Monday, September 22, 2008


Ever since my first Arkaroola bushwalk in 1976 the place has always seemed special, different and just a little bit, well, strange. The rocks and terrain were like nothing else in the Flinders. As the years have passed, this intuition seems to be borne out by all sorts of scientific news.

The latest bulletin is coming up this Thursday at Melbourne Uni’s Selwyn Symposium, when scientists will reveal the discovery of an ancient underwater reef high and dry near Arkaroola. Dating back 650 million years, this priceless relic contains new evidence of lifeforms that were bopping about in the oceans during the climatic bunfight known as the Neoproterozoic.

And this in the same week that Greens MP Mark Parnell and other parties, including perhaps the Libs, move once again to ban uranium exploration and mining in Arkaroola.
Here’s hoping the powers that be finally recognise Arkaroola is much too valuable as a scientific treasure and tourism icon to turn it into another hole in the ground. We've got plenty of mines in SA and more on the way. But there's only one Flinders Ranges - and there's nothing else on earth quite like Arkaroola.

(UPDATE 29 September: The Melbourne Uni team's reef discovery has created a wave of publicity for the area, with coverage from local media to the international press. What really seems to get the headline writers revved is the notion of the start date for animal evolution being pushed back by 80 million years.
This is even more astonishing, given that Arkaroola's tourism pioneer Reg Sprigg was the last person to redefine this frontier in a big way with his work on the Ediacaran fossils.
Arkaroola has been known for its geological wonders for a long time and while it is true that some mining and exploration has happened here in the past, the idea of a large-scale mine being thrust into the heart of this significant landscape is unthinkable. Any government that went down this path would create a national and international scandal.)

Sunday, September 7, 2008


The Wilpena Pound Resort has new owners. "Anthology" a new outfit headed by Grant Hunt, the former boss of travel-industry giant Voyages, has taken over the legendary Flinders Ranges resort from the well-known Rasheed family. Backed by Gresham Private Equity, Anthology has also recently purchased the Bay of Fires and Cradle Mountain Huts Walks in Tassie. "We began Anthology with the dream of creating one of the world’s finest experiential travel brands," says Hunt. "We have a strong belief in nature and most of our assets will tend to be nature based, but not exclusively. We believe very much in conservation and the protection of the environment... and particularly the notion of using the very best of local produce, local art and local people.” As it happens Grant Hunt is also on the board of Tourism Australia which recently - and quite rightly - included the Flinders in their National Landscapes program.

While Wilpena's new owners are promising to revamp the existing facilities in time for Easter 2009 it will be interesting to see what new directions the resort might take longer term - especially if it offers the kind of guided walking and accomodation experience that has been so successful in Tasmania.