Total solar eclipse 2002 December 4

in South Australia

Location Report for Lake Everard
part 1 of 2

Lake Everard eclipse map

Click here to download a high-resolution version of this map (2.7MB zip).

If you have come directly to this page from another website; you can find my other eclipse information here.

WARNING TO READERS UNFAMILIAR WITH OUTBACK DRIVING : If you intend to travel and/or camp in this region, then you will need to bring everything -- especially water -- and be self-sufficient for any vehicle breakdowns and other emergencies. You should inform the police or other responsible persons of your itinerary.
Road maintenance is infrequent in this region. At any time you may encounter dust-filled potholes, ruts, washouts, rocks, corrugations, wandering animals, and other hazards which could seriously damage your vehicle. Loose gravel and/or soft sand may bog your vehicle, or cause you to suddenly lose traction or steering control.
If it rains, unsealed roads can become impassable to all traffic for several days. It is an offence to drive (or attempt to drive) upon a road that has been officially closed because of rain or flooding.

General notes

The photos on this page were taken on cloudy days in mid-winter; so the sunlight is much less intense than what is expected for eclipse day.

Because of our itinerary for the Roxby Road and Stuart Highway Location Reports we entered the mapped region from the north, via Kingoonya, and departed the same way. In hindsight this turned out to be a good decision. Significant rainfalls occurred in the regions to the south and east of this map during our visit; and it likely that the Centreline Ute (a 2 wheel drive) would have had trouble traversing the boggy roads from Iron Knob or Wirrula.

fog west of Glendambo Kingoonya is reached by a 44 km dirt road from the Stuart Highway, starting from a turnoff just north of Glendambo. The eastern half of this road passes through open mulga woodland, as shown in this photograph of our overnight camp a short distance off-road. Incidentally, fog is rare in this region!

Decades of (occasional) road grading and traffic have worn the road surface well below natural ground level. Consequently if it rains, the dirt road transforms into a bog containing long pools of soft muddy silt and water. When it's dry, the main problems are corrugations and the occasional patch of soft sand.

The western half of this road begins with a subtle rise in altitude, coupled with the appearance of occasional low ridges and rock layers in the road itself. These features are part of a mass of ancient metamorphic rocks (the Gawler Craton) that forms the bedrock to Eyre Peninsula and a broad area to its northwest. So on this stretch of road, the stones being flung up by your car's wheels are about half as old as the Earth itself! The final kilometres into Kingoonya are across a flat sandy plain -- the erosional detritus of the slightly less ancient volcanic rocks of the Gawler Ranges.

North of centreline near Lake Everard

Kingoonya is typical of the settlements built for the maintenance workers on the trans-Australian railway. A few tens of houses, a pub, the general store, the maintenance works itself, and an airstrip. Kingoonya gets a 98.9 percent partial eclipse on December 4. The turnoff to Kokatha homestead (and the region discussed below) is just outside Kingoonya; soon after you cross the trans-Australian railway line at a level crossing. Stop and look both ways for trains.

south of Kingoonya As you drive south from Kingoonya the terrain becomes stonier and more undulating. The photo here was taken from one of the crests in the road about 20km south of Kingoonya. Some rockpiles along this stretch of road are the work of prospectors looking for gold; and of road maintenance workers looking for rock fill...

near Kokatha homestead This line of hills near Kokatha homestead marks the northwestern outliers of the Gawler Ranges. About 100 million years of volcanic eruptions built the Ranges into great mountains; and then about 1400 million years of erosion wore them down to today's hills. All that remains are the roots of the old volcanoes surrounded by large aprons of rubble. The photo shows a typical scene here - if you ignore the sparse vegetation (and the low clouds) it's easy to imagine that you're on Mars. Much of the sediment eroded from these volcanoes accumulated in a great submarine trough to the east and north, which was later transformed by tectonic forces into the ancestor of today's Flinders Ranges.

copernicus craterThese hills may once have been part of a great crater wall. About 590 million years ago - long after the volcanoes had died - an asteroid impact occurred at Lake Acraman to the south of here. This 53 trillion megaton impact formed a crater 90 km wide, many kilometres deep; and flung pieces of the Gawler Ranges hundreds of kilometres north and east. This Apollo 17 photo of the moon's similar sized Copernicus crater provides a hint of what the Acraman crater may have looked like.

The two turnoffs to Kokatha homestead are about 48km from Kingoonya (or 92 km by road from Glendambo).The homestead is about one km west of the road, just south of a prominent rocky hill. On December 4 the homestead will get a 99.8 percent partial eclipse; so the remaining crescent of sun is likely to be fragmented into arcs and points of dazzling light. The intersection of the road and the northern turnoff is quite close to Bench Mark 179, a surveyor's reference marker. The rest of this Report uses this Kokatha north intersection as the zero point for all road distances.

After passing the Kokatha turnoffs, the road turns southeast across flatter country.The North Limit crosses the road only 4.2 km from the intersection. About 400 metres inside North Limit is a standard Highways Dept "milestone" advising that you are 200 km from Wirrula, or 54km from Kingoonya. This spot, like Coondambo homestead, will get only a couple of seconds of totality but should see an amazing display of Baily's Beads. The watercourse mapped near here is just the largest of numerous tree-lined drainage channels from the nearby hills. Vegetation between the trees and shrubs is sparse, no doubt eaten by the many sheep in the vicinity.... If eclipse day is unusually cold (eg: 10 C instead of 30 C) then atmospheric refraction could move the North Limit 0.1 km (road distance) closer to Kokatha.

Published topographic maps suggest clear terrain along this road from North Limit until about halfway to centreline. In fact, the trees and shrubs get rather dense within 5 km of North Limit; and in many spots it would be difficult to park off the road or to see the eclipse. A cattlegrid on a sharp bend 11.9 km from the turnoff marks the beginning of a large sandy region around Lake Everard; and soon the road is going over old sand dunes.

Hiern Tank is 13.7 km from the turnoff and will get 24.3 seconds of totality on December 4. As you can see from the photo below, it's actually three tanks in a large off-road area with plenty of space for camping or caravans. There are lots of tracks leading to more secluded spots among the trees; and judging from the abundance of old campfires, tentpeg holes and wheel tracks it seems Heirn Tank is a popular overnight stop. The local emus seem to like the place too. We found many piles of emu dung - often packed with quandong seeds - in the scrub. Unfortunately the water in the tanks smells awful, so don't drink it!

Hiern tank

Click here to download a high-resolution version of this image (217kB zip).

South of Heirn Tank the road goes over several km of tree-covered sand dunes about ten metres high, before entering flatter but still sandy country. The road surface is principally hard-packed sand; but there are some dust-filled holes and ruts that are quite capable of ripping tyres off wheels, or inducing a vehicle rollover. Pay close attention to the road surface and keep your speed down! This photo was taken looking southwest from about 100 metres east of Bench Mark 138, which is 21.3 km from the turnoff. BM138 is the post just in front of the Centreline Ute. As you can guess from this photo, the ground in this location is sandy. A conventional car would need to be driven cautiously to avoid getting bogged off-road. A further hazard for cars is the dry vegetation here; which can be collected by your car's underbody components. If some of this debris touches your hot exhaust pipe, then you will start a fire beneath your car....

A deep depression on the moon's western side reduces the duration of totality here from a nominal 29.3 seconds to just 28.1 seconds - but the Diamond Ring effect through this depression (at the end of totality) should be spectacular.

CONTINUE to part 2 of this report....

Copyright © 2002   Fraser Farrell. All rights reserved.