AT THE POINT
Point information and photos: Jane Terrell-Payne and Les Payne 2008. Additional information by Col Grant (email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Access photo essay HERE.
Location: The point is located at the south-west corner of the State where the borders of Queensland South Australia and NSW meet. The corner is marked by a survey post, however, using GPS technology the post is appears to be located 75 m south-east of the actual confluence point. This difference may be simply attributed to the change in survey datum from older geodetic datum to the earth-centred (geocentric) GDA 94 used by GPS.
The point was accurately located using GPS and was accessed by Cameron Corner Road which runs from Noccundra, the closest town on Queensland. It is located within Bulloo Shire. The Cameron Corner Hotel and the Corner Store are a few hundred to the border marker.
The degree confluence 29S 141E Cameron Corner was visited in September 2008, on a warm, clear day. Collection was carried out at mid morning, when bush flies were present in large numbers. The exact location of the confluence was found by hand-held GPS, at the meeting point of the states Qld, NSW and SA. The degree confluence was found to be approximately 130m south-east of the official border post.
The location was visited by my wife and I, travelling in a high-clearance 4WD from Brisbane, and visiting other confluences of the 29S Parallel along the way. The site is approximately 1,200km from Brisbane, in a direction that is slightly south of west. Access to the confluence was gained by parking in the picnic and information board area on the NSW side of the fence, and walking about 100m to the point. We arrived on mid afternoon of Day 6 of our trip, and departed late the next morning. Cameron Corner was reached by driving west about 330 kilometres along the maintenance track of the Wild Dog Fence from Hungerford. This track, given that it parallels the east-west fence, is straight, except for very minor deviations around obstacles such as creeks, washouts, rocky rises and property fences. At the Corner the fence turns south, thus effectively forming the border between NSW and SA. The Wild Dog Fence, sited just north of the 29 degree S parallel of latitude, serves as the border between Queensland and NSW. It was originally intended to stop rabbits entering Queensland from the south, but now serves to keep wild dogs (ie mainly dingoes) entering NSW from the north.
Travel along the fence required a permit from the Wild Dog Destruction Board of NSW. While permission is rarely granted, it was in this case due to the significance of the RGSQ's Queensland By Degrees Project. Members of the public can generally gain access to the Cameron Corner degree confluence by taking gravel roads from outback centres in Qld (Noccundra), NSW (Tibooburra) and SA (Leigh Creek and Innamincka). A 4WD is essential in any areas where roads are not fully formed. As there are few facilities in the region, travelers are wise to carry reserves of food, water, fuel as well as spare tyres. The author saw several parties of people staying overnight at Cameron Corner. One camping group was enjoying a tag-a-long type tour, a safe way to travel in unfamiliar country. On leaving Cameron Corner, the author took the remote and lonely Bore Track to Innamincka, SA. This involved a considerable amount of travel on rough and corrugated tracks across sand dunes, dry lake beds and gibber plains. No other vehicles were encountered along the way.
The Landscape: The area is within the dune fields of the Strzelecki Desert. Dunes are oriented north-east/south-west and are between eight and ten metres high with crests spaced around 250 m apart. The vegetation of the area is sparse Spinifex with low shrubby gidgee (Acacia cambagei) and mulga (Acacia aneura).
Cameron Corner stands out on a map of Australia as a place of geographic significance due to its location at the intersection of three states. (Note: The degree square 26S 138E also straddles Qld and two other states, SA and NT, and has been visited as part of the RGSQ's Queensland by Degrees Project).
However, the question arises: which location is Cameron Corner? As far as the author can gather the term Cameron Corner applies to the settlement, which is just inside Queensland, near the intersection of the three states. The term Cameron Corner also applies to the location of the border post, which was officially declared to be the intersection point of the three states by state surveyors and their governments, and presumably is regarded so by most visitors. Whether Cameron Corner also applies to the actual degree confluence, which is in a distinctly different position to the border post, is a wonderful topic for discussion, perhaps best engaged in by those who have travelled there and are camped under starry skies, enjoying the marvellous atmosphere of this place, an icon of Queensland and Australia.
