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Watti Watti/Mudhla Mudhla 2

Following Winnecke

Watti Watti/Mudhla Mudhla 2

incorporating part of Charles Winnecke's 1883 Expedition

11 Day Survey - August 2 > August 12, 1 day 4WD/9.5 days trekking/half day 4WD

Survey price: $6600 ​​

Survey Grade:

Charles Winnecke
Winnecke Journal
Winnecke map

Charles Winnecke (1856-1902) entered the South Australian survey department in 1873, and is best remembered as leader of the Horn scientific expedition of 1894.

His 1883 journey commenced in late July, a privately funded expedition equipped with camels seeking viable pasture around the Queensland border. The expedition, which started at the Sandringham homestead and finished at Palparara, crossed vast waterless tracts of the eastern and northeastern Simpson Desert, at one time travelling more than 440 kilometres over high sandhills without finding water. The expedition achieved little, save only to confirm that no viable pastoral land existed in the region. As a result of this expedition and similar forays in following years, Winnecke was awarded membership of the Royal Geographical Society.

Whilst this survey is not a re-enactment of the 1883 journey, we have decided to incorporate part of Winnecke's expedition into our survey, and will revisit two of the exact places where the 1883 expedition camped. These areas are relevant to our documentation of watering points in the Simpson Desert. Our trip will begin on the Warburton River floodplain and travel southwest towards the small salt lakes and Pooliadinna Waterhole where Winnecke camped on Friday 17th August 1883. Once there we will turn back northeast on a different transect and conclude near the K1 Line.


The ecological objective of this survey is to further extend the search range of the previous survey (Mudhla Mudhla 1) and in particular the search for evidence of the lesser and greater bilby, and plains mouse.

A further objective is palaeontology. 

In 2014 we were walking in this area enroute to the Kallakoopah Creek and our palaeontologists were most keen to search and dig along the edges of the small salt lakes we were passing. 

They discovered a pleathora of fossils and bones including Genyornis, Diprotodon, sthenurine kangaroo, bettong, fish, turtle, crocodile, rodents, Cresent Nail-Tail Wallaby, yabbies, mussel shells and thousands of snail shells.

So whilst the prime focus of this trip is not palaeontology, we will however take the opportunity to look for more fossil evidence along the salt lake fringes as we pass by, similar as depicted in the photo below. Note however, that we will not be visiting any existing fossil site: the purpose of the survey is to find more sites if the opportunity arises. You can read more about that paleo survey in Dr Aaron Camens field report here.

digging for fossils

The survey will be accompanied by 1 ecologist who will be conducting our usual studies in ornithology as well as setting pitfall traps. Survey leader Andrew Harper will be referring to Winnecke's notes about the plants he collected, as well as comparing his descriptions of the country as we travel through 141 years later.

This is a very real and very unique Australian desert experience. There are very few places in the country where you can literally follow in the footsteps of an explorer over a century later and with exactly the same mode of transport.

And there is no doubt that we will be the first camel team to visit his camps since 1883.

We will not be following roads or tracks, and there is no vehicle back-up. And as we are Australia's only scientific organisation that also specialises in remote desert travel, we won't 'bump into' any other groups of trekkers.

along the salt lake

During the trip you walk alongside our team of packcamels accompanied by 4 cameleers who are your crew for the duration of the survey. Our cameleers are not 'tour guides', they are experienced and seasoned stockmen/women who are specialists in handling and working with camels, and have a wealth of experience in walking the desert and general knowledge of its flora & fauna, and are respectful of our First Nations people who call Munga-Thirri home.​

Walking in this landscape is on firm sand and occasional claypans. If the eastern Simpson receives good soaking rain in late March/early April, there may be a profusion of yellow flowers such as poached-egg daisy & 'Yellowtop' covering the landscape, and supplying our camels with fresh feed.... however it's not until we actually get out there in April 2024 that we will know the extent of any rainfall and corresponding seasonal conditions.

August is ideal walking weather in Central Australia and over the course of a 5 to 6 hour walking day you would walk approximately between 8 to 10 kilometres.  Our pace of travel is determined by the camels and their ability to negotiate the dunes or other landforms in the landscape. They carry all your personal gear, and all you have to carry is your day pack. We will of course be stopping as required depending on what we see as we walk along.​

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 lower 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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