24 Hours in a Heat Wave

The open doors and windows which normally provide cool air on hot nights, were like open oven doors as the early northerly wind picked up strength around dawn.  The first task was to seal the house and turn the ceiling fans on to high.  The second task was to wheel the motorbike out of the garage for an early morning cruise to Port Campbell.

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This wonderful machine, the BMW R1200GS has provided over 215,000kms of riding joy in the 9 years since I bought it.  It never misses a beat. Lizzie (my favourite pillion passenger) and I headed west not long after dawn with the hot northerly evident but not yet dominating the weather. For example it was hotter in our front yard than it was 300m down the road on the GOR beside the sea. As we wound our way through the first 25kms or so of dense temperate rainforest, the gullies and shaded areas were still cool and it was only in the more exposed areas that the hot northerly had mixed down into the fresh cool air of the rainforest. Air temperatures varied from 19C to 29C, with rapid changes within this range according to topography, density of the rainforest and the distribution of the dark shady areas not yet touched by the sun or the wind. As we were wearing flow-through mesh summer motorbike jackets, we could feel every degree of temperature change.  The early ride through the temperate rainforest was slow as it was wallaby and other wildlife peak hour, and there was a lot of tree litter on the road.
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The rapid succession of cool and warm air masses in the temperate rainforest quickly gave way to uniform high temperatures along the the treeless farm paddocks and swamps of the Glen Aire valley. The temperature jumped to 27C (there’s an air temp readout on the motorbike) and continued to climb for the rest of the day.  First stop was Castle Cove, with lines of solid swell marching ashore sculpted by the offshore northerly wind.  As always at Castle Cove, the rip locations are not a secret.  On this day there was a solid diagonal rip from left to right, clearly visible in the picture.
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The view to the west from the cliffs overlooking Gibson Steps. These stacks are not part of the famous Twelve Apostles, but come from the same factory.
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Ruler straight lines of big Southern Ocean swell hitting the offshore reefs at Gibson Steps as seen from the cliffs beside the Great Ocean road not too far east of Port Campbell.
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Port Campbell bay.  Don’t be deceived, the sea between the heads of this bay was not billiard-table flat, despite appearances.  There was a good swell running with long intervals between sets. At times before and after this photo was taken there were breaking waves rolling in beside the jetty.  Only two days until I swim in an ocean race at this bay. It’s the best of the ocean swims on this coast for my money. Only 180 or so swimmers and a course that takes us outside the heads of this bay to where we can look east along the cliffs. Currents often feature in this swim and so do rough conditions.  There are reefs and plenty of plant and marine life to see underwater.
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After a 1000m swim back at Apollo Bay for a bit of exercise and to stay cool, and a later body surf with Lizzie to continue staying cool, the sun finally made its way towards the western horizon. Temperatures in the shade in Apollo Bay were in the high 30s.  Much of inland Queensland and New South Wales experienced shade temperatures in the mid 40s.  The Australian Open tennis comp continued in Melbourne, with court temperatures recorded at 69C (156 degrees Fahrenheit).  Seems like madness to play tennis in such conditions, but with a $55m prize pool waiting to be divided amongst the players, they were not asking for play to stop. But after two cooling swims, each followed by a cool shower and with the sun still looking white hot but lowering towards the horizon, the Barham River and Marengo Beach beckoned with rewards of a different kind.  I found the black swans in their usual evening locations, on a bend of the river between the GOR bridge and the mouth of the river on the beach.  That sea mist sliding over the dunes in top left of frame was from Marengo Beach, wafted ashore by a very light south easterly.
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Contrary to appearances this was not a chase. The smaller bird was cruising the surface and feeding. The crested tern was on the downwind leg of a circuit for landing with a large evening gathering of terns and other water birds.
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In the rushes and tangled vegetation on the southern bank of the Barham River, this delicate little bird was spotted.  Does anyone know what it is?  More of a flitterer than a flyer making it impossible for me to get a shot of it on the wing.
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As the wind died to nothing, the banks of the Barham River were replete with life, large and small. March flies were all over me and I constantly needed a hand to swat them. Curiously, I didn’t get bitten once.  These March flies seem to lack commitment, unlike their NSW cousins whose ratio of skin landing to bite is close to 100%. (I know this from painful personal experience). Insects like this (cabbage butterfly?) were flying jerkily around their patch  as is their wont, beside the river,  making a photo possible only when they alighted on a flower.  This one looked a bit old and worn, with his patchy wings and faded colours. But he flew OK and seemed to get his share of the food.  Perhaps he’s just a grandfather butterfly of great age suffering normal wear and tear, but coping fine. At the start of my 1000m swim earlier in the day, when I arrived in the deeper water behind the surf break, I spotted a perfectly formed butterfly of this species (showing none of the wear and tear of the one in the photograph) on the water with one wing laying flat and stuck on the water surface and the other beating the air vainly in a futile attempt to free itself from this unlikely trap.  I placed a hand gently in the water beneath it and lifted. The instant the wing was clear of the water it flew away perfectly, apparently unharmed.  Interestingly it headed unerringly and without any hesitation directly to the shore some 70m or so away. Is there really enough room on board this small frail flyer for navigation equipment?
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Terns are so elegant and aerodynamic on the wing. This was the colour of the sky to the east.
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This silver gull was flying over the shallows just before the sun set, looking for a snack on the wet sand between waves.
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A sharp image of a silver gull flying well within range of the telephoto lens.  This photo has not been cropped.
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This is the source of the sea mist just visible in the photo of the black swans above.  The final bends and pools of the Barham River are just over the dunes to the right of this image. In summer, the stream in the bottom of this image is the full extent of the Barham River trickling out to sea across the beach.  It can be quite a different story in winter. It certainly was a golden sunset.
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Looking along the rock shelf at low tide as the sun set over the hills behind Marengo Beach.
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Marengo beach is often deserted. But the heat wave brought walkers, strollers and watchers out in droves looking for somewhere cool.  The child doing cartwheels was something I first saw as I was looking through the view finder and taking photos of this heatwave evening on the beach at sunset.
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It was still very hot when I took this photo. As there was no wind, the sun’s disappearance signalled the gradual beginning of respite from the heatwave day. Even then the temperature didn’t drop below the mid 20s overnight.
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I am working on taking hand held photos of birds in flight with the telephoto lens on maximum focal length (without the monopod or tripod attached).  I would’ve simply settled for focus and framing on this practice shot, as it was taken looking towards a very bright sky.  I knew I’d get no detail with the camera settings I had. But there is something I like about the silhouette of this cormorant cruising over the beach at day’s end.

