One of Australia’s pioneering motoring adventures is about to be relived when sister and brother Marg and Doug Sprigg cross Australia’s forbidding Simpson Desert this month in an early model Nissan G60 Patrol – for the second time.
The Spriggs, then 10 and seven years-old respectively, made history in September 1962 when travelling with their late parents, geologist Reg Sprigg and his wife Griselda, they completed the first-ever vehicle crossing of the remote desert in a then-new 4WD Nissan.
Both ‘drove’ the Simpson in 1962, often steering the short wheelbase Patrol while sitting on their father’s lap!
Marg Sprigg and her mother were also the first female Europeans to traverse the desert with its 1,000 parallel sand dunes. Their milestone crossing came just 26 years after the first non-indigenous crossing in 1936 made by Captain Ted Colson, accompanied by an Aboriginal man named Peter Ains and five camels.
This year’s 50th Anniversary Simpson Desert Crossing from July 16-21 will again take Marg and Doug Sprigg from West to East, starting at Mt.Dare Homestead, 10km south of the Northern Territory border in far north South Australia, and finishing in Birdsville.
There they will be met by a welcoming party of townsfolk, seasoned Simpson travellers and hundreds of Nissan Patrol owners that will culminate in a major outback concert at the Birdsville racecourse.
That day they will also strike a commemorative cairn in the Central Australian town honouring the achievement of their parents and the 50th anniversary crossing. It will be erected not far from similar cairns marking the pioneering pre-vehicle crossings of Ted Colson and Cecil Madigan, who traversed the Simpson in 1939.
When they leave Mt. Dare on July 16, the Spriggs and their Nissan support team in current model Patrols, including well-known Outback film maker Pat Callinan, will be following in the wheeltracks of thousands of adventurous Australians who have made ‘Doing the Simpson’ a right of Outback passage in the intervening half century.
The 50th Anniversary Crossing of the Simpson Desert also celebrates a milestone for the event’s charity partner, Frontier Services, which this year celebrates 100 years of support at the heart of remote Australia.
Frontier Services is the successor in the Uniting Church to the Australian Inland Mission, developed by Australian visionary John Flynn to provide support to the people of outback Australia. Flynn’s vision for a “mantle of safety” – to help build sustainable community despite the hardships of outback life – created a network of pastoral care and social services which still continues today.
Frontier Services makes a difference by providing essential services to more than 15,000 families. These services include aged and community care, health, family and children services, volunteer assistance and patrol ministry.
Together, the Frontier Services staff travel over a million kilometres every year, going the extra mile to make sure people in remote Australia can access the support they need.