Surfing The Morning Glory

“The remote settlement of Burketown, in Australia’s northern Queensland, is not the sort of place you’d expect people to travel thousands of miles to visit. With a population of just 178, Burketown sits in one of Australia’s most remote shires. But every September and October, a small group of individuals journey from all corners of the country for the appearance of a remarkable and dramatic cloud called the Morning Glory. Clouds don’t usually have names, nor are they normally linked to a particular location, but then the Morning Glory is no normal cloud. (…) it stretches up to 600 miles (about the length of Britain) and sweeps over Burketown at speeds of up to 35mph. The visitors who come to marvel at this beautiful and awe-inspiring meteorological phenomenon are an intrepid group of glider pilots (…) Each year they come to this sleepy town in the hope of ‘soaring’ the Morning Glory, an exhilarating gliding adventure that can only be described as cloud-surfing.”

(Gavin Pretor-Pinney, The Cloud Appreciation Society)

Four three-minute shorts aired in the UK about Gavin’s trip to Burketown with footage of “some of the most dramatic and exciting gliding conditions in the world”. While his site has them available for watching, the second episode has already been taken down due to overwhelming demand. I grabbed the last two episodes (the most interesting ones) and put them on CN’s server:

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2 Replies to “Surfing The Morning Glory”

  1. Practical Cloud Surfing. What a fascinating idea! In the London Times this morning there was an article on the ‘Cloud Appreciation Society’ whose web site in turn had a reference to the ‘Morning Glory’ and the fact local glider pilots surf the advection cloud banks that periodically roll in. A quick Google search on ‘cloud surfing Queensland gliders’ yielded up this article in Centripetal Notion. I remember having the idea that something ‘cloud surfing’ might be possible during some early private IFR flight training in the eastern US. At the leading edge of an occluded front there’s a horizontal cyclonic effect, which if you approach it in a light plane head-on supplies a tremendous updraft until you’ve been wafted above the leading cloud bank. This is rapidly followed by a tremendous downdraft on the other side. At the time I wondered whether you could ‘park’ an aerobatic plane on the leading edged of this front and ‘surf’ on it for a time. Glad to see in your excellent web site videos the idea has been successfully pioneered! But if you inadvertently have to ditch in that neck of the woods, watch out for those gators & crocs (we have the same problem in SW Florida where I live).

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