In 1963 a Brisbane seismic survey operator, the Paris-based Compagnie Generale de Geophysique (CGG) was given the job by French Petroleum (TOTAL) to chart the Simpson Desert for geophysical prospects, and work began in the Hamilton Creek region of northern South Australia in April that year. The task was to break through from Dalhousie to Birdsville via Poeppels Corner, working all the way. Just as much now as then, 4WD adventurers will do well to beware the mighty Finke.
4WDrivers considering entry into the Simpson from either side should be mindful of the vagaries of the river systems, where they rise, under what conditions and most pertinently, where the flow rests when it finds its level and stops running.
On the eastern edge, local maps show the Finke fingering innocently around the back of Mt Dare. The Finke is the world's oldest river. It regularly knocks out the Abminga and Stevenson Creeks, denying vehicular access to any of the Mt Dare, Pedirka or Dalhousie inwards tracks but so long as it hasn't heavily spilled into the Spring Creek floodplain, there are ways around it. However, if floods arrive on either side from the north after you've left home, as they tend to do, it can be irksome.
Travellers can be sure of a challenge no matter what the weather conditions are when they tackle the desert although lots of folk fall foul of the "Gluepot" on the floodplain even in the dry. It is often said it only rains in the Simpson when storms get lost, but these days things seem to have changed and the desert proper is getting more and more of the farmers' share of the rainfall than was the case in the sixties. Because CGG's road is virtually straight across the middle of the Simpson and the degree of difficulty over the dunes is much of a muchness both ways, drivers today can make a choice on the direction they take. There are interesting detours around the French Line to add to the variety of crossings, all giving good reason to come back again for another tilt, another time.
This is a public service project published by the editor Kevin Murphy for the purpose of recounting the experiences of the French Line construction team. The ideas and information expressed in these pages may not have been approved or authorised by any of the persons or companies or organisations featured either explicitly or impliedly within.