Scientific & Ecological Surveys

KALLAKOOPAH CREEK PALAEONTOLOGY EXPEDITION

Images from the inaugural 2007 Arid Rivers Expedition, with fossilised megafauna bones and teeth fragments.

Images from the 2014 Kallakoopah Creek Expedition - trekkers wrapping the specimen in plaster.

 

 

 

 Duration:

 Dates:

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22 Days

August 7 > August 28 2020

1 day flights / 1 day 4WD / 18 days trekking / 1 day 4WD / 1 day flights

Moderate

12

Adelaide

Adelaide

AUD$9980 including flights (details below)

 

Kallakoopah Creek Palaeontology Expedition

This survey includes the bonus of seeing the desert from the air - including part of the area where you will be walking!

The expedition price includes the scheduled return domestic flight from Adelaide to Olympic Dam and Charter flight over Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre,

southern Simpson Desert salt lakes, Kallakoopah Creek and Warburton River.

Summary

Megafauna

Gallery

Map

Practicalities

On our inaugural Arid Rivers Expedition in 2007, we located many megafauna fossil sites in addition to documenting hundreds of stone artefacts from aboriginal occupation. One of the locations we visited (which had been discovered on an Outback Camel Company commercial expedition in 2006) was an extensive fossil site that we believed to be the large flightless bird Genyornis (below). Many large bones were in situ, and so in 2014 we mounted a second expedition with the objective of collecting the fossil for further study.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had originally planned to go back in 2009 however the major floods of that year and in 2010 prevented us from getting to much of the eastern and southern Simpson Desert. The area was completely submerged in 2009 and partly submerged in 2010. An aerial inspection in late 2009 revealed that many more bones had been uncovered by the flood waters, compared to our 2007 observations. So in 2014 we were full of anticipation of what we might find.

And it turned out that what we did find was completely unexpected.

 

Dr Aaron Camens from Flinders University explains:

 

"The diprotodontid is an animal called Nototherium inerme and is one of the, if not the rarest and least understood of the diprotodontids from anywhere in the fossil record.

 

This find represents the first time that a specimen with all its teeth has been found and they’re in great condition so we’ll be able to learn a lot about its evolution and where it fits in from this. It also has large cheek flanges (called masseteric processes) telling us that it had very powerful jaw musculature but also that they may have been used as some kind of display feature. Due to these large flanges, the face would have been relatively wide and flat with the eyes pointing forward, more similar to a panda than to the other diprotodontids that were around at the time. The skeleton that goes along with the skull also represents the first postcranial material that we’re able to say definitely belongs to Nototherium so there should also be some interesting stuff coming out there.

 

At this stage we have absolutely no idea how old the specimen is, without a close look at the geology and some sampling for OSL dating it’s pretty much anyone’s guess at the moment. The age could potentially range from about 100,000 years old up to a couple of million, with a higher probability that it’s at the younger end of the spectrum."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Primary Expedition Purpose

 

The primary purpose of this survey expedition is to revisit the 2014 site with a view to extract any remains for further study. As previously noted above, the extensive flooding along the creek in the winter of 2019 may have revealed more bones belonging to inermes, or perhaps if we are lucky, an entirely new site altogether.

 

So the secondary focus will be to explore a large transect of creek bank for more fossil deposits that may have been uncovered in the 2019 floods. This expedition also forms part of the Songlines & Shared Journeys program.

 

Our palaeontologist on the expedition will be Dr Aaron Camens from Flinders University in Adelaide.

 

Please note that the decision to extract more fossil segments will not be made until Dr Camens inspects the site. Any extraction will be quite an extensive task, and you will be an active member of the excavation team, working under the supervision of Dr Camens. We will then carry the fossil out of the desert. From a historical perspective, if we do decide to extract more fossils (or any other sites that we may locate), it would be only the second time since the early 1900s that a megafauna fossil has been carried by camel team from this part of the Simpson Desert. That alone, makes this expedition truly an historical event!

The cleaned Nototherium inerme.

Australian Megafauna

 

Long-term research in the southern Lake Eyre basin has uncovered a 250,000 year record of climatic and environmental change unequalled anywhere else in Australia.

 

Fossil and geomorphic evidence gathered from remote palaeochannels such as the Kallakoopah Creek has shown that the region once supported a vast mega-lake surrounded by broad savannah and wetland ecosystems that in turn supported a wide variety of terrestrial and aquatic megafauna species.

 

At other times, abrupt climate change brought desertification pushing the megafauna out of the region in a series of stress events that probably led to its eventual extinction. These mechanisms are now directly relevant to understanding present climate change and it is the relationship between them and extinction that I am now researching in the region. The past provides an opportunity to understand why climate changes and how extreme the results are.

 

The more we learn about these processes the better we will be able to predict future climate change and its consequences. The work north of Lake Eyre continues, but surveying in remote regions around the Kallakoopah and in the centre of the Simpson Desert is extremely difficult with 4WD vehicles.

The use of camel teams to help enter and survey these areas is a new strategy using a very old means of transport. However, doing this we can take more equipment, provides easier access to the focus areas and it allows a more thorough investigation of areas transected by the survey.

 

Dr Steve Webb

Associate Dean (Students) Professor of Australian Studies

Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Bond University

 

Further detailed information about megafauna in this area of Australia

Dr Webb's Late Quaternary distribution and biogeography of

the southern Lake Eyre basin (SLEB) megafauna, South Australia

Bone fragment probably from a small marsupial

Photos from the 2007 Expedition

Fossilised fish vertebrae

The fossil site during the 2009 floods

The fossil site in late 2009 showing more 'bones'.

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General survey corridor between X and X,

THIS EXPEDITION IS RATED AS MODERATE

See here for a guide.

 

WHAT DO I NEED TO BRING?

We will issue you with a comprehensive Survey Information Guide that details everything you need to know about what to bring and what to expect on your trek. This will be sent to you as a PDF document.

 

DO I NEED TRAVEL INSURANCE?

Yes, travel insurance is compulsory. Our office can advise on a suitable policy.

 

INCLUDED

- Charter flights from/to Adelaide from/to Olympic Dam

- Charter flights from/to Olympic Dam from/to the southern Simpson Desert

- All specialist safety equipment & communications

- Swags & tents

- Trek kit bag for your personal gear

- Desert silence!

 

NOT INCLUDED

- Your flights to Adelaide and any other transport in Adelaide prior to the expedition

- Your flights from Adelaide and any other transport in Adelaide after the expedition

- Accommodation and meals in Adelaide

- Personal trekking equipment you may wish to use such as walking poles etc

- Eating and drinking utensils

- Waterbottle

- Sleeping bag, sheets & pillowcase. (You need to bring these items and they will be put into our swag)

- Day pack

 

FOOD

You must notify us upon booking if you have any known medical and/or food allergies.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GETTING TO THE EXPEDITION

The camel team will be in the Simpson Desert Regional Reserve. You will fly via scheduled and charter aircraft from Adelaide to the southern desert and then transfer to the camel camp in 4WD via the Warburton Crossing. The return transfer to Adelaide will be via the same route. Your flights will fly over the southern Simpson, the Warburton River, Lake Eyre-Kati Thanda, and the Tirari Desert.

 

 

FULL EXPEDITION NOTES WILL BE ISSUED WITH YOUR EXPEDITION INFORMATION GUIDE

 

IMPORTANT! PLEASE NOTE

Apart from vegetarian or vegan diets, we only cater for dietary allergies and not preferences.

This expedition operates in an extremely remote area and is definitely not the place or time

to 'try out a new diet' regime!

We may ask for a medical certificate detailing any known allergies.

 

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