World’s Largest Tombstone

There are many mysteries in Western Australian history. Consider just one case – the story of the World’s Largest Tombstone.

During Robert Austin’s 1854 groundbreaking exploration through the Murchison to Shark Bay he found what he claimed to be the world’s largest tombstone.

Austin records:

… 4 miles from Goomalling the only passage for a cart is through a narrow defile between two rugged hills, from which large granite rocks have slipped, and nearly blocked up the intervening space.  One of the largest of these rocks, Norcott informed us, was lying on a poor black fellow who was passing and was buried under it when it fell.

This melancholy story invested the stone with a degree of interest; so I examined and measured it, and found the length 52 feet, height 46 feet, and thickness 33 feet; and the sharp form and dimensions correspond so exactly with the depression in the adjacent escarpment from which it had fallen, that I am satisfied the fracture is of comparatively recent date, and I am disposed to believe the sad accident occurred as stated, so that this rock, which contains 79,936 cubic feet, and weighs nearly 6000 tons, is probably the largest tombstone in the world.

Austins Pillar, as this mysterious monolith is known, has been investigated by local farmers, members of the Western Australian Explorers’ Diaries Project, anthropologists, and many members of the public and, to date, there is no valid conclusion to Austin’s claim.

What is not in dispute is that there is nothing even close to Austin’s description anywhere in the area. There is a rock nearby, known since the first settlement of the district as Tombstone Rock – a named derived from the same tale Austin received.

But it is the wrong shape, in the wrong location and in the wrong position (it is a rock split by the process of weathering and did not fall from a height), and serves only to confuse modern day seekers of a solution to this mystery.

Austin’s journal was published by the Western Australian Explorers’ Diaries Project as The Finest Goldfields in the World.

Kim Epton
Series Editor

Posted by Kim Epton

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