FEATURE — JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE SIMPSON
Abandoned oil wells and camps are scattered across many parts of the Simpson Desert , reminders of the heyday of oil and gas exploration in the 1950s and 1960s . Along with abandoned oil wells , the Desert is criss-crossed by ‘ shot lines ’, cleared straight lines where seismic testing was carried out to produce an image of the geology beneath the dunes . Many of these seismic lines have been subsumed by the desert , but others have become the well-known tracks tourists use : the French Line , the QAA Line , the WAA Line , and the K1 Line .
Just before the oil well , we chanced upon fresh vehicle tracks coming in from the west . A check of our map showed an old seismic line , suggesting a group of vehicles had possibly travelled 60 kilometres over near-virgin dunes from the Colson Track .
We had a late lunch at the abandoned oil well , and with flies swarming after record autumn rains and an unseasonably warm winter , resumed our journey towards the Geocentre following the fresh tracks of the vehicles ahead .
The going became easier as the vehicle tracks followed the long , smooth swales , the valleys between the dunes . The mulga trees disappeared , the cane grass and spinifex thinned as we headed north and into one of the driest , most remote areas of the Desert .
Even the occasional claypan and its telltale stone knives and grindstones marking Wangkangurru people ’ s long habitation of the land disappeared . In 20 years of doing archaeological and anthropological surveys in other areas of the Simpson , this was truly the driest , most barren part I ’ d ever seen .
Around 4 pm , we reached the group of vehicles ahead , five in all , coming towards us . As we stopped to exchange travel tales , they told us , yes , they had indeed come across an old shot line from the Colson Track and were heading for the Beachcomber Oil Well to the east , along another seismic line . We bid them farewell , secretly happy we ’ d be able to pretend we were explorers again and have the Geocentre to ourselves that night !
A half-hour later , with the shadows growing long and Golden Hour upon us , we found the tell-tale tower marking the Geographical Centre of the Simpson Desert .
Although the tower is what most people see in pictures of the Geocentre , it wasn ’ t the first monument placed here . In July 1987 , Australian off-roaders Willem Kempen , Judith Kempen and David Hodgkinson became the first people to drive to the Geocentre in a pair of Suzuki 1300s . They erected a plaque to commemorate the achievement . Unfortunately , the Kempens ’ plaque hasn ’ t been relocated .
20 — dometic . com IMAGE CREDIT : AMANDA MARKHAM