The Dampier Campaign seeks to prevent the destruction of the huge petroglyph concentration of the Dampier Archipelago, Western Australia. There have been many new developments in this campaign over the past year (see ‘Dampier report April 2003’, AURA Newsletter 20/1). In July 2003, a contract was awarded to construct a major service corridor across the Burrup Peninsula, which reportedly destroyed between 170 and 180 sites. In August, IFRAO advised the Chairman of the Dampier ‘emissions committee’ that its proposed research program was unsuitable, and submitted a detailed critique of the Draft Management Plan to the Burrup Peninsula Conservation Reserve Planning Advisory Committee. On 25 September 2003, the World Monuments Fund accepted IFRAO’s nomination of the Dampier rock art precinct, made on 24 October 2002, as one of the 100 most threatened sites in the world. This is the first Australian site to be blacklisted by the WMF. Four days later, Methanex, the proponent of the largest of the proposed industrial developments on Murujuga (Burrup), announced the cancellation of its plans. The official reason given was that development costs are too high on the peninsula. The Canadian firm is the largest methanol producer in the world and has been in serious conflict with conservationists before.
In the following month, work at the Woodside plant at Dampier was significantly interrupted by a strike of 1700 workers. On 21 November 2003, militant trade unions won access to Pilbara sites from which they had been excluded for well over a decade. This ushers in a new balance of political power in the region. On 12 January 2004, the President of the World Monuments Fund, Bonnie Burnham, travelled to Dampier with the President of IFRAO to inspect the rock art and the industrial development within the rock art precinct. The Western Australian Minister for State Development, Clive Brown, immediately condemned her visit, even before her findings become available. On the following day, the WMF and IFRAO Presidents met a panel of government officials in Perth and informed them that nowhere else in the world is there a monument of the magnitude and significance of that of the Dampier rock art that has to share its locality with an industrial estate. The WMF President requests that the new developments be located elsewhere. Minister Brown rejects her advice flatly, stating that Americans should focus on their own environmental problems, ‘rather than coming to Australia and telling people what to do’. (The image on the right shows WMF President Bonnie Burnham and parliamentarian Robin Chapple MLC at a Dampier rock art site, 12 January 2004.)
In late January 2004, the terms of reference of the Burrup Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee were released, after the four study contracts have all been let to a governmental agency, CSIRO. Accordingly, two studies will cover the monitoring of ambient concentrations of air pollutants, and microclimate and deposition. The two others will feature artificial fumigation of rock surfaces and fieldwork on rock surface colour changes. Below is the full text of the summaries of the terms of references for these studies, which is followed by a critical review of this program. (The image on the left is the recording of one of the hundreds of thousands of surviving petroglyphs at Dampier, which has been dubbed 'The Face of Genocide', referring to the murder of the Yaburara tribe by the police of Western Australia. The image is the logo of the Dampier Campaign.)
|SUMMARIES OF PROPOSED ROCK ART MONITORING STUDIES
Listed below are summaries of the studies that have been endorsed by the Burrup Rock Art Monitoring Management Committee. These studies are the outcome of discussions between the Committee, researchers and the local Aboriginal and broader community following a Rock Art Monitoring Workshop in Dampier in March 2003.
In accord with Government procedure these studies are being finalised in terms of arranging contracts and engaging qualified consultants/researchers (external to Government) to undertake and report on scientific findings. This process has followed a formal Government tender process, which commenced with advertising for tenders in July 2003. The successful consultants for these studies will be announced in February 2004 with commencement of field work expected in late April or early May following monitoring site establishment.
The Committee expects regular updates on the monitoring studies with 6 monthly and annual reporting to the Committee. These reports will be made available on the web (www.doir.wa.aov.au). The Committee will continue to provide updates on the progress of the rock art-monitoring program and will report to, and consult with the community annually.
Following completion of studies and peer assessment of the work of the consultants, the Committee will produce a Final Report to Government and the Community. It will then make recommendations to the Burrup conservation area management body for the ongoing preservation and conservation of the rock art, whether further industrial development on the Burrup Peninsula proceeds or not.
