‘Man in the Moon’ Crater

While Shoemaker Crater is not exactly unknown, equally it is not a hive of activity. The appeal of visiting this remnant of an extraterrestrial impact was its remoteness, its connection to a famous planetary geologist, and the fact that the impact that created  the crater wiped out all life (such as it was 1.5 billion years ago) for about 500 kilometres in all directions.

While we were not even close to being the first to explore this result of a cosmic interaction – the existence of Shoemaker as an impact crater was determined in 1974 – we were the first to determine its exact centre, on the ground.

Shoemaker Crater is 105 kilometres north-east of Wiluna. We travelled via Wubin, Paynes Find, Youanmi, Sandstone and Montague.

And why do those in the know call it the ‘Man in the Moon’ Crater? Read on to find the answer.

Muchea to Wubin

Our Road Trip started on Friday 19 August 2022 at the BP Muchea Roadhouse.

The Northlink Project rerouted the Great Northern Highway around New Norcia, however, in the process, a lookout was created. The great views over New Norcia with its Benedictine Abbey in the distance was a great photo opportunity.

The country was green and lush after the plentiful winter rains. Sweeping paddocks of bright yellow canola were opposed by fields of green wheat, framed by rows of tall trees.

Further north we took the Miling North Road past Tim’s childhood farm and were then treated to his detailed description of the countryside and farm operations back in the 60s/70s.

Just short of Wubin, Des and Kay made an ominous radio call that they had to pull over. Scott stayed with them and the convoy continued to the Wubin Wheatbin Museum – an attraction that we had been trying to visit for nearly two years. Covid!

News came through from Scott that the situation did not look good. The gear lever in the Ford Ranger went from Park to Drive and back again with no effect of the vehicle. A known Ford Ranger gearbox problem, even acknowledged by Ford.

Scott continued to Wubin and, with Andrew, arranged recovery of the hapless vehicle and a very disappointed Kay and Des. They stayed the night at Dalwallinu and their vehicle was recovered to Perth.

After refuelling, our convoy continued to the overnight stop at Wubin Rocks, seven kilometres east of the town. We found a good campsite with a reasonable availability of firewood. For such a large area there are precious few campsites with enough area for groups. It was a cold night with a heavy dew.

Wubin to Montague

The first morning of a 10 day Road Trips is all about getting into gear, working out procedures, and being ready to leave by 8.00 a.m.

It was a 152 kilometre run up the Great Northern Highway to Paynes Find, an early gold mining area that is still producing.

Past Paynes Find the cemetery at the abandoned, historic townsite of Youanmi is worth a visit. The number of burial sites related to mining accidents gives pause for thought:

“BANTOW Thomas Henry, 53yrs, d 24 Feb 1920, at the Youanmi GM, Youanmi, Occ: Miner, Cause: While cleaning under the cracker conveyor belt, he was caught by a bucket and dragged under the pulley, Born: Sebastopol Victoria in 1867, …”

The Heritage Loop at Sandstone is a quality tourist attraction. Compact, interesting, different. An Aldi advert? First up was a clever, innovative, goldfields brewery that is the epitome of the ’necessity is the mother of invention’ adage. Basic physics was used to cool the beverages.

Only a short distance further along the Loop is an Outback Icon – London Bridge. This geological oddity has been a popular picnic spot for locals and tourists alike for well over a century.

Next up is the State Battery – a well preserved piece of our State’s heritage and one that has an important tale to tell of the pioneering gold getting era.

The Heritage Loop turns back towards Sandstone via the Menzies Road past Contradiction Well, a vitally important construction that provided water for survival in a desert environment.

Fuel is available at Sandstone. Card operated, 24/7/365. But not intuitive.

The expedition was now in pastoral country. Along the shoulder of the red dirt road wildflowers softened the harshness of the land.

The seemingly endless winter rain that was the signature of 2022 in Perth is finally a thing of the past as the convoy moved into station country.

We camped a few kilometres north-west of Montague Well and Mine.

Montague to Wiluna

On our way north we stopped at an old Government Well. There is water in the well still, confirmed by the small stone dropped by Micaela. I wonder by how much the depth of wells such as this have been raised over the years by the thousands of stones thrown in by tourists.

The skinny-gutted track eventually took us past the Joyner Find Mine and then onto the Goldfields Highway. It was then only 12 kilometres into Wiluna, a service town for travellers attempting the Canning Stock Route or the Gunbarrel Highway, and surrounding mines and pastoral stations.

Fortunate happenstance meant that we witnessed a camel train come through town, nearing the end of an epic fundraising journey.

