Willy Willys

Submitted: Friday, Sep 28, 2012 at 23:44
ThreadID: 98302 Views:2830 Replies:10 FollowUps:10
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G'day,

when we were heading west, and over west, recently we saw willy willys everyday.

I reckon they're fascinating. Some seem to behave really weird. When we were at Papunya the air was still and a little willy willy started across the road from us, at the Art Centre.
It came across the road and went straight tomy mate, Wazza. It spun around him twice went away about 2 metres and went straight through him and disappeared.

When we were coming back along the Tanami Road we saw what looked like a fire in the distance with the smoke going straight up. The thing was it was blowing a gale that day. It turns out it was a willy willy going over burnt land and sucking up ash and stuff about 100 metres up.

There were heaps more. Has anyone else got any stories of these little beauties?

Steve

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Reply By: lizard - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:28

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:28
My mum used to call them Dust Devils , sometimes Dirt Devils , when she was on a station near Mt Magnet WA
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Follow Up By: Member - John L (WA) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:35

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:35
When I was a little girl my farmer father told me the aborigines used to hide in them to run after game so I spent fruitless hours trying to get inside a willy willy. All I got was very dusty!!
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Follow Up By: Member - Niss42 - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:55

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:55
John L
"All I got was very dusty" and then I became a little boy !!!

Barry
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Follow Up By: Member - John L (WA) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:22

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:22
Blokes computer sites are easy to hack! Should have signed -
Cheers Heather L
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Reply By: Member - Min (NSW) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:59

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 09:59
Hi Steve,
In my blog (finished last night on Painted Desert etc.) I relate a story of how a willy-willy was responsible for the deaths of a mother and her four children at Beltana SA. Sparks from a fire well away from their home blew to the house which caught fire and collapsed on them. I will always think of that when I see a willy-willy in future. But, like you I am fascinated by them and am at a loss to how they start from nothing, get quite ferocious, and then peter out. That's nature.

Cheers,
Min
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Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 10:08

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 10:08
Hi Min,

I read this story a week or two ago. It reminded me of what we thought was smoke in the Tanami.

We saw more on our last trip than we've ever seen before.

Mother Nature sure is fascinating.

Steve
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Reply By: Member - " H " (VIC) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 12:18

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 12:18
Yes Steve we also saw many Willie willies this trip one in particular was on our return from Tunnel Creek on the Gibb River Road, it came towards us then backed away was nearly the full width of the road, kept going for quite a few minutes before disappearing into the bush.

Harry

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Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:55

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:55
G'day Harry,

I reckon they must have spooked a few people over the years.
They just start from nothing and have really random characteristics.
I don't reckon any two willy willys were the same.

Steve
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Reply By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:08

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:08
Interesting post! We are currently on the road and have been hit twice by willy's. Once at Mt Bundy Station which fortunately only left the van full of dirt and leaf litter. The second one was at Tomato Island on the Roper but that one caused damage it lifted the awning over the top of the van and buried a peg in the other side of the van. Took some straightening up for us but funilly it swerved through the parked van missing everyone else. We think these thing happen in threes so we are holding our breath for the next one. We saw one two days ago going into King Fisher Camp that was just like a fire as described

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Follow Up By: Member - Beatit (QLD) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:15

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:15


This what I saw going into KFC thinking itwas a fire.

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Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:58

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 18:58
G'day Beatit,

that's like what we saw on the Tanami.

We couldn't understand why the smoke was going straight up when the wind was blowing a gale. Turned out to be a willy willy.
It went for at least 20 minutes that we saw.

Steve
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Reply By: Road Warrior - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:16

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:16
Back in March visiting friends out in Kukerin, had just finished packing up the car and were saying our goodbyes, I opened the door and was attending to the little Mr in the back seat and all of a sudden BLAM this willy willy came up the paddock, engulfed us in sand and slammed the car door shut on my arm. Then as quickly as it appeared, it took off up the paddock, zig zagging all over the shop. It was awesome, despite the pain and bruising to my arm!!
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Reply By: Member - John L (WA) - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:36

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 15:36
a "willy-willy" is an Aboriginal word for a dust devil. According to wikipedia dust devils "form when hot air near the surface rises quickly through a small pocket of cooler low pressure air above it. If conditions are just right, the air may begin to rotate".
I've also heard them called cock-eyed bobs - wonder where that name comes from?
Cheers Heather L
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Follow Up By: member - mazcan - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 19:48

