Mount Chambers Chasm

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This page was created 2006/04/18, modified 2014/06/16
Written by Dave Clarke: email daveclarkecb@yahoo.com
Photos by Ken and David Clarke


Contents
On this page...

Caves
Location
Formation of the chasm
Getting in
Bridging boulders
Polished rock
Environmental and sustainability matters
Remaining to be done
Index
 
 
General view
Eastern end of Mt Chambers.
The chasm, not visible in this small image, is just right of centre.
Mount Chambers and the beautiful Mount Chambers Gorge are about 60km north-east of Blinman in the Flinders Ranges of South Australia.

This page is about a very unusual chasm on Mount Chambers.

The upper part of Mount Chambers is composed of a limestone that is resistant to erosion. The resistance of the limestone and the greater erodability of the underlying rock has resulted in the upper part of the mountain being mostly surrounded by precipitous walls.

The climb to the top of the mesa is not as difficult as it might appear. There is a gully a couple of hundred metres to the west of the chasm that gives access for any reasonably fit person.

 
From the top
The view from near the chasm.
Chambers Creek winding through Chambers Gorge.
Lake Frome
Lake Frome in the distance.
A telephoto shot of the same view as shown on the right, from near the chasm.
 

Even if you are not interested in the chasm, the climb to the top of the mesa is well worth the trouble, as the view pictured at the right shows.

The large salt lake, Lake Frome, can be seen to the east.

Caves

 
Cave
Cave at, or near, the base of the limestone
Rain water percolating through the limestone of the upper part of Mount Chambers has formed caves, some of which are big enough to be worth exploring.

Unlike the chasm, if you want to explore the caves you must be prepared for crawling on your belly through dirt and bat droppings. You should consider taking torches, dust masks, hard hats and overalls.

 
From above
The top of the chasm
Chambers Creek in the background

Precise location

The chasm extends about 50 metres across the width of the Mt Chambers mesa near its eastern end. The coordinates at the south-eastern end of the chasm are 30.95896 degrees south Latitude, 139.22879 degrees east Longitude; and at the north-western end, 30.95868 degrees south Latitude, 139.22836 degrees east Longitude.

The top of the chasm is about three metres wide at the south-eastern end and two metres at the north-western end. In the photo at right, my son, Ken, is standing about ten metres from the south-eastern end of the chasm.
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The whole thing
The chasm, top and right
In the photo on the right the top of the chasm can be seen extending from the cleft at the top left to the upper right, near the reddish boulder. The edge of the chasm is largely hidden in the shadow in the centre of the photo. We have not investigated the conspicuous opening in the left-centre of this photo.

Formation of the chasm

It seems that the eastern end of the mountain has somehow moved away from the remainder. On our visit of 2006/04/16 we did not have as much time for investigation as we would have liked, but it seems the top of the chasm is wider than the bottom, so there is some hinging of the end of the mountain.

The bottom of the chasm is covered with rubble and soil that has fallen from above. Some boulders have fallen only a part of the way down and have bridged between the two walls.

I estimate that the depth of the chasm, from the top to the rubble on the bottom, is around ten to fifteen metres.

I don't know how common or rare this sort of fracturing on mesas (or other hills) might be; although I don't remember seeing it or reading about it elsewhere. I suspect that the rock would have to be what geologists call 'competent'; ie. does not deform easily. Perhaps it requires a competent caprock on a less competent base – the base sags and the cap fractures?
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Looking in from above
Looking into the chasm from above
The photo on the right gives some impression of the depth of the chasm. It was taken from one of the bridging boulders , not from the top.

In the chasm
Looking toward the blockage at the south-eastern end
 

Getting into the chasm

It is possible, with great care, but without any special climbing gear, to climb down over some of the bridging boulders to the base of the chasm. There is a section near the centre of the chasm where a V shaped set of fractures comes off the chasm to the north-west. The bridging boulders in this area seem to provide the only path from top to bottom.

Visitors who intend to climb into the chasm should consider taking at least about twenty metres of rope with them; it can be useful.

The photo on the left was taken from near the south-eastern end. The blockage behind the second photographer is a barrier to going any further along the bottom of the chasm in that direction.
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Looking up
An orb-spinner's web silhouetted against the sky
Looking up from part-way into the chasm; there are no clouds in the sky.
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Bridging boulders

Bridging boulders 1
One of the bridging boulders
 
 
Bridging boulders 2
A rock pile that couldn't fall any further
The next three photos show several of the places that boulders, having fallen into the chasm, have bridged the space between the walls and not been able to fall all the way to the bottom.

There were a number of places where following the base of the chasm is not a simple walk. There are boulders to climb over and under, and a number of fair-sized drops as you move toward the north-western end, which is the only way out from the bottom of the chasm.

Coloured light
Coloured light
 
The golden-red glow from reflected sunlight and the blue light from the sky made for very attractive colours on the rocks.
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In the chasm
One of the darker places in the chasm - a flash was used to take this photo
 
The photo on the left was taken at the bottom of the chasm. Although it was a bright sunny day outside I found it necessary to use flash to get this photo. The depth of the chasm and the bridging boulders above reduced the light to the point where I was unable to hand-hold the camera (¼ second at f2.7, 50 ISO). The glow in the left background is from reflected sunshine on the walls further back.

Polished rock

 
Polished rock
Polished rock on projecting corner
GPS with wrist strap for scale
At a couple of points we noticed that some projecting corners of rock were polished quite smooth, apparently by rock wallabies that had got into the chasm.

On an earlier visit my son and I had been surprised by one of these remarkably agile animals. It would take a lot of rubbing for a wallaby to polish this quite hard rock by rubbing on it; perhaps they have lots of fleas?
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In the chasm
Golden orb weaver spider web
 
It is possible to climb over and under the boulders in the bottom of the chasm and work your way out to the north-western end. At the point shown in this photo we had to get beneath the web of a golden orb spider. (These spiders are common in the Flinders Ranges, and seem to be harmless.)
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Out the end
Looking out the north-western end.
Chambers Creek can be seen in the lower centre of the photo
The most difficult bit of climbing on the way out to the north-western end is getting down over some wedged-in boulders near the end of the chasm. The view on the right was taken from that point.

We found that a rope thrown over a large boulder that is securely lodged in the chasm and tied around the chest was very useful in providing additional safety in climbing down this section.

Environmental and sustainability matters

It seems that visitors are not likely to do much harm to Mount Chambers Chasm and Mount Chambers. The only access is on foot, and the chasm and all its contents are near indestructible. If I felt that increasing visitor numbers would harm the area I would not have created this Internet page.

Of course one always hopes that visitors will behave responsibly, do as little damage as possible, leave no rubbish, and not unduly frighten the wild-life.

On the several occasions that I have visited the chasm I have found no evidence of previous human activity. It would be great if this remains so.

Remaining to be done

More measurements need to be taken, especially of the depth and the width both top and bottom. The width measurements should help decide whether the chasm has opened by the bulk movement of one end of the mountain away from the remainder, or whether there was more a hinging movement.

Is there a deep geological fault beneath the chasm, or is it only in the surface several tens of metres? Is there lateral movement along the chasm, or is the only movement the opening of the 'crack'?

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On this page...
Bridging boulders
Caves
Environmental and sustainability matters
Formation of the chasm
Getting in
Location
Polished rock
Remaining to be done
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