All photographs are from South East Queensland.
The summer that just passed, leading out of the noughties decade and into the 2020s is one that will have left an imprint on many of the people who bore witness to it in a heartbreaking and devastating way.
For Australia, coming into spring and following all the way through summer generally means stinking hot days culminating into refreshing rainbands typically in the form of lightning storms. This year, as was the year before, was noticably absent.
There was nothing to replenish the earth after the long dry winter. The lands are usually dry, Australia is famous for drought, but it felt different. It was so bone dry, so absent of moisture, it felt like it would spontaneously combust.
And combust it did, at an astronomical rate. Though the fires, as far as I know, didn’t set themselves, the ones that were ignited, whether by nature or infuriatingly, by man were record-breakingly catastrophic.
Though some of the ones that started here in South East Queensland were devastating (One was more than 30kms wide), they paled in comparison to the ones in New South Wales, the ACT, Victoria and Kangaroo Island which were vast and the toll on the landscape, the animals and the communities nestled between them, unfathomable.
The ones, particularly in New South Wales, went on for literal months, deep into the new year, obliterating everything in its path. The lack of foreseeable rain and strong winds only added fuel to the fire and worsened the devastation.
It felt like the entire country was on fire, and for large parts of the affected states, it felt like the apocalypse, as heavy smoke from the massive fires smothered the cities and towns and turned their crystal clear waters into black, ash-filled sludge.
The rains did eventually come and it came in droves. It was an extremely welcome relief. It put out the rest of the fires that the firefighters had fought so valiantly and heroically to contain, but for billions of animals, it was tragically too late.
While the rains that had been so desperately needed to extinguish the flames were the nail in the coffin for the fires, they were torrential. Land that was cleared were turning into waterways and washing the ash into the river systems and was killing the fish…
Nature did a complete 180. Within days, fire-ravaged areas became flood-ravaged. It was like one apocalyptic event after another.
In between Queensland’s early-season fires and the rains that finally made their way through, it was blisteringly hot. Record-breaking humid day after record-breaking humid day was perpetually sweaty but thankfully, most of the time, not smelly. It’s usually hot down here in the southern hemisphere, but not endlessly humid for days on end without reprieve of late afternoon thunderstorms.
Thankfully they came and washed away the sweaty pain. A crappy storm season last year and an even crappier one earlier this season were erased by the endlessly array of spectacular late-season storms that washed over the large parts of each of the devastated states as well as much of Queensland, some of which lead to flooding.
Regardless, the terrible seasons of rain and lightning prior did eventually manifest and lift us out of drought restrictions. They dampened the flames down south and concluded our country’s most heartbreaking and devastating natural disaster, even though it was sadly too late for so many animals, people and communities.
They replenished the earth and have turned brown barren lands into lush feeding grounds and of those lands that were affected by the fires, have begun the process of new growth.
This summer of 2019/2020 has been one hell of a crazy season for so many reasons. I haven’t even mentioned the Coronavirus which broke out this season and, at the time of writing this, just reached pandemic status, which is beyond surreal and only time will tell how that story goes…
I just wanted to make a huge shoutout to all the people, particularly the firefighters and the animal rescue and rehabilitation centre folk, local, stateside and foreign who gave so much, some even their lives, and worked so tirelessly to get these fires extinguished, to save as many lives, animal and human, as they could and preserve as much of our beautifully unique landscape as they could. Our country is forever indebted to you.
All photographs are from South East Queensland
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