"Sailing a dry Lake - Shipwreck on a wet Lake "
The following chronological history of boating on the Lake is by no means complete and will be supplemented as further claims appear. It is compiled from published sources listed in the bibliography, and where available, first person accounts. Although the LEYC primary interest is in yachting significant non yachting flood based events are also noted in this history.
AA - Alvin Atkinson, skipper of the "Ibis" and LEYC Life Member
BS - Brian Sheedy "Exploring Lake Eyre"
DT - Don Thorpe 1976 LE TS 16 Championship Winner
GP - A Grenfell Price, Royal Geographical Society of Australia South Australian Branch
RC - Robert Clark, navigator of the "Ibis" and LEYC Member
RD - Roma Dulhunty "When The Dead Heart Beats Lake Eyre Lives"
RE - Rex Ellis "Bush Safari"
VK - Vincent Kotwicki "Floods of Lake Eyre"
VS - Vincent Serventy "The Desert Sea - The Miracle of Lake Eyre in Flood"
WB - Warren Bonython "Where Seasons Come and Go"
WR - Bill Rice, crew "Red Baron", skipper Kathleen M and LEYC Life Member
TBC - To be confirmed
- Charles Sturt carried a whaleboat on a dray in the
hope that he may reach the fabled inland sea. The boat was abandoned in the
vicinity of Depot Glen and a replica of it at Tibooburra forms a monument to
Sturts determination. Sturt qualifies as the Lake Eyre Yacht Clubs earliest
- Following Goyder's reports of water the SA Government
dispatches Surveyor-General Freeling to Lake Blanche with a flat bottomed
punt. The Lake dries over the intervening four months. The party
commented that Goyder "could
not be trusted alone in the Australian Desert with a mirage".
- G H Halligan flies over the Lake and reports it to be
one third full. Four months later he returns using camels to bring in a boat -
the Lake was dry!
- Lake Eyre north 3.7m
- Elliot Price builds his boat "Lake Eyre" and explored the edge of Madigan Gulf.
After making the first two way radio broadcast from the Lake Elliot, E A and Malcom Brooks are shipwrecked on Hughes Island. (RD,VS)
- Eric Bonython and Hector Brook take a conventional
clinker hulled dinghy down the Cooper to the Cooper Mouth and back to
- J R M Taggart investigates the Lake by plane and canoe.
- The Adelaide Land-Yacht Club's site http://www.picknowl.com.au/homepages/budrose/Default.htm has the following account:
"In the early fifties two Adelaide brothers built and sailed a land-yacht across Lake Eyre (a dry saltlake) in the North of South Australia and the yacht is still preserved in the Birdwood Mill museum (South Australia).
- Norman B Tindale (anthropologist) and three others observe the filling of Lake Eyre. A photo at The South Australia Museum indicates that the Lake was approx 2.5m deep at that time.
- A 20 year old drowned while using the Cooper Punt.
- 1.7m flood Belt Bay, 430mm Madigan Gulf. Dry by December
- Muloorina has 331mm annual rainfall in 1973 compared to 148 in the dry year of 1972. (RD)
- The Dulhunty's travel 330km in a dinghy "Lake Eyre 2" from Fossil Tree Head
to Silcrete Island and return. They did sail at one point using
a sheet of plastic!
- 6.4m flood & Goyder Channel flows North
to South Muloorina has 432mm annual rainfall in 1974. (RD)
- The Cooper Crossing exceeded 2.1m in 1974.(RD)
- March 1974 Blue Hughes and family the first
people to water ski on the Lake. (RD)
- March 1974 Rex Ellis used two 3.7m
flat bottomed punts to motor to the Lake from 200km (by river) up the
Warburton. It took 3 days to navigate the Warburton. His group completed
the first north-south crossing of the Lake during which one of the punts
foundered at night in the middle of the Lake. Among his passengers were
Vincent Serventy (Presenter of Walkabout) and Jim Dorward from Hawker. (RD,
- Rex Ellis also attempted to circumnavigate the
Lake with a party including Vincent Serventy and John Olsen (artist). After
another punt capsize they stuck to the southern shore for a few days.
