12 must-see locations in northern Western Australia

The Loop at Kalbarri National Park. Photo: Parks and Wildlife

KALBARRI NATIONAL PARK — 150KM NORTH OF GERALDTON

The Kalbarri National Park surrounds the lower reaches of the Murchison River, which has cut a magnificent 80km gorge through the red and white banded sandstone to create formations such as Nature’s Window.

In 2014, the $7.7 million upgrade of Kalbarri National Park, mainly funded under the Royalties for Regions infrastructure and roads initiative, was completed and officially opened. The upgrade included sealing 12km of The Loop/ Z-Bend Rd and the construction of new visitor facilities at The Loop and West Loop at the Murchison Gorge, including shade shelters, lookouts, walking trails, visitor information areas, sealed carparks and toilets.

SHARK BAY WORLD HERITAGE AREA — FROM 10KM EAST OF DENHAM

Inside the Shark Bay World Heritage area are a number of great sites including the Francois Peron National Park. Known for its contrasting red cliffs, white beaches and blue waters, the park has a fascinating pastoral history and offers a wilderness experience to 4WD drivers.

Inside the national park is the Big Lagoon Campground, an attractive turquoise lagoon with a small campground and an excellent spot to explore by canoe or sea kayak. The campground has gas barbecues and toilets and a nearby site for launching boats. You are welcome to fish in the lagoon south of the camping area. Camping fees apply.

Also on offer in the Shark Bay World Heritage area is the Hamelin Pool, one of just a handful of places in the world with stromatolites (the oldest living organisms known on earth), and Monkey Mia where visitors can stand within metres of wild bottlenose dolphins.

MOUNT AUGUSTUS — 480KM NORTH-EAST OF CARNARVON

Mount Augustus is the largest monocline rock in the world and is found in the Mount Augustus National Park. The monocline rock is 8km long and 3km wide — about two and half times the size of Uluru. There is no camping allowed within the national park but the nearby Outback Tourist Park offers accommodation, basic supplies and fuel.

THE PILBARA

Ningaloo coast. Photo: Jen HollisSource:Supplied

KARIJINI NATIONAL PARK — 75KM EAST OF TOM PRICE

The Karijini National Park is home to some of the oldest rock formations in the world, dating back two and a half billion years. The park features a labyrinth of gorges — some so narrow you can reach and touch the cool rocks on either side and others so large they appear like massive natural amphitheatres carved into the rock. Emerald pools stand in stark contrast to the rust-red and deep purple of the rocks and the landscape.

A $1.8m redevelopment of the Hamersley Gorge day-use area in Karijini National Park was completed last year, funded through Royalties for Regions program with contributions from the Department of Parks and Wildlife and Rio Tinto.

The redevelopment includes improved road access, new signs and the construction of a shade shelter and toilet.

Dales campground is close to some of Karijini’s most popular sites including Dales Gorge, Circular Pool and Fortescue Falls. A new staircase to Dales Gorge was completed in 2014 with improved access for visitors. Further sections of staircase are planned for 2015. There are a range of walk trails from the campground to view and explore lookout points, pools and gorges and 140 campsites in the park accommodating tents, large caravans, camper vans and camper trailers.

The western section of Banjima Dr was sealed in 2014 by the Shire of Ashburton, which improves access to the western gorge sites of Weano, Hancock and Oxer.

NINGALOO MARINE PARK — 50KM WEST OF EXMOUTH

Escape the southern winter and dive into the Ningaloo Marine Park, staying at one of the many campgrounds nestled on the coast in Cape Range National Park. Snorkel with turtles, dolphins, dugongs, manta rays, colourful fish and corals or take a land-based adventure looking for black footed rock wallabies, birds, reptiles and much more. In season (April to July) whale sharks, the world’s biggest fish, congregate along the Ningaloo Reef.

The chance to snorkel with these gentle giants is the opportunity of a lifetime and visitors from all over the world head to the Ningaloo Reef during whale shark season.

Kurrajong campground in Cape Range National Park, has 26 new campsites, a new gravel road, lookout points, a barbecue shelter and toilets plus an additional 19 new campsites in other areas of the park.

