Simpson Desert

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Coordinates: 24°34′S 137°25′E / 24.57°S 137.42°E / -24.57; 137.42

The Simpson Desert is a large area of dry, red sandy plain and dunes in central Australia[1][2].

The Simpson Desert is underlain by the Great Artesian Basin, one of the largest inland drainage areas in the world. Water from the basin rises to the surface at numerous natural springs, including Dalhousie Springs, and at bores drilled along stock routes, or during petroleum exploration. As a result of exploitation by such bores, the flow of water to springs has been steadily decreasing in recent years.

The Simpson Desert is an erg which contains the world's longest parallel sand dunes.[3] These north-south oriented dunes are static, held in position by vegetation. They vary in height from 3 metres in the west to around 30 metres on the eastern side. The largest and most famous dune, Nappanerica, or more popularly Big Red (named by Simpson Desert traveller Dennis Bartell), is 40 metres in height.[4]



The explorer Charles Sturt,[5] who visited the region from 1844-1846, was the first European to see the desert, but it was not until 1936 that Ted Colson became the first white person to cross it in its entirety. The name Simpson Desert was coined by Cecil Madigan[6], after Alfred Allen Simpson, an Australian philanthropist, geographer, and president of the Royal Geographical Society of South Australia.

No maintained roads cross the desert. However, there are tracks that were created during seismic surveys in the search for gas and oil during the 1960s and 1970s. These include the French Line, the Rig Road, and the QAA Line. Such tracks are still navigable by well-equipped four-wheel-drive vehicles which must carry extra fuel and water. Towns providing access to the South Australian edge of the Simpson Desert include Innaminka to the south and Oodnadatta to the southwest; and from the eastern (Queensland) side include Birdsville, Bedourie, Thargomindah and Windorah. Last fuel on the western side is at the Mount Dare hotel and store. Before 1980, a section of the Commonwealth Railways Central Australian line passed along the western side of the Simpson Desert.

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