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10 April 2012 / leggypeggy

Crossing the Nullarbor Plain

Nullarbor Plain

The Great Australian Bight, Eucla and the 90-Mile Straight are all part of the vast Nullarbor Plain.

The Nullarbor—the name comes from the Latin words for ‘no trees’—is the world’s largest single piece of limestone. It covers almost 200,000 square kilometres (77,000 square miles). At its widest, it stretches east to west for about 1100 kilometres between South Australia and Western Australia.

Ever since arriving in Australia in 1982, I’ve heard people speak proudly of ‘crossing the Nullarbor’. It’s a harsh and often featureless plain that was originally a shallow seabed. The main vegetation is saltbush and bluebush scrub.

Early Europeans considered the Nullarbor to be almost uninhabitable. Explorer John Edward Eyre called it ‘the sort of place one gets into in bad dreams’. Nevertheless, there was a push to cross the plain. Lack of water was the main challenge. Eyre made the first successful crossing in 1841.

Crossing is no longer as difficult it was in the 1970s when Poor John and some of his university buddies made an early road trip. Back then, most of the surface in Western Australian was still dirt track.

The Nullarbor has some incredible caves that can only be visited with a permit from the Department of Environment and Conservation.

The pictures here are of the plain and some of its vegetation. You can also check out Eucla and the 90-Mile Straight.

And while you’re at it, see what’s cooking on page 32.

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3 Comments

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  1. Bob / Apr 26 2012 8:46 pm

    The formal explanation of ‘Nullabor’ may be that it’s from the latin for no trees, but I prefer the version that says it’s from the local Aboriginal dialect and means bored shitless.

    Like

    • leggypeggy / Apr 26 2012 9:11 pm

      Nice definition, Bob, and probably accurate—except that we found the Nullabor interesting enough to stay awake the whole way.

      Like

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