Demand for campsites is extremely high with advance booking required. Booking is only available through the ParkStay WA website parkstay.dpaw.wa.gov.au

Most of the campsites in Cape Range National Park are easy to get to by conventional vehicle, but if you’re after something a little more remote then One K campground is the site to go to. Once you cross Yardie Creek, on soft, shifting sand so high clearance campers and 4WDs only, you can access the campground.

MILLSTREAM CHICHESTER NATIONAL PARK — 150KM SOUTH-EAST OF KARRATHA

The Millstream Chichester National Park is an oasis in the desert, nestled within the chocolate brown rocks of the Chichester Range, dotted with spinifex and snappy gums. Permanent pools are fed by springs that draw water from the underground aquifer within porous dolomite rock. Miliyanha and Stargazers campgrounds are both located in the park with barbecue facilities and use of personal gas cooking appliances welcome. Campground hosts are stationed in both campgrounds for the majority of the tourist season, typically between mid-April and early October.

THE KIMBERLEY

Bell Gorge. Photo: Parks and WildlifeSource:Supplied

WINDJANA GORGE NATIONAL PARK — 140KM EAST OF DERBY

The Windjana Gorge National Park is one of the Kimberley’s most stunning gorges with water-streaked walls which rise majestically to heights of approximately 100m. The 3.5km long gorge cuts through the Napier Range, part of the ancient Devonian limestone reef dating back 350 million years. Freshwater crocodiles bask in the pools, while fruit bats and corellas roost in the waterside trees.

Windjana Gorge Campground has good facilities but no powered sites. It is a great base from which to explore Windjana Gorge. Entrance and camping fees apply.

KING LEOPOLD RANGES CONSERVATION PARK — 250KM NORTH-EAST OF DERBY

The King Leopold Ranges Conservation Park is known for its spectacular Bell Creek and Lennard gorges. The ridges of the King Leopold Ranges rise 300m above the surrounding plains (and 950m above sea level) while open savannah woodlands cover the sunburnt landscapes. Groves of river gum, stately paperbark trees and dense thickets of screw pine shade watercourses as water lilies and other aquatic plants fill permanent pools in the creeks and rivers, providing cool relief from the starkness of the harsh escarpments.

Following wet season rains, great volumes of water cascade from the ranges. In the dry, tourists are attracted to the spectacular cascading waterfalls at Bell Creek Gorge which is a relaxing place to swim. Visitors also marvel at the spectacular Lennard River Gorge and the incredibly folded and faulted scenic rock formations of the ranges along the Gibb River Rd, shaped by tremendous geological forces. The range is a haven for bird life and offers spectacular scenery for photographers.

Camping is provided at Silent Grove Campground, a riverside ground with shower and toilet facilities available. Camping fees apply.

Once the nerve centre of a former cattle station, the Mount Hart Wilderness Lodge is a virtual oasis on the banks of the Barker River and is surrounded by lush gardens. The lodge has stylish and comfortable accommodation in heritage homesteads, three-course dinners and breakfast, a restaurant and libraries. Mt Hart also has shady riverside camping facilities.

PURNULULU NATIONAL PARK — 250KM SOUTH OF KUNUNURRA

The Bungle Bungle Range in the Purnululu National Park is one of the most fascinating geological landmarks in the world with its beehive domes, deep chasms, gorges and pools. Getting there is not easy, but is well worth the adventure. There are short trails suitable for most ages and fitness levels, or longer trails for more experienced bushwalkers with specialised navigation and outback survival skills and equipment. In addition to the excellent national park camping facilities, safari camp-style accommodation is also available in the park.

The park however, is only open in the dry season (usually April to November). Walardi and Kurrujong campgrounds are also in the Purnululu National Park. The Walardi Campground has toilets and can cater for up to 40 vehicles while the Kurrajong Campground has toilets and can cat0er for up to 100 vehicles (no generators). Camping fees apply. Booking online is essential at parkstay.wa.gov.au.

