Kanku–Breakaways Conservation Park is the traditional land of the Antakirinja Matu-Yankunytjatjara people, having always been a place of profound spiritual significance to the traditional owners, and is an important part of the Coober Pedy district.
The Kanku with its spectacular landscape and scenery, is an area of 14,300 hectares that is located approximately 25 kilometres north of Coober Pedy in the far north of South Australia. The entire park is a registered Aboriginal Site under the Aboriginal Heritage Act 1988. Many sites within the Kanku are a part of dreaming stories. Aboriginal culture does not allow for all details of the Kanku’s story to be told.
The Kanku has always protected us, the land, food, plants and animals.
The Natural Wonders
This region is a breathtaking landscape. From a distance, the low hills scattered across the horizon appears to have ‘broken away’ from the higher escarpment of the nearby Stuart Range, giving rise to the name of ‘The Breakaways’.
This region was once a vast inland sea, where over 115 million years ago mud and mineral-rich sediments collected and compacted on the sea floor, layer upon layer, forming a deep plate of rock. When the sea receded, the solar radiation and searing temperatures evaporated all moisture, baking a durable crust of silcrete (sand and gravel cemented by dissolved silicon).
Over the million of years, tectonic forces stretched and buckled the crust, causing cracks and fissure, widened and deepened by wind and water, that ate away the softer sedimentary substrate.
Alternating wet and dry climatic conditions during this period allowed silica to accumulate in the soil profile, eventually cementing the near-surface as hard silcrete. Resistant to erosion, those areas capped by silcrete remain, creating the striking flat-topped mesas, whilst erosion carved the steep-sloped escarpments (breakaways) and discarded the silcrete debris into gibber-covered footslopes and floodplains. The multi-hued colours a result of the bleaching and iron-staining from the original dark grey mudstone.
These erosive forces continue their work today, where summer temperatures can rise to 50°C (65°C on the ground) and the parched landscape receives a miserly annual rainfall of less than 170 mm. It is ironic that the ‘Breakaway Country’ covers part of the Great Artesian Basin, a seemingly inexhaustible supply of subterranean water.
The Breakaways are visible from the Kempe Road on the way to and from Coober Pedy. This natural beauty and wonder not only entices visitors to come for an outback experience taking in a striking landscape, but also an entry into a rich cultural heritage.
The spectacular Kanku region has featured in a number of television documentaries, and movies including Mad Max III – Beyond Thunderdome (Tina Turner and Mel Gibson), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Hugo Weaving, Terrance Stamp, Guy Pearce, Bill Hunter), Ground Zero, and Pitch Black (Vin Diesel).
Footnote & References
- Kanku-Breakaways Conservation Park, National Parks and Wildlife Service, South Australia