We had been travelling in a campervan in Western Australia for over three weeks and hadn’t yet experienced a night like our first night in Cervantes. The storm had continued for many hours and we were lucky that our van hadn’t sprung a leak. The next day we woke to find that the sky was “showing enough patches of blue to make a sailor’s shirt” (old Kiwi saying!) Our visit to the Pinnacles in the Nambung National Park was not going to be stopped by the weather.
The pinnacles themselves are tall rocks that appear to have been set up by dreamtime humanity in this section of the National Park, lined up in ragged rows and looking similar to the rows of standing stones (menhirs) set up by pre-Celtic people in Carnac in Brittany. Those French standing stones were granite and were chiselled by prehistoric people, these pinnacles are limestone and have revealed no involvement of humanity in their creation.
We weren’t quite sure from our research how we were going to inspect these standing stones but all was revealed after our 23Km drive from Cervantes to the Pinnacles. As we should have guessed, the National Park had set up a circuit that enabled us to drive around the park, pulling off the road whenever we need to get a closer look at the pinnacle stones.
The landscape of the Pinnacles reminded us of Cappadocia, Turkey where natural forces of wind and flooding rain had created huge chimneys of rock throughout extensive areas of this famous region. The pinnacles clearly registered plenty of signs of wind but not so much the flooding rain. They were also much smaller than the ‘chimneys’ of Cappadocia. For those tourists who like clear answers, the cause of the creation of the pinnacles is still being argued about by the geologists.
We had been warned by many signs throughout Western Australia to watch our speed and not run over the native animals such as the kangaroos and emus. However, the first emus we spotted on tour were the ones majestically strolling through the pinnacles, in no apparent hurray to find food in this field of rocks.
At one point we had alighted from our vehicle and found the entrance to a civilized, paved walk that led us through an area of significant vegetation in contrast to the previous areas of moonscape; we were hoping to see more emus. The walking path led us to the highest point in the area where we gained a good view over the fields of standing stones. After walking for a while we found ourselves back at the visitor centre that we had passed at the entrance to the Pinnacles. It was at this point in the day that the rain began again and so we decided we would check out the Pinnacles Gallery and Gift Shop before finding our way back to the van.
The diagram below from the visitor centre gave us a few clues as to how the pinnacles came about, showing the three layers of limestone with the ‘orange’ layer being the one that was carved by the environment to form the limestone pinnacles. The next diagram entitled, ‘The Formation of the Pinnacles’ (from the Namburg Park Visitors Guide) attempts to give a more complete theory of how the pinnacles developed from this sandy landscape.
Despite these useful diagrammatic methods of explaining the development of the pinnacles, one of the boards in the Visitor Centre illustrates the continuing level of uncertainly in explaining the curious local geology. “…Just how the limestone formed in the shape of pinnacles continues to puzzle scientists. Current research favours two explanations. In both, plants act as a critical catalyst. Both also remain controversial and may be challenged as new research takes place.”
To finish my account of our fascinating visit to the pinnacles in the Nambung National Park, I’ll leave it to the wisdom of the following board from the Visitor Centre.