PRO TIP: Take a helicopter or plane flight over the Bungle Bungle Range to get a sense of the scale and majesty of this geological wonder. Flights run daily from an airstrip in the park.

TUNNEL CREEK NATIONAL PARK — 100KM NORTH OF FITZROY CROSSING

The Tunnel Creek National Park flows through a waterworn tunnel in the limestone of the Napier Range, part of the 350 million year old Devonian reef system.

You can walk through the tunnel to the other side of the Napier Range with the trek running underground for 750m through several permanent pools.

At least five species of bats live in the cave, including ghost bats and fruit bats, and stalactites descend from the roof in many places. The roof has collapsed through to the top of the range near the centre of the tunnel. Take a torch, wear sneakers and be prepared to get wet and possibly cold.

GEIKIE GORGE NATIONAL PARK — 20KM NORTH-EAST OF FITZROY CROSSING

The Geikie Gorge is a spectacular wonder famed for its sheer white and grey walls, abundant wildlife and awesome boat tours. Geikie Gorge has been carved by the Fitzroy River through part of an ancient limestone barrier reef which snakes across the west Kimberley. It was laid down in an ancient sea which covered a large part of the Kimberley in Devonian times, some 350 million years ago. Geikie Gorge boat tours take place from May to October and give an insight into the wildlife and geology of the gorge. You might see birds such as sea eagles and rare purple-crowned fairy-wrens, or acrobatic crocodiles snapping at stray flying-foxes.

WOLFE CREEK CRATER NATIONAL PARK — 160KM SOUTH OF HALLS CREEK

The Wolfe Creek Crater National Park is a perfect place to experience real outback adventure. For a camping holiday with a difference, you can visit spectacular Kandimalal-Wolfe Creek Crater, the second largest meteorite crater in the world.

Most come to marvel at the crater itself, but wildlife abounds including major mitchell cockatoos, reptiles such as the brown ringtail dragon, and red kangaroos.

The best time to visit is between May and October.

There is one campground in the Wolfe Creek Crater National Park with basic toilet facilities, but no water available. The campground can be accessed by all vehicles in the dry season, however, in the wet season it is 4WD access only. No camping fees apply at this campground.

PRO TIP: Bring a star watching guide and binoculars or telescope for an unrivalled view of the night sky.

In pictures: Bruce Forsyth fans copy his pose in unusual locations

Among Sir Bruce Forsyth’s biggest fans are a group of friends who worshipped him so much that they have recreated his famous “thinker” pose wherever they have been around the world for the past decade.

Following the veteran entertainer’s death last week, they have shared some of their best photos.

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionBrighton beach

The friends met at university in Brighton and started “doing a Brucie” when posing for photos on nights out. Their homage to the great man went global when they travelled to the Roskilde music festival in Denmark after graduating in 2007.

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionRoskilde festival, Denmark
Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionBrandenburg Gate, Berlin

“That trip was where the whole idea of taking these photos in various locations around the world came from,” says Joseph Bradfield, 31.

“We did it a lot through our university days when we were out drinking, but that trip around Europe after graduating, we pretty much took one everywhere we went.

“It became a bit of a thing whenever there was a photo op. It would be, ‘Look at the camera, smile, now pull a Bruce.’ It just snowballed.”

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightCRYSTAL MARIE SING
Image captionVancouver, Canada

Perhaps the best “thinker” tribute was staged when one of the group, Jeremy Dresner, got married in Canada.

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionTiananmen Square, Beijing
Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionCambodia

The friends often attract confused looks when striking the pose in countries where Sir Bruce wasn’t a big star, Joseph says.

“You do it in the UK and people kind of know what you’re doing. They still don’t really know why you’re doing it but there’s at least that glimmer of recognition.

“But whenever we’ve done it overseas there’s always puzzlement on the locals’ faces.”

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionQuarry Rock, British Columbia, Canada
Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionGolden Gate Bridge, San Francisco
Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionErhai Lake, China

Joseph says the friends – about 10 in all – admired Sir Bruce’s approach to his career as well as being fans of his TV shows.