Ellis twice took a party down the Cooper in punts. (RD,BS)
- Dick Lang
took a party, including Phil Jones, down the Cooper in a conventional
hulled boat. Algae in the Lake slowed his boat down eventually running
out of fuel. He was rescued by Glen Hughes. (RD)
- Dick Lang becomes first person to water ski
across LEN. (BS)
- Bob & Bill Mossel and Annabel Hill
navigated the Cooper in a 2.7m Dinghy and proceeded through the Goyder
Channel to Curdimurka on LES. (RD)
- Mike Steel used Blue Hughes boat to
sell snacks & drinks
at Elliot Price Lagoon (?) and also took tours as far as Shelly Island.
- A Flinders University Group led by Dr John Bye
spent 10 days travelling from LES through the Goyder Channel to LEN and
- In July 1974 the Dulhunty's did 1860km on the
Lake in "Lake Eyre 3". (RD)
A John Clarke from SA's Electricity and Water Supply used Hughes boat on
- Charlie Phipps, his son Ric and Sandy Street
traversed (measured the depth of) the Lake using Hughes' boat
- In September Brian ? and Elizabeth, Michael & ? Blakeman motor to an island in Madigan Gulf in the dinghy "John Eyre". (EB)
- In late October David Norrish, Roger
Langmead and Alistair Muir sail the first yacht on The Lake - David's Surfcat
towing a rubber dinghy. They travelled 150km around the southern shore of
Lake Eyre North from Level Post Bay to Belt Bay and return.
- It is calculated that 200,000,000 fish have died so far since the 1974 flood.
||In May 1975 Roger Bullock as skipper, with Bill Rice and cameraman Tim Robinson as crew, sail "Red Baron", a 20 foot catamaran, on the Lake. They sailed from Level Post Bay to Brookes Island, returning early the next day. A documentary was made of their trip to the Lake and Bill Rice's amateur radio sessions while on the Lake.(WR)
Click on the photo to see an Australian Archives image showing a young Peter Rice splashing around with his sisters Janet and Kathy beside Red Baron.
- Diana Rice learns to sail on a 14 foot Hobie in Level Post Bay
||July/August 1975 Alvin Atkinson, Max Atkinson and Robert Clark sail 779km
on the Lake in the 20ft Randell Trailer Sailer "Ibis". (RD, RC, AA)
- Lake less than 4m by February 1976. (RD)
- Muloorina has 365mm annual rainfall in 1976. (RD)
- Port Vincent Sailing Club member Alvin Atkinson, his
brother Max from Snowtown and Rob Clark from Port Clinton spend 9 days sailing
520Km on the yacht "Ibis". (RD, RC, AA)
- Kaye Illman from Port Vincent Sailing Club and his crew sailing an identical 20ft yacht "Jasmine" join "Ibis" to cruise the Lake. (AA)
- In May the Red Baron class catamaran "Kathleen M", owner/skipper Bill Rice from Altona in Victoria, circumnavigates Madigan Gulf in 5 days visiting Eric and Ibis Islands. Crew were Ron Fisher who also sailed a mirror on the Lake, Peter Fisher, Sid Clark and Janet Rice.(AA, WR)
- 8 - 15 May the South Australian Hartley TS16 Association held a regatta
on the Lake at Level Post Bay. Don Thorpe wins the Championship with his
TS16 Super-Roo (VK, BS, AA, DT)
- June 1976 four staff of the Bureau of Meteorology, including Chris Harris, Alan Coleman and Allan Kernich take two 14 ft aluminium boats with Honda outboards from Level Post Bay to the mouth of the Cooper Creek and back.
