The Story of Cyclone Tracy

The Story of Cyclone Tracy


by Sophie Cunningham

Text Publishing, $32.99 pb, 314 pp, 9781922079367

Forty years ago next Christmas, a cyclone devastated Australia’s northernmost city, Darwin. It is a disaster still clear in the living memory of most Australians over fifty, but it also belongs to the past, the time before we had become aware of climate change. At the time, it was the kind of natural disaster to be expected in summer in the Top End, even if its festive timing appeared ominous in some mysterious way. There have been government reports, memoirs, books, and documentaries about Cyclone Tracy. Forty years appears long enough for an event to become history, but the cyclone has not yet become integrated into a significant national narrative.

Sophie Cunningham suggests that Cyclone Tracy does have a message for contemporary Australians, who should expect more of these devastating weather events as the seas increase their temperature. She writes that her main motivation in writing about the cyclone ‘is the fact that the human race is transforming the land, the seas and the weather’. The recent hurricanes of the Northern Hemisphere, particularly those assaults on the world’s most affluent nation, Katrina and Sandy (as Cunningham explains, cyclones belong to the Southern Hemisphere, hurricanes to the Northern one), certainly confront any complacency about the capacity of modern cities to resist extreme weather events. Darwin’s cyclone provides an Australian example, and a relatively small-scale comparison with these more devastating recent catastrophes.

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Published in August 2014, no. 363
Susan Lever

Susan Lever

Susan Lever is the author of David Foster: The Satirist of Australia (Cambria Press, 2008) and general editor of Cambria Press’s Australian Literature Series. She has published widely on Australian literary history and contemporary Australian fiction, and is currently conducting interviews with Australian television writers for the Australian Writers’ Foundation Oral History project. She is completing a book on Australian television dramatists. Susan Lever’s interviews with Australian screenwriters are accessible through the National Film and Sound Archive, samples can be found here.