The Weekend Australian

Category: 
Archive
Media Published Date: 
February 2012

 

In the past four years an enormous amount of water has arrived in Lake Eyre basin, which covers almost one-sixth of the continent...

The eyre from up there

WHEN water comes to the desert, ancient, dry rivers run white; an inland sea turns red; green water surges across rusted earth and salt flat. Nature puts on a show. Transformed into unaccustomed colour, the stark and arid land fills with drama, mystery, reawakening. The dead heart comes alive. Seeds that have been dormant burst into plants that even the Aboriginal custodians struggle to recognise, and the once desiccated silence is punctuated by raucous water birds.

In the past four years an enormous amount of water has arrived in Lake Eyre basin, which covers almost one-sixth of the continent. Unleashing cyclones and floods, the La Nina weather pattern sent water into defunct northern river systems flowing south, filling the central basin and creating vast washes of yellow and purple in what Sydney photographer Peter Elfes describes as "a desert cocktail of lime, salt, algae, minerals and oxides. Just add water and shake and everything changes."

IN the same extraordinary manner in which it blossomed for the first time in almost 40 years, the inland sea that is Lake Eyre is now slowly, gently vanishing back into the heart of the continent.

It has been four years since the La Nina weather patterns across the northern and eastern parts of the nation pumped an inconceivable volume of water into the red centre, opening up the Diamantina, Georgina and Cooper Creek river systems as rarely before.

Now the desert rose is wilting after an unexpected, celebrated explosion of life and colour -- and as it slowly evaporates and retreats into the