Sunday, February 17, 2008

Victoria's Ash Wednesday of 1983

My parents are light-skinned and I was born dark skinned. For the longest time I was puzzled by this sheer difference in skin color, since almost all of my siblings were also born light-skinned. When asked for explanation (this was quite a while ago, when I was a kid), my parents couldn't have given me a more serious, straight-to-the-point answer.

Mom: "You were adopted. You are actually an Aborigine child we found during the bushfire" (or something like that, I know she's kidding but at the time I half-believed her)

Dad: "Yeah, you were born on Ash Wednesday, there was a big bushfire in Victoria that day, and you're dark-skinned because of all the smoke and ash" (and I half-believed this as well)

Not until recently was I able to verify this, thanks to the most common source of quick, free background info on the planet, Wikipedia.

Here are some excerpts of the article I found concerning the natural disaster that happened as I was born:


The Ash Wednesday Bushfires were a series of forest fires which occurred on February 16, 1983 in south-east Australia, resulting in a natural disaster. The fires occurred across Victoria, including the Dandenong Ranges and Macedon Ranges, as well as the Otway Ranges in the south west. They also occurred in South Australia, primarily in the Adelaide Hills, but also the Clare Valley and the pine forests of the state's south east. The Ash Wednesday fires remain the worst bushfire disaster in Australian history, claiming 75 lives and more than two thousand homes.

Wednesday 16 February dawned as another unrelentingly hot, dry day in the southeast and temperatures in the areas around Melbourne and Adelaide quickly rose toward 40 degrees Celsius. Coupled with hot, gusty northerly winds, the situation finally reached a tipping point. The first reports of smoke, in South Australia's Clare Valley, came just after 1pm. Multiple reports of breaking fires quickly began to deluge Victoria's and South Australia's emergency services. Outer metropolitan areas of both Melbourne and Adelaide were threatened, particularly those suburbs located towards the Dandenongs east of Melbourne. Much of Mount Macedon to the north west of Melbourne was devastated, as were the townships of Cockatoo and Upper Beaconsfield in the Dandenongs, and many beachside towns along the Great Ocean Road. The Otway Ranges fire, driven by the extreme weather and heavy ground fuel loads, was so intense that firefighters were forced to abandon control efforts and the fire only came to an end when it ran out of fuel having reached the ocean on Victoria's south coast, melting metal street signs in the beachside town of Aireys Inlet. At one stage the entire Melbourne metropolitan area was encircled by fires, and the city remained covered in smoke for weeks, requiring drivers to use their headlights in the city during the day time. The smoke later drifted as far north as Batemans Bay, New South Wales.

Forty-seven people died in Victoria, and 28 in South Australia. A fierce southerly wind change that swept across Victoria in the early evening abruptly changed the direction of many of the fires and the bulk of the deaths and destruction the outbreak caused in Victoria came after the front arrived. Upper Beaconsfield was a scene of particular tragedy, 17 firefighters losing their lives after being caught exposed to a wall of flames as the wind change struck. The freakish conditions spawned unique effects: one survivor reported seeing a burning mattress hurtling through the air. 2,545 individuals and families lost their homes. At the height of the blaze there were reports that fire fronts moved faster than 100 km/h.

The total land area burnt was approximately 2,100 km² (518,921 acres) in Victoria and 2,080 km² (513,979 acres) in South Australia. The summer bushfires of 1982/1983 razed approximately 5,200 km² (1,284,000 acres).

from the article Ash Wednesday Fires on Wikipedia.


Amongst all that smoke, fire, ash, and people's life being destroyed, my life on this world began. Hurray me.

p/s: Actually the best explanation of my dark complexion would be because my grandfather on my dad's side is dark-skinned. I got it from him.


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