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Kite Altitude World Record
April 2005 - Heat, flies and dust, oh and we flew some kites as well
This was our first series of attempts. I use the term series for each period we go to Cable Downs because each day is a separate event with unique conditions and different prospects of success or failure. Often consecutive days have similar conditions because the weather patterns run in cycles of 4 days but each day is different. Cold fronts arrive from the south west fairly regularly. Sometimes high pressure systems dominate for a week or two and sometime the cool change is so weak to be almost imperceptable apart from a drop of 2 or 3 degrees and a shift in winds from the northwest to the south west. The biggest changes occur in spring when cool meets hot and to a lesser extent in Autumn when hot meets cool. We chose April because it is the time of the Easter holidays when my helpers could come away for four or five days. I had no idea at that stage when the best time of the year to make the attempts was or indead if their was a "best" time of the year. An atmospheric scientist from Adelaide University said he didn't think there was a best time of the year. I wasn't sure about that and thought I should investigate further. In October 2004 I stayed at Cobar Caravan Park then made the trip to Cable Downs and back each day. Again I chose chose the Van Park with the 3 of us staying in a Cabin and Roger & Mike staying in one of the Pubs. This arrangement is part of the reason for not breaking the record on a subsequent visit for record attempts. In later series we stayed at Cable Downs which contributed to much higher altitudes because we had earlier launches. It's more economical and lowers the risk of hitting kangaroos. We have hit Kangaroos on 3 occasions in the last 6 years with $10,000 damage, $5000 of which was out of my pocket.....ouch! For all you people overseas, kangaroos are in plague proportions in many areas of Australia. They cause road accidents that are sometimes fatal for drivers and passengers. They are quite unpredictable in their behavior. Goats are far more intelligent and there are plenty them in the region as well, however they run away from the car as it approaches, kangaroos run into the path of the car! having said that, it is the fault of modern society's land clearing and farming practices that have provided the habitat, food and water supplies that have seen a 10 fold explosion in the population of kangaroos since western colonisation. The Aboriginals had a far better idea of land management. We can hardly complain about Kangaroos when our ancestors created the problem.
Anyway, aside from these issues, the April 2005 series was characterised by dry, dusty conditions with warm variable winds in hot conditions. The task of launching and relaunching kites in attempts to fly any more than a few thousand feet high were exhausting. It was frustrating to experience poor conditions for 4 days then the day after we returned to Sydney, the winds were almost perfect. . However we did fly as high as we could given the conditions. We reached over 4,200 ft on April 29th. (see striped altitude profile below) I think the potential was in the atmosphere to reach at least 13,000 ft but we need earlier starts. (see the wind profile at the bottom of the page) We weren't detered by the hard conditions and dissappointing altitudes so we already planned a second series for October 2005.
Above: We flew to 4,000 ft on day 4, 29th April 2005. From the ground track you can see the wind shifted from about east to east-south-east. This is common. It is unusual for wind to remain from the same direction throughout the height profile. The wind profile below reflected the flight mostly but there are differences because the flight was between 10 am and 2 pm. The balloon Sonde was run at 0915 - 0930 within our height range and is also 40 km away. You can see why the kite did not go beyond 5,000 ft above sea level. The wind starts drop and by 7,000 ft is below the lift threshold.
Above: The wind profile of 30th April 2005. Note:23Z, April 29 is Universal Time Zone and for Australia 10 hours is added. The local time is + 10 hrs or 0900 30th April. This wind had record altitude potential. Unfortunately we were on our way back to Sydney! Darn! The data and graphs coutesy of Australian Atmospheric Soundings (Mark Newton). Data originates from Bureau Meteorology, Cobar Weather Station, Balloon Sonde.
Day 1 above, shows a series of attempted launches with the heights reached on the back of the winching speed with no sustainable wind alof. Innevitably the kite would come back down. Often it would end up in the scrub, the line draped through trees and bushes. Each long launch took half an hour then half an hour to extract from the scrub. Just like floggiong a dead horse especially in hot dudty conditions.
Day 1 and Nancy Shannahan captures the crew and the farmer with the local children from surrounding properties.
L - R: Hugh Moore, David Moore, Greg Moore, Bob Moore, Steve Viant, Michael Richards, Roger Martin. Mike Richards did an impromtu kite making session and the chidren hold them aloft.