STUDY 1 - AIR MONITORING OF AMBIENT CONCENTRATIONS OF AIR POLLUTANTS
• NO2, SO2, NH3, BTX
• Six locations selected (1 each at northern Dolphin Island and northern Burrup Peninsula and 4 within the industrial area of King Bay-Hearson Cove).
• Note: SO2 and NH3 monitoring (1 control and 1 industrial location only).
• Initially for 1-year period with possible extension following annual review of monitoring results.
Proposed sampling system:
• Each sampling site to have anodised aluminium sampling lid fitted with a rail with passive gas samplers for NO2, SO2, NH3. BTX samplers to be housed under the same lid and secured with metal clips. Aluminium casing to be attached to a metal or treated pine pole.
• Passive gas samplers to be mailed to a central location for exchange drop off and pick up by trained technician.
• Exposed samplers to be removed and placed in the vials and new samplers installed into the housing.
• Record sheets to be used by operators to record time and date of sampler installation and removal, serial number on the vial, average temperature and any additional observations/comments.
• Exposed samplers to be placed in pre-addressed envelopes supplied by Researchers and posted to Researchers for analysis.
• Monthly sampling periods.
STUDY 2 - MICROCLIMATE AND DEPOSITION STUDY
• Relative humidity;
• Wet deposition - amount and chemical composition;
• Dry deposition - amount and chemical composition;
• Bulk deposition - amount and chemical composition;
• Chemical composition (including pH) of dew on rock surfaces on exposed and protected/shaded faces.
Chemical composition shall include sodium, chloride, iron, total nitrogen and sulphur.
Six locations selected (1 each at northern Dolphin Island and northern Burrup Peninsula and 4 within the industrial area of King Bay-Hearson Cove).
• Initially for 1-year period with possible extension following annual review of monitoring results
Site establishment (equipment to be co-located with passive samplers)
• Consists of a rainwater sampler, total suspended particulates (TSP) particle sampler, a deposition sampler and temperature and humidity meters.
• Rainwater and TSP particle samplers to be bolted to a free standing concrete slab and placed in an appropriate position.
• Temperature and humidity will be measured electronically with a sensor mounted in a screened enclosure approximately 1.5 m above ground, powered by a gel cell battery.
• During each visit the technician will download data to a notebook computer and e-mail the file to researchers. Notebook computer can be supplied by researchers if required.
• No greater than monthly sampling for wet, dry and bulk deposition.
Sampling and analysis methodology:
• Rainwater samples to be collected monthly using Ecotech Model 200 ‘wet only’ rainwater samplers. These will be supplied with solar panels to charge the battery. To counteract effects of bacteria consuming some species such as organic acids, ammonia and sulphate thymol (a biocide) will be added to the sample bottle prior to field installation.
• At end of each month sampling period, data stored in the data logger will be downloaded to the notebook computer and the data file e-mailed to researchers for chemical analysis.
• Dry deposition to be collected using Ecotech Microvol 1100 samplers configured to collect TSP. They are fitted with a solar panel to charge a battery.
• After sampling the filters will be returned to researchers, extracted with high purity water and analysed for species as for rainwater.
• For measurement of amount and chemical composition of bulk deposition, a pre-cleaned plastic funnel and bottle at each site exposed for monthly periods will be used. At end of each month, high purity water will be used at the site to wash particles deposited on the funnel into the bottle.
• Dew samples will be collected from rock and surrogate surfaces using pre-cleaned pasteur pipettes. Samples to be transferred to glass vials, sealed and sent to researchers for analysis as for rainwater.
• In all cases, record sheets will be provided by researchers to the field technician to record sampling times, dates, volumes and any observations or comments.
Summary of joint proposals
• Six sites for NO2, BTX, wet deposition, dry deposition and bulk deposition measurements.
• Two sites (I control & I industrial site location) for NH3 and SO2 measurements.
• Sampling for gases, rainwater and particles at monthly intervals.
• Sixteen dew samples at each site during the year.
• Sixteen dew samples are on the basis of 4 samples/site unshaded and 4 shaded and a similar number on a surrogate surface such as Teflon.
• Number of rainwater samples is estimated at 10 per year per site based on data from Bureau of Meteorology.
