It wasn’t really lunchtime, but the ingredients weren’t going to last long in this heat!

Phil and I went to do some reconnaissance of the other end of our predicted fall line in the car. This is the ‘low mass end’ or the other end of the line, where if the meteorite fell here, it’s only quite small, or ‘it’ is really a scattering of small fragments. We picked our way through the dunes. It was really slow going. Every time we were unsure how solid the ground was, we had to get out and walk it on foot first, before driving across. We were making relatively good progress when we hit a huge dune. The car was not at all happy with this one and nearly got stuck halfway up, so we returned back to camp disappointed. Another group decided to head out again and I stayed behind to rest and write more of this blog. The temperature was hitting upwards of 46ͦ C and the searching party were back again pretty quickly. They dived into the air conditioned cars and cooled down. After we had relaxed for a bit, we migrated to the shade behind the awning, cracked a beer, got the fire going and started thinking about dinner.

Luke, probably retelling a witty anecdote while cooking dinner

Luke, probably retelling a witty anecdote while cooking dinner

Dinner ended up being sausages in a bun with balsamic vinegar courgettes (sorry Australians, I mean zucchinis) and was in full swing when someone noticed some ominous clouds on the horizon. ‘Cool!’ We thought, ‘They might provide some shade for searching tomorrow, and gee a breeze would be nice’. They gave us an epic sunset which looked very much like the scene from The Lion King (think: Simba, remember who you are).

The Desert Fireball Network Kings and Queens

The Desert Fireball Network Kings and Queens

It soon became apparent that this was a huge thunderhead. It grew slowly, using suspense-building techniques that Hollywood has long forgotten about. Flashes illuminated lashing rain on the horizon. The clouds spread, blanketing the whole horizon and started encircling us in their pincers. One by one the stars went out, replaced by giant, black, menacing clouds. It looked totally epic.

Camp, before the clouds really started rolling in

Camp, before the clouds really started rolling in

What really impressed me about our team throughout the whole trip is that when a problem reared its ugly head, everyone jumped in to solve it. The camp was made safe: the fuel cans were put far from camp, the gazebo was taken down, swags were rolled, everything was put undercover and weighted down, and the vehicles were prepared for people to sleep in. We sat by the fire and waited with slow certainty as the storm advanced on us. The wind dropped to nothing. Phil’s magic-weather-watch-of-awesome told us that there was no storm coming. A blatant lie. People suddenly turned on me, blaming me for being a bad luck charm for rain in the desert*. A classic example of mob mentality. Not the forces of nature, no, it was definitely my fault …

At 10 pm we decided some people should get in the swags and get some rest while the others kept watch on the storm. It now covered three quarters of the sky except, somewhat inexplicably, the bit right above us. An hour or so later the wind suddenly whipped up and we got blasted by a huge cloud of dust that came out of nowhere. In daylight you can see the dust coming. In the darkness you get a mouthful of grit as a wake-up call. We leapt into action – the sleepers up and rolled their swags, the chairs were stowed, the fire was buried, and we dived into the vehicles (aka Faraday cages). The Prado was (in theory) the Deluxe Suite, as its chairs folded down and you could sleep three side-by-side laying down. Sarah, Ellie and I formed a spoon chain and watched. The rain hit, the lightning flashed all around us, the wind howled and then died. We tried to sleep but the car was too hot. Once the storm had safely passed, we opened the doors a smidgen to get some through-flow. It helped a bit, but none of us got much sleep.

*For more on Luke’s uncanny ability to summon rain in the desert, see Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 1.

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 10.

Our first fireballs@home camera

Rob and Hadrian have installed one of our new fireballs@home ‘kit’ cameras at Boogardie Station in WA. The smaller versions are helping us expand the network even further, and have already been shared with some partners overseas. If you’re interested in hosting a camera on your property, send as an email

rob kit camera boogardie

Geminids trip

Geminids Trip – Blog by Luke @Daly_Planet

The Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds

The Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds

 

We planned our trip for mid-December, perfect timing to see the Geminids meteor shower. The aim was to take images of the Geminids, install a few of our kit cameras on roofs across the Murchison and service our North WA network .  The team is purely made up of the PhD students- this is going to be a fun ride!

