Waiting at Melbourne Airport full of excitement and anticipation of what the next 2 weeks could bring, we couldn't help but notice the iridescence in the clouds, followed by a beautiful sunset taken from the plane window! A nice way to begin!
After our 5 hour flight, we landed at Darwin airport in the heat and humidity, around midnight. We were kindly greeted by fellow chasers and Darwin residents Max and Jacob, who kindly ferried us 'Southerners' to our apartment, and much needed air conditioning and comfy bed! I had forgotten just how hard the tropical humidity hits you like a brick wall.
7am the next morning, with the temp already 28.6C, dew point 25C and humidity 81%, there was a small multicell towards the North producing static on the radio every 10 seconds, or so. A good sign of things to come? Well, no, not really unfortunately!
We picked up our hire car and began what was to become the search for a storm....or anything that remotely resembled a storm....or even some vague form of convection. Our search took us to the beach at Nightcliff for a walk......
....followed by a trip out to Foggy Swamp and some unexpected crepuscular rays on our return journey into Darwin.
That afternoon we went to East Arm Boat Ramp to photograph some mangroves and a poor excuse for a CJ.
The Darwin Train Station looked a hub of activity (for Darwin standards) on the way back to the apartment and we were greeted with the arrival of 'The Ghan'! Now, that's a train!
As the end of our first unsuccessful storm day in Darwin came to a close, we sat on the rocks at Nightcliff and experienced one of Darwin's magical sunsets.
Today was spent sight seeing in the hope of catching some development 'somewhere'. We began our journey at the beautiful Berry Springs, where much needed relief was found in the cool clear waters of the spring.....complete with spitting fish!
We then moved on to Litchfield Park, where we were inundated with termite mounds including magnetic ones........
..........beautiful running water at Buley Rock Holes.......
....and the magnificent oasis of Florence Falls.
The storm less drive back into Darwin had us trudging through bush and scrambling along the train line to capture the termite mounds in the evening light, and the sunset.
We woke again today to find a line of convection along the coast, which once again amounted to nothing at all!
We packed lunch and frozen water bottles and headed out to Windows on The Wetlands, where we waited, and waited for something to happen. One small turkey (towering CU) did appear but unfortunately soon fell apart.
It would have been a fantastic viewing spot with 360 deg views all around, but we had to make do with the recorded thunder in the display/information area.....the only thunder (albeit fake) we would hear at our time in Darwin. We chased distant convection all the way out to Mandorah and, naturally, it fell apart again!
After yesterday's disappointments, today had some more promising signs with the dew points and humidity rising in the afternoon. The morning was spent sight seeing (again), this time around Darwin's beaches at East Point and photographing the mangroves at low tide, and the beautiful Flame trees in the surrounding gardens.
Jane and I also braved the stifling conditions and ventured down the road from the Apartment and walked through the Botanic Gardens...although we didn't get terribly far! We went for the coolest, shadiest spot in the gardens, but instead found ourselves surrounded by spiders! After a hasty exit and being careful not to get tangled in their webs, we searched for frangipani's instead - a much 'safer' option!!
As things were beginning to improve we headed out to Noonamah to wait...yet again! Convection was beginning to break through the middle layers.
We encountered precipitation around 4.50pm on the road to Gunn Point past Howard Springs! No thunder observed however! The only 'rain' in the vicinity of Darwin today, and we happened to be under it.
OK, so that was 'something' . Next.........
That evening, Darwin turned on another gorgeous sunset. Although at this stage sunsets were beginning to get a little tiresome!
We began the long trek today towards Adelaide River and beyond, where speed limits are non existent! On the side of the road we made a mad dash to pull over as a 'tornado on the ground' was spotted in the paddock next to the HWY. Well, a dust devil actually, but the closest thing we were ever going to see to a tornado!
After that excitement we continued past Adelaide River, towards Daly River and encountered some beautiful scenery, including large black rocks in the middle of nowhere!
We then made our way to the infamous 'storm paddock', a large, flat and open area well known to chases as an excellent viewing area. Although this day all we saw was a poor excuse for CU.
We finally made it to Daly River, and were able to cross it. The water must be absolutely pounding through here in the wet season making the road impassable. It was ice creams all around as again, we waited.
...and another sunset to close, yet again, another storm less day.
An amazing scene greeted us at Dripstone Point in the Casuarina Coastal Reserve this morning. The tide was incredibly low and the sand stretched for what seemed miles and miles, and almost resembled a desert, not a beach! There were wonderful patterns in the sand made from the retreating water, and crabs (I think!) digging to the surface.
After lunch was spent at Noonamah waiting for convection. It did appear with a few dark bases too, but once again it fell apart before anything happened. I did however come cross a cane toad, seen in the best possible way.....squashed!! So it was back to the apartment for yet another sunset......
Our last day in the Tropical Top End before our ghastly midnight flight back into Melbourne. What would today bring? Would we be lucky enough to experience a thunderstorm we had traveled across the Country to intercept? I doubt it!
This morning's touristy activity was spent feeding the Milk Fish and Mullets that swarm Doctors Gully at high tide, and ambling around the Parap Markets.We also drove out to Palmerston and a little further down the road to Channel Island.
We couldn't drive terribly far today as the Hire car had to be returned, so instead we sat on the grass in the shade along the foreshore at Nightcliff, and watched 'Hector' develop over the Tiwi Islands. It was interesting to watch from when he started as a Towering CU to a mature thunderstorm. Just wish we could have been under it....
That evening we went to East Point Reserve and had a combined ASWA/North Aus Chasers BBQ! Was good to catch up with people I've chatted to on the Weatherzone Forums, and all reminisce about the return to the dry season! The sunset was a beautiful close to our stay in Darwin. A thunderstorm with a massive squall line would have been more fitting, but it wasn't to be....
So, that was my stormless experience in Darwin! What went wrong? Was it pure coincidence that the day we land in Darwin until the day we leave there were no storms whatsoever?? No - just terribly unlucky for us already storm starved Victorians.
In the words of Great Victorian Chaser extraordinaire Clyve Herbet, "It was unfortunate the week we arrived a massive burst of southern ocean air spread across eastern Australia the week prior then invaded the tropics as a trade surge bringing dry south easterlies across the Top End of Australia. This effectively killed any worthwhile opportunities for storm activity. The mass of dry air could be traced from the Coral Sea to the western Top End and remained over the Darwin/Top End regions for almost two weeks. This was a very unusual situation for Darwin in late November and early December. So our Darwin expedition for 2006 could be related to the biggest storm bust in Australian history...and we were part of it..."
Despite this, however, I had a fantastic time and saw some breathtaking scenery, and still managed to take approximately 100 photos a day! Total km's traveled in the car for the whole week around Darwin and the surrounds was 1700km. I am officially renaming Thunder Down Under to Tourists Down Under...!