Sunday, January 10, 2021

Cloud Jail

 A change in the weather would be an understatement. Three days ago, tower folk recorded 38 degrees and 10 percent relative humidity and today I recorded 16 degrees and 95 percent relative humidity. Cloud clung to the mountain. For most of the day I couldn't see anything, leading to what I call an emotional existential crisis: 'Why am I here? I can't see anything, let alone a bushfire. Why do I even exist at the top of this mountain?'

It's a wondrous thing to be up so high that cloud systems have their own personalities and rhythms. The wind swung south west over night after an excruciating (and scary) few days of it charging in from the north west. The spotter pilot gave up this morning and went home. Despite the weather, it's still a high fire danger due to the past week, so I knew I was stuck up there for the rest of the day, looking at white.

Here she comes, rolling in from the south west. The tower windows face the four points of the compass.


Going, going ... looking north

And gone. (East)

For a while, I sat in cloud jail, listening to the radio, waiting for the front to pass. It didn't. The cloud just sat there. It does tend to send me into a sad funk, when my job is to look for smoke.I doom scrolled through the US pandemonium and virus updates on my phone, and doodled ditties in the plotting book.

A great big bunch of kids turboed up the final lot of steps. Children always rip up the mountain, followed by their more circumspect and breathless parents. 'How many steps did we climb?' Yelled one to me through the open door of the tower.

'Didn't you count them?'


'Three hundred and three, I think. Not including the ladders.'

'Wow. Dad, there's three hundred and three steps!'

They started running around on the granite peak as the clouds tumbled and rolled around them. They held out their arms, their caps blowing off in the wind. 'I'm touching the clouds! We're all touching the clouds!'


  1. 'Doom scrolling '. I heard a locked-down school girl say that this morning. I still like the idea of being up there, even with an unusable telescope.

    1. P.s. I just noticed the wire and slot alignment thingies on the telescope mount. It's more sophisticated than it looks at first.

    2. Yes good call re the wire and slot, Tom. We only use the slots when they give us a good bearing on smokes that are in the way of the tower pillars.

    3. I think I'll try explain that again. When the smokes are behind the tower pillars, we can't see them with the scope, so we use the wire and slot outriggers. They are spot on, bearings-wise. Just takes a bit of squinting.

  2. Kids are great at finding joy in simple things. Sorry it isn't fun for you but this latest change is most welcome. The humidity has been unbearable. I was making a salad evening before last and the sweat was dripping off my face, down my back. I yelled out: aargh! - ripped my sparse clothing off and raced outside to hose myself down in the garden. Just hideous. I hope the humidity decreases the risk of fire, or else it will be ought for nought.

  3. Oh yes this change is welcome for me too! I do find this time of year, that some kind of cool front is pushing the hottest weather ahead of it.

    Mmm yum, sweat salad dressing :) This cool change has done bugger all for the fire danger rating. There simply wasn't enough rain in it.

    And kids ... I just love getting shaken out of my scenario land headspace by them. Here I was getting all whingey about the weather and they so ecstatic to be touching clouds. Truly inspiring.