Summer Silence

There is in NSW Australia a 3,000 km² area of semi-arid woodland in temperate north-central New South Wales, Australia. It is the largest such continuous remnant in the state. Unfortunately in recent times this forest, named the Pilliga Scrub or just “The Pilliga”, has been opened up to fracking operations. You can see the fracking operations in the upper right, between the A39 and B51 roads. They are the small bare areas on the map below. They should never have been allowed.

Map picture

When I was growing up I spent a fair bit of time in The Pilliga. In summer it is very hot and very quiet.  The heat is quite oppressive and shade not all that abundant. However, if you sit still and listen you don’t hear much, just the occasional rustling of a goanna in the undergrowth. Occasionally I would hear an Australian Raven, sometimes called the undertaker of the bush, it was a remarkably miserable sound as the last note of the call was extended and fell in tone. They are quite big birds and often weight more than half a kilogram. They were always rather intelligent too, using tools to get at ants and grubs. If you point a stick at them they would often fly away, just in case you were about to shoot at them with a rifle.

Except for a few species the trees of the scrub seemed to all stop growing at about 6 metres (20’). Exceptions were the big iron bark trees (Eucalyptus sideroxylon) which legally belonged to the state railway before concrete sleepers began to be used. The timber getter could come onto anyone’s property to cut the iron barks into sleepers and deliver them to the state railway. Red Ironbark is a very strong, tough, eucalypt specie with very rough bark. the wood was often used in wharves and bridges because of its strength and very long lasting properties. It is very hard to work but does produce a beautiful finish. These trees could grow up to 10.3 metres tall (about 34’).

That part of Australia gets most of its water from thunderstorms so actual falls in any particular part were very variable but they tended to average out at about 560 mm (22’) per year. My father reckoned however that the actual rainfall was gradually reducing; I think he must have been aware of global warming very early on. He first mentioned it to me in the 1960’s.

Eric Rolls (now deceased) wrote a book about The Pilliga and named it “A Million Wild Acres” and subtitled “200 years of Man and an Australian Forest”. It is not brilliantly written but it is very interestingly written and if you can find a copy I would recommend it to you. Of course the Australian aborigines had occupied the area long before white men did and evidence of their occupation can be seen at sites within The Pilliga.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s