Travelled today: 246kms | Travelled so far: 1128kms | Allowance: 1200kms
We started our afternoon at Lee Point, where the beach was at low tide.
"Hector the Convector", the regular Melville Island thunderstorm, partook in it's daily explosion.
We then spent the afternoon with Jacob, a fellow chaser, discussing the day's potential which apparently was very good. From early afternoon, a line of cells was apparant on the 512km rain radar and lightning tracker from the NE corner of the Top End diagonally down to the SW whiched slowly tracked ENE all day. We basically spent the afternoon waiting for the line to get closer before chasing.
Just before dusk we took off down the Stuart Hwy as the line became visible on the horizon and was very lightning active from the E down to the S. We stopped at a known lookout point on Elizabeth Valley Rd just S of Noonamah, which gave us good views of the line. Lightning flashed constantly for an hour and a half without much apparent movement in the line.
Because it didn't seem to be moving very fast, we decided to try and get closer but failed to find a decent road running east (Jabiru Hwy was too far N). We headed south as we were told the main part of the line was going to cross the highway about 20 kms south of our location. Before stopping on Acacia Gap Rd, it seemed that the lightning intensity had dropped significantly. After stopping, lightning had ceased completely, but a massive shelf cloud with several bands was now visible and racing towards us.
Astonished by the complete lack of lightning (I would normally expect forks to be dropping out of the front) we sat and watched it eerily move overhead, half expecting a lightning bolt to drop nearby. I attempted some photos but the front was moving very quickly and the light was extremely low. I've included them anyhow as a reference. I've drastically increased the contrast to try and show some structure.
The ambient light dropped further as the gustfront moved directly overhead. The sense of closing-in was incredible. The sound of rustling trees was now apparent not too far away, which I also thought may have possibly been rain. The shelf cloud was the highest I've ever seen (or thought I saw, considering the low light) and the rain free base, the deepest.
According to the radar, the line of rain was moving around 40kmh but this gustfront was whizzing by much quicker. Desperate to get back in front of it we headed back up the highway towards Darwin in the hope that we'd see the front of it again, but this time hopefully lit up a little better by the city lights of Darwin. Depending, of course, on whether the shelf cloud stretched that far north.
The shelfie beat us back, but I did see a strange column of something or other which was lighter in colour than the dark background of night rising up into the front edge of the guster. Not sure what that was but it seemed very strange. By the time we got a decent view west over the water (the wharves were closed) the front had well and truly moved on, but it was now apparent that there was absolutely nothing behind it. The sky was relatively clear, apart from some light cirrus, but the stars were certainly visible. However, a few towers were now going up above the remains of the gustfront. The ocassional lightning flash occured over the southern part of the line to Darwin's SW. We had a tower building in front of us with enough strength to produce a nice rain shaft, but no lightning.
After this only a few more flashes occured very much to our SW, with no thunder audible. Shortly after that, at around 1am we decided to head back home. Considering the setup, and the lightning show we got in the distance in the early evening, it was extremely disappointing not to get anything over us closer to Darwin.
Apparently, a gulf line is due tomorrow arvo so here's hoping.