Landscape of degree confluence
The exact confluence 29-141 is on a smooth, hard, almost horizontal surface, between low dunes. Bare patches of striking reds and red-browns are the dominant colours of the claypan surface and the nearby dunes. Some minor water and wind erosion features are visible at this location. Nearby low trees, shrubs and bushes dot the dunes; the claypan is bare. To the south are national park carpark and shelter, and the road to Tibooburra, while in the west the top of the border fence and a sign can be seen. Looking north and east, there is little evidence that civilisation has reached this place.
The GPS indicated an elevation of 117m at the degree confluence. Natmap 250k Raster Maps indicates a spot height of 126m near the degree confluence. Further afield, spot heights are lowest in the northwestern part of the degree square (36m in a dune swale) and highest in the southeastern part of the map (175m in plain and stony rise areas). The maximum elevation within the dune field portion of the degree square is given as 137m.
There appears to have been considerable human visitation on foot and by vehicle in the vicinity of the confluence; this may be expected as the point is near a number of features of interest to tourists, including the corner post, survey marker, plaques acknowledging a time capsule and the founder of the border store, interpretive signage and shelters. Presumably a smaller number of visitors (ie the geographically aware), armed with hand-held GPS units, stroll around the area near the Corner looking for the precise position of the degree confluence!
Geology of degree confluence and degree square
The geology at the degree confluence and across most of the degree square is Quaternary quartzose sand, formed into red and brown linear dune deposits, and irregular deposits of aeolian sand.
In the degree square there are smaller exposed areas of Quaternary poorly sorted colluvial deposits (coarse materials), and floodplains, drainage flats and claypans (fine sediments), small Tertiary sandstone and silcrete-capped uplands, and Cretaceous sedimentaries. The square is underlain by thick beds of Tertiary and Cretaceous sedimentaries.
Within the Degree Square
Vegetation of degree confluence and degree square
Vegetation of the Strzelecki Dunefield includes sandhill wattle (Acacia ligulata), needlewood (Hakea leucoptera), mulga (Acacia anuera), whitewood (Atalaya hemiglauca), beefwood (Grevilia striata), rosewood (Heterodendrum oleifolium), turpentine (Eremophila sturtii) and Mitchell Grass (Astrebla sp.).
Five species of flora are listed as endangered, two as vulnerable, and three as extinct (in NSW).
Plants adapt to arid conditions by adopting a number of strategies, such as possessing narrow leaves to reduce evaporation, deep roots to collect underground moisture, loosing leaves when conditions are extremely dry, and reproducing only when conditions are suitable (eg after rain).
The following invasive weeds have been reported from the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion (but not necessarily within the degree square 29S-141E): African boxthorn, athel pine, Bathurst burr, Noogoora burr, Parkinsonia, prickly acacia, silver leaf nightshade.
The Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion is susceptible to fire. The extensive fires of 2001 burnt 5.1% of the entire bioregion (but not necessarily within the degree square 29S-141E).
Fauna of degree square
Red kangaroos (Macropus rufus) are widespread in Sturt National Park, while euros, eastern and western grey kangaroos live in specific habitats. Also found in the national park are lizards (shinglebacks, bearded dragons, sand monitors) and snakes (brown, king brown snakes, pythons). Birds include the wedge-tailed eagle, Australian kestrel, emu, little corella, budgerigar, brolga, freckled duck and Australian bustard. The author spotted a galah, crow and willy wagtail near the confluence.
Animals of Australia's arid lands possess adaptations to protect them against the extreme conditions; these may include burrowing, nocturnal behaviour, obtaining water from food and reduced metabolic rates in times of drought.
Twelve species of fauna are listed as endangered and two as vulnerable. The dusky hopping mouse (Notomys fuscus) is endangered in NSW. It has large ears and eyes and a long tail. Habitat degradation and predation by feral cats have brought about its decline. The pig-footed bandicoot and the burrowing bettong (also marsupials) are believed to be extinct in this region.
The following invasive animal species have been reported from the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion (but not necessarily within the degree square 29S-141E): feral pig, feral goat, feral cat, camel, donkey, fox, horse, rabbit, starling, wild dog. The author spotted a rabbit in sight of the degree confluence (on the SA side of the border), and a pair of camels on the Bore Track (in the northern part of the square, also in SA). The influence of rabbits is reputed to be particularly problematic in the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields as numbers appear to be recovering from the effects of calicivirus.
A Photo essay can be viewed HERE.