The team is Hadrien (team leader, forgetful), Robert (kit camera designer, engineer), Ellie (safety, photography president) and me, Luke (can’t spend more than four days in Perth at a time)

Rob and Hadrien drove out one day before Ellie and I. As far as I’m aware, they forgot half the gear we needed and therefore had a lovely drive along the beach where they camped and then chilled in Geraldton waiting for us to catch up.

sunset

Ellie was teaching sailing in the morning so I  packed the ute on my own. Compared to last time, we had next to no gear; we didn’t even need the tarp or ratchet straps to tie anything down!  When we met up with the others, we cooked a nice meal of T-bone steak cooked over the fire, bliss! Then we turned our eyes to the sky and watched the start of the meteor shower, there were a few large meteors zipping overhead – it was already pretty damn impressive and there were still 24 hours to go to the peak!

The next day we headed up to Wooleen station and had a chat with David and Frances before going to check on the camera. Ellie and I made lunch while the guys worked. They soon realised that while one of our two cameras worked, the other had filled up the memory card but wasn’t talking to the external hard drives, so we spent a couple of hours transferring data to make enough space for the Geminids tonight – don’t want to miss anything!

We made a very makeshift shelter for some shade to sit out the heat of the day while we waited for technology to sort itself out. We passed the time eating lunch playing 3D noughts and crosses and some weird game involving dots and lines. I got decimated every time! Finally transfer complete, cameras ready to capture Geminids, we drove on, and further into the Murchison.

We stopped off at Mt Narryer station and had a lovely chat to Carol and got directions to the mountain itself. Then after getting lost and found again we bumped into Sandi (the other station owner) who showed us a fault line that ran through his station which was very cool!

It was getting dark and our plans were to load up with all our gear and climb up the hill before sunset to watch the Geminids from the top. After all the delays and rough terrain we finally got to the track leading to the mountain and got our first glimpse of it.

We have decided the Australian language must have evolved differently to the rest of the English speaking world because a mountain everywhere else on the planet is >1000 m high; this one was barely 100 m above ground level and its peak was only 500 m. Basically it was a mound, a very impressive mound, compared to the vast expanse of flat surrounding us but a mound never the less. Anyway, we never made it. We were scuppered by the most unassuming thing: a tiny bush about 30 cm high, which stabbed the side wall of our back tyre with its smallest twig. It immediately blew. Luckily I saw it go in a plume of dust and drove no more than 3ft saving damaging the car further.  Ridiculous! I’ve driven over sharp rocks, over creeks, over whole trees and it’s a lowly dead shrub that stops us! The change was pretty straight forward, but the tyre was irreparable and we all suddenly became a lot more paranoid about twigs. The shrub even had its own resident lizard which didn’t even blink as the car went over it.

We decided to camp on the flat just by where we got the flat. As the sun set we made camp, built a fire pit and got the toys out!  We set up a mobile DFN camera, a telescope and a set of 5 DSLR cameras on an astronomy mount. The  drone went up and had a quick flight – we were all set up and nothing was going to fly over us without us capturing it in about 4 different ways!

Night fell and as the crescent moon followed the sun over the horizon, the constellation Gemini started to rise. We still had several hours until the maximum peak at 2:30 am so we spent time looking at Jupiter,  its moons and Uranus with the telescope before realising the astro cameras gave much better images and got some cracking shots of the Orion Nebula and the Magellanic Clouds.

The Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds

The Milky Way and the Magellanic Clouds

The conditions out there were perfect! There were so many stars that the heavens were aglow and once the fire had died down you could see by starlight alone. We had our dinner and then everyone went off to play with the toys.  I realised that the irony of this trip could be that we  spend all night staring down a camera lens and not actually seeing the geminids with our own eyes . With this in mind I cocooned myself in my sleeping bag with a G &T and some chocolate and enjoyed the show, and what a show it was!

A few Geminids caught on camera

A few Geminids caught on camera

I think the maximum actually happened at 1 am not 2:30 am and at its peak  there were meteors blazing overhead every five seconds! It was incredible, the sky was alive, and not just with Geminids: satellites went over, other meteors blazed, Pegasus set and the Southern Cross rose and then – almost as dramatically as it had begun – it ceased. We watched the last few meteors with a Christmas mince pie, leaving our swags unzipped to enjoy the the closing of the show as the first rays of dawn lit the horizon.

This is the only way to observe a meteor shower, I can’t recommend it enough! The only downside weres all the bugs.. I am also thoroughly convinced that the people who came up with the constellations names were on something that is currently illegal. Orion was the only one that makes sense, but in Australia he’s the wrong way up.

We were rudely awoken by the sun – far too early and far too hot! Before we left we flew the drone up the mountain so we could at least say we had been there … yeah, it counts!

We drove on to Boogardie station. The guys fixed the first ever kit camera in Australia to the roof and carefully avoided a nesting wag tail while Ellie and I made dinner. There were real life working showers near the building which had been generously put at our disposal so we availed ourselves of them with abandon and came out very clean, relatively speaking of course. Feeling refreshed, I sat down to enjoy the remaining few Geminids while Hadrien and Ellie did some light painting and experiments …

Ellie trying light painting

Ellie trying light painting

Hadrien x 4

Hadrien x 4

Ellie x 4

Ellie x 4

We packed up and I had another  ‘I saw something alive in Australia could it kill me!’ moment as I stepped out of the kitchen, something slithered under the building and I jumped about a foot in the air and realised mid jump that it was in fact a monitor lizard not a snake as I had first thought. Cool! That’s more like it! We took some footage of the camera with the drone and set off on the way Ellie and I finished listening to audiobook ‘Going postal’ by Terry Pratchett and started ‘Making Money’. Yeah, we spend a lot of time driving!

We arrived at Goodlands station and met a lovely family with their two young kids who were very excited about the prospect of flying our drone and were super helpful setting up the camera! We set about carefully threading the wire across the guttering to the roof, this one was quite high up so we took extra precautions! It was a pretty professional job, if I do say so myself, with very few wires showing! Hadrien drove around trying to find some Telstra signal to ‘talk’ to the camera and make sure it was happy and then it was play time – release Arthur (Ellie’s affectionate pet name for our UAV)! We flew the drone and let the kids fly it around.  The dog seemed to enjoy this as well, but we rescued Arthur before he was ‘fetched’.

We once again hit the open road heading back home via Northam. We had a swift bite to eat in Northam while some mossies had a swift bite to eat on us and then headed over to our camera. All that was required here was a quick hard drive change and blower change which was very efficient. It was quite late by this point like 10 pm late so we were very lucky that the owners let us quickly look at the camera before they went to bed, speaking of bed we were all knackered. But we still have to get back to Perth! Pedal to the metal for one last push, and we got in at 11pm. As we had to give the hire car back tomorrow morning we quickly unloaded our gear into the office and went home and conked out.

2,000 km round trip: Two new cameras established,  four  cameras serviced,  Geminids observed and photographed and all in four days – not bad!

We were on such a high we were considering jumping on a plane to South Australia to pick up a meteorite we saw land in Lake Eyre before Christmas … But we thought we’d let someone else have that glory and pick up the easy one! Save us for the hard jobs!

Oh, and if you’d like to get out and see a meteor shower, download the Fireballs in the Sky app and use the augmented reality meteor shower finder!

What happened next to the Lake Eyre meteorite

What happened next to this year’s most famous meteorite? Lots!

Well first, it was the star attraction on campus and the celebrity for many #selfies.

