WPC: Window

This week's Photo Challenge is – Window

If you had been standing at this window on the afternoon of 18 January 2003, you would be gazing at hell.

A week before, lightning had triggered a series of bushfires in Namadgi National Park, southwest of Canberra, and tinder dry conditions had made it impossible to control the approach of the fire front on Australia's capital city.

On the Friday, the situation turned disastrous as strong westerly winds turned the fires into an inferno, with embers touching off blazes in the dense bush land far ahead of the rapidly advancing, 40-km-long fire front.

The Mt Stromlo Observatory stands at the edge of a steep escarpment facing directly into the approaching firestorm and staff were given only 20 minutes to escape with their lives.

Many significant telescopes were lost on that day, including the 1.9-meter (74-inch) Grubb-Parsons reflector, the 1.3-meter (50-inch) Great Melbourne telescope, and the 0.7-meter (26-inch) Yale-Columbia refractor. Also destroyed were the 23-cm (9-inch) Oddie refractor, which was installed on the summit in 1910, and a laser-ranging station with its 1-meter telescope. The fire then consumed the main administration building, which housed the observatory’s library.


7 thoughts on “WPC: Window

  1. In October 2003 everything around my little town was on fire, almost 300,000 acres. One thing (among a multitude) I was afraid of was that it would spread up Mt. Palomar and burn that observatory. This story and the photo are very powerful.


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