Wiluna to Gold Mining Lease

We were to meet with Scott Wilson, well known Kalgoorlie gold prospector and Eastern Goldfields Historical Society immediate past president. With Scotty will be licensed surveyor Steve Leipold, Principal of Lone Star Surveys, a mining survey company based in Kalgoorlie. Apart from enjoying a few days out in the bush with our group, Steve will be the authority for determining the centre of Shoemaker Crater.

Despite prior planning and preparation by Scott Overstone many weeks before our arrival at Jundee Mine (on what was once Jundee Pastoral Station 50 kilometres north-east of Wiluna) it seems that the operators of the mine are totally unaware of who we are and what our intentions are (simple transit through the station). Coupled with our unfortunate timing of arriving at lunchtime we experienced a considerable delay. Once ‘someone’ was aware of our presence we proceeded to the Admin Centre where once again we were totally ignored. Transiting visitors is way down on the list of priorities when there is gold to be dug up. After establishing face to face contact with humans it seems that they were concerned our vehicle(s) could catch fire while traversing tracks on their station and they would then be responsible for our retrieval. Aah, from such fanciful imaginings worksafe empires are built!

While we were waiting at the mine one of the geos brought a few samples of gold.

Once through the mine we met with Scotty and Steve at the Jundee Station Homestead. The delay at the mine allowed Scotty and Steve to check out the tracks I had planned to traverse between the Station Homestead and Scotty’s lease 30 kilometres to the north and in this respect the delay at the mine was perversely fortunate. While passable, Scotty pronounced the intended tracks as difficult and potentially damaging to vehicles. He had devised a new, much easier route for us.

We arrived at Scotty’s temporary camp at the area known as Coralie Jean, where he was going to mark out a Mining Lease. It was time to meet Maria, Louise and Donna.

Not many people ever get to mark out a Mining Lease – way less than would ever mark out an Exploration Lease which, in turn, would be way less than those who casually pick up a metal detector for a two week sojourn in the goldfields seeking their fortune. It is such experiences that we try to incorporate into our Trips. Banal for some but a unique happening for virtually everyone involved.

There is more to prospecting than buying a metal detector and searching anywhere on the red earth of outback Australia for the glint of gold – or a rusty nail. The search for gold and other precious metals is highly regulated.

Scotty had determined that his Exploration Lease was worthy of conversion to a Mining Lease and in casual conversation some weeks before the Road Trip we decided that the marking of the Lease would be a unique activity in which the group could participate.

Such an important undertaking needs the attendance of a surveyor. Scotty has engaged Steve Liepold of Lone Star Surveys to confirm his Mining Lease boundaries (apart from the commercial arrangements with Scotty, Steve, Louise and Donna were a part of the Road Trip) and we were fortunate enough to be part of that process.

We joined the process to formalise the pegging of Scotty’s latest claim, splitting into two groups, spades and GPS in hand. Pegs were hammered in, trenches dug and a new Mining Lease was created!

Gold Mining Lease to Shoemaker Crater

Task completed, we headed north along a creek bed to the Christopher Dean track. We intended to stop as soon as we found an acceptable campsite. A couple of ks along the track Scotty pointed out some interesting rock formations to the north. We deviated off the track to investigate.

Our planned track towards Shoemaker Crater was unknowingly missed and after a kilometre or so of travel in the wrong direction we stopped and camped for the night. There would be plenty of time in the morning to pick up the correct route.

Today we would reach the Centre of Shoemaker Crater.

The Shoemake Crater, with an outer rim diameter of 30 kilometres, is one of the largest impact craters in Western Australia. It is a large bowl-shaped flat structure, arid and contains a few salt lakes. The inner rim is more easily discerned as a crater.

After a bit of challenging navigation and some cross country travel we arrived at what we believed to be the centre of the crater.

Surveyor Steve got to work and showed that our ‘carpark’ was only about 50 metres from the exact centre of the Crater. This data was derived from a geolocation package, after Hawke 2003.

With a few minutes work Steve determined the location of the centre of the crater. This significant point was duly marked with that quintessential Australian indicator – a star picket.

 

And why is it known as the ‘Man in the Moon’ Crater?

The crater was named after Eugene Shoemaker (1928-1997) a renowned US planetary geologist who was killed in a vehicle crash on the Tanami Track in the Northern Territory. His ashes were on the Lunar Prospector when it was deliberately crashed into Mawson Crater near the South Pole of the moon in July 1999. The International Astronomical Union then renamed the crater as Shoemaker Crater.

We moved on to Granite Peak Station and Glen-Ayle Station to Journey to the Centre of Western Australia.

 

© 2022 Kim Epton
2124 words, 51 photographs, three images.
Photographs
Micaela Anderson
Kim Epton
James Hay
Tayla Skewes

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