The climate can be regarded as arid. As such, rainfall is highly variable. Annual rainfall for the Strzelecki Dunefield is usually between 150 and 200mm per year. The region is dominated by a hot, persistently dry desert climate.
Mean annual temperature: 20 deg C; Mean minimum for coldest month: 5 deg C; Mean maximum for hottest month: 36.3 deg C.
The Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion registered a very high mean Dust Storm Index value at 8.25 (1992-2005) (second only to the Channel Country bioregion). The spatial spread of this dust across the bioregion was relatively even (thus including the degree square 29S-141E).
Tibooburra Post Office Climate Station
Extremes of Nature: Two cyclones have penetrated to within 200 km of Cameron Corner since 1906. They were an unnamed cyclone of January 1907 that originated in the Coral Sea and TC Agnes in March 1956 that formed in the South pacific to the west of Fiji. Both cyclones brought considerable rainfall that produced significant floods across a wide area.
Cyclone tracks within 200 km of the confluence point (Bureau of Meteorology web site)
Extreme heat is a serious issue. The climate records for Tibooburra show that on average (over 98 years of records) 74 days a year with temperatures over 35°C and 19 days with temperatures over 40°C. Such extreme temperatures can cause heat stroke and death if appropriate measures are not taken such as avoiding strenuous physical effort, keeping as cool as possible and drinking lots of water. Heat waves kill more people in Australia than all other natural hazards combined.
Drought is clearly the most serious chronic natural hazard.
There have been no earthquake epicentres recorded within the degree square in the National Earthquake Database maintained by Geoscience Australia.
The Indigenous Story: The area is the traditional land of the Wadigali people.
The indigenous story of the degree square and adjacent region
Much of Sturt National Park and its dune country lie within the NSW portion of the degree square. This climatically-harsh area was widely occupied by Aborigines for at least 25,000 years. Numerous open campsites and shallow seepage wells are located in inter-dune corridors and on ephemeral lakes and streams. Stone quarries have been found on gibber patches. Middens, ceremonial sites and scarred trees are also part of the indigenous heritage of Corner Country.
The north-west corner of NSW at the Queensland border was traditionally occupied by the Karenggapa people. Another source indicates that the country of southwestern Qld was Wangkumara land and that the area of Sturt NP (northwestern NSW) was Maljangapa land. These peoples were desert nomads who traveled widely and traded with other peoples.
The coming of Europeans disrupted the lifestyle of indigenous people. Aboriginal men sought employment as shearers and cattlemen on stations during the 1860s onwards, while many of the women became domestic helpers. The traditional way of life that required mobility over large areas came to an end in the 1870s, when Aborigines had to turn to stations and missions to survive.
Drought, harsh conditions on the land, unsuitable accomodation, and influenza led to a total dislocation of Aboriginal lifestyle of northwestern NSW by the early 1900s.
European Exploration and Settlement: The area was first explored by Captain Charles Sturt in 1844 on an expedition from Adelaide in search of a supposed inland sea. Burke and Wills also traversed to the east of Cameron Corner during their ill fated expedition to cross the continent in 1860-61. Cameron Corner was named after New South Wales Lands Department surveyor, John Brewer Cameron, who marked the intersection of the three states with a post in September 1880.
The dog proof fence is aligned along the NSW border. The fence was completed in 1885 and forms a barrier from near Ceduna on the Great Australian Bight in South Australia to Jimbour in south-east Queensland. The fence protects the sheep grazing districts of Southern Australia from dingo attacks.
European exploration of the degree square and adjacent region
Charles Sturt was the first European explorer to pass this way on his expedition of 1844-1846, a futile attempt to find the inland sea. Lack of food and water, scurvy, and daily summer temperatures well above 40°C proved to be severely challenging for Sturt and his men. Expedition members reached as far as Goyder Lagoon and Eyre Creek, crossing the Strzelecki Dunefield from SE to NW.
The corner is named after John Cameron, NSW Geodetic Surveyor, who carried out the survey of the 29th Parallel in 1879-1880. Cameron made use of chains for measurement. Conditions were very difficult, with flooded rivers and creeks, dense scrub, illness, lack of drinking water, and shortage of grass for the horses in places. Due to a lack of stones at the Corner, it was not possible to build an obelisk. The surveyor placed a post and mound at that point. Cameron finished the western portion of his border survey in 12 months and 15 days.
