The Boss's Dog
We get the edge on the winter season, day and night
The Boss left me to carry the load last week while he nipped up to Darwin for a spot of fishing — and came home looking like he didn’t miss me at all.
He said it was warm and balmy up there and that Darwin was getting an extra couple of hours of daylight — and he didn’t apologise for that either.
I’ve never quite figured that out but it has something to do with the tilt of the Earth, he told me, and the fact that Darwin is closer to the middle.
So, this week, on the winter solstice, I had nine hours and 50 minutes between sunrise and sunset, while Darwin had 11 hours and 24 minutes. It’s not fair.
But he patted me on the head and said that Darwin folk miss out on the real seasons we have on the river: they miss out on the frosty mornings followed by a crystal-clear, sunny day and those foggy mornings with the mist wafting off the water.
Mind you, the Darwin-ites also miss out on the cold, damp weather I had while The Boss was trying to catch a fish in short sleeves. Although, he said the cold weather followed them up there and the fishing was tougher than usual. He went on trying to make me feel better:
“They have a torrid time of it in the build-up in December before the wet season, General — it’s humid and you’re sweating before 8am and you wouldn’t like it,” he said.
“They try to escape in January, then it rains for a month or two in February and March.
“Right now, there is a lot of burning off during the dry season, so we didn’t have the crisp clear skies we get down here. The sunsets were mostly obscured by grey haze and it reminded us of Delhi.”
That made me feel a little better. He said the haze obscured the night sky as well and closed in as the temperature dropped, so the smell of smoke was strong.
Which reminded me of our long winter nights here, now around 14 hours, when a dog has plenty of time to take in the untold dog stories of the night sky. Millions of my four-legged compatriots have studied it before me, and judged it to be good.
On the clearer nights, before the waning moon rises, I can see Scorpius, the great constellation of winter, stretching overhead. My dog star, Sirius, has set in the west early, along with Orion, the Hunter, and his two dogs, Canis Major and Canis Minor. The Boss assures me they’ll be back in the summer, along with the crickets, the cicadas and the campers.
Before dawn right now, I can see four bright planets in a line — Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mercury, low in the eastern sky. The Boss tells me astronomers love this time of year with long clear nights, when the moon is small and they have plenty of time to investigate.
He reckons we get a much better deal in the Southern Hemisphere, and most Australians take our southern sky for granted until they travel into Europe, Asia or the USA, where the massive light pollution from huge cities makes the dull northern sky even duller and scarcely worth a look.
They have the bright North Star over the pole and the Big Dipper, also called the Plough (or Ursa Major, the Great Bear.) You can just see it scraping the north-western horizon after sunset — from Darwin, The Boss says.
Whereas we have the galactic centre and the large and small Magellanic Clouds, the companion galaxies to the Milky Way — and, of course, the Dark Emu, starting with its head and beak buried in the Coal Sack black hole of the Southern Cross and stretching back along the Milky Way — First Nations people connected the black holes to form the Emu, with the stars around it defining its body.
On the right night, it is a treat to see and The Boss gets me out every night anyway, unless it’s pouring rain, looking south before he heads off to bed, to ponder on it again. We often luck out. Woof!