Why is Wiluna the finish of the Canning Stock Route?

Although Western Australia’s first gold rush at Halls Creek in 1885 was short-lived, it opened up the East Kimberley to the cattle industry.

Gold was discovered in Wiluna in 1896 and at its peak, the Wiluna mine became the largest in Western Australia, supporting 9000 miners. There was a huge demand in the mines for fresh meat. Most of Western Australia’s beef came from the Kimberley. At the time, however, East Kimberley cattle were quarantined due to an infestation of tropical ticks. This gave the West Kimberley pastoralists a monopoly on the beef trade — which caused prices to soar.

In 1905 independent MP James Isdell came up with a bold solution to the tick problem – develop a stock route through Western Australia’s harsh desert country, and drove the cattle to market. Isdell believed the ticks would fall off and die in the hot dry conditions. He was right.

Many in government considered the idea of a desert stock route to be impossible, however, H.S. King, who was the Under Secretary of Mines at the time, came up with a suggestion the government couldn’t refuse – marry the stock route survey to a search for gold. The respected bushman and surveyor Alfred Canning, who had just finished work on the Rabbit Proof Fence, was commissioned to survey a potential route and identify gold-bearing country.

Once the stock route was complete cattle were able to be droved from the Kimberley to the terminus of the stock route at Wiluna to supply the huge demand for fresh meat.

Read more:

Work Completed, Canning by Phil Bianchi.

Butane Camping Stoves

What’s in the can?

Fuel canisters used in single burner butane stoves contain a compressed blend of butane and propane. Butane is the primary component in these fuel canisters, typically accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the fuel mixture while propane makes up the remainder.

butane stove

How it works

The pressure in the canister keeps most of the mixture in a liquid state although a small amount vaporises into a gas above the liquid. When the canister is attached to a stove and turned on, the gas is forced out of the canister to the stove burner.

In order for this to work, the pressure inside the canister must be greater than the pressure outside.

Cold weather performance

However, as the canister temperature drops below freezing, its internal pressure starts to drop until this is no longer the case and the burner sputters and goes out.

This is because butane stops vaporising at 0.5 degrees Celsius (its boiling point).

Unlike butane, however, propane continues vaporising even in very cold temperatures (down to minus 42 degrees Celsius). This has some interesting implications for cold weather performance.

butane canister

Propane burns off at a disproportionate rate in temperatures below freezing. As the remaining butane/propane mixture shifts increasingly toward just butane, less and less fuel vaporises until eventually the pressure in the canister drops below what is required to continue feeding the stove. This means that a brand new fuel canister may work for a while in sub-freezing conditions, but can stop working long before the canister is empty.

Other factors

There’s also another factor that affects a butane canister’s cold weather performance. The process of vaporisation—the changing of physical state from liquid to gas—takes energy. In a butane canister, that energy comes mostly from the latent heat in the fuel mixture itself, which is why a fuel canister will become noticeably cooler while the stove is operating. In cold temperatures, this effect can drive the canister temperature down and stop the burner cold—even if the ambient temperature is above the butane’s boiling point.

Driving on the Beach

Here are some tips for when you are on one of Western Australia’s 2051 mainland beaches along its 12,889 kilometre coastline.

Have permission/check signage to ensure you are allowed to drive on the beach.
Check tides.
Is your vehicle insured when driving on a beach or sand dunes?
Road rules apply. Stay left when approaching traffic.
Don’t block tracks when deflating or reinflating tyres.

Fit a bright coloured flag on a tall pole at the front of your vehicle.
Have the right equipment for you and your vehicle.
Protect from glare. Wear sunglasses – preferably Polaroids.
Ensure that your rego plate is secured, particularly if going through water.
Don’t follow too close to the vehicle in front.

Turn off any traction or stability controls.
Lower tyre pressure to increase footprint.
Be aware that you will use more fuel.

Be aware of the beach conditions.
Don’t drive on vegetation.
Watch your water temp gauge/EGT gauge/transmission temp gauge.

Drive up the beach to turn around.
Park facing the water – so you can observe any changes in conditions.

Don’t turn sharply. Tyres with reduced pressure could roll off the rim.

Don’t brake. Roll to a stop.
Don’t spin your wheels.
Take off slowly.
Maintain momentum.
As a general rule use low range.  High range if the surface is firm.
If bogged try going backwards and forwards.
Keep revs high. This applies for most circumstance but it is pointless to spin your wheels if bogged.

Keep your thumbs pointing out from the steering wheel.
Use correct recovery techniques and safety precautions.
Secure your gear afterwards/check you have it all (sometimes MaxxTrax get buried, shackles get dropped into soft sand).

Straight up or straight down a dune – never at an angle.
Never turn on a dune/slope.
Pause/brake/slow down at the top of dunes.

Wash your vehicle underneath after you are off the beach.

Walga Rock

Walga Rock (Walgahna) is the second largest monolith (single rock) in Australia after Uluru, although that is sometimes disputed. It is a 1.8 kilometre long, granite ‘whaleback’ about 50 kilometres south-west of Cue.

There is an extensive gallery of Indigenous art at Walga Rock.

A painting of what may appear at first glance to be a sailing ship is superimposed over some of the earlier works. Underneath the painting are lines of writing that resemble Cyrillic or Arabic script, however, they have not been accurately identified.

There has been a great deal of speculation about the painting, especially considering it is located 325 kilometres from the coast. It has been postulated that it was drawn by survivors of the heavily armed three-masted Dutch East India (VOC) ships Batavia or Zuytdorp; or that it represents a ‘contact painting’ by indigenous Australians who saw a ship on the coast and then moved inland.

While there are many examples of Indigenous art depicting vessels on the Western Australian coast, including others showing what appears to be the SS Xantho and possibly another steamer at Inthanoona Station east of Cossack, the Walga Rock painting is one of the most inland examples.

A visit to the rock created further discussion of the possibilities.