I was assigned to do a story about monsoon season in Northern Australia. Simple really, a story about place and weather…just very strange weather.
The locals have names—Mango Madness, Going Troppo, Suicide Season—for the episodes of endless wet and wind that hit any time from November through April.
Everything I read before going described weather of biblical proportions. So I adapted an entire heavy case full of underwater cameras to use on land and was fully prepared to do the John Muir thing—lash myself to something and experience the fury of the storm–but nothing turned out as I planned.
Northern Australia is an enormous place and severe weather may be happening somewhere, but getting to it is not easy. You can watch the clouds racing across the horizon, but without a plane on standby, that’s about all you can do.
For a month I did everything I could to chase monsoon weather. In the middle of cyclone warnings, we chartered the last plane allowed into the Tiwi Islands, which were directly in the path of the storm. But the cyclone suddenly took an abrupt left turn and hit land around Darwin, where we had just been.
In that first month I didn’t see anything that said “monsoon.” In fact, I was going through buckets of sunscreen, not seeing any rain…and yet the landscape all around me was filling up with water.
The writer, meanwhile, was staying put in Karumba. He had taken a gamble and planned to tell the story through the eyes of one small town. He sat there for an entire month. No rain. So he left in disgust.
I had read about people in the North praying for rain, suffering thru the never ending and ungodly heat and humidity. I just didn’t realize the folks praying for rain would be the writer and me.
© Randy Olson / Ir Images
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