Pilbara is about twice the size of Great Britain. But it has just 61,000 inhabitants: it is one of the least populated regions in the world. But there is something else. The oldest formations on Earth are also there. They were formed even before the existence of oxygen and life itself. And it remains intact.
“What’s exceptional is its incredible state of preservation,” says Martin Van Kranendonk. He is a professor of geology at the University of New South Wales. He says the rock there is so old that it contains no fossils within its structure. But there are stromatolites: fossils of the oldest life forms on Earth.
In 1980, 3.45 billion-year-old fossil stromatolites were found near Marble Bar in the Pilbara. These microbial communities existed when conditions on Earth could not support any other form of life.
In 2019, NASA scientists conducted research there in preparation for the trip to Mars. “The composition of those rocks is amazing and similar to Mars,” says Van Kranendonk.
Inside is one of the most beautiful national parks in the world. It was carved out of the earth by billions of years of slow erosion. Karijini National Park has spectacular waterfalls and crystal clear pools of water. A paradise of cool rock pools fed by subway springs, lush vegetation and abundant wildlife.
There is Spa Pool, a bathtub-like formation. It is almost completely enveloped in a multi-hued smooth rock wall.
The only lodging in the national park is the indigenous-owned Karijini Eco Retreat. At night Karijini is a dark sky wonderland for stargazers and astrophotographers. The dry air and lack of light pollution provide a dazzling display of detail in the Milky Way.
The marked change in microclimate, fauna and flora surprises most visitors. The permanent presence of water in the canyons is the fundamental component of the microenvironment. It is home to fish, flying foxes and a variety of reptiles.
The place with the oldest formations on Earth is a true undisturbed paradise. Scientists hope to continue to find answers in its millenary rocks.