Somersaults in the Sand

Mapping Australia’s riches

Even today, spending weeks in Australia’s outback is not for the faint-hearted, even if you were in searcSomersaultsPICh of the riches that lie beneath Australia’s soil.

Somersaults in the Sand tells the story of that time. Canberra author and geologist Alastair Stewart was among a group of intrepid explorers tasked with mapping the complex picture of Australia’s geology. From the early 1960s they headed out into the middle of nowhere, often spending weeks at a time in remote, inhospitable areas, to do their work.

Survival was an important consideration too; in starkly beautiful terrain they had to deal with heat, dust, fire, wind and snakes, not to mention the ever-present problem of mechanical repair to vehicles when far away from convenient garages, or the trials of field kitchens and tinned food.

Alastair Stewart went on field missions until 2000 and his book tells of colourful outback characters, dangerous moments and funny times. It is a wealth of geological information and discoveries, explained in a way both laymen and scientists can appreciate, and it’s a testimony to the pioneering efforts of the people who mapped the country.

As much as it is a story of discovery and adventure, it is also a story of outback Australia in decades past.