Wednesday, January 26, 2005

riverrun, past Eve and Adam's

It has been raining for most of the last week. Not heavily but continuously, about 18mm - ¾s of an inch – a day. The rain has cooled the place down by several degrees, 25° C. today where a week ago it was 35, has turned the countryside green, but has only left a pittance of water on the beds of the totally dried-up lagoons & barely increased the levels of those that still had water in them. By my calculations it would take another 1-2 months of this level of rain to bring them back up to the levels they were when we arrived 18 months ago.

On both the Yeppen Yeppen lagoon – a couple of hundred metres away from our house - & the Woolwash lagoon – a couple of kilometres away – there are a single pair of pelicans. Most have headed towards the inland lakes which are filling up from the seasonal monsoon rains that drench northern Australia at this time of the year & flow south. I do not know why these few remain. Maybe they've been appointed as caretakers, or maybe they just don't want to follow the crowd. They have the lagoons pretty much to themselves, though a couple of weeks ago I watched four hawks or kites, some sort of raptor anyway, perch on fenceposts beside the Woolwash &, at regular intervals, take off & rake the shallow water with their claws, perhaps in search of the small fish that inhabit the lagoons, perhaps newly hatched turtles, but whichever one, now in danger because there is no depth left to escape to.

The river is muddy & fuller than it normally is. Its catchment area is much further north, further inland; there are anecdotal stories of it flooding locally when there hasn't been any rain for several months. The last big flood in Rockhampton was in 1991, a combination of heavy local rain as well as in the catchment area. The city was isolated for three weeks. When the river floods, it spreads across the flood plain from the north & west, circles south, & joins the lagoons together until they form a second river that meets up again with its current course east of the island that the southern part of the city has become. The airport is on the flood plain, the highway, at best, only a metre or so above it.

The river has changed its course over the millenia; it has emptied into the sea at various points within a four hundred kilometre range. The chain of lagoons mark the meandering of the river at some point, some points, in its past.

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