Then, in the week that followed it’s media debut, apparent controversy emerged as to who owns the meteorite? Well, it’s not controversial at all, as Dr Gretchen Benedix explains here.

Next, we needed to know, what’s inside the meteorite?

Our friends and collaborators at CSIRO (the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Perth scanned the meteorite using a CT scanner, similar to what’s at most hospitals. Dr. Lionel Esteban (from CSIRO Energy group) scanned the meteorite using the medical X-ray CT scanner from the National Geosequestration Laboratory*. The data were processed by Dr. Belinda Godel (from another CSIRO group , the Mineral Resources team) using workflows developed for ore materials  at the Advanced Resource Characterisation Facility.

They turned the data into this cool 3D image video:

 

Once our experts had  a look at the CT scan, they were able to share this with another collaborator, David Vaughan, a specialist geologist who has a super precise diamond wire saw. It was important to use the very best of saws to minimise the amount of waste. When you cut into a rock, you will always lose some crumbs, just like trying to cut a cookie in half.

Many people will be sad to hear that the headline-making, love-heart shaped meteorite is now in pieces, but each piece can tell us so much more about the meteorite and further our understanding of our solar system.

Now that we have some samples to analyse, our experts will get on to describing it, much like if scientists found a new bacteria or made a new chemical compound. This will then be sent off as an official submission to the international Meteoritical Society who ensure that the rock has been identified correctly. We’re hoping they will agree on a name for the rock that will be submitted by the Arabana people. Once it’s officially registered, we can get onto understanding the make-up of the rock and what that means about our early solar system.

The National Geosequestration Laboratory (NGL) is a collaboration between CSIRO, The University of Western Australia and Curtin University established to conduct and deploy critical research and development to enable commercial-scale carbon storage options.

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 8

Luke’s Wolfe Creek blog in August was so entertaining that we asked him to put pen to paper again on his next journey. Turns out, we didn’t have to wait long. Luke’s journal continues … (the story started with On the Road Again)

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 8

As we were loading up the trucks, it started to rain. If it rains out here the roads get closed almost immediately so we gunned it down to the road, hoping we weren’t in for too much!

The road was very good and we got most of the way there without incident but we then had a small off-road section to reach our destination. This is where it got interesting. We came across a running creek where I realised almost too late that my car was in 2WD. I quickly flicked it to 4WD and low gear before the car stopped and powered through the soft sand at the bottom of the creek. The car behind me was not so lucky and ground to a halt in the middle. With almost admirable efficiency we all laughed, ran in, got the treads out, flicked it into low 4WD, lowered the pressure on the tyres, and all pushed it free. The third car followed suit and made it look easy blasting across the creek.

We then traveled on for a time until we hit the dune field. The first dune was by far the worst and the rest were ok and navigated easily. We were only about 5 km from our goal when we hit a salt lake which we carefully skirted around. More boggy adventures ensued, but we finally found a good spot to camp. It was a lovely area with a commanding view and it also – importantly – flat! We set up our tent, swags, gazebos, and sorted out all our gear. It was divine. We sat around and had a lovely chat as a double rainbow formed behind us, but would there be a pot of gold or better yet a meteorite at the end of it?!

Double rainbow over camp

Double rainbow over camp

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 7

Luke’s Wolfe Creek blog in August was so entertaining that we asked him to put pen to paper again on his next journey. Turns out, we didn’t have to wait long. Luke’s journal continues … (the story started with On the Road Again)

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 7

We had two cameras to service before our rendezvous with the second team, so there was lots to do. We got to Northwell relatively fast and were greeted by a very excitable dog.

We went up to Northwell camera site and well, this is the nightmare child of the DFN. Maybe it was born under a unfortunate set of stars, maybe its mother dropped it on its head as a child, but whatever the reason this camera has been completely recplaced five times in five servicing visits.  As we left I think I heard the replacement camera protesting. 

