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9th - 14th April 2009 - thunderbolts and lightning, very very frightning.
We arrived at Cable Downs after a 2 year break. A new team member joined us this year. Michael Jenkins is a member of the Australia Kiteflyer’s Society. He is adept at building and flying trick kites as well as single line kites. He is also an active sailor, crewing regularly on Sydney harbour. his experience with wind sports is invaluable for the altitude record attempts. Our last series of attempts in 2007 netted 3 high flights culminating in 10,466 ft. This year we decided to camp on the airstrip. In 2007, on 2 flights, late starts were limiting factors in not reaching at least 12,000 ft and perhaps even record altitudes. We though that being on the strip would enable us to launch by at least 0900, 2 hours earlier than previous flights in 2007. We did fly to 9,119 ft. and this was an exceptional altitude considering analysis of the wind profile for that day showed a potential of only 7,000 ft. This altitude was achieved on thermals which enable higher altitudes than the prevailing wind for the day would suggest. The kite languished around 5 - 6,000 ft for several hours until it was draw into an updraft below a cloud base. It rose over 3,000 ft. in a matter of minutes and then fell just as quickly, the winch barely keeping up with the line slack. We realised that there was little point in persisting that afternoon and had the kite back by 4pm. That night the rains came and following days we saw low winds cloudy conditions and violent thunder storms. I flew a camera on a big delta to 2,200 ft. above the airstrip and the images are awesome.
The strip became a quagmire and there was forecast of more rain so we terminated or record attempts 3 days early.
Above: An interesting image taken from an 80 sq. ft. delta at 2,200 ft. above the air strip on Cable Downs. The camera is a 5 MP Canon digital using a Jaycar relay set to trigger at 20 sec intervals. The cloud base was just above the kite. The camp site can be seen centre bottom and a red/yellow delta is flying 500 ft. above the site and 1,700 ft. below the camera kite. The camera was attached to the centre spar with a ball swivel clamp. No Pikavet mount required because of the size and stability of the kite.
Australia, a land of contrasts with droughts and flooding rains. After an hour, this lake was gone and by next morning there ws no evidence of this deluge and we flew the bid delta. to to take the image above from 2,200 ft. Thers was a thick cloud layer at 2,700 ft and we are not permitted to fly into cloud or closer than 500 ft from the base. Mike Jenkins observes from the wool shed after torrential rain, high winds, thunderbolts and lightning. The wool shed is built like a "brick shithouse" so would probably weather a cyclone.
The day after we turned to Sydney there were almost perfect winds. Ironic we had such bad weather for 5 out of 7 days.
The Cobar peneplain is a very gently undulating ancient sedimentary basin with its geological roots back 400 million years ago when there was a shallow sea. The sedimentary deposits come from mountainous area which existed in the eastern central Australia. Some of the mineralisation seems to be linked to Broken Hill's rich deposits but that is just my conjecture. It has pockets of rich mineralisation containing copper, zinc, lead and gold. There are 4 major mines including the Endeavour mine 20 km to the east of Cable Downs. On the 2012 page you can see an image of the white and black kite held in front of the Endeavour mine office by two mining engineers. They recovered the kite about 8 km to the south of the mine and 19.9 km to the east of the launch point after a line break. The farming area has heavily leached soils but retains enough nutrients to sustain reasonable pastures when and if it rains. It is on the edge of gradual desertification with drought becoming more frequent and prolonged. The property sizes have had to be increased in size to be sustainable. Cable Downs is 20,000 hectares or 50,000 acres. Only about 20% is productive as woody weed has invaded most properties. You can see the green scrub about 1 km away to the south. This paddock was only cleared in 2008 and is just refurbishing an established grazing area adjacent to the air strip. Clearing scrub in this area is controversial as it breaks some state laws which attempt to govern native trees and bushland. It is argued that wood weed species such as some acacia shrubs, have only proliferated because of past management practices which took away the weed's competition. The woody weed is actually a mix of native flora which technically is protected under the native vegetation act. During the period of our record attempts, protest occurred at some local properties when state protection officers attempted to inspect a property. One farmer shot one of the officers and this is a measure of the frustration and desperation felt by some farmers. What I saw of the neighbouring farmers were not rich graziers but people cling to a rural existence and doing it tough. The air strip on Cable Downs is an indicator of past wealth as there is no way of sustaining aircraft on the modest earnings.
These wind profiles are snapshots and after a few hours the graphs may change, sometime just a litlle and sometimes a lot. The wind probably increased by a few knots at around 9,000 ft as the kite was able to reached 9,100 ft above ground level as shown on the garmine GPS profile. That's is as good as it was going to get for this series. Then the storms came and fickle, variable winds. As mentioned below and shown on the wind profile, the day after we returned to Sydney the winds were near perfect.
Kite Altitude World Record