Here in far north Queensland, it’s almost always hot. Hot and dry, or hot and wet. Our dry season runs from May to November, and “the wet” can get going any time from early December. That’s when the monsoon moves south from Asia, bringing heavy rain and cyclones.
A lot of our rivers and creeks are down to a trickle during the dry season, some are completely dry by October. But when the rain comes, they fill up fast, rising to incredible heights. Roads are cut, bridges are under water, and boats are used to bring supplies across flooded rivers when the trucks can’t get through anymore.
Here’s a good example. The road bridge over the Laura River, just south of Laura, on the southern edge of Cape York Peninsula. When we crossed it in October, the bridge was high and dry.
But during the wet season, this bridge could be more than seven metres under water. No traffic gets through and food is brought across by boat. A new, much higher bridge is being built.
Here’s another one on the road to the east coast community of Lockhart River. The road crosses the Wenlock and Pascoe rivers, and plenty of creeks. Easy in October but impossible in the wet.
Rainfall during the wet can be measured in metres rather than millimetres. Rivers flood and flow with tremendous force. Local people are well aware of the dangers, and generally the wet season causes more inconvenience than harm.
While very few people under-estimate the power of nature at this time of year, early European endeavours on Cape York Peninsula often got a hiding during the wet season.
In the late 1800s gold was found in the area, and a railway line was built to reach into the Palmer River gold-fields and surrounds. A railway bridge was built across the Laura River, but the gold was almost gone by the time it opened.
Local traditional owner Thomas George tells how the bridge was washed away when the river flooded.