Sunday, April 29, 2018

Caldyanup, the Dublin, the Guardian and the Tower

Some days the country is like one of the colonial specimen tables. Irwins Inlet is so still it lies across the land like smoke on a low. My scope lands upon a cave to the north that my mind has somehow slipped past every day for months. The art of seeing. Three upright clouds in a row. The eagles are around again and I let the spotter know, he's heading this way. Two other towers are calling in permit burns and prescribed burns alike. It's the end of the season for me now; once open burning begins there are too many to call in and wildfire risk is minimal. So it's 'Office, this is tower. Tower's closing for the day. Have a good evening. Tower out.'

Unfortunately I didn't make it to the Dublin's shortlist. That's okay, that it was listed at all is really bloody exciting. Yes, really, bigly. And I didn't really want 100,000 dumb Euros anyway, like, the tender wouldn't even be legal in Australia, would it? This weekend I was involved in a feature in the UK Weekend Guardian. It's an article called 'How to be Alone' about people's solitary work. It's here. It's accompanied by the painterly work of my favourite photographer Nic Duncan. The image above is me at the base of the mountain in the karri forest, with that earthy smell of recently burned eucalypts. These closed forest spaces are a different experience entirely to the vastness of the peak, which I reckon would be an agoraphobic's bad dream. I'm a bit the opposite, one with an eye for an horizon. Maybe that's why I was so in love with the job.

                                                       A burn out Rocky Gully way.

                         And this one behind Granite Peak is fifty kilometres away from the tower.



And now with the autumn comes the stunning calm days, sudden deluges that clear the air of dust and smoke, and freaky fruity fungi. Whee!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Caldayanup diaries #8

This is the tree that marks Juliet Oscar Niner Niner.

For ages I drove past this tree thinking who was Jo and how did they die in 1999?
But, unlike the Wandjinas, this marker tree has only been freshened up for a short time now. Here is a map to show where that tree is. Can you plot it?

Caldyanup diaries #7 Aquila

There are three Wedgetail eagle siblings, young ones, about a year old, who hang around the tower. Their colours are bright and lustrous. They are a tawny shock at the other end of the scope and I will scramble down the ladder to get out on the rock with them. This one, Aquila I call her, often flies with her landing gear down. Her talons aren't stretched out ready to attack; she just floats on the updraft, hanging her legs. When she spots something her speed and ferocity is thrilling.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Caldyanup Diaries # 6

When I was a kid growing up, they were still whaling in this town. The spotter pilot flew around looking and when he found a pod of whales, he'd radio the coordinates to the chasers. The fleet of old Norwegian ships would take off like a mob of Orcas on the hunt, a 'bone in their teeth' as the water curled away from the bow.

These days the spotter pilots fly around over country, not sea, looking for smoke during the wildfire season. When they see smoke they radio it in to the office and, depending on the situation, someone will send out a fleet of trucks or water bombers. 'Air attack' the bombers are called and useful in areas of impenetrable terrain.

The neighbouring district have been burning this week. The planned burns to reduce fuel loads in case of wildfires also rejuvenate the bush with new growth and smoke-germinated seeds. I was in the tower when three burns went up in quick succession - massive clouds of smoke rising high on the horizon fifty or sixty kilometres away. I listened to the chatter of the spotters from that district and the next one, as they called in smoke descriptions and coordinates. The spotter in my district radioed me to say those last two smokes I called in were private burns and there was No Attention Required.

Something I've noticed and wondered about: The spotters from the northern regions are no longer just calling in smoke. They are also calling in whales. Dead whales. The body of a humpback. A forgotten fin whale's carcass, from the mass stranding last week. Bush smoke and dead whales. There's something that feels apocalyptic about this juxtaposition. There's something in this picture, and I don't know what it is. All I know is that I've been obsessing over it all week.