March, 8 2010
Burrup Peninsular
William L Fox

Stories replacing stories

First thing the next day we hike up a hill in Deep Gorge to see the petroglyphs of the now-vanished fat-tailed kangaroo, an image executed on a large flat boulder face hanging over the valley, and that of a a thylacine (also known as the Tasmanian tiger, the world's largest known carnivorous marsupial). The outline of the legendary animal with its distinctive stripped torso is about four feet long, about life-sized. It's a picture of a species that's been extinct or nearly so for perhaps two thousand years on the mainland, and the last known specimen from Tasmania died in captivity in 1936, which makes the image a spectacular record of change over time. Barry and Mark and I perch on the fine-grained red granitophyre granite boulders taking notes, surrounded by abstract designs, images of animals, and one of the earliest known representations of a human face. Across the small estuarial valley from us, the artificial flat created by a dike that still floods during cyclones--more of that earthmoving by humans--the huge desalinisation plant is booming away, creating a soundscape as well as a landscape. There's another of the small monitoring stations below us, and kangaroos and rock wallabies are wandering about the savanna-like opening to the gorge, the Spinifex punctuated by small trees.

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