The Yunta Vegetable
Second giant figure appears in South Australiaís Outback
For the second time in as many weeks a giant figure carved into the South Australian outback has left the World wondering who and why. The tiny town of Yunta was projected unexpectedly into the Worldís newspaper headlines following the discovery of a mysterious giant figure, some 10km in diameter, carved into the iron crust of the earth, centered on an area just 80km north west of the town. This comes just days after the similar sudden discovery of the giant Marree Man to the west of the Stateís northern Flinders Ranges. But the figure at Yunta is different in two significant aspects. It is much bigger than Marree Man, and no-one can agree on exactly what it is.
Yunta is the type of town that people drive through on their way to somewhere else. Most people donít stop, but those that do have an odds on chance of ending up in the local Mobil station, which is where local pilot Brian Grimmell, the discoverer of the Yunta figure, described the day that changed his life. "I was just taking my Cessna out for a bit of an airing on Monday morning and I was pouring a coffee from my thermos when I lost control for just a second. I righted her no worries, but just as she was coming back up I glanced down and there it was. And I never spilt the coffee neither." But there exactly what was is a question that no-one in Yunta seems to be able to agree upon. The local consensus is that the closed figure almost certainly resembles some sort of vegetable, but that is as far as agreement goes. "Itís a carrot," Brian announces with confidence, "a 10km long bloody carrot". But others do not share his confidence. Brianís wife Susannah, one of a group that Brian flew over the figure on Monday afternoon is not a follower of the carrot theory. "Brian seems sure it is a carrot, but if itís a carrot itís a pretty squat one. I reckon itís more like an eggplant or a zukini. Could be a squash at a push. Brian doesnít like eggplants and I donít think heíd know one that was 10cm long, let alone 10ks." Mobil assistant Carol Whiteman was also with Brian on Monday afternoon and is absolutely sure it is a cauliflower. "Just coz it is really big means that people donít see the edges properly and makes em think itís round. But I saw loads of jaggy bits. It must be a cauli," she pronounced.
The debate about what lies in the dust north of Yunta is almost as heated as the perhaps more interesting debates as to why the figure has appeared, and who has carved it. Local police chief Dan Barter is in no doubt about the what and the why, but has yet to figure out the who question. "Itís a potato for sure. A lot of people are saying a lot of rot round here about the significance of the potato as a sacred vegetable among Australian consumers. But I just donít buy that. Thereís nothing sacred about driving around ploughing up the soil for the amusement of people in airplanes. This is a dirty tourist stunt by someone round here who hasnít got anything better to do with their time." This matches many similar theories about Marree Man, so could the two be linked, or even be by the same artist? "I wouldnít flatter them with the term artist," Dan says angrily. "I doubt itís the same hand at work, for one thing this one canít draw to save themselves." Indeed the evidence suggests that the Yunta Vegetable and Marree Man have very little other than sensationalism in common. Dan Barterís assistant Kevin Harper has explored the ground around the Yunta Vegetable and like the case of Marree Man was quick to rule out alien involvement. "If it was done by an alien then they like Black Swan dips and Garlic cheese, thatís all I can say", relating to his discovery of some litter accidentally left near the alleged stalk of the giant carving. "Things have been quiet round here since we had all the fuss about the rabbit virus escaping and I reckon someone out here has been missing all that media attention." Kevinís theory seems much more plausible than local shooter Arny Bludgett. "Itís a sign," he says, dark eyes glaring madly from beneath his oily skip cap. "People round here donít eat enough greens you know. Itís a sign. Weíre all going to die from malnuwhatever, you know when you donít eat enough veggies and stuff like that. "Weíve got to save ourselves, thatís what it means. I donít know who the hell did it though Ė it wasnít me."
Brian agreed to fly me up to interview a few of the people living in the immediate vicinity of the Yunta Vegetable. We bumped down the airstrip of Koonamore Station on a very hot and windy afternoon and were met by local landholder Locky. "Itís a strange thing alright", he told us, "and letís get one thing straight Ė it wasnít me or anyone up here." He did admit that there was a potential income to be made from tourist flights, but also that he hadnít had too many more callers before or after the discovery. "The phone hasnít exactly been buzzing if you know what I mean, but I dare say someone sometime might want a fly by. Iíd be asking our mate Brian here pretty seriously about who might have done this. Heís been pretty keen on starting tourist flights round here Ė but who the hell comes to Yunta for their holidays for Godís sake. You could try asking down at Bindyi Ė thereís always a few odd ones in there."
Bindyi turned out to be the name of a tiny house within the boundaries of Koonamore station that is owned by the University of Adelaide. But in contrast to the buzz of excitement that the carving has induced further south, and throughout the World, news of the figureís appearance paradoxically had not reached Bindyi, arguably one of the closest settlements to the figure itself. David Ladd, a botanical technician, sat opposite me in the Bindyi kitchen and offered me some local pizza fresh from the cottage oven. "Weíre using our own dough now for the bases," he said enthusiastically. As to the giant vegetable, David looked perplexed. "Well Ė a lot of strange things happen up here," he laughed, "but I must admit that this is the first time weíve had a reporter coming up and telling us a story about a giant figure carved right under our noses and we havenít even known about it. I mean, itís pretty bizarre and pretty excellent really. Yeah." In fact David and his assistants seem stunned that such a thing could have happened without someone noticing something. "Weíve been here about a week now and we havenít seen anyone Ė no lights, no noise, no visitors. About normal really, which is why we come here if you see what I mean. Anyway Ė no we havenít seen anything. And itís not exactly as if we havenít been out and about. Biggles and I went for a bit of a drive on Saturday and I reckon we covered a reasonable amount of country. In fact more than we meant to, because after about 10ks the GPS packed in, but thatís another story altogether." I asked of the dangers of getting lost in the outback. "Itís a bit of a worry," David added, "but we know the country pretty well. So we just kind of had a bit of lunch, had a bit of a look around and you recognise something eventually. I reckon we burned up a bit of extra juice doing a bit of a circuit out there, but after an hour we picked up our tracks and followed them back out. We werenít too stressed about it. It was kind of fun, wasnít it Biggly? But we didnít see anyone."
And so with the low sun glowing orange, Brain steered me back towards Yunta, but not before swinging west over the patch of land that has caused all the fuss and set all the fingers pointing. I followed the line of Brianís finger and sure enough, a faint set of lines could be seen, etched into the dust, continuing for mile after mile, before turning to the south and then the east. As day grew weary I found my mind wandering, searching, hunting, reaching for the right word. And then it came. It was so clear now and I couldnít believe the World had missed it. So obvious really. "Itís a pumpkin".