Storming Carnarvon

'Tent city' with Mt Lambert in background

The latest Bush Blitz was on Bush Heritage’s Carnarvon Station Reserve in central Queensland where a dozen scientists gathered for more digging in the dirt. But the team’s Brian Hawkins thought he might get stuck there….

The first fall of rain woke me. The fat drops quickly developed into a heavy pounding. The sky flashed and the rain cascaded down. We raced down the stairs, getting drenched in the few metres between our sleeping quarters and the cottage that housed the Bush Blitz HQ. Whipped by the wind, spray was swirling under the eaves. We turned off all the powerpoints and carried the computers and electronic gear from the veranda into the cottage. We carried the maps, chargers and walkie-talkies inside and folded a tarp over what we couldn’t carry. When we had done everything our sleep-befuddled minds could think of, we stood for a few minutes on the verandah and looked out into the blackness of the storm. Hopefully the tents we had spent hours pitching, in 40-degree heat under cloudless skies, would stay dry.

At dawn the rain had stopped and there was a patch of blue sky in the west, the weather direction. The legionnaire-style pyramid tents had stayed mostly dry, the dome tents less so. But everyone seemed in good spirits, even Jamie, the BHP employee whose novel had become a sodden mop overnight. (He later used the botanists’ plant-press to dry it out).

The blacksoil road between the camp and the cottages had turned to muck, and anyone who crossed it soon grew a couple of inches taller courtesy of muddy soles. Chris, the station manager, came down at breakfast to report that 20 mm of rain had fallen, and the roads would not be trafficable until at least lunchtime the next day.

After four long, hard days of collecting, most of the scientists seemed energised by the interruption to routine. Some spent the morning at base, processing their speciments, while others set off on foot, surveying the area around the camp or climbing nearby Mount Lambert. But in the back of everyone’s mind was the thought that, with more rain forecast, our stay at Carnarvon might turn out to be longer than planned. Sixty millimetres of rain would be enough to shut down the blacksoil tracks for a week - and we all remembered Chris’s stories of the big rains in 2010, which meant he and his family were unable to get back to the station for 9 months!

Brian, Bush Blitz

Bush Blitz is a partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton Sustainable Communities and Earthwatch Australia. The innovative program sends scientists out into the field to record the fascinating plants and animals in conservation areas across Australia.