STUDY 3 - FIELD STUDIES OF COLOUR CHANGES
• There is a need to assess whether there is a loss of colour contrast between rock art/petroglyphs and adjacent rock surfaces, and to establish a scientifically valid baseline for future assessments. Physical assessments are required at a number of monitoring sites to assess whether colour changes are occurring and if these are occurring at a greater rate than that due to normal weathering.
• It is expected that due to the small changes expected, monitoring of the same sites would only be needed annually over the four-year period study period.
• Any monitoring would need to ensure that there were controlled or carefully characterised conditions so that comparisons are reproducible.
• Six monitoring locations (2 at northern Dolphin Island and 4 within King Bay-Hearson Cove).
• Annual monitoring over a 4-year period, with possibility of extension following review of the monitoring results.
Proposed sampling system:
• The proposed methodology demonstrated an understanding of the need for a reproducible, reliable approach through the use of a BYK-Gardner portable spectrophotometer with natural light being excluded using a compressible collar. Such an instrument has a range of standard illuminants, including those for natural light. It does not have the capability to provide readings for light in particular spectral intervals. It would however provide detailed comparable information about changes in colour in standard natural light as perceived by the eye.
• The measuring head measures a diameter of 4 mm, which would allow for measurement of contrast between engravings and surrounding rock faces.
• Contrast in colour between engravings and adjacent rock faces would be in terms of Delta E, the standard CIE colour difference method.
• Each petroglyph would be monitored at three points with three adjacent points on the rock surface, each an average of 7 readings -42 readings per petroglyph.
• In order to relocate the instrument, digital photography with a macro lens will be used to relocate to within a millimetre.
STUDY 4 - ARTIFICIAL FUMIGATION STUDIES OF ROCK SURFACE CHANGES
• In order to gain some indication of the types of changes to be expected from prolonged exposure to existing and possible future industrial emissions it is considered that there may be value in conducting fumigation cabinet studies of typical rock samples with weathered surfaces from the Burrup Peninsula.
• Fumigation trials of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, ammonia, xylene, benzene and toluene would be needed at a range of concentrations to provide a dose-response assessment but in the above proportions with realistic Burrup temperature and humidity conditions. The fumigation trials should examine the gases in combination for existing and future industry scenarios and multiples of those concentrations to assess any physical, mineralogical or chemical changes.
• One-year period, exercisable at the absolute discretion of the Principal (Rock Art Committee)
Proposed sampling system:
• The proposed 8 cycles per day of dry/wet/dry transitions over 3 months would be equivalent to some 7 years of climatic cycles
• Further acceleration is proposed through ‘a combination of adjusting temperature and pollutant dosage (to an extent limited by the need of not distorting the damage mechanism’ leading to obtaining ‘an equivalence of 20 years of climatic cycles”.
• Consideration will be given to assess possible damage over a longer period than 20 years, it would be necessary to identify early indicators of damage. These may be chemical changes in desert varnish or specific mineral structure alteration, identified by analytical tools such as XRD or XPS.
• Possibly conduct a preliminary assessment to decide on the number and conditions of test cycles.
• There is also a proposal for a limited study using extreme exposure doses to assess the early indicators of chemical or mineral change mentioned above.
• Analysis will be done using SEM and XPS by the relevant researchers.
A recipe for failure
ROBERT G. BEDNARIK
The Dampier rock art monitoring program by the Western Australian government was initiated in response to my paper ‘The survival of the Murujuga (Burrup) petroglyphs’, in RAR 19(1). In that paper I had reported detecting quantifiable degradation of the ferruginous mineral crust in the Dampier Archipelago on whose preservation the rock art depends for its continued existence. Having measured changes in colour since the late 1960s, I had observed a marked deterioration since the late 1980s. In extrapolating from these empirical observations I predicted that the proposed three-fold increase in acidic gaseous emissions would cause widespread loss of colour contrast among the massive petroglyph corpus over the course of the 21st century.
I have therefore every reason to welcome the initiative of the government. Moreover, our knowledge base of the effects of atmospheric acidification on mineral patinae remains woefully inadequate, and any work that is designed to improve this is more than welcome. However, if the full potential of such an opportunity is not realised, it is just an opportunity lost, and it is for this reason that we need to examine the above proposals critically.
