Ormiston Gorge and the Upside-Down Rainbow

Continuing along the West MacDonnell ranges, after our stops at Standley Chasm and the Ochre Pits we travelled the last 25 km to Ormiston Gorge, which after leaving Namatjira Drive crossed several dry creek beds adorned with stately eucalypts.

eucalypt tree in creek bed

It had been a long hot day and the sight of the water in Ormiston Gorge was welcoming 🙂

Image: Ormiston Gorge

It took no time at all to immerse ourselves in it!

Image: Ormiston Gorge

Delicious 🙂

Image: Ormiston Gorge

Image: Ormiston Gorge

The early evening light enhanced the classic red centre colours looking down the gorge to the escarpment.

Image: Ormiston Gorge

 Image: Ormiston Gorge

There were trees perilously embedding themselves in the red rocky gorge walls…

Image: Ormiston Gorge

…and clinging onto the sheer sides high above us

Image: Ormiston Gorge

 …a twisted eucalypt grappling for life.

Leaving this piece of paradise…

Image: Ormiston Gorge

…we were heading back to our camperbus (motorhome) when we spotted a Grey Crowned Babbler busy probing beneath the bark of a tree with its scimitar-like bill.

Image: Grey Crowned Babbler bird

But just before we left Ormiston, we looked up to the rim of the gorge behind us and saw this upside-down rainbow!

Upside-down rainbow

I couldn’t work out how this was possible – particularly since there appeared to be no rain about!

I’ve since looked up how this phenomena occurs and came across the term ‘Circumzenithal arcs‘ – The only tricky part of the description is there are supposed to be ice crystals up there for the sun to refract off, so it’s generally a sight only seen in places such as the Arctic circle – So, what was an upside-down rainbow doing in central Australia?

The colour order is correct for a circumzenithal arc, as the violet is at the top and the red at the bottom –

Do we have any scientists in our midst who can elaborate or…

please explain!?

 Have you ever seen an upside-down rainbow

Do share in the comments below 🙂

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 Next stop (next blog post) Glen Helen Gorge

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8 thoughts on “Ormiston Gorge and the Upside-Down Rainbow

    • The Red Centre is definitely a Red Nomad Oz’s home away from home! 😉

      You’re right about the air way ‘way up high’ being icy cold –
      While no scientific reader came forward here on my blog I had a few interesting interations out in the Social Media world of Twitter and Google+ where comments such as:
      “Never seen one before”, “Remarkable arc”, “Now that’s cool”, “Amazing’, “Can’t say that I have. Very cool”, and “if anyone could find an upside down rainbow it would be you :)”

      Also Dave Pearson on Google+ commented:

      “As it says on the site, it’s a circumzenithal arc. While it’s true that they’re seen because of certain types of ice crystals it’s not the case that they’re only witnessed in the Arctic or Antarctic. We get these in the UK fairly often. It’s all about the temperature of the air at the altitude these ice crystals form at.
      I’ve witnessed a CZA while outside in nothing but a t-shirt.”

      I replied:
      “It just seemed so incongruous having ice crystals in the atmosphere above central Australia in the middle of the summer! But seeing is believing ;)”

      To which Dave responded:
      “It is a great reminder, isn’t it, that just a few thousand feet in altitude can make all the difference in temperature.”

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    • I saw there was a walk right up along the rim and back up the creek –
      I’ll look forward to reading about your adventure –
      A week is a very sensible amount of time to spend there – My visit was sadly a little more fleeting!

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  3. This spot was like a movie set, well that should mean better in real life! The scale of the scene is even more impressive in person. I was too timid to swim but the water was so very tempting!

    • You’re right –
      The gorge is way more impressive in real life –
      I’m not usually much of a swimmer, but after such a hot day on the road (with lots of other sites visited along the way) I was totally tempted by the tingly cold water, which was sumptuously refreshing 🙂
      Good thing there aren’t any crocs in the Centre, or I too would not have been so bold!

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