Too much to show, too little time. The Kimberley – It’s why I’m here and it’s under threat.
Here are some things I saw. Hopefully they move you and others enough to send an email/letter, donate, volunteer, spread the word, etc to help save this incredible and rare wilderness from the tentacles of government and corporate giants who are intent on digging it up over the coming decades – starting right now with the Liquefied Natural Gas Processing Plant which is proposed for Walmadan (James Price Point), just north of Broome.
So, if you like these pics, feel a deep sense of connection with landscape and wilderness or believe we need to save these types of places for future generations or simply for the sake of wilderness itself, then please do what you can and spread the word. A final decision is set to be made by Woodside Petroleum in the first half of this year.
Keep in mind that I’m stuck to the main highway due to the wet season and lack of 4WD. If it’s this good along the highway, the innards must be spectacular (you may have seen aerial shots of places in The Kimberley such as Purnululu (Bungle Bungle) and King George’s Falls).
And a warning for those with sensitive hearts: there are some pics below of beautiful, but deceased, animals. Killed on the road by…us. And the more industrialisation and resulting flow-on developments, the more we’ll see dead animals. I’ve been documenting road-kill since the beginning of this trip and by far the greatest number of deaths, not surprisingly, occurs in areas with the greatest development and associated travel/transport routes. Don’t mess with a road-train – there are plenty of those where mining is concerned.
In the meantime,
Some Things I Saw – The Kimberley, Part One: WA/NT Border to Wyndham (The Kimberley’s northern-most town) …
Two Aboriginal Kids
These two kids appeared out of nowhere (there was nothing else around for 40-odd km except the quarantine checkpoint), walking quietly along the highway. They reached the quarantine station, bought some ‘white man’s treats’ from the vending machine, turned around and walked back from where they came. I watched until they veered off the highway, into the bush and out of sight.
Despite my losses at quarantine (refer ‘Toughen Up Princess’) I was very happy to have finally reached The Kimberley, The Last Frontier.
The Last Frontier
I read at least three bits of info (on signs and in books) which referred to The Kimberley as ‘The Last Frontier’. It’s true. But unfortunately the Mayor of Wyndham has decided to have this tagline REMOVED from future signage as he’s concerned that it’s ‘holding them back’. Nooooooooooo! Another victim of ‘progress’.
Rolling into Kununurra I was pleased to see that the local constabulary were hard at work targeting… nothing in particular. However the local pool had picked up the same terminology and was ‘now targeting running’ so I was on my best poolside behaviour.
Fortunately, I even passed the local dress code requirements despite my attire being more ‘earthen bushwear’.
A Near-Full Moon at Sunset – Kelly’s Knob, Kununurra
…or would you prefer more of this?…
The New Guard
…because this is what we’ll get heaps more of over the coming decades if we allow big mining and its flow-on demands into The Kimberley. By the way, I like the Target slogan, ‘Target Country – if you’re tall enough to see over our sensitively integrated facade’.
In prior days it’s been religion reigning over nature and keeping the masses under control but with the rise of corporations in the West, now they have well and truly taken the helm. Refer John Ralston Saul‘s ‘Unconscious Civilisation‘ for a good historical explanation and reason why we all MUST voice our opinion if we want to stand any chance of retaining a relatively democratic system.
The Old Guard
White Man’s Trash
White Man – civilised and sophisticated? I love this term, ‘White Man’s Trash’ – a great phrase to sum up the unnecessary and unhealthy elements that colonial powers have directly and indirectly forced on the indigenous peoples of the world.
I ‘camped’ in Claude for a few nights half-way up Kelly’s Knob where I experienced a couple of great storms, including the biggest one for 2012 – winds reached up to 100 kph, we received about an inch of rain in an hour or so and lightning strikes touched down all around. I retreated within Claude, careful not to touch his metal skin, and documented a bit of the action.