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 19:48
hi
willy willy's have always been common place in w.a
i have seen and been wind swept by a countless number over my life span from a small child right through to now
i have seen really small ones and some that spiralled right up into the clouds especially if they were passing over a fresh area of burnt bush or crop stubble or a dry cultivated paddock the smaller ones were usually called willy willys and the larger high one
cockeyed -bobs
some are quiet powerfull and i have seen empty grain sacks /cardboard boxes straw and dry grass
and a couple of my hats go right up high in the sky inside the spiraling funnel and then they just die and all the straw etc etc comes down again i found one hat but not the other
cheers
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Follow Up By: nutwood - Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 21:29

Saturday, Sep 29, 2012 at 21:29
I also grew up in WA and agree with mazcan.
The small ones are willy-willy's and the big ones that do damage are cock-eyed bobs.
I'd love to do where "cock-eyed bobs" came from. Willy-willy is definitely of aboriginal origin.
Interestingly, I read an older book where they referred to cyclones in the NW as willy-willys. Has anyone else encountered this? Not sure if it's historical or a confused author!
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Reply By: Life Member - Doug T (NT) - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:51

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 06:51
Back in the 60's when I lived at Waikerie SA on a fruit block quite often one would hear the grass rustling and it was a tiny willy willy about a foot high, they always amused me.
Then later in my life driving trucks I used to count all the large willy willy's around the horizon between Winton and Boulia.

.
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Reply By: equinox - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 19:48

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 19:48
Here's one for you Steve on the Lake Barlee Youanmi Road.







Cheers
Alan

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In whatever comes our way.
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 21:17

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 21:17
Steve,

Back about January, 1965, we were travelling along a station road, about 40 clicks north of the Barkly Highway. Between us and the h'way, in the desert country were about 8-10 willy-willys, standing like sentinels, and all almost cylindrical in shape. Don't think I've seen this since, though have seen plenty of them over the years.

More recently, in 1982, we were camped in a caravan, with annexe all set up, south of the road from Urandangie to Tobermorey, doing some earthmoving. Our 2nd daughter was only 2 or 3 months old, and we'd been to the Isa to get some extra stuff for her. The boss had just washed all this new clothing, and it was hanging on the line, attached to the annexe. A huge whirly-wind came through the camp, folded the annexe over the top of the 'van, and "tooK" most of the new clothes with it. Mother was really peeved because some of the new items were pilchers, to keep the daughter's bedding dry. We did find some of the clothes, but the pilchers probably rotted away, along the Qld/NT border.

I've always called willy-willys by the term whirly-winds, and can't remember where I picked the term up. Have only heard of cock-eyed bob's over the past couple of years, through working for a bloke from WA.

Bob.



Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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Follow Up By: Member - eighty matey - Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 23:03

Sunday, Sep 30, 2012 at 23:03
G'day Bob,

I live near the coast hve seen water spouts off the coast before, up to three at a time.
I guess they must a similar sort of set up.

When I was living in Cairns we were doing a street of houses in an old cane paddock and we used to get them passing through at times.
Once a bloke was working on a roof putting the roof sheets on. He had a full length and a couple of off cuts up there. We saw a willy willy heading towards him but he didn't hear us and kept working. The willy willy went straight over him and picked up the roof sheets as it went through. They started lifting and spinning around a couple of feet above his head. He laid as low as he could on the roof until it passed through then got of the roof as quick as he could. Lucky he didn't get hit.

I think I remember my Nan calling them whirly winds years ago and they would have been the same things.

They're pretty amazing sometimes and all seem to vary how long, and how strong, they are.

Hoo roo,
Steve
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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Monday, Oct 01, 2012 at 08:13

Monday, Oct 01, 2012 at 08:13
Ha ha, would have been time to come down and have a calming ale, after that experience Steve!!!

That reminds me of an Eric Jolliffe cartoon where Saltbush Bill is up the top of his haystack, looks up with alarm to see this whirly-wind coming straight at him. And it's full of cow's, goannas & other debris.........

Bob.
Seen it all, Done it all.
Can't remember most of it.

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