Information on this blog is raw and sometimes unverified reporting straight from the road by teams. The event will issue a media release for any events requiring an official notification.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Michigan: Route Survey - Day 7

Day breaks, and the car starts up. We give thanks for lead-acid chemistry. Back on the road, we fuel up at Renner Springs and then proceed to the third control stop, Tennant Creek at 988 km from Darwin. We should hit this point sometime in the morning of the second day of the race.

We stop and spend the morning climbing the Devil's Marbles, an amazing formation of rounded red boulders. These formed due to natural erosion of a granite slab formed 1.7 billion years ago from an upwelling of magma into the surrounding sandstone. Cracks in the granite allowed water to seep in, eroding the boulders which were further shaped by wind erosion. The resulting formations look as if someone has stacked rounded rocks on top of each other.

We fuel again at Wycliffe Well, which is notable mostly because it was the site of numerous UFO sightings. The roadhouse is decorated with various aliens, copies of old newspaper articles, and a greeting sign that reads "humans also welcome". Two little green men wave from a conical spacecraft that appear to have been constructed primarily from old radio antenna parts. We suspect that the Outback might loosen a few screws after too many years of living in the bush.

Just south of Wycliffe, we hit a section of road that is perfectly straight. For 42 km. Some slight undulations in elevation, but the car is otherwise traveling in a straight line for over 20 minutes. There's not much out here in the Outback. We pass the Aileron roadhouse, notable for a very large statue (even bigger than the koala - see comments to Part I) of an aboriginal man walking on a hill behind the roadhouse. Otherwise its pretty desolate out here.

We reach Alice Springs, the midpoint of the race, at midday. Alice Springs, at about 1500 km from Darwin, will be a "stage stop" in the 2007 WSC, meaning that all vehicles will be held at the stage stop for a day and then re-released in the order they arrived. The fastest teams could be reaching Alice Springs late on the second day of the race, with the rest of the pack arriving on the third day. This puts an interesting wrinkle into strategy, as we will likely have most of Tuesday, October 23 to sit in Alice Springs charging the battery from the sun as we wait for the Wednesday restart.

We get back on the road in the afternoon after restocking our food supplies. About 130 km to the south of Alice, we turn off onto a very rough dirt road to visit the Henbury Meteorite Craters. We arrive after 15 km of washboard roads, washed-out dips, and dodging wandering cows. The craters are the remains of the 4000 year old impact of a meteorite about the size of a fuel drum. The meteor broke into 4 large and many smaller pieces in the atmosphere, and the Henbury site we visited is the location of the 4 main strikes. The craters are quite fascinating - the largest crater is about 180 m across and 15 m deep. It is actually two craters which formed close enough together that the wall between them was destroyed in the impact. Two smaller craters from the other two large pieces of the meteorite flank the main crater. Erosion has worn down the lips of the craters, leaving small valleys with a great deal of vegetation (water collects in the basins, forming a small ecosystem unique in the area). Apparently Apollo astronauts visited these craters in preparation for the moon landings.

After rejoining the highway, we continue south, passing Kulgera and reaching the border between the Northern Territory and South Australia. We set up camp and go to sleep after a little bit of "now I'm in NT - now I'm in SA" hopping about.

--Garrick Williams