Building the MWA – Day 5

Today we made an early start, especially for a Sunday, hitting the road by 6am and arriving at the MRO an hour later. Our objective for the day was to finish clearing sites and laying mesh at the remaining 26 tile locations before heading back to Wooleen Homestead in time to see the West Coast Eagles take on the Fremantle Dockers in the first western derby of the AFL season.

With thick scrub and the important responsibility of preserving the natural landscape as we worked, we again made slow progress between sites. With only a 5 minute break at midday to re-energise us it took a big effort, but we succeeded. By using a single vehicle and guiding it through the bush to each site, clearing old branches and sharp rocks as we went we kept our tyres intact and made it back to Wooleen in time to see the second half as the Eagles ran home a convincing win.

MWA Project manager demonstrating our surface clearing expertise.

Team photo on the final site to be cleared and laid with mesh.

Tomorrow we begin tack welding at all of the sites and once that’s done we’ll be on our way back to Perth.

With a forced day off yesterday while the others made the 600km round trip to Geraldton to collect some spare tyres it gave me the chance to tag along on Wooleen Homesteads sunset tour. Wooleen was established in 1878 and has been owned and run by the Pollock family since 1990. David Pollock, an expert and enthusiastic conservationist, took over the station with his partner Frances Jones five years ago. Since then they have destocked the station to let the land revive from decades of over use and instead taken the plunge into tourism, attracting those in search of the real outback experience. The station is small compared to others in the region but still boasts 150,000 hectares of land, covering an area roughly 50km by 50km.

Wooleen Homestead

For the tour David piled us into the back of an old Toyota Land Cruiser, which he likes to call his “personnel carrier”, and drove us out through the station while describing his efforts to replenish the land of indigenous non-erosive vegetation so that it can be managed sustainably in the future.

David Pollock driving his “personnel carrier”

The high point of the tour is a climb to the top of a granite outcrop that dominates the local landscape.

On the way up we saw indigenous artworks tens of thousands of years old and at the top of the 64 metre climb our efforts were rewarded with a stunning view, a glass of wine and David’s relaying of a “songline” used by the local Yamatji

people. A songline is a story which includes features of the landscape that can be told and passed down to others to guide them on a journey or “walkabout”, just like  verbal map. Some aboriginal songlines even involve journeys from one side of the country to the other.

After the sun had dropped below the horizon we made our way down the outcrop in the diminishing light and hopped back in David’s truck to head back to the Homestead. On the way we spotted a wild dingo, the first I’ve ever seen despite years of travelling around the state. Away from the headlights of the land cruiser it seemed to glow a ghostly white as it sat and watched us go by.

For more information on Wooleen Homestead go to:

(They get very excited when people “like” their Facebook page.)

Note: more photos below.


About Pete

I'm a professional science communicator working for the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) in Perth, Western Australia. I love to travel, take pictures, experience new things and occasionally write about them.
This entry was posted in Astronomy, ICRAR, Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory, Murchson Widefield Array, MWA, Radio Astronomy, Radio Telescopes, Square Kilometre Array and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Building the MWA – Day 5

  1. Sandra says:

    Hello, Peter, thanks for the blog and the photos of Wooleen. They brought back very fond memories for me from when my friend, Joan, and I were there a few weeks ago. You must be enjoying a wonderful experience whilst completing your important work. Congratulations…I will be interested in reading your blog from now on.

    • petewheeler says:

      Thanks Sandra, we just got back to Perth last night but I may head up there again at the end of August. Until then look out for blog posts about some of the other interesting things we do around the state. Thanks for reading and commenting.

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