“There’s that quote where he said, ‘I don’t see myself as a singer or a dancer or an actor. I’m an entertainer,'” Joseph explains.

“That really resonated with us, that approach to life, that you don’t have to be the best at any one particular discipline but it’s all about the impact you have on other people and entertaining other people.”

Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionHa Giang Province, Vietnam
Bruce ForsythImage copyrightJOSEPH BRADFIELD & FRIENDS
Image captionNay Pyi Taw, Myanmar

The friends decided to gather the photos after the news of Sir Bruce’s death broke.

“It’s been quite an operation of digging through Facebook photos to find everything,” Joseph says.

“The second the news happened last week my phone lit up with the Whatsapp group we’re all part of saying, we really have to do something with this trove of photos.”

Clues In Poached Ivory Yield Ages And Locations Of Origin

More than 90 percent of ivory in large, seized shipments came from elephants that died less than three years before, according to a new study.

A team of scientists at the University of Utah, the University of Washington and partner institutions came to this conclusion by combining a new approach to radiocarbon dating for ivory samples with genetic analysis tools developed by UW biology professor Sam Wasser.

Their approach gave conservationists a picture of when and where poachers are killing elephants. The paper, which includes Wasser as a co-author, was published Nov. 7 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“This work provides for the first time actionable intelligence on how long it’s taking illegal ivory to reach the marketplace,” said Lesley Chesson, a co-author and CEO of Isoforensics. “The answer is not long at all, which suggests there are very well-developed and large networks for moving ivory across Africa and out of the continent.”

“Apart from the actual killing, there’s the trade on the ground before it gets to ports, the actual shipments through shipping containers, and then the problem of the demand side,” said Thure Cerling, the study’s lead author and professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Utah. “This additional information can be helpful to people trying to address those issues.”

In June 2016, the United States banned nearly all commerce in elephant ivory, which came 26 years after a ban on international trade in ivory. Both measures aimed to curtail the widespread poaching of elephants, whose numbers have plummeted since the 1980s.

Poaching still claims an estimated 8 percent of African elephants each year, or around 96 elephants per day. Demand for elephant ivory and other illegal products derived from endangered animals has grown in Asia in recent years, opening a fresh battleground in the struggle against illegal ivory, even as U.S. markets shut down.

Bans usually allow the sale of ivory that was legally acquired prior to 1976, including heirloom or antique pieces. Confirming the age of those pieces, however, relies on proper documentation. Traders in illegal ivory sometimes use this clause as a cover, claiming that their wares are older than they really are.

Cerling and his colleagues applied radiocarbon dating — a technique from forensic science — to estimate the age of samples in seized ivory shipments, with some adjustments for a Cold War legacy.

Above-ground nuclear weapons testing through the 1960s doubled the concentration of radioactive carbon-14 in the atmosphere. This heightened carbon-14 signature was preserved in plants — which take up atmospheric carbon — and transferred to herbivores like elephants. Carbon-14 levels have been declining since the 1960s, and scientists can use the carbon-14 signature in a bone, tusk or tooth to determine, within about a year, when the material was formed. And since elephants grow new material at the base of their tusks, the ivory there contains the carbon-14 signature of the plants the elephant has recently eaten.

Chesson said forensic scientists have used this “bomb carbon” signature to estimate the ages of human remains in cold cases and track the transit time of cocaine shipments. But now their team has applied this method to seized ivory.

Wasser led efforts to gather ivory samples from large stockpiles seized by law enforcement officials between 2002 and 2014. Alerted by contacts in law enforcement, officials in the seizing country or from internet monitoring, Wasser collected some samples himself and directed colleagues in sampling the rest. Officials in countries that had seized these samples were helpful and cooperative, he added.

“They really appreciate the collaborative effort,” Wasser said.

These samples consisted of small sections, only one or two inches on a side, from the inside surface of the base of the tusk — the freshest material with the radiocarbon signature most recent to the death of the elephant. Wasser said the sight of so many tusks in one place was distressing, particularly the tusks of young elephants shot by poachers to attract other larger elephants.

