A terrible beauty

‘ A terrible beauty is born’ is a line from a poem by one of Ireland’s greatest poets, W.B.Yeats. who died on this day, January 28,  in 1939. This line came to mind  as I witnessed several bush fires in Western Australia. Bush fires can be catastrophic events, resulting in loss of life or serious injury, devastating loss of property, (46 homes were destroyed in a fire near Perth in 2014)  flora and fauna and general disruption by way of evacuations, road closures, power cuts and smoke. Emergency phone Apps beep, the sound of fire engines and police sirens fill the air,  helicopters chakk-chakk-chak-chak overhead, planes circle. Here bush fires are fought from the air as well as the ground. In the air, water bombing aircraft and ‘helitacs’ douse the flames, while career and volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel swing into action on the ground, often putting their own lives at risk. Bush fires can move very quickly – often at several kilometers an hour, and are fanned by strong breezes. The tinder dry vegetation is the fuel that makes them catch hold very quickly.

On the other hand, palls of smoke produce wondrous skyscapes, and I am a big fan of the sky!  In the past few weeks there have been 4 major fires

The smoke can cause breathing difficulties for those of us with chest conditions, and even if it can’t be seen, the smokey smell  can be in the air and even inside the house for days on end.


Looking a bit like the Crab Nebula, the sun is blotted out

A smoke-filled sunset

photo 3

Fires can burn for anything from a few hours to a few weeks. Afterwards there is a huge logistical clean up operation, that may include replacing hundreds of burned poles, washing power lines as can be seen here, searching for injured wildlife, etc.

The ‘bush’ is stripped of all low growing vegetation, with only some eucalyptus  and grass trees still standing. These particular species can withstand fires and will regrow, but the swathes of beautiful flowering trees and shrubs are gone. Gone too is the wildlife –  snakes, birds, kangaroos, wallabies, – their rich habitat lying naked and destroyed.

Although denuded and apparently dead, Australia’s bush will rejuvenate itself very quickly after fire, and it will be interesting to see how long this particular devastated area takes to regrow and return to its natural state. However long it takes, a terrible beauty will be born, with wondrous plants,flowers and wildlife.

How fortunate we are here in Ireland not to have to deal with these emergencies, although on a day like today with snow and sleet warnings, some heat would be very welcome!





Filed under Travels in Australia

12 responses to “A terrible beauty

  1. Hi SV, amazing where Yeats’ poetry brings us or comes to mind.

  2. Yes indeed, very frightening and devastating. Here we have gorse fires on a much smaller scale most summers. It’s heartbreaking to see the aftermath but great to see – maybe a few years later – how Nature has reclaimed its territorry.

    • It is indeed Roy. When I think of how agitated we get about gorse/whin fires , we can learn a thing or two from our ‘down-under’ cousins. Uncontrolled fire is a devastating thing….and yet we get such comfort from it when it glows in the hearth.

  3. Amazing photos, you wonder how something so devastating as bush fires, can also be in some ways, majestic and beautiful, as in your photos of the smoke filled skies.
    ‘A terrible beauty is born’ indeed…

  4. You make us look at smoke and fire in a different way. May you stay warm safely!

  5. We are fortunate to live by the coast and luckily not in a risk area though there have been fires in Carine Swamp and Trigg parkland which are nearby but not in our immediate vicinity. I love the Perth Hills but couldn’t live out there as I’d be too worried about the fire risk and anyway they get the sea breeze far later in the day than we do. The ability of the bush to regenerate is amazing though – the seeds are carried by the fire so it is in many cases a natural regeneration process though sadly all too often fires are deliberately lit with potentially terrible consequences. Hope you had a wonderful stay here in Perth! 🙂

    • Hi there! I understand the sentiments about not living in the hills. Not everyone’s cup of tea for sure! Many of these pictures were taken just north of Perth and a long way from the hills, so I guess these awful fires can happen almost anyplace. I am hoping to see the bush rejuvenate itself, especially after the recent heavy rain! Always enjoy my trips to Perth. thank you for dropping by and for good wishes! Angela

  6. Your quote from Yeats is perfect! Both beautiful and terrifying, Australian bush fires have such a terrible impact on the flora and fauna, yet it’s also part of the rejuvenation.

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