The Story of Cyclone Tracy

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

Comments (1)

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    I can't wait for this newest book about 'Tracy'. Yes it was a long time ago, but its now part of history. I believe we all need a reminder about the forces of nature and how little control we have over it, if at all. Another book about to hit the market is 'The Worker in Me' by Tracy Maguire. It forces people to look back and see the sort of devastation that was left in the wake of a powerful force.

    Tuesday, 19 August 2014 11:40 posted by Vic Palmers

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