Book review: Rocks, landscapes & resources of the Great Artesian Basin by Warwick Wilmot, Alex Cook & Barry Neville

  • By Neil Phillips


A fast, uneducated drive across southwest Queensland can be uninspiring, and then an extension towards the Gulf country or to Lake Eyre may seem unrelated. This 100-page book changes these perceptions completely.

This book is a bargain at $15 plus postage and worth buying just to flick through the pages but it is also an excellent gift for a friend and can absorb a reader for days. After all, who has not heard of the Great Artesian Basin and does not know that this is a special place in early Australian agriculture history. The style of writing is quite accessible, and the terminology is not restricted to geologists. It has a comprehensive glossary but the language is straightforward and free of jargon (if jargon was there, then I was oblivious to it).

An important message is that the Great Artesian Basin cannot be fully understood by a quick look around the surface. The full history involves time and the dimension of depth. Initial chapters deal with 150 million years of history leading to the Basin as we know it today. This includes the extent of early inland seas and the predominant fossil types. Deep weathering and land surfaces play a major part in what is seen today, and this section brings life to the unusual landform features of the south-western Queensland area. A chapter is devoted to the underground water for which the Basin is so famous, and then there are chapters on petroleum and coal resources. Jackson oil field holds special significance for me – it was quite unexpected flying over in a light plane, anomalous as one drives past the processing infrastructure, and a little hard to believe that it had one of the country’s largest on-shore crude oil flows at its discovery. Geothermal energy, opal, other minerals and impact craters fill out the remaining chapters.

This is the type of book that, as professional geologists, we should be getting out to the public to excite them about the Australian landscape. For geologists working in western Queensland or northern South Australia, for grey nomads touring the country, for 4-wheel drive enthusiasts crossing the Simpson Desert, for anyone living in inland Queensland and beyond, for those driving the Oodnadatta track or Birdsville track – all these people will be interested as they drive on top of the Great Artesian Basin. It remains a wonder that it can rain on the hills behind Townsville and the water will emerge years later as mound springs near Lake Eyre. This is a story worth telling widely. The authors remind us that through abuse and overuse, we can destroy these features.



Rocks, landscapes & resources of the Great Artesian Basin is available for purchase from the Geological Society of Australia.

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