During the adventure I’ve detailed in the previous nine posts, I didn’t worry too much about keeping copious notes. However, I did tick off the days as they passed by.
As it transpired, purely by luck and not good management, the 19th July, 1973 became the most significant day during the whole of the journey.
That was the day I photographed Ayres Rock, Uluru to give it the correct title, with water cascading down its sides. Yes indeed, it was raining on The Rock.
Now many people, myself included, were of the belief that The Rock was discovered in 1872 by Ernest Giles. It’s true that Giles was the first white man to see the monolith from a distance and he returned to claim it in 1873.
However, he was beaten to it by William Goss who, on the 19th July, 1873 at The Rock, claimed and named it Ayres Rock after the Chief Secretary of South Australia, Sir Henry Ayres.
According to many references, it was raining on The Rock on the 19th July, 1873, exactly 100 years to the day that John G and I witnessed the same scene as had William Goss.
Here is that great image, once again.
I’ve also mentioned Walter Smith on many occasions and I kept in touch with him for 17 years until his death in June 1990, just days before his 97th birthday.
My thoughts of Walter were revived recently at the funeral of another mate whose legendary exploits were canvassed by various speakers at the funeral.
Later at the wake it was pointed out that legends only live when they are repeated and that was certainly the case with Walter. Once you got to know him he reinforced his legend that he was part Afghan and part Aranda.
On a number of occasions he told me that his tribal name was Wati Yuritja which meant Man of the Water Dreaming. He reiterated on a number of occasions his association with the explorer Madigan and the discovery of the monster meteorite samples and detailed his exploits as a cameleer.
I admired Walter and his bush craft and I regularly repeated his legend to anyone who would listen.
In 1998 on visit to Uluru-Kata Tjuta I found a biography of Walter Smith and bought it on the spot, mainly out of curiosity.
The book has sat comfortably on a bookshelf here in my office, almost forgotten until this morning and flicking through it I’ve discovered a number of details concerning Walter’s legend, all of which are referenced and accurate..
Firstly, Walter Smith was neither part Afghan nor Aboriginal by birth. Walter was born on the 2nd July, 1893 at Arltunga not far from Harts Range in the Northern Territory.
His father, William Smith, a Welsh miner and his wife Topsy had, over the next twenty one years, ten more children after the birth Walter.
According to the biography, all of Walter’s camel exploits are true and he was certainly a renown bushman during his life.
The most extraordinary fact I’ve now discovered that it was not Madigan with whom Walter associated but the famous ill fated explorer L.H. Lasseter of lost gold mine fame.
Walter provided the camels and accompanied Lasseter for much of his journey to find the lost mine, a journey that cost Lasseter his life.
Also, it was Walter who discovered the massive meteorite at Henbury and dispatched it to a South Australian museum for assessment.
Digging out Kimber’s book has reignited my interest in Walter Smith and he is now my subject of much future research.
Finally, I thought I’d make some concluding comments about the so called Simpson Desert expedition.
My long departed mother was my active social secretary and whenever she came across something even remotely associated with my activities it was collected and stored it away. Here is a classic example of Mum’s collecting.
Some months after the main mob returned to Sydney, the Australian Museum in Sydney hosted a get together for all the participants. The few of us who attended were given the opportunity to see many of the bird samples collected by the ornithologists, together with a range of amphibians, a reptile or two but absolutely zero from the world of geology.
If my memory serves me correctly, I was the only representative of the small Land Rover Club group and geologist John G was also absent.
Those of us who volunteered with our four wheel drives were assured our costs would be met. Only forty three years have passed and I’m still checking the mail.
I visited the NSW Institute of Technology, Geology Department to see John G some time after my return. I saw the mounted feldspar crystal taj=king pride of place in the foyer of the department. No sign of John G so I left a message for him to telephone me. As the crow flies, my office was not far from his. A phone call never came and I never laid eyes on him again.
Linz the prospector, Dr Dave and I remain in regular contact. Over the next few years I was such a regular visitor to the Harts Range Police Station and a regular driver of the Station’s vehicle that Eddy insisted I apply for a Northern Territory Drivers Licence. I did so and held it for about ten years before surrendering it.
Eddy eventually transferred to Darwin, suffered terrible losses in Cyclone Tracy and we accommodated him at home in Sydney when he was given leave to come south and recuperate. On his return to Darwin I visited him on a number of occasions but he retired and I’ve have lost all contact with him.
Well there we are. As is the rule, what goes on tour stays on tour, so that’s it folks.