Great sandy desert (Australia)

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Basic data
Geographic location : 20 °  S , 125 °  E Coordinates: 20 °  S , 125 °  E
Surface: 267,250 km²
Annual rainfall: 250-300 mm
daily maximum temperature:
35 ° C
IBRA 6.1 Great Sandy Desert.png
Australian deserts

The Great Sandy Desert ( Engl. Great Sandy Desert ) is an Australian desert in the northwest of the continent , which with an area of 267,250 square kilometers from northeast of the state of Western Australia to the southwest of the Northern Territory covers. It is very sparsely populated and has no major settlements except around the Telfer Mine and the Yulara tourist area near Uluṟu . It represents a flat land between the mountain ranges of the Pilbara and the Kimberley Mountains. In the northeast it joins the Tanami Desert , in the south the Gibson Desert and in the southwest the Small Sand Desert .

Discovery story

The first European to cross this desert was Peter Warburton . He left Alice Springs in April 1873 and arrived at De Gray Station on the coast of Western Australia in January 1874, severely exhausted and blind in one eye . He owed his survival to Charley, an Aboriginal tracker .


Before the European colonization, the Aborigines lived nomadically in the Great Sand Desert as hunters and gatherers , which is part of the Western Desert cultural area . In this desert live the Martu Aborigines in the west and the Pintupi in the east.

The geological formations Uluṟu and Kata Tjuṯa were spiritually and ceremonially very important for the Aborigines: There are more than 40 sacred sites named by them and 11 different songlines from the dreamtime . Some of these songlines lead to the seas in all directions.

Significant Aboriginal settlements are in Warburton in Western Australia on the border of the Great Sand Desert and Gibson Desert and in Papunya in the Northern Territory. The settlements in the desert are home to significant Aboriginal artists .

In 1964, a target area in the Great Sandy Desert was searched for people by two whites in the run-up to military missile tests for the Blue Streak missile . There was an encounter with 20 Martu Aboriginal women who had never seen a white man. This encounter was filmed in the 2009 documentary Contact .


The flat sedimentary rocks of the Canning , Amadeus and Ngalia sedimentary basins extend below the red sand dunes of the desert . The landscape is characterized by sand plains and dunes. In Western Australia, the up to one hundred kilometers long dunes extend in different directions in the northwest and in the Northern Territory, which are also much smaller there.

Erosion forms, called domes , near Kings Canyon

From the sandstone of the Jura and the chalk in the Canning and Amadeus Basin, sand dunes formed from quartz grains that come from the Quaternary . The slopes of the lower mountains in the southeast of the desert are made of rocks made of clay and quartz . The mountain landscapes were subject to severe erosion , especially from strongly flowing water. This can still be seen today at Uluṟu, Kata Tjuṯa and Kings Canyon . The ephemeral rivers formed by heavy rainfall have been inactive for a long time, forming watersheds. These watersheds created the Anketell Range to the west and the Southwest Tableland to the east. To the north of the watersheds, Sturt Creek used to flow through the desert past Mandora Station to Eighty Mile Beach . To the south of the deserts, the Percival Lakes show the presence of rivers in the past. Outcrops show deposits and evaporite that are evidence of the drainage system in the desert from the Paleocene . The Lake Amadeus , a salt lake, which lies in the Northern Territory, has today supplied no more inflow of surface water and from groundwater.


The climate in the north of the desert is tropical-arid and the further south it extends, it becomes tropical-temperate. Rain only falls during the monsoons in the summer months, especially in the north. Weather measurements only take place at Yulura and Telfer.

Summer maximum temperatures are among the highest in Australia. The thermometer in the north of the desert rises to an average of 37 to 38 ° C, in the central part of the desert even to an average of 38 to 42 ° C. During the short winter, the average temperature drops to 25-30 ° C. The annual rainfall is not so low, especially in the area of ​​the coast and near the Kimberleys, at around 300 millimeters per year, but the rain falls here very irregularly. So there are dry seasons of several years without a drop of rainwater, which then end in a tropical cyclone with enormous amounts of water. But also in the other areas of the desert, the annual rainfall of around 250 millimeters (it looks similar in other Australian deserts) is relatively high for a desert region. The increased proportion of rain is compensated for by an extreme rate of evaporation from the heat.

Almost all of the rain also comes in very limited periods of time and is attributable to monsoons or the occasional cyclone. These thunderstorms make up a proportion of 20 to 30 days a year, in the area of ​​the Kimberley Mountains the proportion even increases to 30 to 40 days.

fauna and Flora

The high temperatures and the associated extreme rate of evaporation only allow a few grasses to survive. The desert is dominated by spinifex and hummock grass , and in the south by low tree land and bushes. Rare plants also grow in the wet gorges in the Uluṟu-Kata-Tjuṯa National Park and in the wetlands on the Rudall River and Lake Dora.

In the 1980s, field studies of the desert area counted 37 mammals and 178 bird and 70 reptile species in the Uluṟu area. On the southern border of the Uluṟu, a scorpion ( Cercophonius squama ), a worm relic and a snake ( Basedowena olgana ) have been found at Kata Tjuṯa and Mount Conner .

In the desert around the Uluṟu there are the pouch mole (Notoryctes typhlops), desert mouse ( Pseudomys desertor ) and the skink ( Ctenotus septenarius ). The Greater Rabbit Nose Bumblebee ( Macrotis lagotis ) lives in the area of ​​Western Australia . The dingo ( Canis lupus dingo ), the mouse species ( Sminthopsis young soni ), Australian Hüpfmaus ( Notomys alexis ), Australian sham mouse ( Pseudomys chapmani ) ( Pseudomys hermannsburgensis ) and the bat ( chalinolobus gouldi ) were Rudall River National Park seen. Grass hatchers such as ( Stipiturus ruficeps ) and ( Amytornis striatus ) occur, as well as the golden parakeet ( Neophema splendids ) and the honey eater ( Conopophila whitei ). The large sandy desert is also considered to be the main distribution center of the Alexandras Parakeet, a parrot species that is strongly adapted to life in arid regions.


Mines and tourism are economically important. At the southeast end of the desert there is a large landscape with Uluṟu, Kata Tjuṯa and Kings Canyon, which is visited by numerous tourists. Larger oil deposits are suspected in the canning basin . So far, however, this search has remained unsuccessful except for small finds at a depth of 40 to 50 meters. One of the largest gold deposits in Australia is being mined in the Telfer Mine . In the desert is the Nifty Mine , a copper mine, and the Kintyre uranium deposit south of Telfer, which has not been exploited for mining.

Individual evidence

  1. : Desert , in English, accessed February 27, 2013
  2. a b c d e ( memento of June 9, 2009 in the Internet Archive ): Great Sandy Desert , in English, accessed on February 26, 2013
  3. : Denison Deasey: Warburton, Peter Egerton (1813–1889) , in English, accessed March 1, 2012