Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Freshening up the tower

Today while up the fire tower, I began drawings of landmark profiles, using former tower man Tim's work as a guide. His illustrations are now a bit dusty, mouldy and spider-spotted - it's been a five years since he drew them. But I've always loved looking up to the profiles when trying to get coordinates on a smoke. Part of what we do when spotting for fires is a compass bearing, with the tower as centre, and then an estimation of distance. Once we have these two elements, we can work out the exact location of the fire. Our map table has elevations, which helps us line up the distance of a smoke according to a nearby landmark. After that, it's all guesswork until the spotter plane goes overhead. The profiles help enormously, which is why I'm in the process of freshening them up. Here's the one from the western window of the tower that I did today.

There's a new mobile phone tower right before Beardmore Ridge that I probably should have included. Phone towers are really useful because even though they're ugly, they stand out like dog's balls (both and the same maybe) and are great for judging distance. Spotter pilots and water bombers are wary of them and lighthouses during bushfires, for obvious reasons.

The Dinosaur Egg Hill is a granite peak and really charismatic to stare at. That hill at 1-2 kilometres west of the tower looks like you could reach out and touch it in real life. It's laddered with old growth karris and sometimes I can peer into that forest with binoculars and see bird's nests in the canopy and odd, secret caves. The farm is a good one because it is one of the few paddocks I can see in the national parks. And then there's the inlet where I live, in the south west inset - a sliver of silver before the primary dunes that protect it from the sea. Thirty kilometres away ...


In between drawing, watching and listening for smoke reports from the spotter pilots, I quite often devolve into that daft mental friction of doomscrolling. I begin with checking the Emergency WA website for prescribed burns and bushfires on my phone, in case I've missed anything going on, and then somehow I end up on twitter.

The last few weeks have felt like I'm back to March 2020 anxiety levels, with more knowledge and less surety. If that sounds like an oxymoron, our little hermit state is set to open up to the rest of the world in a few weeks time. We've watched the world suffer and we've been so bloody lucky here, shut away, with lockdowns that rarely last more than a few days and that are usually triggered by a single community case. Out into the world we go, ho hum. 

I will continue drawing these profiles. Over the next week or so, you'll get north, east and south.


  1. You can't beat hand drawn to make it real and you can point to the what you see right out there. I am sure I didn't say that very well but you know what I am saying. I haven't drawn many profile maps but I always like to draw my own location maps when I am going to a different place, even in London, I prefer my own to anything on digital. I look forward to seeing the others.

  2. I like the drawings Sarah. It must be difficult getting your bearings - especially when you first started that job. I suppose you've seen the NASA satellite hotspot maps. Wouldn't help with new wildfires but would help with smouldering heat spots.

    I've had my booster and I'm less concerned about catching COVID than the socio-economic-cultural implications of vaxxed vs anti-vaxxed. I have conflicting thoughts about what freedoms the anti-vaxxed should have, based on my level of annoyance at their non-compliance. Especially when I feel I've taken a risk myself getting it. The whole thing is just shit.

  3. Yes, we use himawari among others which is probably Nasa data anyway. Nothing beats the human eye though. I had two hotspots last week that were hot granite and reported new smokes that didn't show up on hotspots for hours. So it is useful but not perfect.

    And yes, similar mixed emotions here too. Schadenfreude re antis is not really working for me. I feel as well like I'm buying in to a collective anxiety that, combined with anger, is becoming toxic, just wish I could be more Zen about things. Hanging out in the vege garden during my days off is the best.

  4. People forget that vaccinated people are just as likely to pass on a virus as the unvaccinated. In this country the program is to reduce the strain on the healthcare system, which is already under a lot of strain for other reasons. When given a choice you are expected NOT to conduct (unmasked or otherwise) meetings with people knowing that you are infectious, as certain tennis players recently have. Nice drawings, btw.