While at Woomera, and in fact as we continued to move north, I was fascinated by the sky. The photo below is at Woomera, while the photo at the top of the blog is from later that same day, in the small settlement of Glendambo. The clouds, like brush strokes from a nearly dry paint brush, stood out in strong contrast to the blue sky.
I later learned that this type of cloud is known as a mare’s tail, or, more scientifically, Cirrus uncinus. In addition to not knowing their name when I first saw them, I also did not know (but would soon learn) that they presaged rain.
But during that day on the road, I was not thinking of what the clouds meant, just that they were remarkably lovely.
"Mare's Tail" clouds at Woomera
A woomera is an Aboriginal spear thrower—something that sends projectiles hurtling through the air. How fitting, then, that Woomera be chosen as the name for Australia’s rocket testing and space tracking station in outback South Australia. We stopped at this intriguing space-age oasis after a few hours of crossing brilliant wilderness.
Begun as a joint venture between England and Australia after the end of World War II (a war that had threatened the continued existence of Australia), Woomera has, in the ensuing decades, hosted a wide range of international space research, rocket tracking, and missile testing activities, including a fair bit of involvement with NASA in the early days of America’s space program. At more than 49,000 square miles, Woomera is the largest land-locked missile range in the world.
Reflecting the history and international nature of the test range, there is a fascinating Missile Park displaying a variety of rockets, missiles, and aircraft tested at Woomera, located near the tourist information and heritage center. While some missiles tested here were for defense, a large percentage of them were for research, including meteorology and space. Definitely worth a stop if you’re crossing this bit of Australia.
Woomera Missile Park