Australia For Visitors > Nullarbor Plain, SA and WA

Nullarbor Plain
South Australia and Western Australia

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The Nullarbor Plain is a flat, arid or semi, almost treeless ("nullarbor", Latin, treeless) area in southern Australia.

It is 1,100 kilometres (684 mi), stretching from Western Australia in the west and to South Australia in the east. To the north is the Great Victoria Desert; to the south, the Great Australian Bight.


Cook, ghost town, Nullarbor Plain (image)

Cook (South Australia), a ghost town on the railway line crossing the Nullabor Plain


A Little History

For thousands of years the Nullarbor has been home to the Spinfex Wangai aboriginal people.

The first European to cross the Nullarbor was Edward John Eyre in 1840-41 who almost perished in the attempt. He set out from Fowlers Bay, SA in a party of five people and finally, with his Aboriginal companion Wylie, reached the other side in June 1840.

In 1896 Arthur Charles Richardson pedalled a bicycle from Coolgardie, WA to Adelaide, SA. The journey took 38 days and he became the first cyclist to cross the Nullarbor Plain.

Geology, Geography and Climate

The Nullarbor Plain used to be the floor of a shallow sea. Today it is the world's largest single piece of limestock.

There are many subterrean caves, through which the Southern Ocean blows, causing many blowholes some distance inland.

There are many meteorite deposits, which have been well preserved by the area's arid climate. Many of these meteorites around Mundrabilla.

Daytime temperatures rise to 48.5 °C (119.3 °F). Night-time temperatures can fall below zero.





Telegraph Line, Railway, Highway

Following Eyre's successful exploration, a telegraph line was built across the Plain. Construction took two years and the line finally opened in 1877. The telegraph signal was boosted by eight repeater stations.

A railway across the Nullarbor, the Trans-Australian Railway, was constructed, with work beginning in 1917. The original line was built in two sections: the Western Australian section with one rail gauge (that is, width); the South Australia section with a different rail gauge. The line was rebuilt in 1968 with a standardized rail gauge – so that passengers could travel the whole of the Nullarbor without changing trains when the rail gauge changed. Today the passenger train, the Indian Pacific, crosses the Nullarbor Plain regularly. Passengers can travel from Sydney to Adelaide and to Perth (or vice versa) all on the one train.

The Eyre Highway – from Norseman, WA to Port Augusta, SA was built in 1941. Originally it was just a dirt road and gradually (over the next 30 years) more sections were sealed.

Two Records

The Trans-Australian Railway holds the record for the longest straight section of railway line in the world (478 km long).

The Eyre Highway contains the longest straight section of sealed road surface in Australia (146.6 km long).

Flora and Fauna

Flora is mostly low saltbush and bluebush scrub.

Crustraceans, spiders and beetles live in the underground caves, lakes and rivers of the Nullarbor Plain.

The Southern Hairy-Nosed Wombat is an important mammal which shelters from the fiery heat of the Nullabor by burrowing into the sand during the day.
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Author: David Paul Wagner
(David Paul Wagner on Google+)






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