Monday, 25 July 2011

2 hr Flight Kununura to The Bungle Bungle

Alligator Airways was our choice for our flight from Kununurra to over Lake Argyle, 20 mins over The Bungle Bungle (Purnululu National Park) & returning over the Argyle Diamond Mine.
Unfortunately the days before were windy & so too was the morning of our flight :( Should have taken that as a hint to skip breakfast - but I forgot.

 This little plane is just an 8 seater. Big enough to take us on our excursion I should think.
 Rod's waiting with anticipation

 I'm still rather confused with the water ways around here. Lake Argyle was built 70 kms to the south. Thers's a diversion spillway, then the flood water goes into the Ord River. Before it gets to Kununurra, the Ord R is diverted into a  'diversion' dam called Lake Kununurra just near town. Coming off Lake Kununurra, there's a large pond / lake called Lily Pond - which is in town. Lily pond is emptied just before the wet season to refill with fresh water - I think. Then the Ord R comes off Lake Kununurra at a spill way across the main highway.
The water coming over the spill way is still quite high.
So the irrigation channels come off Lake Kununurra - phew - I hope I've got that right. Totally confusing.
Any way - I think the above pic may be other lagoons coming off the wide Ord R on the western side of town.

There apparently is 14,000 hectares of developed land for irrigation - mangoes, fruit & veg on a smaller scale, & on an increasingly larger scale there's the Indian Sandalwood trees - the oil is used for perfumes & makeup to name some. The amount of land under irrigation is increasing over time.
Here's a very small area of mangoes
 Sandalwood trees

The Ord River has gorges along part of it's journey to Kununurra.
 That's the spillway diversion that had dynamite used to break up the 2.2km section to divert flooding water away from the Lake wall. (below)

 The impermeable dam wall, with an inner layer of clay.

The 77km long lake has the Carr Boyd Range to act as the Lake's sides. The only other structure keeping the water in is the dam wall.
The surface area of Lake Argyle is 1000 sq kms.  The lake got it's name from the cattle station Argyle Downs that was swamped by the filling of the lake. Parts of the cattle yards & outer buildings are still under 23mtrs of water. The original homestead, built in the late 1800's was pulled apart brick by brick & re built not far from the Lake Argyle township.

Because the area is mountainous, many islands were created with  24mtrs at it's deepest depth of water.

 The pale line at the bottom of the mountains is the high water line of several meters from the 2011 floods.  Water wasn't released in flooding conditions from the lake   (like Lake Wivenhoe)

This area above & below is the southern end of the lake - or the beginning, where several rivers & creeks feed flooding water into the lake.  There is more bird life here than anywhere else on the lake.

 There are 2 huge cattle stations covering 184,000 & 163,500 hectares respectively separated by the Bow River as it's  fence line. Both stations are owned by the same family company so I guess it doesn't matter too much that a somewhat 'few' of the 8,000 steers on 1 property crosses the line to graze with the 10,000 Brahmans on the other station. When cattle are sold the proceeds goes to the station name as most animals are ear tagged for identification.

 The above pic is a unique formation as a result of ancient volcanic plate activity which is a 2 plate system - 1 moving north & the other moving south. Some of this plate movement can also be seen in the Bungle Bungle range massif.

The Beehive formations of the Bungle Bungle came upon us very quickly. The range itself is only 45,000 hectares of the World Heritage Listed  Purnululu National Park.
The geological  description of how they formed is too long, but basically they formed 350 million yrs ago & several kms of thickness has been removed due to erosion.
The beehive shaped domes have formed case hardened skins, helping to stabilize the rock surface. The skin has a striped appearance, with layers of orange & dark grey. The grey bands are formed by cyanobacteria, a single cell organism that represents some of the oldest life forms on Earth. They may be several meters wide, but only millimeters thick. The alternating orange stripe is iron oxide that also protects the fragile sandstone.- .............shortened version .................

We spent 20 mins flying over the many formations in the Bungle Bungle Range & Purnululu Nat Pk.

 The Bungle Bungle isn't all domes. I mentioned the plate movement in the range, with cracks appearing - these are the gorges. 1 such gorge that is open is the Piccaninny Gorge in the middle of the Bungle Bungle Range. A creek of the same name runs through the gorge. Cathedral Gorge is a side step from Piccininny gorge. It's an overnight camp out to see all of Piccaninny Gorge.

 Over one hundred metre high cliffs every where that were magnificent from the air.

The 2 pics above show the western side of the Bungle Bungle Range. The brown line is the road going to yet another gorge called the Echidna Gorge /Chasm

After 20 mins of breath taking views, we left the Bungles & headed back towards Kununurra.
 This may be the huge Bow River that flows into Lake Kununurra. Most of is dried now, but the river did have more water than it could cope with during the 2011 wet season floods.

Argyle Diamond Mine is below us here. Only discovered in early 1980s, it was the worlds largest diamond seam at the time & produces 1/4 - 1/5 of the world's diamonds including the exclusive pink Argyle ink diamond. That equates to 20million carats of diamonds / yr

 The open cut mine  is about to go under ground as all the surface area has almost been mined of it's much sought after product.
 That's Austalia's largest private air strip - moving miners in & out of the mine.

Returning over the Lake shows the magnitude as to the size of the lake. Water for as far as the eye can see.

We leave the lake & fly over the Ord River again back to Kununurra.

Was the trip & it's turbulence worth seeing my breakfast for the 2nd time that day - you betcha!!

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