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Sea Creatures

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Richmond

If you’d visited outback Queensland 110 million years ago you would have found most of it submerged under what is now known as the Eromanga Sea, a vast inland ocean covering 1 million square kilometres. And if you’d gone swimming you would have come face to face with the huge marine reptiles and fish which lived in it. Where the town of Richmond is now located the water reached depths of up to 40 metres, making it the ideal home for plesiosaurs, ichthyosaurs and elasmosaurids. 

Of course, people weren’t on Earth then and after one million years the sea and its inhabitants disappeared. But you can see the marine animals who lived in the Eromanga Sea at Richmond’s Kronosaurus Korner. The museum has the best collection of marine fossils in Australia, most found locally. Amazing displays of fossils, information boards, illustrations and models bring these prehistoric marine creatures to life. 

As well as these giant marine reptiles, large ammonites and predatory fish lived in the Eromanga Sea. 

While the Eromanga Sea no longer exists, there is a lovely lake at Richmond. Lake Fred Tritton, a manmade recreational waterway filled by the Flinders River, is a popular place for boating, swimming and fishing. And even though the water is home to 18 species of freshwater fish, you won’t come across anything as large as Kronosaurus queenslandicus!

Alive and Well

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Julia Creek

Visitors to Australia are familiar with our most dangerous creatures: crocodiles, snakes and spiders. Not many will have heard of a lesser known but equally fearsome animal which lives in the arid country around Julia Creek. Fearsome, that is, if you belong to this group of animals!

Julia Creek dunnarts, long thought to be extinct, are alive and well in north-west Queensland. They’re elusive little creatures, not often seen in the wild, but the Julia Creek Visitor Information Centre has a small population of dunnarts on display in carefully regulated enclosures. 

Also known as fat-tailed dunnarts, these cute little animals have two unique characteristics which ensure their survival during droughts.

As well as being feisty and tough, dunnarts are speedy. This little fellow moved constantly around the enclosure, searching for the mealworms his carer had placed inside. He was far more interested in finding his lunch than posing for photographs. 

Fact and Fiction

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Cloncurry

After discovering some famous Australian icons in Winton we found more, one fictional and one a real person, on our journey north from Winton to Cloncurry. 

There’s not much to the town of McKinlay: a few houses, a couple of stores and a pub. So why do most people who travel the 348 kilometres between Winton and Cloncurry stop for a while? The big attraction in McKinlay is the Walkabout Creek Hotel, which made its cinematic debut in 1986.

The pub, originally called the Federal McKinlay Hotel, played a starring role in the first Crocodile Dundee movie when, in the opening scenes, Mick Dundee wrestled with an enormous crocodile. 

When the movie became a box office hit the hotel was sold and relocated to the Landsborough Highway and its name changed to reflect its fame.

Like our fellow travellers we stepped inside to see the collection of props and sets from the movie and enjoy a cool drink at the bar. 

In Cloncurry we went to the John Flynn Museum to learn more about another famous Australian, revered as the founder of the Royal Flying Doctor Service. 

In the early years of the 20th century, the Reverend John Flynn saw the need for a medical service for people living in Australia’s inland. With the help of Hudson Fysh, one of the founders of QANTAS, John Flynn developed a plan for an air ambulance which would carry a doctor and medicines to outback locations. 

The first air ambulance took off from Cloncurry on 17th May 1928 bound for Julia Creek, 137 kilometres away. 

While the advent of the Flying Doctor Service brought medical care to the outback the problem of communication over such vast distances remained. John Flynn worked with Alfred Traeger, an electrical engineer from Adelaide, to develop a radio capable of communicating with people both on the ground and in the air. The first radio was installed in a Flying Doctor plane in 1934.

From that single plane in Cloncurry in 1928, the Royal Flying Doctor Service has grown to a fleet of 71 planes operating out of 23 bases around Australia. Hundreds of dedicated staff bring medical care to around 1,000 patients every day.

As we camped that night in an isolated spot near Cloncurry, we reflected on the vision and work of the Reverend John Flynn. We were almost 800 kilometres from the nearest city, and it was easy to imagine how grateful we would be if we needed the services of the Flying Doctor. 

Fossil Hunters

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous Period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Australian Age of Dinosaurs, Winton

Have you ever wondered what a paleontologist’s job is like? The place to find out is the Australian Age of Dinosaurs at Winton.

As well as housing the world’s largest collection of Australian dinosaur fossils, this outback museum also runs a fossil restoration and preservation program, manned by trained volunteers under the guidance of skilled palaeontologists. We were keen to learn more about their work. 

Our tour of the museum was divided into several parts. We started at the Reception Centre, where a life-sized Australovenator wintonensis greeted us. 

At the Fossil Preparation Laboratory, we learned about the process of locating and excavating fossils in the field.

Once excavated, the fossils are encased in a protective layer of plaster so they can be safely transported to the laboratory. 

Volunteer technicians work with painstaking precision to remove the rock surrounding the fossils. Hundreds of hours are spent on each delicate piece. 

We saw the results of this meticulous work in the Collection Room, where specimens of sauropods, pterosaurs and that fearsome Australovenator wintonensis are displayed. 

