Friday, February 13, 2009

Smells like camping

Here's a link to a story about the fires... I guess the new thing is that the winds changed direction so now rather than blowing out to sea, the smoke is blowing over the city. I looked out my window at work and it was the strangest thing, it was like a sunset in the middle of the day and without the shadows. The sun is red and diffuse and has a ring around it, almost like a cartoon. I decided to go walking around the building at work and as soon as I walked out it was smoky, like pine burning. Quite pleasant actually, it brought back a lot of memories of boy scouts and camping and waking up with the smell of campfire on everything.

During undergrad at New York University around 1994 I was part of the physics department. We would always sit around the front office and chat with the other students and the secretaries. One day (10 May 1994, some googling suggests) there was a big hullabaloo about people going up on the roof of the building. It turns out that we were minutes away from a partial solar eclipse. A bunch of professors grabbed the goggles from their laser labs. Talk about a geek fest- a rare natural event, lots of equipment, world experts and our own private roof where we could just go nuts.

When the peak of the event happened, it was really quite surreal. Everyone was giddy and talkative, but then everyone fell silent. The light I can only describe as like being under water with rays filtering through the clouds. I think I've seen computer graphics effects that give a similar mood, but there's nothing quite like being there in person. The mind reels at what people must've thought of something like that in ancient times.

1 comment:

  1. Reminds me of being in Yellowstone during the big fires. Clouds thousands of feet tall punching into the stratosphere above the heavy black pall of smoke. At night, it glowed like the gates of hell. Like the realm of Mordor (read that first when I was 7). Like daylight turned inside out and bleeding. My lungs ached for months.

    But Australia is FLAMMABLE. Eucalypts are designed to spontaneously combust above a certain temperature. They have a fire-related reproductive cycle. Tubes of curled bark, filled with fire, sail hundreds of feet in the air, landing unpredictably and launching new blazes.

    And there's just nowhere for the animals that live among the trees to flee to, no way to flee fast enough.

    The story about the children smoldering in the car is horrible. Reminds me of something I witnessed in childhood. A tar truck overturned on a family's car. They screamed for half an hour before they died. No way to get them out.

    Gggggh. :-(