Arckaringa Badlands

YOU ARE ENTERING REMOTE AREAS”, blared the road sign in large red letters, as we departed Coober Pedy heading northeast towards Oodnadatta.

And if we needed any confirmation of this fact, we had only to look out of the car windows at Moon Plain stretching away to the horizon in every direction. This vast, flat expanse is aptly named for its likeness to a lunar landscape – a red gibber desert, seemingly devoid of all life – and a very daunting sight indeed.

But this was not the case 120 million years ago when these rocky plains were covered by the Eromanga Sea, brimming with marine fauna such as 5 metre dolphin-like ichthyosaurs, plesiosaurs, fish and sharks, and molluscs, cockles and starfish crawling on the ocean bed. The opalised fossil remains of these cretaceous creatures are considered to be the richest cold-water deposits in the world and some of the best specimens are on display at the Origin Energy Fossil Gallery in Coober Pedy, along with such prehistoric treasures as shells, sea sponges and the only opalised worms in the world.

So unusual is the modern-day landscape that several filmmakers have considered it the perfect setting for movies including Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Pitch Black and The Red Planet(which, of course, was about Mars, not the Moon).

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