@Daly_Planet

I polished the lenses and act as a fetcher for whatever Martin needs and there my usefulness ends, so I had plenty of time to take in the scenery in the 2 hours we were there.

@Daly_Planet

 

The road to Ingomar camera was the same, comforting red gravel bumpy track that keeps chiropractors in business. The camera was fine. Unfortunately, the internet provider had taken down their local signal tower in the area so the camera was now offline. Fortunately, we had brought a more powerful antenna to install. Unfortunately, both the wires had male connectors. We gave the camera the usual treatment and made a note for the next visitors to Ingomar. Off again to Coober Pedy to meet up with the others who were well on their way.

Martin and I met up with the rest of the crew in Coober Pedy (although it should be noted that we got there first) and the team was now assembled.

Introducing:

  • Phil Professor, Dr Meteorite, Mr DFN, the Boss!
  • Ellie, studying for a PhD in meteorite mass calculation, geophysiscist (the one we blame if we don’t find it)
  • Sarah, studying for a PhD in geology, general DFN groupie
  • Rob, studying for a PhD in engineering, camera builder, techie and token Australian
  • Trent, not even yet studying for a PhD in satellite tracking (but he will be!), token Australian (it was buy one, get on free)
  • Martin, Wizard troubleshooter software techie
  • Luk, studying for a PhD in meteorite geology, sample analysis (what sample?!), blogger, probably most expendable

Luke’s blog continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 8

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 6

Luke’s Wolfe Creek blog in August was so entertaining that we asked him to put pen to paper again on his next journey. Turns out, we didn’t have to wait long. Luke’s journal continues … (the story started with On the Road Again)

Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 6

We packed up and ploughed on to Wilgena Station.

We thought someone would have rung ahead to warn the homestead we were coming. Turns out someone should have been us. We were greeted by a very confused couple who eyed us critically. We told our story about how we run cameras across the Australian deserts taking pictures of the night sky, looking for fireballs and triangulating the fall position. AND it just so happens that one of them probably landed on your property and could we please go check the area out?

They very generously let us drive down to the fall line. Most of the 50,000 or so meteorites in collections around the world have been recovered by luck. The fall line is an area which our calculations tell us is the mostly likely resting place of our meteorites. Depending on how big and dense the rock is when it reaches the Earth’s surface (this is extremely hard to tell from a fireball photo), it will land somewhere along the line: a big heavy chunk at one end, or a spray or smaller fragmented bits at the other. The objective is then to start at the big heavy chunk end, and walk towards the small bits end and spreading the search a few hundred metres either side.

We quickly realised that sand dunes make both great and at the same time terrible searching conditions. There were no rocks at all except a bit of quartz, so any rock we did find would undoubtedly be the meteorite. Unfortunately there were any number of trees and shrubs it could have fell under or got caught by.

At the heavy object part of the fall line we were expecting about a kilogram of meteorite (which is quite substantial) and the terrain was awesome! You could see about 100 m in all directions and so if a kg of black rock was hiding here, well it wouldn’t really be hiding. Sadly though, we didn’t find anything. It wasn’t going to be that easy. We returned to the car, topped up our water supplies and sun cream and set off searching again. And again returned empty handed.

We drove back to the station, said our thank yous and goodbyes and told them we’d be back, and in greater numbers – which seemed to unnerve them a bit (from a health and safety point of view rather than the Star Wars reference I hope!)

Meteorite Hunters

Once we explained that we would let them know in advance this time, they were much happier.

The other searching team had landed in Adelaide and made it to Port Augusta already. We had to get a wriggle on to be able to meet them in Coober Pedy tomorrow.

In a series of messages, they tried to show off their running water, electricity and beds but it didn’t really have the effect I think they were after. We just replied with our amazing campfire and reminded them that soon they’d be as grubby as us.

Delicious blue cheese pasta by Martin

Delicious blue cheese pasta by Martin

Luke’s blog continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 7