After a very hot night at Apollo Bay, notwithstanding that temperatures over 40 are forecast for Melbourne and many inland places, today we are forecast to get no hotter than mid 20s.  I woke up before dawn, and the trees along the creek beside my window were already silhouetted by a clear blue sky with a pastel pink horizon.  I checked sunrise time, and saw it was at 0622 (20 minutes or so away).  So I grabbed my swimming gear and walked down to the beach.

While swimming out from the shore at the start of this swim, in quite shallow water I swam directly over a large black stingray who had not yet greeted the day.  My thoughts always go to Steve Irwin when this happens.  As I was only an arm length or so above him, and my momentum was going to take my right over him no matter what I did, I rolled onto my back (a sting in the back seems preferable to one in the chest) and then on to my front again, which placed me some small distance horizontally from the stingray.  I’m guessing he bore me no ill will, and that his stinger would not have been used.  But for some reason, the resident rays at Apollo Bay have not formally integrated with the residents (as seems to have occurred in many tourist beach areas especially up north), in that we don’t pat them or feed them, nor do we swim with them touching their wings, and we don’t say they are tame.  We basically stay out of each others way save for incidental encounters such as this.  I prefer it that way, and I’m guessing they do too.

Expectant tourists were standing on the beach waiting for the dawn with iPhones and cameras poised, and the car park was nearly full of those who preferred to stay seated in the dress circle for the spectacular event unfolding.

The sea was in a benign mood, with very little swell and a glassy deep blue expanse to the horizon above which the sky was now burning bright gold.  I swam out beyond the small shorebreak and headed south. By breathing to the left, every two seconds or so I saw from water level the next instalment in the unfolding show of the golden sun melting its way up into the morning sky.  A beautiful and peaceful start to the day.

I don’t mind a heat wave on the coast.



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