meteors? gas? spirits? heat explosions? Who knows? But perhaps the mysterious craters on Mt Oxley hold a clue
craters on Mt Oxley may provide a clue to one of the persistent mysteries of
the outback. Sturt reported distinctly hearing "a report as of a great gun discharge"
three times in his travels; twice in the Stony Desert, and once when near Mt
Oxley in 1828. "It might" he surmised" have been some gaseous explosion, but
I never in the interior saw any indications of such phenomenon. "Whatever occaisoned
the report' he wrote in his diary "it made such a strong impression on all of
us and to this day the singularity of such a sound in such a situation is a
matter of mystery to me.
Major Mitchell recorded a "low booming sound in August 1846 in central Qld; "which appeared to be a meteor, a whirling mass, or revolving red ball of light, passing southward."
Wills reported the same experience on Coopers Creek in his diary found after the ill fated Burke expedition in the 1860's.
Brewarrina Aboriginal Jimmy Barker recorded in his book that tribes who moved along the upper Darling often heard these extremely loud noises and believed them to be omens, evil spirits or the departing spirit of someone dying.
There are no certain conclusion - meteors? gas? spirits? heat explosions? Read on for further clues!
by Dr J. Burton Clellend
an extract from his paper
the evenings when the phenomenon occurred were still, calm and gave the indications
of atmospheric disturbance. Apparently the bushmen of Western NSW around the
turn of the century were quite familiar with what they called 'the desert noise'.
Certainly the most interesting report came from a Mr D.G. Stead.
He wrote "In regard to mysterious rumblings or explosive sounds - when I was on the dry Bogan during August of last year, I stayed for two nights on Mr Barton's station at Mooculta. While there, and while discussing various natural phenomena with Mr Reginald Kirkwood, Mr Barton's manager, the former told me that, not infrequently, at the end of the very hot days just around and a little after sundown were to be heard coming from the direction of Mt Oxley (which I could see from there, and which is a distant about fourteen or fifteen miles) rumbling explosive sounds, sometimes loud, sometimes muffled, according to the state of the atmosphere and the direction of the wind. I suggest that it would probably be caused by bursting rock which had become intensely heated during the day, and was undergoing a rapid cooling process. He agreed that this was extremely probable, but could not say from actual observation. He also told me that the summit of Mt Oxley had numerous peculiar crater-shaped conical depressions: these were only about the summit. This was most interesting to me and I specially noted it in my book at the time. Upon making a close enquiry later, I found similar sounds had been heard coming from Mount Gundabooka, which I have also seen, and which is about forty miles SSW from Oxley. Now both of these short ranges stand up like islands in a veritable 'ocean' of plain country, the radiation from which must be enormous.
If you never never go you will never never know what they were talking about. Mount Oxley is just a short drive out of Bourke. On a clear day it is idyllic. You can perch on the summit, in the craters that Clelland describes, and watch as wedge tailed eagles soar around the cliff top. From the summit you can see that it is a veritable ocean of plain county, spreading as far as the eye can see.
If you are planning a trip to Australia and looking for some places to visit off the beaten tourist track, then Bourke is the place to come. You should be able to find cheap flights to Sydney and then travel the 800 km west from there. You will arrive in a wonderful town, rich in history, culture and of course the home of the legendary Mt Oxley, where you can see for yourself the mysterious craters and perhaps get to the bottom of it.
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