Yes, on Wed 16/7 we made it well into the Northern Territory! We started the day with a visit to the Bureau of Meteorology site at Mt Isa. It is only a small single person facility, but it was an interesting tour. Gavin started it off by taking us on the morning observations for the daily 9am manual readings. Evaporation rate, various dry and wet bulb temperatures, ground temperatures and wind (no rain gauge checks required!). These are all located on a standard 14x14m site, but are more for backup than anything as there is also an automatic weather system measuring all of this.
Then at 9:15am it was time for the weather balloon release.
Surprisingly this is all automated! A large balloon is automatically filled with Hydrogen, a sensor attached (GPS, pressure, temperatures etc), and it is then released; all without any manual intervention. The balloon is about 1m in diameter, but expands as it goes further into the atmosphere – into the size of a bus apparently, before finally bursting! We went inside and watched data from the balloon live on the computer – it reached around 8km high before we left. For the launch to be successful it has to reach 20km! There was an inversion at around 4km high, with sudden massive changes in temperature and humidity.
There were some questions and discussion, and the boys picked up some brochures and posters on clouds, maps of Australia and the like, before it was time to move on for the day. An interesting and informative visit, not to mention free.
Finally we headed out north-west along the Barkly Hwy, which would take us all the way to central Australia. Our final stop in QLD was for a lunch break at Camooweal. The border came earlier than I had expected; initially a sign saying a spot to stop for photographs in 100m (I was wondering what there was to photograph….) then a few seconds later we passed the sign!
The typical rough Mt Isa country continued till a little shy of the QLD-NT border, giving way to wide grassy open plains. We passed through hundreds and hundreds of kilometres looking just like this….
Then there were a few more hundred km’s similar, but more scrubby….
After Camooweal, it is a long trip before the next port of civilisation, a roadhouse at Barkly. We topped up with fuel despite the 208cpl price – trip computer was estimating we’d have 20km worth of spare fuel to get to Tennant Creek – a little too borderline! We stopped for the night about an hour past Barkley roadhouse, in one of the clearings set aside for such purposes.
We enjoyed the sunset while Daniel cooked us garlic and pepper lamb wraps. Yum, thanks Daniel!
We completed the Barkly hwy in the morning, and turned south to Tennant Creek on the Stuart Hwy. I’d heard negative comments about the Barkly Hwy – how boring it is – but I didn’t mind it. Sure it is a long way, and it wasn’t an exciting drive, but add some towns and it wouldn’t be much different to many roads. A number of people have spent a lot of time dressing termite mounds, in shirts, singlets, bras etc…. Most common at the Mt Isa end, but also sporadically along the whole length of the road – hundreds of em all up!
It must have rained in central Australia not too long ago, as there was significant greening of the landscape about 110km’s from the Stuart Hwy. There was quite a stiff breeze most of the way, particularly in the mornings. We were fortunate it was south easterly – so part cross, part tailwind. Turning south towards Alice Springs has made that part head-wind though…
At Tennant Creek we had a look around the info centre, the look-out and had lunch at Lake Mary Ann, before heading south towards the Devils Marbles, Alice Springs and Uluru. A couple at the Tennant Creek dump point had recommended Devils Marbles as a good place to stay a night.
Note: we’ve been without mobile/internet for 3 nights! Have backdated this post to an appropriate time.