Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sydney's Wet Summer

Sydney has had an incredibly wet summer so far, with more twice last summer's rainfall already having been recorded. The La Nina phenomenon seems to be the cause. Such heavy rainfall affects swimming in Sydney's waterways. Because of the city's built up areas, stormwater runs directly into the rivers, bays and the ocean, causing pollution incidents. Generally, the ocean beaches are declared safe one day after heavy falls, but the bays and rivers can take up to three days to clear. I usually swim in the Harbour every weekend during the summer months, so it has been frustrating this summer when there have been so many pollution days. I've ended up going over to Coogee Beach or Wylies Baths for my swims, but, even in the ocean, there's been a lot of flotsam. The beaches are also quite crowded at this time of year, and the seasonal north-easterly winds often bring seaweed and bluebottles (Portugese Man-Of-War).

Midweek, during a normal summer, I often go for a swim, after work, over to Balmain Baths. It's a bit of a hike, as I work in the south-western suburbs, and have to take a train 30 kilometres into the city centre, then a bus 3km out to Balmain. I could just go to one of the many chlorinated municipal pools, but I really enjoy swimming in saltwater. I have been missing out on this swim since the new year because of the stormwater pollution, so it was with relief that I read the Beachwatch reports on Thursday morning when they declared pollution to be unlikely. 

I set off on the train into the city at 3:30. Half way there, of course, the rain started. It was pretty heavy too. I thought it might clear, but it persisted. Another wet summer evening. I really don't mind swimming in the rain, but I hoped that there wouldn't be too much runoff into the baths.

By the time I got into the city and waited for the bus, there was a lot of water on the roads. Still, I caught the bus out to Balmain, determined to swim. On the way across the Glebe Island Bridge, the rain started to ease, and by the time we got to Balmain it had stopped. I walked across a very wet Elkerton Park, and down to the pool. It was an unusually low tide, and the seagrasses were exposed. The water was a bit on the murky side, but I managed to do my twenty lengths and avoid any sort of sickness.

Coming on to the Glebe Island Bridge. Still raining.

Looking from Glebe Island Bridge across to the Harbour Bridge. The rain is easing over the city.

At Balmain Baths. The rain has stopped.

A very low tide with the seagrasses visible.

A good standby for this wet summer has been Birrong Pool which is on the train line from work back home. As I said, I don't really enjoy chlorine pools, but it's been better than no swim at all. The ocean baths and beaches are just too far after work. It would mean taking a train into the city, then a bus out to the Eastern Suburbs, then a bus and train back to the Inner West where I live. Sometimes on a Friday afternoon I'll go, but never midweek.

Birrong Pool
I normally have a midweek swim here in the winter when Balmain Baths are closed.