The Long drive, a Geologist’s Puzzle, and My Swag.

We left Shark Bay (read here if you missed it)  the next morning after packing the truck and drove ten hours to the North.

Midway we stopped at an Australian truck stop. The road, trees, and every vehicle sported the red dust that blew up in a wind or speeding tire. I had my first flat white, some had meat pies, and all our lungs were coated a bit with the reddness as we breathed the air around us.

Our goal for the day was to get to Karajini and with a bit of instruction, once there we took a look around us. Karajini has the most beautiful gorges and fern lined pools. And water falls.

DaleGorgeFalls2

and the gorge we were headed for had the rocks that I have heard about for 30 years. (I wish I had taken this picture, but I didn’t. A fellow researcher did.)

It’s a geologist’s puzzle.

It’s this:

RedBed

They are called ‘banded iron formations‘.

They are spectacular and the theory is that they formed when there was little to no oxygen in the atmosphere or in the ocean.

Think about that.

No oxygen at all in the oceans or in the air.

The idea is that the little bacteria I study, the ones that make oxygen (cyanoabacteria) were producing a little bit of oxygen way back then (before 2.7 billion years ago) and every summer, they ‘bloomed’ in large enough amounts that the little bits of oxygen they made got attached to the little bits of molecular iron in the ocean that could hardly wait to make a bond with the O2 molecules. In between these summer seasons and during them, silica was ‘raining’ down to the ocean floor, something that does not happen in the oceans  today.

Look at them up close. Have you ever seen anything quite like this?

Janet&BIFS

What I told you, it’s the best theory right now. But honestly, even the best geologists don’t think we have the whole idea and it’s a mystery, one of the best geological puzzles that scholars like to think about. One of the big problems is that despite the requirement that those ingenious cyanoabacteria are at the heart of the rusting out of the iron in the ocean, none, NONE of the rocks, no matter where you look have any evidence of those bacteria.

Curious.

Going to the rocks, being enveloped in the beauty of them, knowing the puzzle, thinking about it, well, that’s a treat, that whether you are a scientist or someone who is fascinated about the world that surrounds us, is worth thinking about.

While there are a million more things I would tell you about this part of the world, the beauty of the place (and as it turns out the people I was with), the one last thing I want to explain was the very part I thought I wouldn’t like.

You see and as I’ve mentioned, we were scheduled to stay at the Starlight Motel for at least half of the nights, which is the clever and Ozzie way to say we were to sleep the ground,  minus tents.

I’ve been camping. I’ve slept on the ground. And I’ve been miserable. I held little hope of multiple nights of peace and repose in a sleeping bag, no matter  how good the one that my youngest son had lent me.

But I underestimated the Australian nights and the bushman’s very wise use of a swag.

A swag is a ‘portable sleeping unit’, used for a very long time in the Australian bush when foot travel was essential. Sometimes its called  a “backpack bed”. It consists of a water repellent (sometimes insect repellent) canvas sack with a small foam mattress in which you place your sleeping bag and pillow. A long flap extends from the top of the swag. This is for you to cover your face while sleeping (a preventative to bats and dingos tasting or licking your ears) and for you to toss forward when you want to see the stars.

Karanjinicamp2

Sleeping in my swag was so much an integral, enjoyable part of my trip down under that I brought it back with me.

I am hopeful that my sons and husband might at sometime in their lives find a time to snuggle down in it and marvel. You can marvel outside of Australia. The heavens are always available for head-shaking wonder.

nightsky2a

PS I can’t take credit for any of these pics.