Before a strike, the purple haze envelops…
Purple Haze – Storm, Kununurra
Before a Strike I – Storm, Kununurra
…and then, daylight restored with one brilliant flash…
During a Strike – Storm, Kununurra
Before a Strike II – Storm, Kununurra
….and then, maybe 100 metres away, a great bolt tore the air apart and ripped into the hillside…
During a Strike II – Storm, Kununurra
At one moment, this strike, below, splinters and touches down…
During a Strike III – Storm, Kununurra
… and at another moment, a bolt of fork lightning races across the sky over the radio transmitter tower while sheet lightning lights up the world again, revealing beautiful rich hues…
Lightning Storm V, Kununurra
A more peaceful scene another evening…
Approaching Sunset, Kununurra
…same section a few minutes later…
A family portrait of a lovely Boab clan…
…or would we prefer more of these industrial families?…
Perhaps we could combine the two worlds…
Tropical Industrial Matrix
Yes, we need fuel to power our lives…
…but there are many renewable alternatives (especially in a sun-blasted country like ours) which are more sensitive to the health of the environment and ourselves as well as providing a much better long-term strategy.
Imagine if we could work out a way to predict the strike location and capture the energy contained in a lightning strike, this would be incredible…
Houston, We Have Transmission
Germany currently produces more than 25 percent of its energy from renewable energy sources. Read an article here. And apparently Iceland runs their entire country from renewable hydro and geo-thermal sources. Read article.
But for now we hit the road again…and one unlucky toad (at least i hope it’s a Cane Toad and not a native). And I promise it wasn’t my or Claude’s fault. He had clearly crossed the double lines.
Don’t Cross The Double Lines
On the way to Wyndham I stopped off for a bit of hunting and came across the following…
Brolgas? Is that right? Anyone? …Anyone? ……Bueller?
At this point, after running through the bush with camera and tripod in forty degree heat, bird got sick of staying ahead of me with a few lanky strides and decided to take to the air…
On the Runway
Yes, yes, i know tech-heads, it’s not in focus. But do you get the sense of feeling?!
How cool are these boab hands!?
Many funky creek names in The Kimberley, such as this one and Jailhouse Creek, etc.
Dead Horse Creek
Oh look, and here’s a dead horse. How timely. Incredible bones and textures.
Dead Horse I
Dead Horse II
Dead Horse III
Full Moon, The Grotto
…reminds me of the howling dingos I heard south of Alice Springs.
Electrical Storm, Drifting Clouds and Star-Trails, The Grotto
Electrical Storm I, The Grotto
Check out this sequence from the following cloud structure…
Latent, The Grotto
Internal Fire, The Grotto
The internal strikes are so incredibly beautiful the way they light up the cloud structure, bringing out unseen shapes and forms and with such a soft glow that spreads via the moisture particles.
External Fire, The Grotto
And here are two shots of multiple internal strikes within the same cloud structure – one is an 8 second exposure, the other 7 minutes and includes some visible star-trails.
The Road Ends Here I, The Grotto
The Road Ends Here II, The Grotto
And then came dawn at The Grotto…
Dawn, The Grotto
Early Morning, The Grotto
The Grotto I
You can glimpse the greenish waterhole at the bottom RHS of the above picture. And check out the steps leading down the gorge wall on the LHS foreground.
The Grotto II
The water was tepid and the waterhole quite lengthy – about 30 metres to the actual waterfall. Crocs were in my mind as I breast-stroked my way to the falls despite numerous assurances that they didn’t inhabit this one.
The Grotto III
Native Fig I
I love Native Figs – the way they determinedly find a foothold, and moisture, within the cracks and crevices of otherwise solid stone.
Native Fig II
Check out the beautiful fracturing and colours of the stone wall, below…
And on the roof of an overhang we find…
Cocoons and Hives, The Grotto
These little native bee beauties I found in several places but this one I particularly loved due to the choice of location – at the end of Native Fig’s root! Hard to see in these small pics but many of these little ‘cells’ were at least partially filled with what I assume was honey.
And everyone’s favourite creepy crawly – spiders. Or in this case dozens of spiderlings just waiting to freak you out as you walk through the web unaware…
Spiderlings, The Grotto
Funky Spider, The Grotto
Unfortunately this cute little fella didn’t make it. Not sure if he was road-kill but he was as cute as a button and fitted in the palm of my hand.