It seems to be agreed that the primary purpose of this exercise is to (a) determine the precise nature of the processes causing deterioration, and its secondary purpose is (b) to use this information to design ways of alleviating these effects. From a scientific perspective, the first purpose is the more valuable, because it will enrich our generic understanding of threats to rock art. However, from a purely pragmatic point of view, only the secondary purpose (b) is of ultimate interest, for the possible implementation of palliative measures. Nevertheless, it is obvious that, in order to design such measures, it is imperative that the basic research be conducted under optimal conditions. The terms of reference make it clear enough that this project will fail to deliver the optimal information we require.
The main reason for this lies in the central assumption that the deterioration processes are very slow and gradual. This is no doubt acceptable for Study 3, where colour changes are to be examined. These occur over a long period of time and the proposed four-year period may in fact be inadequate. Moreover, none of the studies is concerned with the key issue to be addressed: the physical degradation of the mineral accretions that are the very centre of this preservation problem. Instead we have monthly monitoring of four pollutants, which will offer vaguely relevant background information; we have monthly sampling of some factors of atmospheric deposition, which is much more relevant but is incompletely covered; the colour monitoring program; and simplistic accelerated weathering experiments.
Dampier is a locality of climatic extremes, where practically all precipitation occurs within a few weeks in the year. Gaseous emissions by themselves are not likely to dissolve the crusts, they would become operative in the presence of moisture. Unless dew has an effect, which remains unknown, we could reasonably assume that the deterioration only takes place in the course of a few weeks, essentially in the cyclon season. Obviously what we need to know more than anything else is what happens at the rock face when it rains. What I would like to know most is this: does solution take place only during rain, does it proceed evenly or does it peak, for instance in the first ten minutes of rain, when radicals in dormant solids are activated by the water? Or perhaps it takes a certain time of rainfall before the micro-erosional front becomes fully active? At this stage, we cannot claim to understand the processes of mineral accretion deterioration at all, therefore any study must commence without unwarranted assumptions. It is quite probable that most of the deterioration of the crusts is by the reaction of NO2 and rainwater in the atmosphere, yielding nitric acid, but how does its effectiveness vary as a function of duration of the precipitation event? We have no idea about these crucial details, and the most obvious aspect of the proposed study project is that it cannot possibly provide such details. The simplistic design of the project prevents the acquisition of the most important data, and instead meaningless data is likely to be collected.
It would have been much more appropriate to determine the variation of rainwater pH at the atmosphere/lithosphere interface and to plot it against time over the duration of a rain episode. The most relevant study would be a direct observation of the process under a binocular microscope, visually observing the physical mobilisation of material. The detailed recording of just one such event would tell the analyst far more than four years of unfocused and purposeless gathering of probably meaningless data. Moreover, such observation results would quickly lead to the formulation of alleviating measures. For example, if it were found that most of the degradation occurred in the early part of a rain episode and is attributable to a flushing with nitric acid, then it would be possible to avoid most damage simply by closing down emissions several hours before rain. Since the rains occur during a brief spell in the monsoon period, Woodside could easily schedule this period for annual maintenance shut-down, or for the periodic repairs or construction works entailed in the normal operation of such installations.
I am of course not suggesting that this is the correct solution, I merely use this example to show that we must not make assumptions about the relevance of specific empirical indices. All we know with certainty is that there was deterioration of the accretions since the late 1980s, because this has been monitored over decades and is quantifiable. We also know, from my work, that the micro-morphology of the accretionary deposits in the Pilbara is heavily influenced by precipitation. The core issue, then, is one of geochemistry. Emissions are the most obvious culprit, but it seems perfectly possible that factors or catalysts we have not even considered are contributing, or are even crucial. In science the solution to a problem can come even from the most unexpected direction. If we work from the assumption that only long-term average exposures are relevant, as the terms of reference in this project stipulate, we may not just be limiting the effectiveness of the project (if the short-term event peaks were the problem), we may render the entire project ineffective. And we may miss a rare opportunity to conduct badly needed basic research into this generic subject area.