“Sometimes, many of the tusks are so small that you can’t understand why the animal was even killed,” Wasser said. “Tusks can weigh less than one pound, with almost no carvable ivory on them.”

Of the 231 samples Wasser collected, only one returned an age of greater than 6 years between the time of the elephant’s death and the seizure of the ivory — known as the lag time. Nearly all of the analyzed ivory had a lag time of around two to three years, suggesting that the shipments did not come from stockpiles or from old sources. Instead, large shipments of ivory are likely composed of recently poached pieces.

“This work demonstrates that little or no ‘old’ ivory, like that held in government stockpiles, is ending up on the black market, which is good news for the security and monitoring of those stockpiles,” Chesson said. “There is no other way to get such intelligence without a technique like ‘bomb-curve’ radiocarbon dating.”

Combining Cerling’s radiocarbon data with Wasser’s genetic analysis to determine the geographic origin of the ivory, the researchers constructed a picture of which regions have established rapid pipelines to get poached ivory to market. In the study, seized ivory is classified as either originating in East Africa, the Tridom region of west-central Africa, West Africa or Zambia. Additionally, samples were classified as having a rapid lag time of less than 12 months, intermediate lag time of 12 to 24 months or a slow lag time of greater than 24 months.

Ivory attributed to East Africa had a higher proportion of rapid-transit samples than the other regions, suggesting a strong distribution pipeline from the region. Ivory from Tridom was more likely to contain slow-transit ivory, and both West African and Zambian ivory exhibited intermediate lag times. The information, Cerling said, can help law enforcement focus on the worst poaching regions and also provide information on the health of elephant populations.

“If all of the seizures are really recent, within the past two to three years, we can use that to determine the overall killing rate of elephants in Africa,” Cerling said.

Time is running out for elephants, but these new analysis tools may help law enforcement officials plug the ivory-smuggling networks.

Co-authors were Janet Barnette with IsoForensics, Iain Douglas-Hamilton with Save the Elephants and Oxford University, Kathleen Gobush with Vulcan, Kevin Uno of Columbia University and Xiaomei Xu at the University of California, Irvine. The work was funded by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and Save the Elephants.

NASA’s Improved Supersonic Cockpit Display Shows Precise Locations of Sonic Booms

NASA pilots flying supersonic aircraft now have a display that tells them exactly where sonic booms are hitting the ground.

A series of flights, recently flown at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California, featured a display that allowed NASA research pilots the ability to physically see their sonic footprint on a map as the boom occurred. The series, which marked the second phase of the Cockpit Interactive Sonic Boom Display Avionics project, or CISBoomDA, continued from the project’s first phase, where only a flight test engineer could see the display.

Engineers and researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center monitored the flights, and were able to observe the mapping of the sonic boom carpet from the F-18, from the center’s Mission Control Center. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

Engineers and researchers at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center monitored the flights, and were able to observe the mapping of the sonic boom carpet from the F-18, from the center’s Mission Control Center.
Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

With the ability to observe the location of their aircraft’s sonic booms, pilots can better keep the loud percussive sounds from disturbing communities on the ground.

Sonic booms occur when an aircraft’s speed exceeds Mach 1, the speed of sound, causing an air density change to occur and sending shockwaves away from the aircraft. Upon reaching the ground, those shockwaves are perceived audibly as a sometimes loud, disruptive sonic boom. Civilian aircraft are currently prohibited from flying supersonically over land, to prevent communities on the ground from being startled by sonic booms.

NASA has researched supersonic flight for decades, and is working to identify and develop the methods and tools necessary to mitigate the sonic boom. Recent research projects, such as the Background Oriented Schlieren using Celestial Objects, or BOSCO, and Sonic Booms in Atmospheric Turbulence, or SonicBAT, are helping engineers and researchers accomplish this, through further understanding of how supersonic shockwaves travel through the air.

CISBoomDA project manager Brett Pauer says the display will be a useful tool for supersonic-related projects in the future.

The display is there to minimize the impact of sonic booms on the ground. Sonic booms generally don’t cause damage at higher altitudes, but they can disturb people, and we want to make sure that we are good stewards to the public,” said Pauer. “The use of this software allows pilots to maximize their flight, and still not bother people on the ground, if used properly.”

