Staircase to the Moon

20 Apr

During 2 or 3 nights each month from March through October, a spectacular phenomenon occurs in Broome. When the tide is extremely low, the rippled mudflats are exposed beyond the sandy beaches of Roebuck Bay. On these special nights for only 5-10 minutes, the full moon actually rises over the horizon, reflecting off the exposed ripples of sand and creating an image best described as “The Staircase to the Moon.”

Apparently last month was cloudy on the nights it was expected to appear, so no one was able to witness the phenomenon. Luckily I timed my trip to Broome perfectly so that I would have 2 chances to see it before flying back to the east coast.

Last night, the Kimberly Klub shuttled a big group of us over to Town Beach, where hundreds of people stood waiting for the main event. Behind the lookout was a field crowded with spectators and night markets. Though I didn’t get a chance to meander my way through all the booths, I was quite happy to grab a $3 hot dog for dinner.

My friends and I gathered along the edge of a plateau above the beach, facing where we expected the moon to rise. Slowly the sky became a little brighter over one patch of the horizon, and everyone else crowded together in anticipation.

crowds gathering

Watching the moon rise is an unusual experience. Everyone has seen the sun rise and the sun set, but I would never have thought that it was possible to actually witness the reverse happen with the moon. Unlike the sunrise or sunset, which draws out all the colors of the rainbow across the sky, the moon simply glowed a warm orange-ish tint. And just as everyone said it would, the moon actually reflected off the banks. It looked as if you could actually run along the beach and climb right up to it. Truly amazing!

Everyone’s flashes were going off as they desperately tried to capture an image of the phenomenon. Myself included. No matter which setting I put on my camera, nothing turned out well. The coolest shot I took resulted in what looked like the moon exploding.

and then the moon exploded

Tonight I was better prepared. My errand for the day was to buy a cheap tri-pod for my camera. I found one of those beady looking tripods that bends and wraps around free-standing objects so that it doesn’t require a flat ground or table, which is rarely available when you would actually need it.

This time around, my friend Arnika drove 3 of us to the Golf Club just a bit further down the road from where all the markets are. The clubhouse itself was closed, but there were 2 or 3 other carloads of people who had the same idea as us. I claimed a street sign for my tripod, which ended up being right in the middle of one of those groups of people. I set my camera to the “starry night” setting with a 60 second shutter speed. And…. Voila!

Staircase to the Moon

I’m sure if you Googled “Staircase to the Moon,” you would find much more clear and professional looking pictures. But I was rather proud of capturing what I could of this night. (Even though there was a blasted boat in the way.) I even lent my tripod to another onlooker, who had a similar camera as mine, so that he could share his photo with all his friends.

What a night! This definitely ranks as one of my favorite memories in Western Australia.

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