And then it was back down to the main highway after my side trip to The Grotto.
Happy Valley – view from road to Grotto
Ah, but what’s this then, ey?! Look very very very closely and you might see it.
Or just go to this next pic, below.
Yes, it’s the nation’s great friend…THE ROAD-TRAIN!! Please be upstanding for the national anthem.
Aussies all let us rejoice
for some of us are young and free
bah bup ba bah bah bah be bah
and I forget the rest….
Four trailers long and over 50 metres in length. Able to stop wildlife and humans with a single strike. And great for noise and dust pollution, highway wear and tear, etc
These ones ran every 20 minutes, every day, and nearly 24 hours a day except for a couple of hours in the middle of the night. They were the only thing I could hear from The Grotto bar nature – a regular rumbling up the valley and gorge from several kilometres away.
And this is where they’re off to…
KMG’s Delivery Yard
Wyndham. Just here, near the famous Croc Farm, was a handmade sign asking that road-train drivers please slow down as the resulting dust is killing the trees. And I met a couple whose house in Wyndham is located right where the driver’s did their shift change – just near the caravan park where many of them live. The changeovers occurred at very non-community-minded hours and this resident eventually took up his camera to document proceedings, sending the pics in to the authorities. Fortunately the changeover place has since been relocated. However these are just a couple of the very very minor effects that result from mining activities.
I met a driver and his family at The Grotto and mentioned that the trucks seemed to pass every 30 minutes or so. He corrected me – every 20 minutes. They come from Ridges Iron Ore Project, 165 kilometres by road south of Wyndham, just off the Great Northern Highway which traverse The Kimberley.
He told me that part of the requirements for operating the mine included that the environment must not be visibly altered from the point of view of anyone driving along the highway. Oh, well that’s nice…BUT in fact all it means is that the destruction is effectively removed from sight…in the hope that it be ‘out of sight, out of mind’. It reminds me of the logging operations I saw in Oregon and Washington states in the USA, where a screen of trees would be left along the highway to hide the clear-felling going on behind, where whole forests were being wiped off the face of the earth.
Just today, where I am writing this up in Fitzroy Crossing, a staff member told me that Cockatoo Island in the Buchaneer Archipelago, NW Kimberley region, has been reduced to a wasteland after a mining company razed the mountain that was once there. It is now being mined BELOW SEA LEVEL!!! The current operator, Leighton said mining would continue “until August 2012 and then rehabilitation of the mine lease would commence.” How does one rebuild a mountain? Aside from the mountain, there were apparently many Aboriginal people who used to visit the island. Not any more.
But back to the iron ore mine’s shipping port in Wyndham, below…
Iron Ore Dreaming
A mountain of iron ore, bound for China. Quite visually striking and lovely from one perspective. But quite disturbing from several others – the most obvious being where the port is located: without exaggeration, right at the bottom of one of the best lookouts I have ever been to in my whole extensive traveling life; one which has even made it into an official list of the World’s top ten lookouts.
Iron Ore Weeping
The Bastion headland, mighty even from below, is the site of one of the World’s best lookouts, Five Rivers.
The Bastion Headland – side view
The Bastion Headland – front view
The Bastion Headland – summit detail
And this is the mine’s delivery yard as seen from the lookout…
KMG’s Delivery Yard and Port at Cambridge Gulf, Wyndham
Notice the three barges stationed in the gulf constantly, to cart the ore to cargo ships in deeper waters. Although, I admit, the colours are quite beautiful, imagine this scene in its natural state. And contrast that against the negative impacts on the surrounding environment (and people).
The mine is situated on top of mud flats which are fringed by mangroves. Now I imagine mudflats are quite fragile and most likely contain a lot of inter-tidal wildlife. And I have seen signs asking that people NOT drive on the mudflats. Yet here we have an industrial loading yard which is apparently OK. Just did a quick google and came up with this…”The maintenance of mudflats is important in preventing coastal erosion. However, mudflats worldwide are under threat from predicted sea level rises, land claims for development, dredging due to shipping purposes, and chemical pollution.” Click here to go to that page.
