Strange but true: if you travelled back 800,000 years to when the Pilbara was part of a supercontinent, the magnetic North Pole would have been located at what is now a WA cattle station.
A few months ago, rough seas and a blizzard stopped me getting near the North Pole.
But now, here I am, standing at the North Pole, and it is a warm, sunny day in the East Pilbara.
While my voyage that few months ago was through Arctic Greenland, this has been much simpler.
I turned off the bitumen Marble Bar Road on to helpfully named North Pole Road and, well, here I am.
For the Earth’s magnetic field has switched its polarity many times over the millennia.
At one stage, when south was north, the Pilbara was part of a supercontinent and the magnetic north pole has been identified as being just where I’m standing.
Since then, it has drifted north to where it is today, of course.
It is a pretty, gently sloping valley, dusted with spinifex.
A spokesperson for NASA — the US’s National Aeronautics and Space Administration — explains that if I were alive about 800,000 years ago, and facing what we call north with a magnetic compass in my hand, the needle would point to “south”.
“This is because a magnetic compass is calibrated based on Earth’s poles. Reversals are the rule, not the exception.
“Earth has settled in the last 20 million years into a pattern of a pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, although it has been more than twice that long since the last reversal.”
Some geologists presume this was once a polar area, when Australia was hitched on to the ancient southern land mass Gondwana.
It is an old and complex part of geological history, showing Archean ocean-floor metamorphism, here in the Pilbara Craton.
But today, there are cattle being run on Panorama Station, on which the North Pole sits.
But, just for a moment, I’m a bit confused by the tracks, which are changed since the last time I was here.
I stop at temporary muster yards and stroll up to a young ringer who’s hooking up a cattle trailer: “ ’Scuse me, mate. Do you know where the North Pole is?”
He gives me that look. Comedian.
You may also like
Travel Story: Back to basics with kids on the Cape
What did you learn today, that you didn’t know yesterday?
Travel Story: Wheatbelt weekend on two wheels in Beverley
Growing up I recall road trips across the Nullarbor Plain, being mesmerised by the seemingly endless streaks of yellow canola and golden wheat as the family car moved through WA’s Wheatbelt.
The Travel Club Show : Stephen Scourfield's Top 5 Natural Moments of 2018
From the great plains of Africa and the wilds of far eastern Russia to walking in the Alps and kayaking in the desert, experiencing such natural wonders is a privilege. Stephen Scourfield shares his top five natural wonders of the year.