A Dead Sea’s Ripples

February 21, 2024

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Photographer: Rick Stankiewicz   
Summary Author: Rick Stankiewicz

Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory of Australia is close to the center of the country (continent), just northeast of Kings Creek Station along the Luritja Road. It’s home to many geologic treasures. This particular site was accessed as part of the Kings Canyon, Rim Walk. While trekking this 6 km (4.8 mi) trail on May 21, 2014, I observed this exquisite example of a beautifully preserved portion of seabed from 400 million years ago (mya). It lies 100 m (325 ft) above the surrounding plains.

It’s hard to imagine the raised parched landscape of the present location ever containing much water, let alone a sea, but the evidence is written in stone. This photo shows the details of ripples that once formed in shallow waters of a long extinct sea. However, even 400 mya Central Australia was still a windswept plain with many sand dunes, but there were evidently large bodies of water and rivers that ran through the plains. The foundational material of these ripples became part of the Mereenie Sandstone Formation that was then covered by softer material, since worn away to expose the well-preserved evidence of this ancient sea.

Photo Details: Canon EOS Digital Rebel XTi (400D) camera; Canon EFS 18-200 zoom lens: f/8; ISO 200-400; 1/125 seconds; 18-35 mm.

Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory Australia Coordinates: -24.279722, 131.558333

Related Links:

Geology of Kings Canyon National Park

Ripple Marks in Gower Gulch

New and Ancient Ripple Marks

Wallaman Falls, Australia