Story By David Hancock

The single largest impact on life in the Top End of the Northern Territory is the annual wet season. It’s a period when the country recovers from a long dry spell and a time of peak activity for the region’s plants and animals.

Humidity climbs sharply in October and November and the first big storms appear in early December, bringing spectacular lightning displays that crackle through the night, as shown in the photograph above. By January, a tropical monsoon usually comes in from Asia, bringing continual rain occasionally fed by quick-forming cyclones.

After weeks of inundation, the Top End is sodden and normally sluggish rivers become churning waterways that burst their banks and flood coastal plains. Water pours off the Arnhem Land plateau, creating mighty cascades such as those at Jim Jim Falls (pictured opposite) and Twin Falls, both in Kakadu National Park.

Plants grow feverishly, flowering and fruiting, while animals and birds give birth to take advantage of the abundance of food. Mankind, however, is forced to take a break as nature asserts its unchallenged power. With remote communities and cattle stations isolated by flooded rivers, roads and airstrips, Top Enders know it as a time to slow down, to perhaps take a holiday or go fishing.

The dominant colour during the wet season is green; it’s a fecund, iridescent green often framed by brooding skies and towering thunderheads. The nights are insect-laden and hot, and the sound of calling frogs is only drowned out by driving rain on metal roofs.
These photographs, taken by David Hancock, show the Top End at its very best. Many of the following images appear in his latest coffee-table book 'Top End, life in the Top End', which features more than 300 photographs depicting all that is wonderful about the region, from the magnificent scenery and wildlife to the dramatic weather, vibrant Aboriginal culture and innovative people pursuing interesting lives.

This story excerpt is from Issue #78

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sept 2011