There are still other objections to the research proposal. The accelerated weathering study (‘fumigation’) is likely to lead to severely misguided pronouncements about the effects of exposure to various gases. It does not simulate the natural exposure conditions, but will extrapolate from the probably negligible effects of fumigation at multiples of concentration. If the gaseous emissions have little or no effect in the absence of water, as may be the case, what is the point of demonstrating that they have also little effect at twenty times the predicted concentration?
Of particular concern is the proposed methodology of monitoring colour changes in the accretionary ferromanganous deposits. As indicated in the above terms of reference, it is proposed to use a BYK-Gardner spectrophotometer with a 4 mm aperture opening for this purpose. Therefore the instrument proposed is the 45/0 model, catalogue number CB-6807. This instrument is designed for manufacturing processes, e.g. of plastics products. It is highly sensitive to extreme conditions of temperature and relative air humidity, and cannot be operated either above 42°C or above 85% relative humidity ¾ conditions that both occur commonly in the Dampier region. Moreover, the instrument is very imprecise, with a spectral interval of 20 nm, over a spectral range from 400-700 nm. Hence it does not even cover the full range of visible light. Indeed, Gardner call it a ‘colour guide’, a much more appropriate description than ‘spectrophotometer’. The impression that an unsuitable methodology has been proposed is reinforced by the description of how the sampling site will be re-located (not ‘relocated’): digital photographs will guide this process. Yet the baffle surrounding the aperture is of about 12 cm diameter. First, it will be physically impossible to re-locate the baffle so that the original sampling site is targeted ‘to within a millimetre’, as stated. Second, it should not be approximately re-located, or within a millimetre, it must be precisely re-located, otherwise the result can only be imprecise, if not meaningless.
What amazes me most about this methodological blunder is the fact that a vastly more precise method of colorimetry is available. It was designed precisely for measuring changes in rock art, it has been published, and has been used in the Dampier Archipelago for many years. The colorimetric method I have developed specifically for rock art is much more precise, simpler and cheaper, and I have used it not only at Dampier, but also elsewhere in the Pilbara (notably on repatinated inscriptions at Spear Hill) as well as on red pigment in Mladec Cave, Czech Republic and elsewhere. In this method with its spectrum of over 16 million colours the spatial sampling precision is under 100 microns. It requires no expensive American gadget and measures colour change with much greater accuracy, by relying on aliquot readings rather than single but questionable values. Moreover, because calibrated photographic records can be included to determine earlier colour changes, the duration of the monitoring period can be extended to the earliest such records we have. They are in this case of 1968, so in 2008 they will provide coverage of the highest precision for a total of forty years, whereas the results of this government endeavour will cover just 10% of that duration, at vastly inferior precision, at massive cost (many tens of thousands of dollars), and yield results which I can only reject: I remain unconvinced that the Gardner instrument is even remotely suitable for this task.
Why, then, this unfortunate choice of methodology? The answer is simple. This rock art committee does not include a single rock art researcher, or even a specialist in accretionary mineral crusts. This is despite the fact that such expertise would have been available in Perth, and amply available in the eastern states. The committee is unaware of previous attempts to measure rock art deterioration by spectrophotometry or spectrometry, which were unproductive or inconclusive, and which were the very reason why I opted for digitised colorimetry a long time ago. The exclusion from this project of rock art specialists is deliberate, as shown by the simple fact that all four studies were awarded to a single government agency that, significantly, has no previous track record in rock art research or rock art conservation. Having conducted all previous analytical work on the Dampier rock art, and having prompted this project, I find it sad that I was not consulted on any aspect of its design. Its mistakes were all avoidable.
Therein lies the problem: this is not an attempt to resolve the issue, but a political whitewash and a measure to procrastinate further. I predict that the results of this project in 2008 will be inconclusive and unreliable, and that the main finding will be that CSIRO will require further funding to continue the work. Meanwhile the government expects to continue its destruction of the Dampier rock art, bulldozing many more sites, and permitting the huge petrochemical industries to belch out ever more acidic emissions, at the rate of tens of thousands of tonnes per year. And all the while, the alternative Maitland Industrial Estate remains unoccupied.
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