Explorers’ Wells’ Recce

2015 is the sesquicentenary of Hunts Track. Read more.

Five vehicles from the Western Patrol Club and two vehicles from the Western Australian Explorers’ Diaries Project took part in the Recce from 19-22 February 2015.

Trip Leader Kim Epton was with Matt Hall in an F250 ute (Kim’s Patrol had been written off in a crash a few weeks earlier), Paul Marriner was in a Nissan Navara ute, WPC President Rob Wilson was driving his GU Patrol Wagon and doing the ‘tail end charlie’ duties, WPC Treasurer Graham Howe joined the recce in his GU Patrol Wagon, Craig Roper and Tracey Beckwith came along in a GU Patrol Wagon, Lloyd and Alan Bloomfield were in a GU Patrol Ute and Joe Natoli was in his stolen GU Patrol Ute.

Kim Epton - photo by Graham Howe

Kim Epton – photo by Graham Howe

 

Matt Hall - photo by Graham Howe

Matt Hall – photo by Graham Howe

 

Paul Marriner - photo by Graham Howe

Paul Marriner – photo by Graham Howe

 

Rob Wilson - photo by Graham Howe

Rob Wilson – photo by Graham Howe

 

Graham Howe - selfie

Graham Howe – selfie

 

Craig Roper - photo Graham Howe

Craig Roper – photo Graham Howe

 

Tracey Beckwith - photo by Graham Howe

Tracey Beckwith – photo by Graham Howe

 

Lloyd Bloomfield - photo by Graham Howe

Lloyd Bloomfield – photo by Graham Howe

 

Joe Natoli - photo by Graham Howe

Joe Natoli – photo by Graham Howe

 

The aim of the trip was to visit 20 explorers’ well in the eastern wheatbelt/goldfields and ascertain their condition (with a view to refurbishing them in the future) as part of the Explorers’ Wells’ Project, in conjunction with the Western Australian Explorers’ Diaries Project. Read more about the Explorers’ Wells’ Project.

We got away on time from The Lakes and, after a stop at Northam for dinner, arrived at Boodallin Soak on the Westonia Common at 2115. The hot, dry easterly was blowing strongly, a precursor to a warm tomorrow.

We were camped only metres from Boodallin Soak, the first well on our list.

 

Boodallin Camp - photo by Graham Howe

Boodallin Camp – photo by Graham Howe

 

Joe at Boodallin - photo by Graham Howe

Joe at Boodallin – photo by Graham Howe

 

Rob at Boodallin - photo by Graham Howe

Rob at Boodallin – photo by Graham Howe

 

Explorer/surveyor C.C. Hunt travelled through this area on his March 1864 Koolyanobbing Expedition and located this native well. Later that year, during his Exploration Eastward of York, he again visited the soak to water his horses.

In March 1865 his team opened out the native well but were unable to build the stone well until logistical issues were resolved. Read more. Boodallin Soak was where the notorious bushranger and escape artist Moondyne Joe was captured in 1866.

 

Boodallin Rock - photo by Graham Howe

Boodallin Rock – photo by Graham Howe

 

Bodallin Soak - photo by Graham Howe

Bodallin Soak – photo by Graham Howe

 

On the way to Sandford Rocks we visited the working Edna May Mine, immediately to the north of Westonia.

Edna May Mine - photo by Graham Howe

Edna May Mine – photo by Graham Howe

 

Haulpaks at Edna May Mine - photo by Graham Howe

Haulpaks at Edna May Mine – photo by Graham Howe

 

Although Hunt developed a well at Sandford Rocks (he called it Yorkarakine) its location is not known and we did not search for it, opting instead to climb to the summit.

Sandford Rocks - photo by Graham Howe

Sandford Rocks – photo by Graham Howe

 

Shallow gnamma on Sandford Rocks - photo by Graham Howe

Shallow gnamma on Sandford Rocks – photo by Graham Howe

 

Cairn atop Sandford Rocks - photo by Graham Howe

Cairn atop Sandford Rocks – photo by Graham Howe

 

After working off some early morning energy climbing up and down the rock we sought out a track that showed up on Google Earth as a short cut back to Boodorockin Road.

