Sydney Smoke Day

In many parts of the world, Christmastime is full of lights, cheer, and snow gracefully covering the landscape. Unfortunately, here in Australia, we are facing the worst bushfire season on record combined with a prolonged drought. So while many might get a snow day, here in Sydney, we experienced a smoke day.

Lavender Bay looking southeast to the Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD. Two masks and wrap around eyewear weren’t enough to hold back the smoke.

Seeing the thick haze from my window, I grabbed my camera, donned two masks, and headed to some of the iconic views of Sydney. The smoke would come in waves, occasionally lightening before returning to an opaque curtain over the city. The air masks did keep out most of the worst particulates, but I could still taste the smoke in my mouth. My eyes watered, my lungs stung and burned. By the time I returned home, I smelled like a campfire and had to clean off myself and my camera.

The flags atop the Harbour Bridge were at half mast to support the Australians lost in the volcano eruption on White Island, New Zealand. It was poetic that on a day of mourning, the city was covered in smoke.
Lavender Bay looking southeast towards the Harbour Bridge and Sydney CBD. This normally picturesque view is postcard worthy, but is lost to the smoke and haze.

The city looked like a scene straight out of a movie, buildings hidden behind the haze, people walking around in masks, and the air a thick soup of smoke, ash, and debris. Ash floated down, much like snow, covering every surface with black flakes and red dirt. Fire alarms triggered in office buildings and train stations around the city. Air monitors registered record levels of pollution and hazardous particles, making it some of the worst air to breathe anywhere in the world – surpassing both China and India.

Randolf, a German tourist, wasn’t going to let the smoke ruin his holiday. “I love this city, I come every year.” He was attempting to use a bottle of milk to reduce the effects of the smoke.
Ferry services throughout the Harbour were suspended due to the lack of visibility.

With no end in sight to the drought and limited rain forecast as we head into summer, it will be a long fire season with more days like this to come. The volunteers with the Rural Fire Service are an astounding group that has done incredible work to protect lives and property throughout Australia, but fires are growing and combining.

Josh and his son trying to enjoy a little time together. “It’s bad this year, but what are you going to do?” he says.
The usual laughter and sounds of joy coming from Luna Park were noticeably absent.

No matter your political views or opinions on climate change, it is clear that Mother Nature is in trouble right now. It feels like the Earth has a fever, and is trying to work, but just wants to sit on the couch with a bowl of soup until the illness burns away. This is the only planet we have, and we need to start taking care of it.

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