October 23, 2005

The smell of water

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:08 am by Chris

In New Zealand it would never occur to me to smell for rain, mostly
because in New Zealand there’s always water around, rain or
not. Here in Australia I’ve gotten quite into the habit of having a
sniff for incoming rain, and it’s usually possible to smell it before
you see it. I find still this quite an interesting novelty…

This was something I experienced in a more startling way last year,
when I helped out a friend on a field-trip to North Queensland. We
travelled up the inland route (to be said in broad Strine, as in “thin
land root”). Basically, if you look at a map of Australia and draw a
straight line up from Sydney to Cairns, you’ll see the way we
went. This route cuts quite a long way inland, including going inland
of all the coastal hills, mountains and plateau type things. As a
consequence most of the country is rather dry, to put it mildly.

When we came back to the coast we pretty much cut around the corner of
some hills and straight down to the coast road. The smell of the sea
was amazing — salt, iodine and water, totally immediate and
unmistakable. You couldn’t fail to notice it after a week having your
nose dried out and smelling mostly dust and dry grass. It was probably
the first time in my life I’ve been far enough from the sea (or at
least, large bodies of water) to come back to it as something
startling and fresh. We wound down the windows and breathed it in like
we were driving through a field of flowers.


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