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Munga Thirri 4 - The Lost Oasis

The Mike Smith Memorial Expedition

Examining stones

Wangkangurru elder and ADE Scientific Advisor Don Rowlands OAM and the late Professor Mike Smith AM

discuss the use of stone axes found during the 2018 survey season.

These expeditions stimulated his interest in megafauna, mikiri, grindstone quarries, pituri trade, engraved archaic faces and stone arrangements, all topics on which he subsequently published. 

Read more about Mike's distinguished career here.

Professor Mike Smith AM FAHA FSA was a former director of Australian Desert Expeditions, and a member of our Scientific Advisory Panel since our foundation.

He led the research team on our inaugural Arid Rivers Expedition in 2007 and was our resident archaeologist until his passing in October 2022. He had a distinguished career in desert archaeology, which spanned decades.

One of Mike’s great pleasures was walking the desert with our string of camels, alongside other eminent researchers, and Mike described the experience of ambling across the dunes in his poetic way as

‘like an eclectic walking symposium

of desert knowledge.'


Mike Smith AM

2024 Signature Expedition

Munga-Thirri 4 - The Lost Oasis

10 Day Survey - July 9 > July 18, 1 day 4WD/8.5 days trekking/half day 4WD

Survey price: $7000 

Survey Grade:

​In 2018 our Chief Scientist Dr Max Tischler was leading a survey that had departed from the SA/QLD border and was heading south to the Warburton River floodplain. It was the first time that we had conducted surveys in this area and the trip turned out to be very special.

Since 2016 we have been coupling many of our surveys with the location of the known mikiri (native wells) of the Simpson Desert, and have since 'relocated' one well, extensively documented another major site, and on the 2018 survey, found two more. Both these two 'new' mikiri were unknown in the written records and also unknown to the the local Wangkangurru people.

In 2019 we visited the extensive northern most 'new' mikiri, and we had planned to visit the smaller southern site in 2020, then 2021...but covid intervened, then in 2023 but the floods intervened, but now in 2024 we can finally get there.

The overall objective of this expedition is to locate further evidence of habitation in the route between the two sites in addition to documenting the southern site. that the mikiri itself may not necessarily be the most interesting part of the survey, as quite often it's the approaches to such areas that reveal the most habitation clues. We will be walking more or less in a direct route between the two sites as this will facilitate the possible discovery of more artefacts.

In addition to a young Wangkangurru woman, our research team will include an archaeologist and bird/mammal ecologist, and trek medic. The expedition will have a crew of 4 cameleers led by Andrew Harper who has had over 25 years and 30,000+kms of desert walking under his hat.

You can read the scientific paper from the 2019 northern mikiri survey here

In our 17 year history, this type of journey is a first for us; walking between two major habitation sites that were previously unknown, providing you with a unique opportunity to join an incredibly special expedition. Places are limited to 6.

base stone
collecting samples
crushed mammal bones
down the dune

The expedition will be begin in 'red dune country' but by the time we conclude the trip 9 days later, we will be in more open 'white dune country.'

What's included

4WD transfers to/from Birdsville to the eastern Simpson Desert fringe

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 1 ecologist/scientist (perhaps 2) who specialis in desert ecology

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 survey airfares and accommodation. You are responsible for arranging your travel to/from Birdsville and any accommodation. We can help organise this for you

Please look at this page How To Get To Birdsville

What else is required?

Travel Insurance. You have the option to arrange your own travel insurance, or you can contact us for a quote.

Where are we trekking?

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

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