Monday, 30 May 2016

Petroglyphs, Dampier to 80 Mile Beach

Where are we?

Route to Broome

We are now in Broome.

Petroglyphs in the Burrup

In 2003 the World Monuments Fund listed the Burrup on the top 100 most endangered heritage places on the planet. It is the only Australian site listed. The reason for the listing is that although there are up to 1 million Aboriginal Rock Carvings here, the Petrochemical Industry is being allowed to build major industrial plants in the Burrup and to destroy the carvings as they do it. 

To quote from their website:

"In an effort to protect the Dampier Rock Art Site from further industrial development, concerned citizens around the world are "standing up for the Burrup" before their own iconic monuments and landscapes. Their hope is to send a powerful message to the Western Australian Government, which refuses to protect the thousands of engravings and petroglyphs-many thought to be more than 10,000 years old -- at the Burrup Peninsula site, favoring continued expansion of natural gas industry there.

Since the first natural gas plant was built on the Burrup in the 1960s, hundreds if not thousands of engravings have been removed or destroyed, while toxic emissions generated by the installations continue to eat away at renderings not directly damaged by site construction. Despite the wishes of the area's Aboriginal population and advocates for preservation, the Western Australian Government seems content to lose an extraordinary cultural landscape of global importance …….."

Burrup when Island

This is the current designation for the Peninsula with a significant area designated “Industrial".  

Burrup Industrial Map

Originally the peninsula was not connected to the mainland other than by some mud flats. Allowed development turned the island into part of the mainland.

In 2007 the Murujuga National Park was created to cover much (but not all) of the area of the Burrup Peninsula. 

There are numerous websites about the Burrup - here is a reasonable starting point for an understanding of the problems the site faces. Here is one which has some good pictures of the petroglyphs and here is a reasonable account of the area. Here is a particularly good one which seems to cover most aspects of the park and the photographs in it show the amount of industrial development which had taken place by 2013.

Here is a detailed official report of the area and the first 14 pages are well worth reading, particularly if you have some understanding of Aboriginal history and lifestyle. To borrow from the report:

"This is a sacred place, home to Indigenous Australians for tens of thousands of years. Ngarda-Ngarlie people say ancestral beings created the land during the Dreamtime, and the spirits of Ngkurr, Bardi and Gardi continue to live in the area. They have left their mark in features like the Marntawarrura, or 'black hills,' said to be stained from the blood of the creative beings."

So with this in mind, we are driving to the Dampier Peninsula to see if we can find some Petroglyphs. Many web reports have said that the site is difficult to find. All I can say is that I GoogleEarthed "Deep Gorge Burrup Dampier" and that gave me a visual satellite location plus some street views gave me the road turn off point. As we approached the Burrup, there were signs pointing to the Marujuga National Park which we followed and that took us to

Murujuga National Park Sign

and a sign pointing to Hendersons Cove (the cove is past Deep Gorge and at the end of the road)

Deep Gorge Sign

Then after 2 kms or so, there is a sign pointing to the right and down a very bumpy road (best for 4WD and tough tyres) is the car park for Deep Gorge.

Deep Gorge Rocks

What faces you is a pile of rocks, a large pile of rocks, a very large pile of rocks!

Deep Gorge Site Long View

We continue to wonder why there is a pile. We are currently assuming that they result from some geological activity but it is not beyond reason that the pile was created by ancient man bringing the rocks there one by one (think of Stonehenge as an example of rock moving).


The Petroglyphs are reasonably easy to spot - here is an emu

Emu in Situ

and this is the Emu on the rock pile - being large it is one of the first to be seen.

Kangaroo Another

Kangaroos obviously feature

Man and Kangaroo

and we decided that this one was of a man who had been out hunting and was carrying the kangaroo back to his camp.


There was a superb Lizard and many more petroglyphs


or markings on rocks which we thought might have been a petroglyph.

Directly opposite this rather wonderful place is

View Opposite Deep Gorge

a large PetroChemical site.

We know that there are many more petroglyphs on the peninsula and a problem has been that the Aboriginal Communities are very reluctant to tell the authorities where they are so that they can be catalogued and protected. The little we know about Aboriginal culture explains this.  There are many secrets in their culture, secrets which even members of their communities are not allowed to know until they reach a certain point in their lives. We suspect that this site is a site sacrificed to tourism i.e. let the tourists see these and they will be satisfied and not look for our other sites. Cataloguing their other sites would then mean that their secrecy would be compromised.

Nearby Beach

Nearby Beach 2

We are delighted to have found some and we then proceed to Henderson’s Cove for a first look at the sea and lunch. The cove is large, white and nearly deserted.

After a night at nearby Dampier Community Campsite (rather good for a small site), we are off to 80 Mile Beach which is 500 kms up the road for a  spot of R&R. 

Pilates in the CampSite

That we are in a campsite does not prevent Mrs Harvey from doing some Pilates before we leave.

80 Mile Beach 

80 Mile Beach is not eighty miles long (a fact). Depending on your research source it might be 85 miles long, it might be 140 kms long, it might be 140 miles long, and it might once have been called 90 mile beach but its name was changed so that people did not confuse it with 90 mile beach in Victoria which is in fact 55 miles long. I hope all is now clear.

Whatever its length is, it is a place where most evenings you can sit and drink a cold beer whilst watching the most beautiful sunsets. There is a great RV camp there where we stayed the last time we were in the area, and apart from being a place where you can spend time doing nothing, the RV camp shop also sells the most superb freshly baked Danish Pastries.

The drive from Dampier to 80 Mile Beach must count as one of the most boring drives in Australia. The landscape is either boring or the few towns you pass through (apart from Karratha which is acceptable) are horrible with ugly industrial developments (Port Hedland in particular). 

500 kms Long Straight Road

If you disregard the vehicles we met in the couple of towns we drove through, we are not likely to have met more than 100 vehicles coming the other way during the 500 kms.

Nothing to see

Usually the landscape is flat and featureless in all directions. We knew this of course having driven it in the other direction in 2009 and accept that it is something one has to put up with. A few Times Crosswords and CD 5 of “Woman in White” by Wilkie Collins are enough to keep us entertained.

The 80 Mile Beach Campsite is about 12 kms down a very dusty road

Arrival at 80 Mile Beach

and arriving there is a bit like coming to an oasis. 80 Mile is one of only two places we are planning on revisiting from our 2009 trek, that we are here again is testament to how nice it is.

80 Mile Pitch

It is less crowded than the last time we were here and we get a pitch with water and power and also not too far from the toilets and showers.

80 Mile Beach View

The Beach is still just as empty bar a few hopeful fishermen

Pat s Shells

and Pat collects a few shells from the billions on the beach.

80 Mile Sunset

Despite being a bit cloudy, sunset is very spectacular

80 Mile after sunset

and the clouds become every more dramatic after the sun has set. A very memorable moment assisted by a cold VB (a can of cold Victoria Bitter to the uninitiated !)

A day off tomorrow with no early get up and a chance to do some maintenance before we head off to Broome.

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