National Geographic : 2004 Nov
I liked to sit at the old picnic table there, watch those huge monsoonal clouds glowing pink and gold in the sunrise and speculate about whether this day might finally, at long last, see rain. But it never seemed to. And today wasn't shaping up any differently-clouds towering 40,000 feet above the savanna but with an aloof look to them, and a feel in the air that I was beginning to recognize like a local: no rain today. Not here, at least. I found myself thinking about that droll bit of dialogue from Casablanca, where Bogart tells Claude Rains that he came to Casablanca for the waters. "The waters? What waters?" asks the bemused Rains. "We're in the desert." To which Bogie replies, with his trade mark irony: "I was misinformed." I was feeling that way myself. So far I had idled here for weeks in sweltering heat without a drop of rain falling, only blazing tropical sun shine and not much in the forecast but more of the same. Sometimes there wasn't a cloud in the sky-just those arid southeasterlies blow ing up from the deserts, dry-season weather that rattled the palm fronds along dusty old Yappar Street and frayed tempers in a town that had been waiting on the rains now for eight months. Drive to the edge of town and look all around. You'd see nothing but heat waves shim mering to the horizon. The waters? What waters? We're in the desert. I sat by the old flying-boat ramp watching the clouds boil up over the savanna until the sun started to bite too hard. I walked back up Yappar Street in blinding glare, suffocating heat already radiating up from the bitumen. It was going to be another stinker. Scene Three Yappar Street, a Week Later One hundred and seven degrees in the shade, rain less skies, and nothing moving at midafternoon except the mercury in the thermometer. Fishing was finished for the year, the boats hoisted out of the water for refits or to be dry-docked in their skippers' backyards, safe from cyclones. The fish factory and cold-storage warehouses had slowed to care-and-maintenance pace, while the local helicopter pilots-who'd been leading full and dangerous lives these past few months muster ing livestock on the huge cattle stations-now had time hanging heavy on their hands, since the work needs to be wrapped up well ahead of the rains. Pilots and cowboys alike spent their afternoons tinkering with their machines down at the hangar or improving their bank shots at one of the pool tables in the Animal Bar. "This is the time of year when the women get bitchy and the blokes get into fights," Rob Six-month forecast: heat, humidity, downpour In the seasonally shifting intertropicalconvergencezone (ITCZ)-theglobal belt where the northernand southern trade winds meet-hot, unstable conditionsgive rise to clusters of intense thunderstorms.Duringthe southernsummer, when the ITCZ lies south of the Equator (bottom globe), the heavens open-and the wet descends on Australia'snorth.