In 2016 I did residency projects at Hamelin Pool Caravan Park and Mount Augustus Tourist Park. I was fascinated by the deep time connection between the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool and Mount Augustus. Mount Augustus has it origins in the collision of the Pilbara and Yilgarn cratons approximately two billion years ago. I imagined the islands forming between the two cratons as they approached each other. around these islands I envisaged stromatolites growing. At my residency at Hamelin Pool I spent many days sitting next to the stromatolites thinking about the unfolding of life on Earth. On new year 2017 I was alone with the stromatolites, the stars were incredible that night. Hamelin Pool is home to the most extensive living stromatolite system in the world, the organisms thrive in the area’s hypersaline water, which is twice as saline as normal seawater. Stromatolites – Greek for ‘layered rock’ – are microbial reefs created by cyanobacteria. These deposits built up very slowly, a single 1m structure may be 2,000 to 3,000 years old. But the tiny microbes that make up modern stromatolites are similar to organism that existed 3.5 billion years ago. Consider that the Earth itself has been around for 4.5 billion years, and that Homo sapiens have only been on Earth for 195,000 years. Stromatolites are the reason why we’re alive. Before cyanobacteria, the air was only 1% oxygen. Then, for 2 billion years, our photosynthesising stromatolites pumped oxygen into the oceans (like underwater trees, before trees existed). When the oceans’ waters were saturated, oxygen was released into the air, and with around 20% of oxygen in the air, life was able to flourish and evolve. Mount Augustus National Park is located 852 km north of Perth, 490 km by road east of Carnarvon and 390 km northwest of Meekatharra, in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia. Mount Augustus is composed of sandstone and conglomerate, a formation known to geologists as the Mount Augustus Sandstone, which overlies older granite near its northern end. The Mount Augustus Sandstone was deposited by ancient river systems and is somewhat younger than the 1.64 billion year old granite beneath. The originally horizontal sediments have been folded into an asymmetric anticline by later tectonic movements. The mountain was formed as the result an uplift which buckled, folded and tilted the rocks as it raised the ancient beds. The result was a huge inverted V which is known as an anticline.
My evening talk at the museum at Hamelin Pool. I titled it “From the Big Bang to the Big Freeze”.
Journal drawings of stomatolites
Here you can see on the left the collision between the Pilbara and Yilgarn Cratons