No through road - photo by Graham Howe

No through road – photo by Graham Howe

 

Matt cleared the path with a chainsaw - photo by Graham Howe

Matt cleared the path with a chainsaw – photo by Graham Howe

 

Kim removing a log from the track - photo by Graham Howe

Kim removing a log from the track – photo by Graham Howe

 

Craig and Tracey - photo by Graham Howe

Craig and Tracey – photo by Graham Howe

 

Despite Matt’s work with the chainsaw the track was deemed impassable so we turned around and took the more normal way to Keokanie Rock, our next destination. Rob felt more comfortable now that the Recce was developing into a standard WPC trip.

Forty five minutes of searching for Keokanie Well produced no result and we drove away from the rock along the access track towards Bodallin North Road. Lloyd drove over the well. Success, well number 2 found! WPC strikes again.

Leaving Keokanie Rock - photo by Rob Wilson

Leaving Keokanie Rock – photo by Rob Wilson

 

Matt and Joe at Keocanie Well - photo by Graham Howe

Matt and Joe at Keocanie Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Keokanie Plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Keokanie Plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

On the way to Southern Cross we stopped at Moorine Rock Well and Kodjerning Rock Well, both in reasonable condition.

Hunts Soak sign at Moorine - photo by Graham Howe

Hunts Soak sign at Moorine – photo by Graham Howe

 

Moorine Soak - photo by Graham Howe

Moorine Soak – photo by Graham Howe

 

Moorine Rock plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Moorine Rock plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

Kodjerning  Well - photo by Graham Howe

Kodjerning Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Kodjerning Rock plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Kodjerning Rock plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

After a quick refuel at The Cross we headed to Boorabbin Rock for lunch and a swim in the dam.

Boorabbin Reservoir - photo by Graham Howe

Boorabbin Reservoir – photo by Graham Howe

 

The day was heating up. Before heading back to the highway we detoured to the quarry.

Quarry at Boorabbin - photo by Graham Howe

Quarry at Boorabbin – photo by Graham Howe

 

F250 at Boorabbin Quarry - photo by Joe Natoli

F250 at Boorabbin Quarry – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Boorabbin Quarry - photo by Kim Epton

Boorabbin Quarry – photo by Kim Epton

 

Allan, Paul. Kim and Rob - photo by Graham Howe

Allan, Paul. Kim and Rob – photo by Graham Howe

 

At Boorabbin Quarry - photo by Graham Howe

At Boorabbin Quarry – photo by Graham Howe

 

The convoy arrived at Boondi Rock and Dam just before 1500. After another swim and noting the facilities (a popular DPaW site), the crew mutinied and it was decided to camp here rather than push on to the planned overnight stop at Yerdanie.

Swimming at Boondi - photo by Graham Howe

Swimming at Boondi – photo by Graham Howe

 

Camp at Boondi - photo by Graham Howe

Camp at Boondi – photo by Graham Howe

 

A few other travellers arrived later in the day in search of a comfortable camp so we turned our caps sideways and played the bogan music louder.

Boondi Camp - photo by Graham Howe

Boondi Camp – photo by Graham Howe

 

The trade off for stopping short of the previous day’s run was an early start for Yerdanie on Saturday. Away by 0710.

We turned off the Great Eastern Highway near Woolgangie negotiating a little used track for seven kilometres to Yerdanie Rock. I missed the turn into the Rock but fortunately Rob was on the ball, radioed the error through to me and it was only a short run back to the destination.

Joe and Matt at Yerdanie - photo by Graham Howe

Joe and Matt at Yerdanie – photo by Graham Howe

 

Cairn on Yerdanie Rock - photo by Graham Howe

Cairn on Yerdanie Rock – photo by Graham Howe

 

This was the well I intended to open out. I had written permission from DPaW to remove vegetation, as required. After half an hour of searching on foot, we abandoned the quest, cognisant that this was only a recce.

The track to our next destination, Gnarlbine Soak, was uncertain so I determined to head back out to the highway, drive a few kilometres further east and then head back through the woodlands towards Gnarlbine.

Along the way we stopped at the Prince of Wales Mine, a small, private diggings that had been abandoned.

