Sultry, dark and brooding, water hangs in the air like a loaded gun. Mildew and moisture permeates everything, laundry never completely dries, flour and sugar cement in clumps and the horizon disappears daily into grey, which at times even swallowing up the midday sun.The wet season, or the ‘Wet’ is upon us.
When the monsoonal trough forms over Indonesia around December / January, the south easterly winds turn into the northerly’s and bring thick, black columns of strato-cumulus clouds. They rumble and crackle lighting then dump three quarters of the region’s annual rainfall in weeks, in deluge after deluge. It’s truly biblical.
It also brings with it cyclone season, and although the Strait usually dodges the typhoons that batter Asia or the cyclones that buffet the east coast of Northern Australia, there have been a couple to hit the region.
One of the worst, Cyclone Mahina in 1899, ripped through the area, devastating much of the regions pearling fleets. In the days before Bureau of Meteorology they had no idea they lay in the eye of the storm, some 300 lives were lost.
Also with these seasonal low pressure weather systems come the King Tides, where the ocean reaches up to it’s highest mark each year, lapping at the back doors of islanders’ homes, sometimes submerging them as sea level rise is current reality rather than a possible future scenario disputed by climate-change skeptic flat earthers.
Before the first large globules of rain splatter down, the land is dusty, dry, desiccated and damn thirsty. Then it comes in sheets, cascading over guttering as waterfalls, turbulently foaming up out of storm water drains, swallowing roads, footpaths, transforming parks into swamps and creeping in under door sills. Everything that was dead comes to life, that landscape painted in palette of greens.
Tiny red ants, invade houses, swarming around circuit boards of light switches and power points drawn to their electric warmth. The White Ants chew deeper into the wood work and the Green Ants retreat to their silky clumps of leaves in the now barren mango trees. Rats that live in the foreshore rocks claw into wall cavities, escaping the king tides that inundate their homes. The particularly aggressive “Tiger Mozzie’ or ‘BBQ Stopper’ swam, spawning in the many pockets of rainwater trapped in the refuse, neglected garden paraphernalia and kids toys scattered around backyards. Translucent geckos dart across the walls and green tree frogs cling to the windows, both gorging on the smorgasbord of insect life.
While the Rest of Australia steps outside to enjoy blue skies and the hot, long days of summer, in the north we retreat indoors into a sort of humid hibernation to await the return of our endless summer.