- August 1976 Vincent Serventy and John Olsen visited the Cooper outlet, Brooks, Silcrete and Dulhunty Islands in a power boat capable of 50km/hr
- In October 1976 Bruce Burton from Upwey Victoria used 3.7m aluminium boats and inflatable dinghys in the southern half of LEN. (RD)
- The police use the Dulhunty's and then their own boat
to rescue somebody from Jackboot Bay.(RD)
- Ken Raphael with family and friends sail a Mirror, "Debonair" on Level Post Bay in April. (KR)
- In May Bill Rice and Ron Fisher sail "Kathleen M" to the Cooper Mouth. (WR)
- The Lake is still navigable in June 1977. (RD)
- "Out on the Lake somewhere, a family was said to be cruising on a trailer-sailer." (BS)
- Bob Mossel and Denise Kuhne travel via inflatable
down the Kallakoopah from an airdrop in mid Simpson desert planning to cross
the Lake to Level Post Bay. Unable to find the Warburton Groove they were
thwarted and Bob had to walk out to Wariner Railway Siding on the Old
Ghan line for help.
- The Lake is still navigable.
- Local rain floods LES and overflows through
the Goyder Channel filling LEN to 3.5m. This is the first time Europeans
witnessed water flowing south to north through the channel. Vincent Serventy
and Clifton Pugh drifted down the Diamantina making a documentary. They
had trouble in the shallow water found in the Warburton as most of LEN
water came from LES and local rain. They were unable to travel out into
the Lake as the Warburton Groove had dried.
- In May John Freeman lands Cessna 185 seaplane on Lake Eyre. (AA)
- Ted Madden sailboards at Level Post Bay
- Local rain again floods LES and overflows through the Goyder Channel filling LEN to 3.0m. Roxby had 13" in two days!
- Approximately 2km of old railway embankment washed away at the Stuart Creek bridge, Curdimurka.
- Denis Bartell starts from the Dig Tree on his journey down the Cooper but runs out of water before the Birdsville Track.
- In June Rex Ellis uses two punts to motor on Lake Torrens from Beda Hill to Andamooka Island.
- In September Bill Rice launches "Kathleen
LES but strong winds prevent him sailing. Not to be daunted he and son
Peter launch at Beda Arm and investigate the southern end of Lake Torrens
to become possibly the first (and only) to sail on that lake .
- In September Richard Clampett sails a Hartley
TS16 on Goyder Channel and Lake Eyre North.
- The Cooper navigable in September with approx 6 week window of opportunity!
- Denis Bartell completes his canoe trip on the Cooper from the Dig Tree
to the Lake.(BS)
- Brian Sheedy also does the Cooper. (BS)
- Kevin Rohrlach takes a 3.8m aluminium dinghy down the
Warburton from its start at the Goyder Lagoon to the Lake. (BS)
- A Warburton flood fills Belt Bay to 1.5m. Local rain fills LES to 1.5m.
- Des ? a pilot from William Creek takes a small punt off ABC point for an aerial photo shoot.
- Bob Backway and family sail for 4 days on LES after
an aborted attempt on LEN via ABC point.
- In April 2000 Bob Backway and son Stephen spend a week on LEN in Belt and Jackboot Bays. Lake Eyre Yacht Club formed.
- July 2000 Robert Clark and son canoe from lower
Jackboot to Silcrete Island and return. Following this his son walks, bicycles
and skis from this lowest point to Mt Kosciosko, the highest point in Australia.
- Another two canoeists attempt to cross Belt
Bay from ABC Bay. Following two days of strong head winds they return.
- Rex Ellis does a number of trips on The Warburton and becomes the first
to navigate the entire length of the Kallakoopah.
- September 2000 Bob Backway, wife Doreen, Stephen and Mindy spend a week on LEN.
- Unprecidented winter rains put 1.4m of water in Belt Bay and LES with 1m in Madigan Gulf in June.
- In August Bob Backway, Dave Hardwick and Mike Wilkins (photo, film and video documentary producer) spend five days and cold nights on LES.
- The Warburton floods but the flood is too small to put any significant water into the Lake .
