Because of this, our arid regions are soaked in Australian history and culture, yet how many of us know about the land itself? Here are 5 facts you probably didn’t know about our arid terrain and landforms.
1. Australia’s desert centre is distinctly tied to dryness and a lack of water, yet the vast majority of landforms in the Outback are/were formed by water. This includes things like hills, escarpments, inselbergs, plateaus, mesas, ranges, gorges and valleys, as well channel country, scalloped dunes and much more.
2. There is a unique landscape found in many deserts called karst, which is the geological name for a landscape that is made up of a single type of soluble geology (normally rock). The most famous example is the Nullarbor Plain, which is a karst landscape, and is the largest piece of limestone in the world! It covers 200,000 sq km and stretches 1100km at its widest point; longer than the distance from Brisbane to Sydney.
3. Many of the streams and rivers of Australia’s deserts, including places like Finke River Gorge, areas of the MacDonnell Ranges, Kings Canyon and much more, seem to defy conventional logic and physics. This comes about due to the collision of previous ancient terrains and more modern processes and climates, resulting in landforms that are geometrically mind-boggling.
4. Before the distinct deserts that we know today, there were ancient deserts residing either within or south of the current listed arid regions. Evidence of these forgotten deserts are seen in the Simpson and Tirari deserts, where more extensive fossilised sand ridges exist underneath the surface and are actually exposed in some areas along Warburton and Kallakoopa creeks. Another example is in the Great Victoria Desert, where the current east-west dune lineation hides ancient dunes lineated northwest-southeast.
5. An ancient lake once resided within our modern day deserts, which would consume and link lakes Frome, Callabonna, Blanche, Gregory and Eyre. Called Lake Dieri, it covered 110,000 sq km, which is over ten times the size of today’s largest Australian lakes (Lake Eyre and Lake Gairdner are both around 10,000 sq km)!