The next stop on our tour was the “March of the Titanosaurs” exhibit, housed in a purpose-built protective structure. Inside is a 54 metre sauropod tracksite dating from the Cretaceous period.  Two life-sized sauropods, just like those who made the tracks, stand guard outside. 

The fossilised footprints, laid down in mud by a large herd of sauropods, were discovered in 2018 in a dry creek bed on a station near Winton. Because of the risk of weathering, the tracksite was carefully removed piece by piece, and reassembled like a jigsaw in this undercover area in a three year operation. Along with the sauropods’ large footprints, we could also see the smaller tracks of turtles and crocodiles. 

 At the Laboratory, Collection Room and Sauropod Tracksite, we were accompanied by excellent guides who gave fascinating commentaries. For the last part of our visit, at Dinosaur Canyon, we were left to wander at our own pace along a raised pathway on the edge of the Jumpup.   

We stopped to admire the view before continuing our search for dinosaurs in the Dinosaur Canyon gallery. 

First along the track was this gruesome scene, titled Death in the Billabong. Depicting the skeletal remains of a sauropod scattered over a wide area after scavengers have done their clean-up work, the display explains why intact fossilised skeletons are rarely found. 

Next, we found a family of Pterodactylus enjoying the warmth of the sun, just as they might have 115 million years ago. 

Another exhibit took us back to the the dinosaur stampede at Lark Quarry, with coelurosaurs and ornithopods running for their lives from a hungry therapod. 

And, at the end of the pathway, stood three armoured Kunbarrasaurus ieversi, anklyosaurs which lived here in the early Cretaceous Period, around 103 million years ago. 

These realistic sculptures brought the fossils and footprints in the museum’s collection to life. And the dedication of the palaeontologists and volunteers who work here is the reason we know so much about them.

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

A Dinosaur Stampede

The landscape of western Queensland is dramatic. After a good wet season, Mitchell grass grows thickly on the vast plains. Elsewhere the land is stony and dotted with clumps of hardy spinifex. But if you’d travelled this way 95 million years ago, the scenery would have been very different. In the Mid-Cretaceous period forests of conifers, lush ferns and flowering plants covered the land, watered by rivers and streams which flowed into a huge inland sea. And it was inhabited by dinosaurs! 

In August 2022, we followed the Dinosaur Trail through western Queensland, on a route from Winton to Richmond, Hughenden and Muttaburra, all locations where dinosaur fossils have been discovered. Put your Australian Dinosaur Trail Pass in your pocket and join us on a journey back in time to the land of the dinosaurs. 

Dinosaur Stampede National Monument at Lark Quarry Conservation Park, Winton

Our dinosaur adventure began 110 kilometres south of Winton at the Lark Quarry Conservation Park, home of the world’s only known fossilised dinosaur stampede. 

A 700 metre walk around the site took us up onto a ridge behind the Trackways conservation building, which protects more than 3,300 fossilised dinosaur footprints. 

From here we could see the shapes and colours of the Winton Formation, a landscape created up to 98 million years ago and characterised by Jump-Ups; red mesas capped with hard weather-resistant stone. It was hard to believe this dry, rocky land was once covered by a dense forest of tree ferns and conifers. 

Then a short walk along the pathway leading to the building took us back 95 million years, to the day the footprints in the Trackways were laid down. 

Inside the building, we learned the story of the Trackways. 

The dinosaurs were chicken-sized carnivorous coelurosaurs and larger plant-eating ornithopods. A huge carnivorous therapod saw the herd at the water’s edge and attacked, causing a stampede as the smaller animals tried to run away. 

Thousands of footprints left in the thick mud at the edge of the lake were preserved by a unique series of events. A few days after the stampede rain fell, raising water levels in the lake and laying down a covering of sediment over the prints. Eventually they were hidden under several metres of compressed layers of sand and mud. 

Fast forward 95 million years to the late 1960s, when a station manager discovered what he thought were the fossilised footprints of birds in a dry creek bed. After a local expert identified them as dinosaur prints, the site was visited by scientists from the Queensland Museum. In 1971, excavations revealed more than 3,300 dinosaur footprints made by the coelurosaurs, ornithopods and the hungry therapod.

To protect the stampede tracks from the weather, a shelter was erected over the site and, in 2002, the Trackways conservation building was constructed. Made from locally sourced rammed earth, powered by solar panels, and equipped with water tanks and composting toilets, the eco-friendly building sits comfortably in its surroundings.

From a raised platform along one wall, we could clearly see how the stampede unfolded. The therapod’s huge footprints show its determined advance towards the lake while the  tiny bird-like tracks of the coelurosaurs and the larger ornithopods’ three-toed tracks are scattered in all directions, an indication of the panic that ensued as they tried to escape. 

A day out at Lark Quarry was a great start to our journey on the Dinosaur Trail. 

Joining Jo for Monday Walks

Walking Underwater

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #17 The Aquarium of Western Australia, Perth

Where in the world can you walk underwater?

At AQWA, The Aquarium of Western Australia!

