Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Simpson Desert Trek


The Simpson Desert is the most arid desert of Australia, sometimes called the dead heart of Australia. Walking alone in this extreme environment is very rewarding to see the unique wild life and fauna that has been able to adapt itself to the desert. It's the world largest parallel sand dunes desert.

The preparation and the adventure log on the expedition's blog Simpson Desert Trek Australia
The GPS trace of the route.

The project.
Cross the length of the Simpson Desert (North to South) passing through its centre. A world first attempt. To immerse myself into its beauty, explore a new route. Take photos of landscapes, wildlife and film the adventure.

Description: The width of this desert is regularly traversed (East-West) by 4 wheel drives on tracks. But it’s only in June 2006 that an Australian attempted the first crossing by foot without using tracks and passing through the centre of the desert. This man succeeded it by pulling a homemade desert cart weighting 160kg containing his water, food and gear. His route was 400 km long. I aim to carry 35 days of water and food and walk around 800 km. Alone and by foot, I am silent and it allows me to approach wild animals more easily.

Originality: When you reach the South of the desert, you are still far away from civilization. I have to continue further and pass Lake Eyre, the biggest lake in Australia. This means my journey has to eventually go to point 5 and ideally point 6. This lake fills in about 4 times per century so it’s a saltpan. I have to build a desert cart that can resist to a load of 200kg and invent a wheel that will resist the different types of hostile surfaces I will encounter.

  • Heat > 30°C in the shadow increased by reverberation
  • winter: min -2°C, shorter days; I have to walk during the night and using the moonlight
  • Sandstorms, insects
  • Rain: rare but would melt down the saltpans of the lakes and uncover a thick mud.
  • Wild animals: deadly snakes, dingoes (wild dogs), wild camels
  • Spinifex: sort of desert plant that looks like a giant skewers ball: the best way to puncture tires.

The « CamWheel » (Camel on wheels) is made of a new wheel concept to go across the harsh terrains of this desert. The wheels must be flat free, almost indestructible. It’s possible by using airless plain tires. The extra weight is compensated because I don’t need repair gear.

The problem is that plain tires of a large diameter and large width do not exist? Invent a specific wheel for this desert. The wheel concept is based on « green tyre » bicycle wheels. Because of the heavy load, a normal wheel would collapse under stress and fatigue, wheels have thus to be doubled by welding (like for trucks).

To realize this, new spokes, axles and hubs have to be designed. The whole cart will be made of aluminium. The cart will be dismantled in 3 parts for transport (airplane): wheels, frame and 2 pull bars. 

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