Louis-Philippe Loncke is about to set out on another expedition across Australia's Simpson Desert. Back in 2008, he mad a similar journey spending 36 days traversing the "Dead Heart" of the continent solo and unsupported. This time out, he hopes to repeat his success, although he is taking a completely different approach.
Stretching out for more than 176,000 sq. km. (68,000 sq. miles), the Simpson Desert covers parts of Australia's Northern Territory, Queensland, and South Australian states. Marked by a dry, sandy red plain and towering dunes, it is one of the most forbidding places on the planet, and home to the longest parallel sand dunes on Earth.
When he completed his crossing back in 2008, Loncke pulled a specially built cart that carried his gear and supplies, including water, behind him the entire way. This time out, he'll leave the cart behind and carry all of his equipment in his backpack instead, something he did while crossing Death Valley last year. His route will be a bit different this time out as well, as he'll travel west to east starting from Old Andado station in the Northern Territory and ending at Poeppel Corner via the geographic center of the desert itself. All told, he expect the expedition to cover about 280 km (174 miles).
The challenges that Loncke faces on this journey are numerous. The desert is extremely hot and dry, so dehydration, heat stroke, and exhaustion are real possibilities. Since he's carrying all of his supplies and gear with him on his back, equipment failure is a serious concern too, as is the fear of potential injuries. On top of that, he'll have to contend with snakes, dingos, and wild camels too, not to mention a host of annoying biting insects. In other words, this won't be a walk in the park, but a seriously difficult expedition through an unforgiving environment.
Loncke says that if he crosses the desert successfully, and still has enough supplies to continue on, he plans to push another 135 km (84 miles) past his end point to the town of Birdville instead. That would bring the entire journey up to 415 km (258 miles), although he'll have to wait to see how he feels physically before making that decision.
Loncke departed for Australia from Belgium yesterday and will spend a few days preparing for the journey before setting out. He should get underway next week, and have quite an adventure in the desert. Stay tuned for updates on his progress.
Good luck Lou-Phi!