TET 2015


The year's expedition was a trip to the Pilbara. The final destinations were Corunna Downs and Wittenoom. This would see us travel over 4000km. During June the temperatures drop to around zero south of Meekatharra and rise to just on 30 during the day near Marble Bar. A perfect time to travel.

The purpose of the trip was to visit Wittenoom and locate an old cemetery at the airfield and place some time capsules at Corunna Downs. On the way we would locate cemeteries at Peak Hill and Tuckanarra.


The Pilbara Region of WA


Peak hill was a town built in support of gold mining. Indeed modern mining has returned, and again left, as is the cycle of the goldfields. A few crumbling stone ruins remain and we were able to take photographs from places where someone once stood while they used an old black and white camera. The little cemetery at Peak Hill is not so small, and there are more graves outlined there than records suggest should be there. As the years go by, the mounds of unmarked graves become less obvious and more difficult to find. One day they will be all washed away and the headstones will be the only reminders of those who remained long after the town died.

Tuckanarra also has an old cemetery. This one is now behind the overburden of another recent but now abandoned gold mine. A couple of modern survey markers have been installed at the boundaries of the reserve area, though the cemetery fences are much closer in. There is little evidence to suggest a cemetery other than a rotten fence and the small shards of glass and pieces of porcelain flowers from a smashed domed wreath, and a couple of stone outlines. So terribly sad when you consider that most of the residents of this graveyard are small babies.

Wittenoom has the unique claim to be the worst work related disaster in history. The terrible loss of life from asbestos related diseases can never be understood, nor the complacency of business or government, both of whom would have or should have know the risks, because this was something that was knowledge at least 50 years earlier. My own personal work history touches Wittenoom as I worked at the airport and travelled through the mine, up the CatWalk to DME Hill. DME hill is only a burnt out ruin now, and other than a couple of concrete blocks and other small rubble and of course the runways, little remains of the airfield.

Many of the old houses and businesses have been bulldozed and buried. The last surviving business was the gem shop and this too is now done for, as a fire has destroyed it all. There are new headstones at the cemetery, and the epitaphs bear a sad testament to the love the residents once had for the town, that was built amongst the fibres that would kill them.

There is an older cemetery in the middle of the airfield and we were able to locate that and place a small plaque with the known names of those interred there. It won't be too much longer before even the two headstones there have fallen down and crumbled. This place is the final resting place for 9 people.

Yampire Gorge was a beautiful camping site but is now closed with a massive warning sign. Very hard to believe that this gorge was once the road that led into Hamersley Range National Park and could be driven with a two wheel drive vehicle.

Corunna Downs was part of the great war effort to repel the Japanese during World War 2. We wanted to place two memorials at locations for SGT EN Cook, the cinema operator, who was killed when returning from Marble Bar with a load of fuel, and Gnr P Parker, who was a gunner with the 102 AA Regiment, whose ID tags we found there some years ago.

We also wanted to GPS located some of the WWII sites and try to relate these with more accuracy to original drawings of the site. We also used old photos to find locations and take modern images from the same spots.

Trip Report 

This trip was another of our yearly expeditions and done in June 2015. The area south of Peak Hill was thick with flies during the day. Some of our videos captured them and they look like birds flitting in front of the lens. The nights were very cold, and a fire was very welcome. The days were fine. Further north the day time temperatures rose and I was able to wear shorts. The nights were not bitterly cold but still very cool.

There are still a lot of very wide loads traveling to the north on the roads.

As is the case in good weather a lot of the nicer spots are occupied by people, so we always chose less pretty spots, but had them to ourselves, and I always say that any place is a good campsite at night.

We camped in Yampire Gorge next to some running water, which was great. It allowed us to be more free with washing. The sound at night was also enticing. The track in was signposted with warning notices, but clearly these are being ignored. We went in about 10km to find our spot and set up for a few days.

From Yampire we explored the old airport and town. We found the old airfield cemetery after a bit of searching. We drove into Wittenoom Gorge (windows up, air on recirculate). Had a bit of a wander around, but didn't spend much time in there. Asbestos is everywhere. Sadly some idiots thinks it is ok to to do burnouts in the asbestos tailings. Maybe this is nature culling the dumb ones?

We also went into the National Park and visited Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. I have seen the gorges many times, so for me there is no need to climb down again (probably an excuse as I slowly but surely get older!!). We left the park and camped at the base of DME Hill. The drive in required some care, but was very exciting.

We left a time capsule at DME Hill. We then went to the top end of the old CatWalk and took some photos of where the mill used to be. The view is spectacular from these high ranges.

Our camp site was accessed by  a steep track and one of our vehicles had to be winched up due to loss of traction and forward motion. Luckily God had planted a tree for us in just the right spot.

We decided to head towards Corunna, but our slow driving saw us get only to Bee Gorge. The next morning we attempted to follow an abandonned track into Wittenoom Gorge, but is was too rough, so we gave up. We did a bit of damage to tyres in here, and ripped a side step off one vehicle on the rocks.

We spent a few days exploring Corunna Downs. I got GPS co-ords for some of the sites.

We rode through the bush to the old radar site. It was so rough that we rode back via the road and though it was twice the distance, it took half the time.

Now as the trip was nearing an end, we were left with a long run home. We stopped one night at Kalgan Creek. We tried to reach the pool, but BHPB are dewatering  into the creek and we stopped about 4km from the pool. It was too late in the afternoon, and at that point the track was under water. The campsite was pretty excellent anyway, with running water again nearby.

Then back home with a last night camped near the old railway station at Daydawn.

Places to See

Nannine town site and cemetery (see if you can locate the cricket pitch and racecourse)
Peak Hill (have a look for the old cemetery here too)
Yampire Gorge
Wittenoom town, airfield, gorge and cemeteries
Karijini National Park
DME Hill
Corunna Downs

Degree of Difficulty 

I would class this trip as generally easy.  We did take some detours, such as a possible track from Bee Gorge to Wittenoom Gorge. We had to give up on this and I would classify this section as extreme. 

The track to DME is not too difficult but there are some sections that will require a fair bit of care, and I would class this one as perhaps moderate.


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