After a long and not particularly wet, wet season, people in Broome start looking for any sign of the coming dry season. After several months of overnight lows as high as 28 degrees, April sees the town grasping for indicators.
The dry season heralds many things including shiny four-wheel-drives driven by greying baby boomers, towing caravans through town. They often divert past the post office, or into a supermarket enroute to the caravan park causing mayhem in the parking lot.
“One swallow doesn’t make a summer” is an idiom from the northern hemisphere that suggests just because one good thing has happened, it is not therefore certain that a situation is going to improve. In Broome that idiom could be “one dragonfly doesn’t make a dry season.” The two most commonly cited indicators of the dry in Broome are Dragonflies and Manta Rays.
Dragonflies only eat mosquitos so their appearance in the annual cycle is not only indicative of a dry season but also welcomed as nature’s mosquito extermination force! The other indicator are Manta Rays, the large toothless filter feeders that glide effortlessly along the shoreline of Cable Beach north from Gantheaume Point.
They have a mouth which they use like a sieve to scoop up plankton and krill. Their wing spans measure several metres, enabling them to swim at rapid speeds, occasionally leaping out of the water and landing with a slap.
They usually appear without notice in the fresh mornings of early April once the water has started to drop in temperature. Unexpecting swimmers at Cable Beach regularly take an adrenalin hit, often mistaking the majestic mantas for sharks. As they glide along the shoreline their wing tips protrude as a shark’s dorsal fin might. The Manta Rays are unconcerned by people and will simply swim around anyone wading in the water in their path. They swim slowly, so often people can walk alongside them. Mantas swimming in the shallows, people walking on the shore line with only metres between them.
Mantas and Dragonflies are indicators of the dry. The first sight of them results in social media timelines dominated by pictures from the first to encounter them. They herald fresher mornings, cooler evenings and less humidity. There is always a lift in people’s collective spirits, as if the town is emerging from a long hibernation. However, it’s always good to remember one dragonfly doesn’t make a dry season. This year we have had several days of Manta Rays with beautiful clear cool waters at Cable Beach. Anyone could be forgiven for thinking the dry season was well and truly here, except of course for Wallace. Scheduled to be north of Broome sometime on Sunday morning, Cyclone Wallace will temporarily halt the transition to the dry season and potentially bring some much wanted rain.
All Broome people know that when the Speargrass is high and you think you’ve seen the last of the wet season it’s time for “knock-em-down rain”, a colloquial term that describes late rain that flattens the Speargrass. It’s too early to tell if Wallace will knock down the Speargrass, or even bring any rain, but it is undeniable that there is change in the air and the dry is coming.
Feature image by Abbey Murray Photography.