The aquarium hosts more than 400 species of marine animals who make the oceans off the coast of Western Australia their home. The largest display, the Shipwreck Coast Aquarium, holds 3 million litres of seawater. A 98 metre walk-through tunnel winds through the aquarium, bringing people face to face with some amazing ocean creatures.

Smaller aquariums feature beautiful coral reefs,

luminous sea jellies,

unusual fish,

shy fish

and very grumpy fish!

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

Kings Park

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #16 Kings Park, Perth

After such a wet visit to Rottnest Island, the sun shone brightly in a brilliant blue sky the following day – perfect weather for a walk at Kings Park. Located high up on Mount Eliza, the 400 hectare park includes the Western Australian Botanic Garden.

To learn more about the 3,000 species of native Western Australian plants growing in the garden, we joined a free guided walking tour. And, although the tour was scheduled for 90 minutes, our enthusiastic guide took us on a meandering route through the garden for almost double that time.

His passion for the unique plants and their environment and his stories of his volunteer work in the garden added a special touch to our walk. It was a privilege to see the garden through his eyes.

Kangaroo paws

Gum nuts and blossoms

Qualap bells

Geraldton wax

Red banksia

When our guided walk was over, we continued exploring the park land beyond the Botanic Gardens.

Federation Walkway

DNA Tower

Firefighters’ Memorial Grove

Pioneer Women’s Memorial

State War Memorial

Perth CBD and Swan River

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

Do Quokkas Go Out in the Rain?

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #15 Rottnest Island

In 1696, Dutch sea captain Willem de Vlamingh landed on a small island off the coast of Western Australia. The only residents he found were furry animals he mistook for giant rats so he named the island ‘t Eylandt ‘t Rottenest (The Rats’ Nest Island). de Vlamingh described the island as “pleasurable above all islands” and “a paradise on earth”. He must have had better weather than we did – we went to Rottnest in the pouring rain!

Our day trip to Rottnest Island had been pre-booked as part of our holiday package so we had to go that day. We just hoped that the island’s famous residents, the quokkas Willem de Vlamingh thought were rats, didn’t mind the weather.

Our first activity was a minibus tour around the island. Although the scenery was beautiful, the rain meant we didn’t stay long off the bus. And, even though the driver kept a lookout along the way, we saw no quokkas.

After our soggy bus ride we walked to the shopping area at the Thomson Bay Settlement and, to our delight, there were quokkas everywhere! It’s forbidden to approach, feed or touch these native Australian marsupials but they’re used to people and were happy to pose for photos.

Even though their thick fur looked quite bedraggled, they seemed oblivious to the rain.

By mid-afternoon the downpour had cleared, so we explored the settlement. No one lives permanently on the island and most of the historic buildings are now used for holiday accommodation.

We even went for a short walk on the beach.

The quokkas enjoyed the break in the weather too.

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

The Changing Landscape

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #14 Kalgoorlie to Perth

On the last day of our train journey we travelled through a constantly changing landscape. The vast Nullarbor, whose name means “no trees”, had been replaced by arid desert covered with saltbush and low growing bushland.

Then we began to see signs of civilisation:

powerlines,

construction,

and the incredible pipeline which carries a vital supply of water for 556 km from Perth to Kalgoorlie-Boulder.

We passed the pretty town of Northam,

fields of golden canola,

and finally the rolling green hills and farmland east of Perth.

After four days and three nights, our adventure on the Indian Pacific came to an end as the train pulled in to East Perth Terminal.

Once we left the train, we farewelled the staff, thanking them for their excellent service. After reclaiming our luggage we made our way to the bus which would transfer us to our Perth hotel.

I was too busy walking to the bus to take final photos of the train which had brought us right across Australia!

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares

The Middle of Nowhere

Come with me on a train ride. We’ll travel 4,352 kilometres across Australia from east to west, spending four days and three nights on a train 731 metres long. We’ll start in Sydney and stay in Perth at the end and along the way we’ll traverse deserts, stop in a ghost town and cross the mighty Nullarbor Plain. Come with me on a transcontinental journey aboard the iconic Indian Pacific! 

Indian Pacific Adventure #11 Cook, Nullarbor Plain

Welcome to Cook, a ghost town located on the longest straight stretch of railway track in the world.

This information sign, weathered by the harsh conditions of the desert, tells more about the town and the railway track.

Welcome to Cook, the Queen City of the Nullarbor, postcode 5710, population four.

You are standing alongside the longest stretch of straight railway in the world, spanning 478 kms. According to Australian astronaut Andy Thomas, the rail line can even be spotted from space, looking like a very fine pencil line across the desert. 

You are on the western extreme of South Australia on the edge of the Nullarbor Plain, a barren desert plateau twice the size of England. The nearest major town Ceduna is approximately a five hour drive away and the closest major sealed road, the Eyre Highway, is an hour’s drive away. How remote are you?

Adelaide-1188 km            Perth-1523 km

Port Augusta-826 km       Sydney-1984 km

Kalgoorlie-854 km           Darwin-2017 km 

It would be a long way to walk to anywhere from the Middle of Nowhere!

Joining Becky for November Walking Squares