Kimberley Metals Group (KMG) loading yard
And here are two guys at work, hour after hour, day after day, constantly reshaping the stockpile as the road-trains keep rolling in. Again, beautiful industrial colours, but here? I love industrial photography due to the strong colours, lines and shapes, and I realise that we need some industry of this nature…BUT we don’t need it here at the base of one of THE WORLD’S TOP TEN LOOKOUTS and IN A FRAGILE ENVIRONMENT. And we certainly shouldn’t want more of it in one of the world’s last remaining savannah-style wilderness regions which, by the way, has largely been ignored by the public and doesn’t have World Heritage Area status simply because, like The Franklin River in Tasmania 30 years ago, it is ‘out of sight, out of mind’, just like screened-off mining and logging activities.
KMG (Kimberley Metals Group) loading yard
And what happened with The Franklin River campaign to stop it being dammed in the early 80’s? What happened with The Franklin campaign is what will hopefully happen in this case – people who knew better, people who really gave a shit about the environment, carried out one of the most successful examples of community protest, putting the ‘out of sight, out of mind’, leech-ridden river directly in the public’s and politicians’ minds so that this magnificent piece of wilderness was ultimately saved in the eleventh hour. Read a more extensive account here.
But why bother saving these places that are out of sight and unlikely to ever be visited by the majority, and which could make us more money by being mined? Because what really matters is that: certain areas of nature MUST be allowed to exist simply for the sake of its existence, even if no-one ever visits them; dishonest, corrupt and exploitative politicians and corporations should be held to account; and alternatives, including utilising existing infrastructure (such as exists in The Pilbara for LNG processing), or sourcing renewable energy, should be seriously considered instead.
An aside: it’s interesting to compare the tactics of the then Tasmanian Premier, Robin Gray (who by the way, later went on to become director of Gunns Ltd which, in recent times, made a failed attempt to establish a massive pulp mill in northern Tassie) and the current WA Premier, Colin Barnett. In cynical attempts to exploit the fact that these places are relatively unknown and out of sight, in the hope of misleading the general public, Gray described The Franklin River as a “leech ridden ditch” while Barnett has described the area proposed for the LNG Processing Plant (Walmadan/James Price Point) as “an unremarkable piece of coast.”
On a coincidental personal note, the two areas of Australia that have moved me most in my life are The Kimberley and the wilderness regions of Tasmania. They have profoundly moved me in a way that is impossible to do justice to in words. They have to be experienced. And it is perhaps not surprising that one of my earliest photographic idols was Tasmanian, Peter Dombrovskis, who, like his own mentor, Olegas Truchanas, FELT a profound connection to that wilderness. Both died in it – Olegas drowned in The Gordon River and Peter died while photographing in the Western Arthur Range in southwest Tasmania.
Apologies for the overly serious nature of this post but its taken hold of me while writing and I’m covered in goosebumps and close to tears at the thought/memory of/connection with these places. So I will continue a little while longer before returning to some long overdue absurdity…
I first visited Tasmania in 1989 as a then graduating high school student. While 95% of students headed to the Gold Coast for schoolies week, a group of ten of us headed south from Melbourne to spend ten days hiking The Overland Track in Tasmania. I fell in love with it almost immediately – a place of such grandeur and wildness, with virtually no sign of the heavy hand of man. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my life, with not a drop of alcohol or other illicit substances consumed – just nature, friends and our ability to carry our homes and food on our backs for ten days in one of the most wondrous and enchanted regions on the planet.
As for The Kimberley, I first visited that on a school excursion in 1987. A mad two week dash from Melbourne via Adelaide, up the guts to Uluru, on up to Katherine, through this incredibly Kimberley wilderness (and just like now, restricted to the main highways), and down the west coast to Perth where we boarded a plane to cross the Nullabor back to Melbourne. A mad mad rush, but absolutely wonderful. And the part that has always stuck most in my mind is The Kimberley. As with parts of Tasmania, it is extremely varied in terms of landscape and climate and there is a ‘space’ which allows one to breathe, to really relax, to give in and to experience a profound connection…to something far far far greater than any of us. These types of places MUST, MUST be saved.