- In March Bob Backway and Mike Wilkins sail down The Warburton and motor back in 11 days. They meet Rex Ellis on the river returning from his 16th journey and celebrating his 30 year association with river since his first adventure in March 1974.
- Rex does another three trips this flood.
- In April Ben Kozel and Tim Jarvis kayak The Warburton from Kalamurina and attempt to paddle the Warburton Groove - eventually walking out and into controversy.
- John (Johnno) Hammond from Mungerannie jet boats down The Warburton from Poonarunna to Lake Eyre.
- In July Bob Backway sails solo for five days on a very shallow Lake Eyre South (800mm max depth).
- The Warburton floods but the flood puts only
a small amount of water into the Lake proper.
- In March Bob Backway sails solo down The Warburton
and Kalawerina to the Lake, and up the Macumba and Kallakoopah to both
rivers limit of navigation. Trip was 550km and took 13 days.
- Rex Ellis does one trip on The Warburton and a number of trips on The Diamantina and Georgina.
||Bob and Doreen Backway
sail a canoe the last 40kms down The Warburton to Lake Eyre and return in
a 3 day trip
- The Warburton and Kallakoopah flood putting water into Belt
and Jackboot Bays.
- In March Bob Backway, Rex Ellis and his mate
Len are filmed for Channel 7's "Sunday Night" program boating on the Warburton
- Late March Rex Ellis does a Warburton trip
- March-April Bob Backway sails solo down the
Warburton River, Kalaweerina Creek and returns upstream via Kallakoopah
Creek and used Kalakinna Link Creek for the first time.
- In April Rex Ellis does a Kallakoopah-Warburton
trip using the Tumpawarrina Link Creek for the first time.
- In April John Hammond, Chris Harris, Bill Starr,
Majid Andary and John Dunn kayak the Kallakoopah.
- Jack Miller from Goolwa also did a boat trek down the Warburton to the Lake.
- The Warburton and Kallakoopah again flood and the Cooper reaches Lake Eyre for the first time in 20 years.
- The number of people sailing, power boating
and canoeing on the Lake and associated waterways reaches a level not seen
since the mid seventies.
- In late June the "Top Gear" TV program attempt to sail on LEN
- In July the Lake Eyre Yacht Club hold their
first official event, a Regatta, on Lake Killamperpunna to celebrate their
10th Birthday and the first Cooper flood for 20 years.
58 boats and 400 people attend.
- In late July Bob Backway, Chris Austin and Dan Towart sail 10 cold and wet days from the Cooper Punt to Lake Eyre and return.
- Rex Ellis does a number of trips on the Warburton, Strzelecki Creek and Cooper Creek.
- In September "the locals" organise a Tinnie Regatta at the Birdsville Punt to help Peter Ware celebrate his 20th anniversary of conducting boat tours on Cooper Creek.
- In late September Bob & Doreen Backway and
Ian & Chris Linsell enjoy 3 days sailing two catamarans on Lake Eyre South.
1 June 2012
- In early February major flooding on the Neales
and Macumba Rivers fills Belt Bay to 2.0m.
- Lake Eyre South is filled from
local rain in the SW catchment.
- In April Bob Backway and David Norrish sail for 6 days on Belt Bay.
- The Warburton and Kallakoopah again flood and the Cooper reaches Lake Eyre for the 2nd time.
- Peter Ware resumes tours at the Punt.
- In May Bob Backway, Chris Austin, Geoff Stride
and Pat McCall sail a 584km Kallakoopah Warburton loop over 18 days on
three Caper Cats.
- Rex Ellis does a number of trips on the Kallakoopah, Warburton and Cooper in tinnies.
- In June a couple kayak the Warburton and paddle/walk
the Warburton Groove to Dulhunty Island before landing at North West Head.
The same couple then paddle the Cooper from the Track to the Lake and are
picked up by vehicle.
- The Lake Eyre Yacht Club holds a second Regatta on Lake Killamperpunna, Cooper Creek.
- Numerous others sail and kayak on Lake Eyre North and South defying an attempt to ban boating by the South Australian Government.