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Top End seasonal calendarTop End Seasonal Calendar


Each month we bring you scenes and description from western Arnhem Land or other parts of the Top End - showing the country, bush food, and other aspects of Aboriginal life. On this page you can visit:

The main photographs and text are by Wayne Miles, an outstanding photographer from Darwin.

November - Thunder and Lightning in western Arnhem Land

Sheltered amongst the sandstone caves of Nourlangie Rockin Kakadu National park, known as "Burrungguy" to Aboriginal people, are the ancient art sites of the Gagadju. Here the rock paintings tell the story of the fiery Dreamtime spirit who lives high in the clouds, "Namarrkon" the lightning man. Arched across Namarrkon's shoulders are the lightning bolts with which he opens the skies and slashes the earth. Growing from his elbows and knees are the stone axes with which he creates the thunder that announces to the Gagadju the birth of another seasonal cycle called Gunumeleng.
namarrkon image

onion lily
This is the time of the pre-monsoon, when massive cumulus cloud towers and oppressive heat is giving way to electrifying skyscapes and the fast moving easterly storms of the afternoon. Swollen black fronts release early rains, lightning and violent winds. Once again the land will waken from browns to greens, the monsoons are in the skies.


Following the first rains, the lily-like herb Onion Lily sprouts throughout the coastal floodplains and the open forests of Kakadu National Park. This sweetly scented lily is considered to be "strong" bush medicine by the tribes of northern Australia. Once collected, its large onion-like tuber is chopped, crushed finely, then soaked in water for 24 hours. With the flesh removed, the remaining liquid is used as an external wash for the treatment of infected and inflamed skin sores and is considered particularly effective.

December - Pre-monsoon on the Tiwi Islands

Lightning over the ocean

Awe inspiring displays of lightning occur right across the Top End during December, accompanied by deafening thunder, violent gusts of wind, rapid downpourings of rain - signs of energy and violence in the atmosphere.

Scorched and blackened by the sweeping fires of the hot dry season, only one month earlier, the ancient cycads and the surrounding tropical wood land habitat, now respond to the pre-monsoonal rains vigorously producing new vibrant green foliage.

It is pre-monsoon time, the season of "greening". With new growth, there will be new seeds and a replenishing of bush tucker. The seeds produced by the female cycad in the drier months (April-September), has in the past been a source of carbohydrates for the Aboriginal peoples of the north.
Cycad plants

Although highly toxic in their raw state, when the seeds are roasted, peeled, soaked then ground into flour they can then be baked into highly edible bread like cakes. Processed like this they could be stored for lengthy periods and were especially useful during long ceremonies.

Out of sight for the majority of both the wet and dry seasons, the first rains see the Frilled Neck Lizard fossicking the new carpet of green shoots in search of termites and small invertebrates.

Descending from the treetops, the male dragons assume their breeding colours in their fight for territorial rights, their sights firmly fixed on the females in their chosen territory. Melville Islanders say all animals in this country have a story. They say, "this little fella raises up his frill and opens his mouth wide when `em in trouble, real tough little fella for his size".

Text copyright Wayne Miles 1999

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