Currently there is tourism in The Kimberley. And tourism, when done badly, can destroy wilderness and cultures (Kuta Beach, Bali; The Gold Coast, etc). But relative to mining, tourism is death by one million fine cuts; mining destroys with only a few jagged blows.
And let’s not forget the waste by-products. Check out the Wyndham tip, below. This, I’m guessing, is predominantly residential and small business, for a population of around 800.
Wyndham Tip I
Wyndham Tip II
Wyndham Tip III
And now, back to funner times. Let’s return to The Bastion and Five Rivers Lookout, where I spent New Year’s Eve 2012. Five Rivers denotes, not surprisingly, the five rivers that flow into Cambridge Gulf: The Durack; The Pentecost; The King; The Ord; and The Forrest.
A view at dusk looking north over the mudflats, mangroves and mouth of The Ord river.
Overlooking Cambridge Gulf, Wyndham
And another looking just slightly more north-easterly…
Dusk over Cambridge Gulf, Wyndham
Rain over The Gut, Cambridge Gulf, NYE 2012
Dusk over Cambridge Gulf, NYE 2012
Storm over Cambridge Gulf, NYE 2012
Lightning Strikes over Cambridge Gulf, 7.52 p.m. NYE 2012
A spectacular way to bring in the new year.
And now, for some other Wyndham bits…
Lee Tong Shop
Afternoon Clouds, Wyndham
Cloud formation over mudflats
Sunset over Cambridge Gulf I
Sunset over Cambridge Gulf II
Sunset over Cambridge Gulf III
And later that night, more beautiful storm clouds that look like brain matter…
But now, the bit I promised earlier that you’ve all been waiting for………drum roll, please…………………
Don’t let Colin do this to The Kimberley…
Colin’s Five Rivers Estate
Smug and smarmy Colin hard at work even on holidays – he’s just crunched some rubbery numbers and is now happy to present to you his Five Rivers Estate proposal. Don’t let him do it. Don’t buy into his pitch. He’s as sleazy and greasy as he looks!
And don’t let him do this either…
Grotto Estate I
Construction already underway on The Grotto Estate – here, above, we see Colin (sensibly dressed in his high visibility construction shirt and steel-capped construction workers’ boots – he’s clearly able to identify with the common man) offering us a piece of the wild pie. Note well, Colin is wearing his ‘Bright Ideas Man’ hardhat, highlighting his inspirational leadership.
And below, overlooking his, um, I mean ‘our’ Estate.
Grotto Estate II
And well, he just couldn’t stop himself once he got going. This one says it all really – singing his, oh, again, what I really meant to say was ‘our’ praises.
Grotto Estate III
That’s all folks. Thanks for listening. Do what you can. Bye for now,
p.s. Mining banned at Horizontal Falls, described by famed naturalist David Attenborough as one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. These are located 110km north northeast of Derby in The Kimberley. Read an article about it here.
p.p.s Worrorra Mob reject Mining! “Worrorra elders, who have native title over an area stretching from King Sound, near Derby, to Kuri Bay, 370 km north of Broome, voted last month to keep their country “clean, free and open”. They want to close the land to future mining projects and focus instead on tourism.” – excerpt from recent article ‘Battle to keep Kimberley wild, remote’ by Graham Lloyd, Environment Editor at The Australian newspaper.
Images and Text Copyright Hunter G, 2013 and available for sale (FREE for not-for-profit activities – so spread the word widely – just include a link to this blog). All profits from sales will be re-invested in Save The Kimberley activities.
- Kimberley Campaigner: FAQs – detailed information about the proposed LNG plant near Broome
- A New World Beckons – Save The Kimberley (hunterg1.wordpress.com)
- “Toughen up Princess!” – Christmas With Quarantine (hunterg1.wordpress.com)
Location of the Kimberley region in Australia.(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Purnululu NP (WA) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Palms in one of the many canyons. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lightning striking the Eiffel Tower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)