A group of gliders have travelled to the remote Qld town of Bourketown to ‘surf’ the rare Morning Glory cloud.
Pursued by a small and committed band of pilots from all over Australia, it’s become the holy grail of gliding.
The long, cigar-shaped formation known as the Morning Glory Cloud rolls elusively across the waters off far northwestern Queensland’s Bourketown for just a few weeks each year.
It creates perfect conditions that allow non-motorised gliders to surf the thermals in front of it for hundreds of kilometres.
The isolated Gulf Country township the only place in the world where the meteorological phenomenon can be reasonably predicted to arrive each September.
But it is not guaranteed to make an appearance each day.
Pilot Al Sim, from Caboolture in southeast Queensland, said the only way to know if it will appear is to crawl out of bed at 4.30am, prep the glider, and wait to see what the sunrise unveils.
“This morning we were standing there like a bunch of slack-jawed no-hopers staring out at the horizon … people too scared to talk, and hoping that among the glow will be this cloud,” Mr Sim told AAP.
“If it’s there we jump in the gliders and get up there: if not, we go fishing.”
Mr Sim arrived on Monday, and they got their first Glory on Tuesday – a perfect cloud around 250km long, and about 1200 metres high – and their second the very next day.
This is the fourth year Mr Sim has made the trip, which is both time consuming and expensive because of its remote location.
But it’s a trip that is worth every penny for this pilot of 18 years.
“I’ve always had a fascination about using natural energy to power an aircraft … that you can use thermal energy to fly,” he said.
“I’m absolutely addicted to it. Every wave is different and that’s what keeps you coming back.”