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Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Colours of Lake Eyre

The early settlers in Australia clung to the fragile coast line of this great country and could only dream of what lay beyond there own existence. They watched the sea birds flying inland and explorers began to venture into the interior in search of the great inland sea that drew the birds. Charles Sturt carried a whaling boat with him into the dry interior in the hope of finding this mythical sea. Other explorers found the great sea but it was an illusion...a great salty sink in the centre of Australia, named Lake Eyre.

We have watched in horror as massive floods raged through Queensland earlier this year. Some of the water went out to sea but a great deal of it filled the inland waterways of the Cooper Creek and Diamantina River systems and after 10 years of drought the rivers flowed at last, spilling out into Lake Eyre. The filling of Lake Eyre is said to occur only once a lifetime but it seems that this phenomena may become more common as the climate adjusts. As it fills, life comes back to it, filling it with fish and water birds. It is no coincidence that the pelicans have gone from my own waterfront in Melbourne. Some primeval urge draws them to the waterways of Lake Eyre.

Just as it draws the birds, so too it draws people and my husband and I headed off on a 4000 km round trip to see Lake Eyre for ourselves. Our own explorations have already taken us to Innaminkca, Longreach and Birdsville and we have seen the "channel country" as it is called in drought and flood. Lake Eyre was the final pilgrimage.

The human ability to settle in what seems utterly inhospitable country never ceases to amaze me and on those dry, barren desert plains of northern South Australia, you come across the ruins of old homesteads and railway settlements from the days of the great Ghan rail link between Adelaide and the north. Lake Eyre itself is very hard to approach from land as the country around it is privately owned - the great Anna Creek Station, the size of Belgium, being one such landholding.

From William Creek, a one pub town that once used to be a siding for the Ghan, we took a flight in a small pain over the great Lake which is the only way to get a real appreciation of the size of this inland sea.  Pictures speak volumes so here are some of the colours of Lake Eyre