My friend and Newsletter reader Anne has drawn my attention to this remarkable video of the current floods in the vicinity of Bourke in far north-west New South Wales:
It’s only two and a half minutes long, and well worth a look. The statistic of the equivalent of two Olympic swimming pools of water flowing south-west via the Darling River and its many warrambools EVERY SECOND is truly mind boggling!
Incidentally, the word “warrambool” appears in various places in northern NSW, and means “a watercourse that flows only after flooding”. It seems to me to be fairly similar — if not identical — to a billabong.
The following is part of an article in the Oxford Australia Word of the Month newsletter last July, after a bit of prompting from yours truly:
“The following passage [appeared] in the Melbourne Age newspaper on 19 April 2003:
Historian Tom Griffiths, in his essay The Outside Country, tells of a pastoralist of the 1880s who said waterways like the fabled Paroo and the Warrego in the north-western part of the vast Murray-Darling Basin scarcely deserved the name rivers. What Australia has in their place, says Griffiths, is ‘channels, swamps, dry deltas, waterholes, freshes, shallow ephemeral lakes, warrambools, billabongs, dunefield swales, anabranches and flooded alluvial plains’.
There are some curious terms here. A dunefield swale seems to be ‘a hollow between sand dunes’, and an anabranch is ‘an arm of a river that separates from and later rejoins the main stream’ (the ‘ana’ part taken from the Modern Latin word anastomosis ‘intercommunication between two vessels, channels, or distinct branches of any kind, by a connecting cross branch’, from a Greek word that ultimately meant ‘to furnish with a mouth or outlet’). Most Australians would not have the word “warrambool” as part of their vocabulary, but it is definitely an Australian [aboriginal] word.
If you google the word “warrambool”, Google will ask you if you were really searching for the Victorian city of Warrnambool, on the south-western coast. If you insist that you are really after “warrambool”, and do some searching, you will come up with many place names containing “warrambool”, especially in an area between Narrabri in northern New South Wales, and the Queensland-New South Wales border. Newspapers in the late nineteenth century often refer to warrambools:
All along the course of the Darling, at some distance back from the river—sometimes as much as twenty or thirty miles—there are shallow watercourses called “warrambools”, along which the flood waters pass in wet seasons. One of these warrambools, north west of the Darling above Brewarrina, runs parallel with the river for more than 100 miles before returning into the main channel. South Australian Register, 10 December 1884.”
Oxford Australia have agreed to include “warrambool” in “a forthcoming edition of the Australian National Dictionary.
Current flooding in rural NSW would put the kybosh on just about any Bobby Dazzler itinerary. The next trip is scheduled for mid-May — hopefully things will have dried out to some extent by then.