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Cairn on the Millstream trail

Cairn on the Millstream trail

Friday Forum
Mt Toombullup mystery objects – Victoria.

Prayer stones?
The truth about the stone cairns nestled deep in the bush in the Toombullup State Forest is that no one alive today really knows for sure why they were placed there. The cairns are placed high on a hill with the largest stone estimated to weigh at least 500kg. The most logical theory is that they were made by the Buddhist Chinese community who mined for gold in the region during the 1800s. It is unlikely that they were placed there by explorers, there are too many in a small area to be marker stones.

Cairns for navigating.
Some cairns are common in the outback and you can usually see them from a long way off. Some were put there by early explorers and others have been erected by later explorers to mark survey points. Probably the most famous of Australian cairns is at Mt Poole, built by the men of Sturt’s 1845 expedition when they were stranded at Depot Glen.

Markers or graffiti?
The stones at Toombullup have obviously been placed there for a very good reason – even if we don’t know what that was. But what about stone cairns in general?
Cairns are a common sight in other parts of the world. Cairns provide a marker for navigation. In some parts of the world a cairn is meant to identify an energy vortex. In Peru they are meant to signify that you have passed this way and will return.
Cairns at Colca Canyon, Peru.

Cairns at Colca Canyon, Peru.
In the USA the number of cairns is becoming both an environmental problem and a safety hazard. Cairns are used to mark trails, but so many people have taken to adding their own cairns that rangers have to walk the trails and dismantle the misleading ones.

National park in Colorado.
Rocks for habitat.
Last year I saw signs south of Coolgardie, asking people not to build cairns as small animals need rocks for shelter. Fortunately, the rock-stacking craze hasn’t hit Australia like it appears to have in USA but even so it is worth noting that the biggest concern for outback Australia would be the loss of habitat. Good hiding rocks are hard to come by in parts of the bush. Snakes, lizards, insects, spiders, rodents and even some small mammals make their homes under rocks. While some animals would be happy to share, most of these animals would be a food source for the rest.

Jo Ussing
More information on the Toomballup cairns can be found here.

from westprint.com.au/newsletter-archives

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Photo taken on 26 May 2011 (© spelio / Flickr)

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