The CISBoomDA display allows the pilot of a supersonic aircraft to monitor the locations of any sonic booms produced, to prevent the aircraft from positioning booms in restricted areas. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

The CISBoomDA display allows the pilot of a supersonic aircraft to monitor the locations of any sonic booms produced, to prevent the aircraft from positioning booms in restricted areas.
Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

NASA’s supersonic research projects are helping engineers develop the means to design and build a proposed Low Boom Flight Demonstrator experimental aircraft, or X-plane, as part of the agency’s New Aviation Horizons initiative. The X-plane would be designed to demonstrate what NASA believes could be a quieter thump in place of the louder sonic boom. This could, in the future, introduce the opportunity to permit supersonic flight over land.

The display used in the CISBoomDA Phase II flights, however, is not limited to just the proposed X-plane, according to Pauer.

“This isn’t just for the Low Boom Flight Demonstrator, it’s for any supersonic aircraft. There are several companies that are looking to build supersonic aircraft that wouldn’t produce a low boom, and would still be restricted from supersonic flight over land. This would give them a way to show their sonic boom footprint over water,” explained Pauer. “So let’s say you’re flying from Miami to New York. You can see how far off the coast you need to be to not have that boom hit land.”

The display used in CISBoomDA Phase II was operated by the flight test engineer in the backseat of a NASA F-18 research aircraft, and was transmitted to the pilot’s display in the front seat. The project team integrated a research-quality GPS to feed into the system, updating the positioning software from the aircraft’s previous inertial navigation system, improving position accuracy to within 10 to 20 feet.

CISBoomDA principal investigator Ed Haering says the flights were designed to simulate boundaries on the ground, to help pilots practice monitoring the booms, and to keep the booms from impacting potentially populated areas.

Flight Test Engineer Jacob Schaefer inspects the Cockpit Interactive Sonic Boom Display Avionics, or CISBoomDA, from the cockpit of his F-18 at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California. Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

Flight Test Engineer Jacob Schaefer inspects the Cockpit Interactive Sonic Boom Display Avionics, or CISBoomDA, from the cockpit of his F-18 at NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California.
Credits: NASA Photo / Ken Ulbrich

“We flew in the High Altitude Supersonic Corridor, which is one place we’re allowed to fly supersonically. The sonic boom carpet width, when you are 30,000 feet up, is about 30-miles wide. So we told him to fly as if the boundaries represent places you can’t boom past, and he flew to get the carpet to the edge of that boundary, but not past it,” Haering said.

The display is able to show the location of sonic booms based on tracking the aircraft’s trajectory and altitude, and is founded on an algorithm designed by Ken Plotkin of Wyle Laboratories, who died in 2015.

That algorithm is also being used by two companies, contracted by NASA, to develop similar displays, with more of a predictive element.

Honeywell Aerospace in Phoenix, Arizona, and Rockwell Collins in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, are both working in collaboration with NASA’s CISBoomDA project to develop displays with predictive capabilities. While the CISBoomDA display in NASA’s F-18 shows the real-time location of sonic booms, the displays being developed by Honeywell and Rockwell Collins, using the same algorithm, are looking to see where sonic boom locations would be on the ground, based on a planned flightpath.

“What Rockwell Collins and Honeywell are developing actually runs on the same algorithm as our display, but uses a predictive capability to show your booms on a proposed flightpath,” said Haering. “The pilot can adjust a proposed flightpath to avoid sonic booms in a particular spot, and then lock it in and fly that path.”

The display will ultimately be used to help NASA proceed with supersonic research in a way that minimizes disturbance on the ground and provides practice with the future of supersonic technology for pilots such as NASA research pilot Nils Larson.

“Flying with the CISBoomDA display was really interesting,” Larson stated. “It was great to have it in the cockpit, and I think it’s a valuable tool for the future. As a matter of fact, I’ve asked to be allowed to start using the display on my proficiency flights, just so I can keep practicing with it.”