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Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, Day 13

The weather in Australia has turned cooler again, and we’re set to start hunting down some more meteorites. To give you a taster of what that’s like, here’s some more of Luke’s blog from a recent trip … (the story started with On the Road Again)

This morning we woke up and a thunderstorm was still raging. We had to wait a few hours for it to pass.

Strange scratches appeared by the cars we were sleeping in after another storm had rolled in.

This was the day of three storms. We had woken up with our thunder clap alarm clock. We’d had a storm the night before and so (luckily) were safely ensconced in the cars.

These storms had gone on way too long – the team was now starting to go pagan on me – making comparisons of our predicament with the story of Jonah and claiming that I needed to be sacrificed to appease the weather gods …

Once the storm had passed, we built a fire, made ourselves lunch and prepared a dinner feast – the lamb leg went into the camp oven and was buried in the coals, to be ready for us when we got back.

 

Searching in a (mostly) dry riverbed

Searching in a (mostly) dry riverbed

Crazy landscapes of the Nullarbor

Crazy landscapes of the Nullarbor

We headed out and searched a huge area – in all we hiked about 16 km, finishing off the remaining area for this fall. It was official. Definitely no meteorite there! We had looked everywhere … Well, not everywhere, there was a small triangle we missed on the way back, about 5 km away from camp. On the return leg, a huge thunderhead formed behind us and began chasing us down. We carried on for a time at a quickened pace, but when the first bolt of lightning hit, and the thunder indicated it was only 10 km away, we were 5 km from camp. Digression being the better part of valour, we bolted and bee-lined back to camp.

The sky did not look quite that ominous just a few minutes ago ...

The sky did not look quite that ominous just a few minutes ago …

Now I’ve always wondered about the saying ‘bee-line.’ It implies you take the most direct route possible, but have you ever seen a bee fly? Its flight path can be described as many things, but a straight line is not one of them. It’s more like a drunken swirl. Anyway, thus began that obligatory level in any computer game where the edge of the screen is chasing you and you have to stay ahead to stay alive. Game over today might mean several thousand volts through the chest!

A thought flitted through my head: maybe the storm is driving us towards the meteorite and we’ll find it now at the most inconvenient time! Or maybe, the meteorite knows we were about to find it and summoned the storm to head us off! or maybe, I really need to not talk. I had been winding everyone up with nonsense superstition sayings like “Today’s the day everyone, I can feel it” and, “Oh look, what a beautiful day with no storm clouds at all!” and then not five seconds later “Oh balls!”. The storm was gaining on us but we just had to get back to camp and then we would be safe.

It was a really close thing – literally we got to camp, locked it down in 10 seconds flat and then the wind picked up. We looked back as a huge dust storm loomed over us, and we dived into the cars before it engulfed us. This was one of the most violent storms I’ve ever been in. The lightning was so intense it was like a strobe light – any second, I thought, our poor tent is going to disappear into the night! Then the rain hit. It was like being in a horizontal high pressure hose. It absolutely lashed down. Our camp almost instantly became a lake. The lake began to flow, streams formed, and then merged into rivers, water poured into our tent and out on the other side of our pathetic wall, our poor dinner was swamped. We hoped against hope that the seal would hold and so our delicious roast lamb wouldn’t be changing into a drowned gritty lamb.

The rain hits

The rain hits

The storm raged for several hours. Some of us tried to get some broken sleep to make up for the lack of sleep over the course of the last week. After the fourth hour it finally passed. Phil woke us up. I had apparently dozed off. I looked at the receding storm in the distance and the wind carrying it away from us.

“Oh yeah, is that the best you got?! Yeah, you walk away!”

Everyone stared at me incredulously. Then the wind changed direction, bringing the storm back towards us.

“Why, why, would you say that?!”

Thankfully the storm did not hit us again and it continued to recede. We got the fire going and rescued our dinner. We were supposed to dress up and have our traditional suits and cocktail dress dinner in the bush but we were so beat up and tired that it was all we could do to re-warm the lamb and await the moment of truth … It was fine. A tad watery, but mostly these were lamb juices, not muddy, turbid rain water. Thank God for that, amazing! I love lamb in any form, but this was miraculous!

Dinner's ready! (I hope ...)

Dinner’s ready! (I hope …)

On another note, the ground was still very wet. There was a huge hole, disguised by water, near where the fire pit used to be. This Rob repeatedly fell into, until he raged “I quit!!!” and scraped dirt from all around into the hole, camouflaging it nicely. He fell into it again a little while later.

Around the campfire after yet another storm

Around the campfire after yet another storm, with probably another storm brewing

We were just toying with the idea of setting out the swags when the horizon lit up like the start of a Dreamtheatre concert. You have got to be joking! This is ridiculous now! With leaden depression we rerolled the swags, made camp safe, had a beer, and just stared blankly at the third storm of the day as it rolled – unceasingly and completely demoralizingly – towards us.

We crawled back into our cars and the storm battered us relentlessly all night. Martin took this epic shot of the lightning seconds before we were engulfed. I don’t even know what to say at this point.

lightning-strikes

Of the six nights we have been here, four have been spent in the cars due to storms. I have never seen weather like this. It is a beautiful and a stunning force of nature, but at the same time, humans do not function well when you can count the combined hours slept over four days on two hands. We had been working really hard. Really hard, and we had been hit by everything Australian weather can throw at us, but still managed to cover the fall area in blistering heat, still smiling. Incidentally, my nickname has now become Cheshire, as in the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. I like it, therefore it won’t stick. No one keeps calling you by a nickname if you actually like it. Your childhood would tell you that.

Hard work is always rewarded. That is what everyone says. The exception to this rule is if you are meteorite hunting. You can work incredibly hard, go through the area with a fine toothcomb and still come out with nothing. It’s the nature of the beast. We had gone through cycles in our search, starting with hope: ‘Oh yeah easy we’ll just find it and go home’; then slowly we moved on to try to make a deal with it: ‘Come out little meteorite. We don’t want to hurt you, we just want to meet you and adopt you and take you home out of this awful weather’; which quickly descended into death threats: ‘When I find you I am going to slice you up with a diamond-edged saw, shoot you with a laser, grind you up and dissolve you in acid, and I’ll make you wish you’d never fell from the sky!’ ; and then finally to begging: ‘Please please, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it. I promise we won’t do any analysis on you at all, we will put you in a beautiful exhibit and no one will ever harm you, we promise! … ’. Still nothing. Meteorites can be such arseholes!

Daly Idea 3

Luke: Due to the hunting ban in the UK there is a currently a serious problem with unemployment. There are 1,000s of beagles just kicking their feet (yes, Bill Bailey has influenced this). If we could train them to sniff out meteorites, we could use them in the hunt. We would obviously be mounted on horseback blowing our horns to signal the hunt had begun and we would chase the meteorite mercilessly across the outback and bring it down and kill it, like the sly fox that it is! Although, then we might actually have to start filling out ethical approval forms because someone will claim its un-lith-ane and rocks have feelings …

Luke’s adventure continues in Luke Crosses the Nullarbor, day 14

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