Stoping at the Prince of Wales mine - photo by Graham Howe

Stoping at the Prince of Wales mine – photo by Graham Howe

 

Prince of Wales mineshaft - photo by Graham Howe

Prince of Wales mineshaft – photo by Graham Howe

 

At the Prince of Wales mine - photo by Graham Howe

At the Prince of Wales mine – photo by Graham Howe

 

The track had only a few obstacles and we eventually arrived at Victoria Rock Road, a few hundred metres from Gnarlbine Rock.

Kim clearing fallen tree on the track to Gnarlbine - photo by Graham Howe

Kim clearing fallen tree on the track to Gnarlbine – photo by Graham Howe

 

Gnarlbine Soak was a very important water source for Aboriginal people. It became an important stopping place for explorers and prospectors, including R.J. Holland when he and his team put through what today is known as the Holland Track.

Gnarlbine Well - photo by Graham Howe

Gnarlbine Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Gnarlbine Well plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Gnarlbine Well plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

Holland Track Plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Holland Track Plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

Gnarlbine Rock has some excellent examples of gnammas.

Matt and I went looking for a second well 200 metres to the south-east. After a few minutes of searching I located a depression that used to be a well.

Gnarlbine Well  overgrown - photo by Graham Howe

Gnarlbine Well overgrown – photo by Graham Howe

 

We arrived at Coolgardie at 1130 and visited the Pioneer Cemetery, the final resting place of R.J. Holland of Holland Track fame.

R.J. Holland's Plaque at the Coolgardie Pioneer Cemetery - photo by Joe Natoli

R.J. Holland’s Plaque at the Coolgardie Pioneer Cemetery – photo by Joe Natoli

 

After lunch at Coolgardie we headed out of town to the Coolgardie Cemetery, resting place of many pioneers including explorer Ernest Giles. Leaving Coolgardie was a major undertaking. Roadworks extended past Bullabulling and we were delayed for an hour.

It was 1445 before we reached Karalee Rock and Dam.

Karalee Dame - photo by Joe Natoli

Karalee Dame – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Karalee Aqueduct - photo by Graham Howe

Karalee Aqueduct – photo by Graham Howe

 

Karalee Rock wall - photo by Joe Natoli

Karalee Rock wall – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Another attempted mutiny to stay at Karalee to swim in the dam was put down and we headed out towards Weowanie Rock. I had checked this track with the local dogger and he assured me that it was open, and that none of his traps were placed along the track.

It took us two hours to travel the 16 kilometres to Weowanie. As I’m sure all the drivers who pushed their way through that track will attest, it was a bad experience. The hard, sharp branches of the acacias scratched the vehicles non stop for four kilometres. There was no turning back, there was no way to turn around. Reversing wasn’t an option. Eventually the acacias gave way to eucalypts and the track opened out to woodland.

Track to Weowanie - photo by Rob Wilson

Track to Weowanie – photo by Rob Wilson

 

Since Boorabbin, through to Boondi, Yerdanie, Gnarlbine Coolgardie, back to Yellowdine and Southern Cross and onto Weowanie we had been in the Great Western Woodlands, the largest remaining area of intact Mediterranean climate woodland left on Earth.

After arrival at Weowanie most people climbed the Rock to photograph the Tank and then went to the top to watch the sunset.

Hunts Tank at Weowanie - photo by Graham Howe

Hunt’s Tank at Weowanie – photo by Graham Howe

 

Everyone had noticed the signs at Karalee that declared the fire ban ended on 31 January. We had a modest fire, not for warmth but to add to the ‘ambience’.

Graham's Saturday night home - photo by Graham Howe

Graham’s Saturday night home – photo by Graham Howe

 

Weowanie Camp - photo by Graham Howe

Weowanie Camp – photo by Graham Howe

 

Sunset at Weowanie - photo by Rob Wilson

Sunset at Weowanie – photo by Rob Wilson

 

I had scheduled departure each morning for 0800 but we were getting away an hour early.

