In 2018 we discovered a 'new mikiri' that was completely 'unknown' in both the archaeological record and local oral history. This discovery was extremely important, and indeed it raised many questions about who occupied and lived in the area.
We had hoped to go back to the site in 2019 for a complete documentation, however prolonged flooding in the Warburton River prevented us from accessing the lower desert.
So we how have the opportunity to get there in 2021, and we will be accompanied by our archaeological/anthropological team, as well as our own resident desert experts in birds, reptiles, mammals and plants.
This is a moderately paced survey that will explore the white dune fields and occasional small salt lakes to the north of the Warburton River floodplain. The Wangkangurru call this area Mudhla Mudhla or 'place where many dunes terminate'.
In addition to documenting the mikiri site, the ecological aim of this survey is to benchmark and document some of the ecological responses to the current conditions in the South-Eastern Simpson Desert, which will help us to understand the often complex ebb and flow of its cyclic ‘boom-bust’ dynamics.
A prime objective is to assess the impact of feral predators (i.e. cats and foxes).
We are hoping that there may have been summer/autumn rainfall which will result in a flourishing of flora & fauna, however, like all our surveys, we will just work with the season as it is presented to us.
The white sand ridges of the south-eastern portion of the desert holds many unique attributes compared to the broader Simpson. Made up of sediments deposited by ancient river channels and paleo drainage lines the area now sits atop the remnants of these long gone land systems. Characterised by jumbled and often towering white dunes, ephemeral salt lakes and expansive claypans, this part of the desert abuts the famed Warburton River floodplain - creating an ecotone (or transition) between desert river system and the wider dune field.
There are many unique plants and animals that had/have evolved to live in this part of the desert. The flora can be a mix of floodplain and desert species, creating a varied and interesting suite of plant communities. Birds can readily move across and between land systems, whilst some mammals like the Dingo and Long-haired Rat (Rattus villosissimus) take advantage of the varied landscape to move in and out of the desert when conditions suit. It is presumed many of the now extinct medium sized mammals (e.g. bandicoots, hare wallabies and rat-kangaroos) would have exploited these areas in similar ways.
It creates a fascinating land system that can offer many discoveries and insights into the general ecology of desert fauna and flora.
Walking in this landscape is on firm sand and occasional large claypans. Spinifex, the dominant plant species to the north, is virtually absent in this part of the desert, so walking is easy. The eastern Simpson will probably be dry and mostly devoid of any wildflowers unless there has been sufficient rain in March/early April, in which case a profusion of yellow flowers such as poached-egg daisy & 'Yellowtop' will be covering the landscape, and supplying our camels with fresh feed.