Australia: The Land Where Time Began

A biography of the Australian continent 

Nambung National Park - The Pinnacles

Pinnacle Desert, western Australia      

This park is about 250 km north of Perth and can be visited as a long day trip or on the way north to the many other national parks in Western Australia. 

The main area of interest in this park is the Pinnacle Desert, between the extensive white beach and the dunes. This unusual scenery is part of a region on the Indian Ocean coast of Western Australia. Not actually a desert, it is a number of differently coloured sand dunes with merge with dry heathlands. Some dunes are a glaring white with no vegetation cover. Mostly they are golden-orange, hard packed, and covered with a sparse vegetation. The pinnacles occur in a number of separate patches between the dunes. They are mostly 1-2 metres high, but some reach 5 metres. In most places there are also many small thin limestone structures that resemble twigs. They vary in size from a few centimetres to 20 cm, and each has a hole running down the centre. They are thought to be thin limestone cases that covered tree roots. The pale columns contrast strongly with the deep blue sky. At dawn and dusk they have golden glow but at night, when the strong, cold wind blows in from the sea, their silhouettes create an eerie landscape. The main part of this formation has been described as reminiscent of the surrealist landscapes painted by Salvador Dali. 

More about the Pinnacles.

They are mostly a sandy-yellow colour with streaks of white and cream, and some have a slightly pinkish hue or patches of purple or brown. They Weathered by the wind has produced a variety of shapes and their surface texture ranges from smooth to porous. Most of the pillars has the appearance of an eroded statue or the ruins of a building.

The Tombstones

A bit further south is a group of pinnacles known locally as the Tombstones. This group of pillars have been exposed longer than other pinnacles and have a weathered dark grey colouring. The upper portions of the columns are covered by a mottled patchwork of whitish and pale green lichens. The combination of their colour, the lichen and the low scrub that surrounds them gives them the sombre appearance of a neglected graveyard. The forgotten graveyard for the lost city to the north.

The environment at Nambung is extremely fragile and susceptible to erosion. 

Why did they remain undiscovered for hundreds of years after European contact?

There is a bit of a mystery concerning their discovery occurring in the 1950s. In the mid-17th Century Dutch navigators were using the consolidated dunes called North Hummock and South Hummock as landmarks. The first explorers to pass the area in 1939 and 1848 did not mention the pinnacles. The Aboriginal People who usually have a story about the formation of every large rock, and in the case of Ayre's Rock, Uluru to the Aboriginal People, every pock mark in its sides has a story explaining it. But the Aboriginal People living in the area of the pinnacles at the time of white settlement don't seem to have any myths or stories about them.

It is known they are a recent phenomena, and there is evidence that they have been covered and exposed a number of times. Maybe their latest uncovering only occurred in the mid 20th Century.

Sources & Further reading



Geology of the Northern Perth Basin, Western Australia - a field guide 

Author: M. H. Monroe
Last Updated  19/04/2017


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