Old well at Weowanie. Not one of Hunt's - photo by Graham Howe

Old well at Weowanie. Not one of Hunt’s – photo by Graham Howe

 

On the way out of Weowanie on Sunday morning we stopped at the lonely grave of Thomas Davidson, a Scottish woodcutter. Davidson blew his brains out in May 1895. Isolation, loneliness and alcohol accounted for many old timers in the bush.

Thomas Davidson Grave - photo by Graham Howe

Thomas Davidson Grave – photo by Graham Howe

 

Ten minutes later we stopped at Duladgin Well for photographs. This is not one of Hunt’s wells. It was built by the Public Works Department in the late 1890s. We then headed south to Yellowdine on the Great Eastern Highway.

Duladgin - photo by Joe Natoli

Duladgin – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Duladgin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Duladgin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Duladgin Well is wood lined - photo by Graham Howe

Duladgin Well is wood lined – photo by Graham Howe

 

It was then west along the blacktop to Southern Cross where we stopped for 20 minutes to refuel, before heading north out of town to Koorkoordine Well, one of the best preserved of Hunt’s Wells. It has a grand vista, overlooking the dry Lake Koorkoordine.

Graham, Paul and Kim at Koorkoordine Well - photo by Joe Natoli

Graham, Paul and Kim at Koorkoordine Well – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Lake Koorkoordine - photo by Joe Natoli

Lake Koorkoordine – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Kim and Craig at Koorkoordine - photo by Joe Natoli

Kim and Craig at Koorkoordine – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Next stop was Burracoppin, a mid morning disappointment. We were unable to find the well here despite an extensive foot search. A possibility was noted with no great degree of confidence.

Hunts Well at Burracoppin - photo by Graham Howe

Hunts Well at Burracoppin – photo by Graham Howe

 

Overgrown Burracoppin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Overgrown Burracoppin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Burracoppin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Burracoppin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

We pushed on along Goldfields Road to Merredin and then headed south on the Bruce Rock Road to Totadgin Rock and Well.

The well at Totadgin is in reasonably good condition. After walking to the summit and checking out the ‘wave’ on the eastern side of the rock we had lunch.

Totadgin Rock - photo by Joe Natoli

Totadgin Rock – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Totadgin Well plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Totadgin Well plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

Totadgin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Totadgin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Totadgin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Totadgin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Totadgin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Totadgin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Weaving our way along gravel roads of the wheatbelt we arrived at Doodlakine. Four kilometres north of the town is Old Doodlakine and Hunts Well.

Old Doodlakine Sign - photo by Graham Howe

Old Doodlakine Sign – photo by Graham Howe

 

Doodlakine Well Plaque - photo by Graham Howe

Doodlakine Well Plaque – photo by Graham Howe

 

Doodlakine Well - photo by Graham Howe

Doodlakine Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

After a short stop we were back on the Goldfields Road heading west. Fifteen minutes later we arrived at Shark Mouth Rock, an unusually shaped granite outcrop that looks nothing like a shark’s mouth. More like a goanna or perhaps a dolphin.

Shark Mouth Rock - photo by Kim Epton

Shark Mouth Rock – photo by Kim Epton

 

A few hundred metres along the road is Marranobbing Well.

It has recently been dug out.

Marranobbing Well - photo by Kim Epton

Marranobbing Well – photo by Kim Epton

 

Marranobbing Well plaque - photo by Kim Epton

Marranobbing Well plaque – photo by Kim Epton

 

We took photographs and continued west on Goldfields road to Hunts Well at Tammin Rock.

Plaque at Tammin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Plaque at Tammin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Tammin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Tammin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Plaque at Tammin Well - photo by Joe Natoli

Plaque at Tammin Well – photo by Joe Natoli

 

The homeward stretch was through Youndegin.

Sign at Youndegin Well - photo by Graham Howe

Sign at Youndegin Well – photo by Graham Howe

 

Youndegin Well - photo by Joe Natoli

Youndegin Well – photo by Joe Natoli

 

Goldfields Road was now bitumen through to York. The Recce ended at The Lakes at 1715.

TEXT AND LAYOUT
Kim Epton

PHOTOGRAPHS
Graham Howe
Joe Natoli
Kim Epton
Rob Wilson

© March 2015
Use any part of this Report with attribution.