Geotourism potential of oldest rocks on earth

PANGAEA ULTIMA: What the world looked like 250 million years ago with Eyre Peninsula in the red circle.
PANGAEA ULTIMA: What the world looked like 250 million years ago with Eyre Peninsula in the red circle.

The Eyre Peninsula is home to some of the world’s oldest geological events and could be a haven for geotourism, according to geophysicist Professor Graham Heinson. 

Professor Heinson spoke about EP’s geological features at last week’s first Nature on Eyre conference in Coffin Bay, receiving an immense response from the more than 150 guests. 

“What I tried to do was put a big-picture spin on the geology here so talking about what are the big things that have happened in the past,” Professor Heinson said. 

Those “big things” include the giant meteorite impact on Lake Acraman 580 million years ago, the supervolcano and the effects that can be seen across the Gawler Ranges, as well as the locations of various changes to the landscape dating back more than 3 billion years.

Professor Heinson’s presentation included a video transition of where the Eyre Peninsula began in the super continent, Pangaea Ultima, 250 million years ago. 

“It’s that big-picture thing that people probably hadn’t seen before,” he said. 

Professor Heinson has visited the EP on a number of occasions for work as a geophysicist and said he also liked to visit due to the area being such a “unique geological province” as part of the historic Gawler Craton. 

“It preserves a history of the earth in the rocks, because the rocks are some of the oldest on the planet.

“I talked to a few people about geotourism because there are such special places here that there could be a bigger tourist interest.”

These sites include Cape Garnaut and Whalers Way for the “beautifully spectacular” rock formations, Lake Acraman, which is the site of one of the largest meteors to hit earth, and the Gawler Ranges, due to the historical volcanic pipes from the supervolcano.

“The oldest part of the Gawler Craton is the Middleback Ranges about 50 kilometres west of Whyalla and it is 3150 million years old.”

He said people at the conference loved the idea of the continents moving and the fact Australia would be a part of a new super continent in the future. 

Professor Heinson said Australia was moving north by four centimetres yearly. 

“The idea that we’re a dynamic earth is quite an interesting one,” he said. 

Ungarra farmer Graham Pugsley said he was surprised to find Professor Heinson’s presentation on the geological history of the region interesting.  

Professor Heinson said often when geology was discussed people thought “rocks, rocks, rocks and more rocks”.

“But what I was trying to do a little bit was to say that it’s not so much the rocks, it’s that they preserve a history and really this is a special area.

“People should be very proud that they live in such a special place.”