Kallakoopah Creek Paleo Expedition

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Kallakoopah Creek Paleo Expedition 

21 Day Survey - August 24 > September 11, 1 day flight/19 days trekking/1 day flight

Survey price: $11300

This survey departs from and concludes in Adelaide. The survey price includes return flights Adelaide > Simpson Desert.

 

Survey Grade:

​Our first ever scientific expedition was in 2007 - the Arid Rivers Expedition along the Kallakoopah Creek in the southern Simpson Desert - was a magnificent journey along part of this seldom visited ephemeral waterway.

The Kallakoopah Creek and associated nearby salt lakes, along with the Warburton River to the south, have long been areas where there are deposits of megafauna fossils, and on the 2007 expedition we discovered numerous sites of diprotodon bones along both sides of the creek.

Importantly, our resident archaeologist the late Professor Mike Smith, documented hundreds of artefacts and several habitation sites.

We had major plans to revisit the creek in 2020/21 but alas covid travel restrictions prevented this. In 2023 we can finally get back there, and though it is not the same journey as was planned in 2020/21, our paleo team is excited to revisit some sites as well as explore areas where we have not walked before.

The last few days of the journey will be spent walking on the southern side of the creek amongst the various salt lakes as we make our way onto Kalamurina Wildlife Sanctuary and conclude the expedition on the Warburton River.

Much of the Kallakoopah Creek lies within the newly gazetted Mung-Thirri Simpson Desert National Park, with the Kallakoopah identified as an area of special wilderness value.

As a major scientific expedition, this will be a journey of paleo discovery, documentation of Aboriginal and European history and ultimately, a unique modern day adventure for the entire expedition party.

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Meet 'Bruce'

One of the sites identified in 2007 was an area of fossils protruding from the creek bank, which were thought to be bones of diprotodon, a large marsupial which was wide spread across Australia and is one of our most well known megafauna.

We intended to revisit the site in 2009 and extract the bones, however the major floods of that year meant we had to abandon much of our research program.

In 2014 we did get back to the site and discovered that the floods had exposed even more material which was a bonus for the paleo team!

The skull was extracted from the mud, wrapped in plaster cloth, loaded onto a camel and duly carried from the desert - the first time that a diprotodon fossil had been carried from the desert since 1902.

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Analysis by our paleo team at Flinders University revealed the following:

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.

Dr Aaron Camens

Lecturer In Palaeontology
Ecology and Evolution, College of Science and Engineering, Flinders University

We will be revisiting where Bruce was found as the 2019 floods may have revealed even more bones, and so who knows what else we will discover on this expedition.

What's included

Domestic flight from Adelaide to Olympic Dam, charter flight from Olympic Dam to the desert, and return

All camping equipment - swags, stools, tents. You bring your own sleeping bag and eating utensils

All meals, though we do not provide snacks

LOTS of space...

Survey RFDS Medical Chest, First Aid and emergency communications equipment

Crew of 4 to 5 cameleers and 2 to 3 scientists

Desert Silence!

Trekking with an environmentally aware responsible business 

(A detailed Survey Information Guide is sent to you when you book)

What's not included

Pre and post airfares and accommodation. We can organise this for you

What else is required?

Travel Insurance. We can advise on which policy is suitable

You must be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 to travel with us. All our cameleers, scientists and support crew are fully vaccinated

Where are we trekking?

In the lower shaded area of the map in the Simpson Desert, Queensland and South Australia. The Simpson is the world's largest parallel sand ridge desert

desert map