Rescuing Explorers’ Wells in the Yilgarn

Cockburn 4WD Club is aligned with the Wells and Tracks Project and actively pursues the objectives of finding, refurbishing and protecting explorer and pioneer wells.

In June 2021, in conjunction with three Members of the Mitsubishi 4WD Owners Club of WA, we travelled to the Yilgarn to rescue Kodjerning Well, one of the 26 wells built by explorer/surveyor C.C. Hunt in 1865/66 to secure a track from York to the Hampton Plains. It had been degraded since 2015, and possibly before, and was in danger of imminent collapse.

We set up camp at Moorine Rock and on Thursday afternoon refurbished the well there.

On Friday our convoy of nine vehicles travelled to Karolin Rock and removed the incorrectly placed Bicentennial plaque from there. It will be relocated to Karalee Rocks in the near future.

As part of Australia’s Bicentennial celebrations in 1988, plaques were placed at each of Hunts Wells as part of the York to Goldfields Heritage Trail. For unknown reasons but probably because of the similar sounding names, the plaque destined for Caroling Rocks was placed at Karolin Rock, 90 kilometres away. Bush historian and keen follower of Hunt’s exploits, Gary Arcus, noticed the out-of-place plaque when he visited Karolin Rocks in mid 2020, not long after Covid19 travel restrictions within Western Australia were lifted.

Apart from the fact that Karolin Rock was not on Hunt’s Track, it is clear that the wording on the plaque referred to Carolling Rocks not Karolin Rock.

Both Karolin Rocks and Caroling Rocks are in the Shire of Yilgarn, which made coordination of the relocation of the plaque hassle free. However, the plaque will not be relocated to Carolling Rocks. The rock Hunt referred to as Caroling/Karolling in 1865-66 is actually current day Karalee Rock. However, the name Karalee wasn’t used until 1890 when recorded by surveyor N.M. Brazier. Present day Carolling Rocks are 3.4 kilometres south-south-west of Karalee. It is likely that Hunt never visited these rocks.

I had made made arrangements with Robert Bosenberg, Executive Manager Infrastructure at the Shire of Yilgarn for our IBC to be filled with 1000 litres of water at Moorine Rock (the tiny town on Great Eastern Highway). We had to meet with the Shire team there at 1100. The IBC was filled and we headed to Kodjerning Well, 13 kilometres to the north.

The fence had dropped, the gate wouldn’t open, the well was overgrown with vegetation, trees had fallen on the fence and other vegetation was crowding the area. More importantly three large holes had formed behind the wall of the well and it was unstable and unlikely to withstand many more exceptional rainfall events.

On Saturday we spent all day at Kodjerning to complete the task. Joanne and Tracey worked as hard as the men with Tracey assisting in creating a new oxymoron for the lexicon – “light mattock work”.

After two days of hard work we decided a Road Trip was in order. On Sunday morning we travelled to nearby Keokanie Rock where C.C. Hunt established a depot in 1865 while trying to find a way through to Lake Koorkoordine, north of Southern Cross.

Next stop was Sandford Rocks, a huge granite outcrop along Hunts Track.

We left Sandford Rocks to see the most recently-worked open pit at the Edna May mine at Westonia – just as they were about to blast.

It was then onto Boodallin Soak on the Westonia Commons.

We drove through the Reserve, removed a few trees from across the track, and headed to Burracoppin. Hunt’s Well at Burracoppin is at Lansdowne Hill, where a motocross track has been constructed. A sign with “Hunts Well 1865” painted on it is located at the carpark. Hunt’s Well is not there. Nor, now, is the sign.

Eight hundred metres east of the well is an Information Point about the 1800+ kilometre long Rabbit Proof Fence, surveyed and built 1901-1905. This was early but failed attempt at biosecurity – the rabbits reached the fence before it was finished. The gates and wells along the Fence are numbered from Burracoppin.

We continued along Goldfields Road to Carrabin. A great drive. Andrew’s need to refuel there created a serendipitous moment for the car lovers in the group as we were able to look in a car transporter with a difference – full of exotic and expensive automotive machinery.

On Monday we headed back to Karolin Rock to start clearing access to the well before returning home.

Scott had an appointment at Mukinbudin for a few hours hence so he stayed at Karolin, continuing to clear away overgrown vegetation. In the process he found a third well.

Clearly the three structures are linked, however, until the overgrowth is removed, how the system operated is unclear.

Thanks to Anne Brandis of Mukinbudin for coordination assistance in the planning stages of this Trip/Project.

Thanks to Club Member Steve Cook for valuable advice on how to refurbish Kodjerning Well.

 

© Cockburn 4WD Club and Kim Epton 2021
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Posted in Extended Trips.