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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.

January - Wet Season on the Tiwi Islands

Known as "Barra" amongst the peoples of Arnhem land, the monsoon slowly builds in strength over the Timor Sea, then rolls as a dense blanket of black cloud to engulf the red cliffs of Merlville Island. This signifies the start of "rainmaking'.

Red cliffs of Melville Island

A welcome relief from fierece heat now floods the land, and in these months of monsoon the sun might not be seen for weeks on end. Gale force winds, teeming rain and tropical seas lash the entire northern coastline.

This is a time of renewal. The Tiwi are the traditional owners of Bathurst and Melville Islands and have long performed special ceremonies which are handed down from generation to generation. The Tiwi have a tradition of chanting songs to ensure that their clans continue to live in harmony with the land, its seasonal cycle and the associated spiritual world.

February - Monsoon in Kakadu National park

The relentless monsoon rains now fill the the Arnhem land plateau and once again Kakadu National Park is flooded - the rivers and waterways at a roar. Walls of water crash over the cliifs and escarpment 200 metres down through ancient sandstone valleys onto the rich floodplains and billabongs of the Alligator River system.

Jim Jim Falls in monsoon

A continuous low cloud from the northwest signifies to the Gagadju clans of Kakadu that the wildlife of the lowland forests and floodplains have moved up to higher ground. Up in the stone country where the big waters form, the Mertens water monitor is now in his element catching an abundance of fish.

Mertens water monitor

Snakes are also on the prowl, hunting for fat frogs whose breeding chorus dominates the night air. When the rains eventually do stop, the sky fills with millions of insects, and birds feeding on this abundance. The landscape is now a rich, vibrant green and the sheltering Aboriginal people patiently await the harvest months ahead.

The purple Native Grape is highly regarded by Aboriginal people and is common in the open forests and woodlands of Kakadu. The fruit is purple when ripe - it is eaten raw and the seeds are discarded. The tuberous root of the plant is also eaten after roasting, and the leaves are used in cooking, especially for wrapping meats to which the leaves add a distinctive flavour.
Native Grape fruit

Text and most photographs copyright Wayne Miles 1999

Back to Seasonal calendar entry page


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