Environment: Hostile as Anywhere

The Pilbara district of northwestern Australia's outback is a sort of hell. There is barely enough vegetation on the stony hills and sere plains to support the area's population of wild donkeys, kangaroos and emus; only rock pythons, death adders and hoards of stinging insects seem to have adapted comfortably to the climatic extremes: winds that reach velocities of 140 m.p.h., dust storms that swirl out of the nearby Great Sandy Desert, noonday temperatures as high as 180° F. For man, it is as hostile a place as any in the world.

But man has come to the Pilbara, drawn by the...

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