The arrival of floodwaters from the north is like “veins bringing the country back to life”, according to Sharon Oldfield.

Story Gretel Sneath  Photos Robert Lang

The chopper cuts through cobalt sky, bringing news like a carrier pigeon. Craig Oldfield leaps from the cockpit onto the sunburnt soil of Cowarie Station with the message his family has been waiting to hear for seven long years: “The floodwaters are coming!”

Higher up the Birdsville Track, the behemoth Clifton Hills Station has been inundated with water that began as a record-breaking deluge of rain over Winton in Queensland eight weeks prior. Slowly it’s snaking down the Diamantina River into Goyder Lagoon, the Warburton Creek and, eventually, Lake Eyre. It’s a sight to behold as it generously spills far beyond the channels, across the gibber plains of Sturt Stony Desert and the sandy Simpson Desert, sending a saturating lifeline to the long-suffering outback landscape. “From the air, it looks like fingers or arteries, and then when you see it on a big, flat flood plain rather than broken country, it pans right out and the front is kilometres wide, just silently creeping, creeping,” Craig says. “It’s a pretty amazing thing to see; when that flood’s coming and you know the potential of it, it just makes you smile.” 

Craig’s mother, Sharon Oldfield, flies up in a fixed-wing Piper Lance aircraft the following day to see the spectacle, and shares her eldest son’s joy. She used to tell her children that mirages were magic puddles, but this is the real deal. The magic lies with nature. “It’s like veins bringing the country to life,” she says. “In two weeks’ time, this will all be green.”

The full version of this story was published in both OUTBACK magazine and the 2018 edition of our special one-shot magazine OUTBACK Stations.

This story excerpt is from Issue #120

Outback Magazine: August/September 2018