Hunt for Hunts Wells 2021

The Plan

The plan for this mid week Trip was to confirm the location of Koorkoordine Well, find Hunt’s Well Boorabbin Well, find a secondary well/soak at Boorabbin, visit Yerdanie Well, confirm a section of Hunts Track from the east of Gnarlbine Rock to the west, and find a lost soak on the west side of Gnarlbine.

All features were found, making it a very successful venture.

Heading East

Scott Overstone, Kerry Davies and I headed east on Sunday morning, stopping just east of Burracoppin at the site where the No. 1 Rabbit Proof Fence crossed in days past.

We turned off the Highway at Noongar, heading to Moorine Rock.  In June 2021 we refurbished Hunt’s Wells at Moorine Rock and Kodjerning and this was a good opportunity to check on them.

Local roads took us to Lake Kookoordine, seven kilometres north of Southern Cross. We wanted to confirm that the location of Hunt’s Well at Kookoordine was correctly identified. Hunt described the well as being “(8) chains from the base of a granite rock, eastern side”. Our investigations confirmed this to be reasonably accurate. A more detailed description of a rock two chains to the north-west of the well was also confirmed as accurate.

We left Southern Cross and refuelled at Yellowdine before turning in to the pumping station at Karalee. A newly-made track allowed access to Hunts Track adjacent to Morlining Rock. Two kilometres east we located a very overgrown track that took us south towards the south-west extension of Karalee Rock where I had pinpointed a pioneer well from reference to satellite images. The drive in was tough and once adjacent to the predicted position of the well we got out and walked.

At Karalee we just checked on the two signs that we positioned/repositioned in early August 2021 and continued on towards Koorarawalyee.

 

We spent some time between the Vermin Proof Fence and the Gilgai Pumping Station searching for evidence of the wooden pipeline that was in use around the time of the Great Depression. Concrete plinths, wooden staves and loops of thick retaining wire are in abundance. Daylight was slipping away and it was time to head to the planned overnight stop at Boorabbin.

At Boorabbin

Early in the morning we searched for an overgrown well/soak in an area identified for us by researcher Eric Hancock.

We then walked to the top of Boorabbin Rock.

It was time to find Hunt’s Well, again in a defined area. We gridded the search area and spent a few hours thoroughly dissecting it.

Hunt’s Track follows the current day pipeline from Koorarawalyee to within about four kilometres of Boorabbin Rock, at which point the pipeline deviates due east. The Track enters Boorabbin Rock at the northern end. We decided to follow it to the west.

Our tasks at Boorabbin were completed ahead of time so we packed and headed to the highway.

Hunts Track

After checking out Hunt’s Well at Yerdanie Rock we continued east along Hunts Track. A directional sign at the Rock was missing, as were a few others along the way. Not many vehicles have been using the Track between Yerdanie and Gnarlbine.

Gnarlbine Rock

As we approached Gnarlbine Rock West the way was blocked by two fallen trees which in any case was of no import because the Track finished just beyond them. We turned around and drove to Gnarlbine Rock East where we followed the Track west around the base of the rock and found a pleasant campsite.

Next morning we set about finding Hunts Track between Gnarline East and Gnarline West. The path from Point A to Point B depicted on the map below was not immediately clear but after plenty of effort and driving backwards and forwards from the known Track to where we thought the Track was routed we eventually were able to connect the two parts of the Track and an additional 1.4 kilometres was added to the known, usuable Hunts Track. After repositioning the directional sign a kilometre west of the rock we retired to camp for lunch.

After lunch we determined to find Hunts Track to the east of Gnarlbine. We found a way through a disused quarry to where an overgrown track was faintly visible. We followed this east for 1.3 kilometres (looking good) and then north for a further 1.5 kilometres before deciding that it was not going to take us in the direction we required. We retreated to a Y junction noticed on the outward journey and headed south-east. After two kilometres this, too, was abandoned.

It was time to head back to camp.

Scott Wilson arrived from Kalgoorlie after dark and lively conversation ensued around the campfire.

Next morning we headed to Gnarlbine West to locate the historical track Scott described the previous night. That was relatively easy and there are now two ways ‘onto the rock’ (or ‘off the rock’ depending on direction of travel).

Pioneer Well at Gnarlbine West

I had plotted the location of a pioneer or native well at the western edge of Gnarlbine West. It was in very solid thickets in the usual band of vegetation that surrounds granite outcrops. Granite outcrops have their own ecosystem and act as island sanctuaries for a whole range of wildlife. In the south-west of Australia they are characterised by this belt of thick vegetation around the base of the rock. In many cases, due to the large amount of runoff from the rock, this vegetation is swamp-like, even though they are located in semi-arid country.

In an open area away from the rock we noticed a gully leading off the rock. Scott followed this up. Not easy. The thickets are almost impenetrable. After some time but only 20 metres he shouted that he had found a well. Time for Scott W, Kerry and me to crash through the thickets. Tough work. The thickets rip clothes and skin.

Banks Rock

We left Gnarlbine mid morning heading south on Victoria Rock Road, intending to check out Banks Rock before finishing at McDermid Rock. The track into Banks Rock is difficult to find and is actually off a woodline that sort of parallels Victoria Rock Road.  The 3.5 kilometre access track is full of twists and turns.

Lake Johnston

Leaving Banks Rock we detoured a few kilometres along the Hyden-Norseman Road to have lunch at Lake Johnston.

The directional/informational sign at the intersection of Hyden-Norseman Road and Victoria Rock Road is incorrect albeit ultimately helpful. The distance to the next available fuel is correct. However, it is at Hyden, not Kondinin.

McDermid Rock

McDermid Rock is 2.6 kilometres south-west of the intersection of Victoria Rock Road and Hyden-Norseman Road. Although we had climbed many times in the past we considered the view from the top to be worth the effort.

We were way ahead of our schedule so we decided to head to Emu Rock on the Holland Track.

On the way to Emu Rock we visited The Breakaways.

Emu Rock

We were ahead of time and pushed on to Emu Rock to camp the night. There was plenty of regrowth in the area after the devastating fires a couple of years previously. Emu Rock is a good, flat campsite overlooking the lake with enough room for 20 or more vehicles. It is on Holland Track south of the Hyden Norseman Road and 1.7 kilometres south-west of the State Barrier Fence.

 

Next morning it was easy drive out to the big, wide, open Hyden-Norseman Road and then an uneventful trip back to Cockburn.

Text and layout – Kim Epton
1700 words
Photographs – Kim Epton, Scott Overstone, Scott Wilson
46 photographs, four images.

© Kim Epton 2021
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