The trip to Vietnam and Cambodia has been consigned to the archives and we’re both recovered from the virus we contracted, thank you for asking. Just as well we didn’t make our trip In February this year – we would have been held up by the coronavirus police for sure – and I don’t even drink beer. (Yes, there are some intelligent people who believe the virus is somehow linked to a Mexican beer. I expect they’re eligible to vote, too.)
At least it has given the media something else to be alarmist about, since the bush fire situation is all over. Except it’s not. The bush fire just outside Canberra is growing and the temperature there today is in the 40s so that’s very dangerous. Same with fires in southeast New South Wales. Fires in Tasmania and WA are under control but they’re still burning.
It never ceases to amaze me how quickly misinformation can spread online. Several times Facebook friends shared the image above, which was purported to be from a NASA satellite. As soon as I saw it I shook my head. I hadn’t heard of catastrophic fires up in the north of the continent and fires in the middle – it’s desert. Fortunately the major news services have done us all a favour and explained the origins of these maps. Don’t get me wrong. The situation was, and still is in places, dire. But there has been minimal impact on the cities and there are plenty of places which have not been affected (so far – summer’s not over). Millions of hectares have burned, millions of animals – livestock and native – have died. Thousands of homes and livelihoods have been destroyed. Frankly, though the loss of human life is tragic, I’m surprised the toll has been so low.
The good news is that now that the Indian Ocean Dipole has settled and the Southern Annular Mode is back to normal it’s raining again. The monsoon has arrived in the north and rain from there has swept down to South Australia. Dams have filled on farms in NSW and Victoria and the bush burnt before Christmas is starting to sprout green shoots. Our forests have evolved to cope with fire. Many species need smoke or ash to germinate. Eucalypts have lignotubers to enable them to recover. That’s not to say recovery will be rapid. Millions of animals which survived the fires will need food and water and shelter. Koalas are obvious but there are small birds, lizards, small marsupials as well as kangaroos. I fear for the endangered corroboree frog which lives only in the Kosciusko National Park – which was burned. Fortunately, a rescue mission has been put in place.
And that will be the story of the coming months and years as people try to pick up the pieces of shattered lives and rebuild. The Australian people have, as usual, banded together to help. Hay has been trucked from unaffected areas to help farmers whose properties have burned. Millions have been donated to social welfare organisations and wildlife organisations. And, of course, help has been coming from around the world – cash, hand-knitted items such as pouches for joeys, and volunteer fire fighters. I think we all have been touched by the support that has poured in.
Hervey Bay ‘endured’ a few smoky weeks when serious fires burned one to two hundred kilometres away – but we missed most of the effects because we were overseas. After a prolonged drought we were delighted to receive 93.5mm of rain in January – much more than we’ve had in that month for the past four years. We could do with more; our water supply catchments are very low but I’m not the only one who’s hopeful there’s more to come.
We went for a walk on the beach this morning for the first time in too long. I took my camera, of course. Before we left I checked the battery and found it was down to 9% so I replaced it. What a pity I didn’t check that battery, too. It was dead as a door nail. So (of course) a flight of corellas zoomed past, along with a pair of pink and grey galahs. On the way back a young white faced heron, not at all concerned by our presence, pottered around in the sand, providing great photo opportunities in perfect lighting conditions for a great shot. It’s always the way, isn’t it? Here’s a couple I prepared earlier.