The present-day border post was dedicated on 11 June 1969 in the presence of the Ministers for Lands and the Suveyors-General of the three states.
Corner Post, Cameron Corner
The area has a resident population of around five people though travellers, especially during the winter, can increase that number by several hundred percent.
Settlement at Cameron Corner
Cameron Corner (permanent population of one) is the settlement nearest to the degree confluence. It is just inside Queensland, and in sight of NSW and SA. For about ten years owner Bill Mitchell has offered the many services required by tourists, including a store, cold drinks, meals, fuel, under-cover accommodation, tent sites, travel information, communications and maintenance of facilities, as well as a friendly and stimulating chat. At the store there is also a collection box for the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Electricity is produced on site by a diesel generator and a large solar array. At the time of the author's visit, Bill was hoping to sell and move to Victoria.
The Cameron Corner store was founded in 1989 by former surveyor, Sandy Nall (b.1940 - d.2004).
Infrastructure and landuse of the degree square
There are no sealed roads in the degree square. There are formed gravel roads connecting Cameron Corner with centres ouside the degree square in three states.
Vermin control fences are found in the degree square. The prime one is the Wild Dog Fence, which runs east-west along the Qld-NSW border and turns north-south along the NSW-SA border. Most people probably view the Qld-NSW section of the Wild Dog Fence at Cameron Corner and Hungerford. A public road crosses the fence at Fortville Gate, about 17km east of Cameron Corner, on the gravel road that connects Noccundra (Qld) with Tibooburra (NSW).
The grazing property ‘Omicron' occupies the Qld (ie north-eastern) part of the square, the NSW (ie south-eastern) portion is taken up by Sturt NP and the properties ‘Lake Stewart' and ‘Waka', while the SA section (ie the western half) contains the property ‘Bollards Lagoon'.
The average unimproved value of rangelands within the Queensland portion of the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion is the lowest of all the state's bioregions.
Sturt National Park has the customary national park facilities, including a campground within the degree square at Fort Grey (site of a stockade built by Charles Sturt's expedition). Elsewhere within the park are walking tracks, lookouts, self-drive trails, an outdoor pastoral museum, a mining site, and a bird hide. This is a large park, 325,000 ha in area; it was previously occupied by six pastoral stations.
There are numerous gas and oil fields in the square's northern strip. The underground Moomba to Sydney gas pipeline cuts through the northeastern corner of the square.
Land management issues relevant to the Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion include the following (and which may not necessarily apply to the degree square 29S-141E): high pasture utilization of interdune and drainage areas, death of shrubs and trees due to prolonged drought, wind erosion, increase in rabbit and camel numbers, merino wool industry in decline, graziers switching to sheep and cattle for meat, goats becoming economically viable (with subsequent environmental deterioration), and the need for improved fencing to better control grazing pressure and stock access to water.
Cameron Corner Carpark
Access photo essay HERE.
Compilers: Jane Terrell-Payne, Les Payne and Col Grant. With additional material from Ken Granger 2008.
From Col Grant:
Bullard J.E. et al . 2002. Aeolian abrasion and fine particle production from red sands: an experimental study. In Lee J.A. & Zobeck T.M. Proceedings of ICAR5/GCTE-SEN Joint Conference.
Fitzsimmons K.E. Longitudinal and transverse dunes of the Lake Eyre Basin, in Roach I.C. ed. Advances in Regolith pp.126-130. CRC LEME.
Fitzsimmons K.E. Regional landform patterns in the Strzelecki Desert Dunefield: dune migration and mobility at large scales, in Regolith 2006 - Consolidation & Dispersion of Ideas. CRC LEME.
Rangelands 2008 - Taking the Pulse: Simpson-Strzelecki Dunefields bioregion
Informative signage at Cameron Corner (on the NSW and SA sides of the border)
1865-1882 The Survey of Latitude 29 IMTA informative poster (displayed at Hungerford Hotel)
Natmap (Geoscience Australia), 250k Raster Maps
Geology maps, 250k (Geoscience Australia web site)
More detailed information on the Wild Dog Fence, oil and gas production, gibber fields and jump-ups of Qld's south-west will be included in descriptions of other degree confluences.