Committee for Lorne: First an Aurora — then an Otway Doona

May 17, 2024 BY

How endlessly unique is this small pocket of the world?

On consecutive nights late last November, we were greeted by two very different night skies. On the first night, when the night sky was see-for-ever clear, we were treated to an Aurora Australis to knock one’s socks off. Easily visible to the south from Teddy’s when turning away from the soft glow of the town, it was wonderful to see. But the following day, a dense sea mist rolled in from the ocean to blanket all. Teddy’s was lost to view, and the pier disappeared. So began yet another summer week under the infamous Otway Doona*.

*… for international readers, you may prefer the wording “Otway quilt … or duvet, blanket, comforter, eiderdown, bedspread, coverlet, counterpane, or plumeau”.

I have already written about our southern hemisphere auroras [see: “Aurora Australis”: Lorne Independent January 2019]. Auroras can be seen from Teddy’s Lookout maybe 2-3 times a year. Mt. Defiance Lookout has clear sight to the south, avoids light pollution, and is another perfect spot. Many are surprised that auroras are visible so far north of Antarctica, though admittedly, all but the stronger glows need a time-lapse camera.

But—spoiler alert—we have entered a ‘sweet spot’ for aurora activity as the current eleven-year solar activity cycle peaks in 2025!

As for the colours—the mix, density, and height of the gases within the atmosphere dictate an aurora’s incandescent hues. For example, when electrons borne from the sun on a solar wind strike an oxygen molecule, it will emit a photon of fluorescent light that glows red [if at a high altitude] or green [if lower]. The human eye is more sensitive to green than other colours, so green dominates most auroras. Nitrogen glows purple [high] and blue [low], while neon adds orange tints. The Canadian Space Agency graphic [see diagram] shows the relationship between the gas molecules, their height above Earth, and the colour they produce.

I began this article in November last year after an Aurora/Doona pairing but was unaware of the extraordinary light show yet to come. The spectacular polar displays—both north and south—on Mother’s Day Eve, May 11, 2024, lit the sky, the mainstream and social media channels, and family albums alike. They have been heralded as the best solar light show for decades.

A spectacular photograph [courtesy: Craig Crosthwaite – SeaSea Images] framing the Aireys Lighthouse with the Southern Lights says it all!

However, while auroras are topical in Lorne right now, I find the phenomenon of Lorne’s sea mists just as interesting. A local name I find particularly apt is the ‘Otway Doona’.

But first, what is the ‘Doona’? … is it mist, or is it fog? The International Cloud Atlas reports that fogs and mists occur when water vapour—the tiny but usually invisible water droplets suspended in the air around us—approaches a concentration of 0.5ml water per cubic meter of air. The word ‘fog’ is used when the suspended water vapour reduces the horizontal visibility at the Earth’s surface to less than 1km, while a ‘mist’ occurs when visibility is reduced, but we can still see further than 1km.

As a rule of thumb, Lorne is under a mist if the Lorne pier is visible from the surf beach but is fog-bound if the pier is invisible.

Coastal sea mist [our ‘Otway Doona’] is common all along our surf coast, especially around Lorne. Typically, a sea mist awaits you if, when travelling to Lorne, a thick bank of low cloud becomes visible to the south before Bellbrae, is entered between Anglesea and Aireys, and becomes increasingly dense by Big Hill. Once the ‘Doona’ has descended, it can blanket the coast for days. Though not as frequent nor thankfully as dense, it is reminiscent of the evening fogs that roll in under the Golden Gate Bridge to blanket San Francisco.

I am grateful to Craig Brokenshaw for explaining Sydney’s fogs. [‘Why so foggy?’… Swellnet: 15/01/2019], with the following section [in italics] paraphrasing parts of his article.

While sea mists and fogs form in many ways, our ‘Doonas’ are most often the result of a localised upwelling of cold water from the Southern Ocean. The formation of sea mist depends on a meteorological temperature measurement, the ‘dew point’. This is the air temperature at which water vapour will condense into dew if rapidly cooled.

As an offshore wind blowing from inland usually carries less moisture, dew [or mist] won’t form unless the coastal air temperature is low [i.e., has a low dew point]. Conversely, onshore winds gather moisture from the ocean surface and will condense at a higher temperature [a high dew point.

If a day has been warm and humid, an onshore breeze is blowing, and cold Southern Ocean water suddenly ‘upwells’ to the surface, the cooler onshore wind can condense the warm, humid air at the coastal fringe and precipitate a sea mist. If the breeze then dies away, the mist can hang around for days.

‘Doonas’ can be perpetuated for days by a phenomenon called ‘an inversion’. Inversions result when the usual pattern—warmer air at the surface, colder air above—reverses, and a warm air layer sits on top of a colder layer below. Inversions then ‘feed on themselves’ as the colder air below cools and condenses the humid air above and thus remains trapped at the ocean surface.

Inversions can be quite dramatic—like suddenly plunging from bright sunshine into a thick sea mist when driving from Deans Marsh to Lorne—but my greatest joy is to drive the high Otway forests during a blanketing Doona where the quiet mist imparts an ethereal beauty to the already stunning forest [see photo: Sharps Track].

While Lorne boasts many pleasures for body, mind, and soul, experiencing an Aurora one night and a Doona the next, signals that Lorne is an exceptional place to love and to cherish.

John Agar
Feature Writer

A word from the chairman

It’s good to be back “on the keyboard” and happy to share the load as our Chairman John, and his wife Janet enjoy a well-deserved break. I’m sure most will know that May, along with August, are the two quietest months on Lorne’s annual calendar and a time when many, like Janet and John, head to many parts of Australia and the world. For those that are unaware these two months are the only two of twelve where there are no school holidays or long weekends scheduled.

But don’t be surprised with the big crowds that will be on the coast this weekend for the 2024 Great Ocean Road running festival. With nine distances to choose from, 60km to 1.5km, roads to trails, walks to runs – there is an event for everyone. It’s not all about the run though, immerse yourself in the whole Festival experience including glamping, yoga, live music, kite flying and so much more.

Given the past week has seen Mother’s Day as the headline item I thought it perfect timing to convey belated wishes to all our mums, reflect and acknowledge some of the outstanding contributions and achievements of so many great ladies we have within our community. From the re-building project team of the Lorne Community Hospital Shop, the President of the Lorne Netball and Football Club, the principal of Lorne P-12 College and the CEO of the Lorne Hospital to name a few – we are so fortunate.

At the Lorne Country Club, where I represent our 350 odd members on the Committee for Lorne, we also are proud to have such a committed, and successful, group of women. Last Friday our ladies pennant team went into their last match of the year sitting .5 of a game ahead of the second placed Clifton Springs. Our girls played a tough game against Ocean Grove in winning 3.5 games to 1.5 games but the team from “The Springs” stormed to a 5-love victory against their opponents of the day to claim the title from Lorne by the narrowest 1 game margin and secure the 2024 pennant.

We are so proud of achievements of our lady’s team of Rose Lloyd (C), Lynda Stewart, Chris Angus, Sally Young, Danni De Bon and Anne Maree Kennedy and saw it appropriate to have past Lorne men’s pennant players/past presidents individually present all team members with a lovely posy of flowers. A super year ladies.

Other news from “top of the hill” is that following a commissioned “Highest and Best use” report from Macro Plan Australia to identify all “possible” options and uses of our site and facilities, a survey of our members and a subsequent strategic workshop, we have a clear direction and future vision for our Club. The overwhelming majority were clear in not wanting to “redevelop” or change the existing natural beauty, course and facilities in any way but rather “make what we have even better”.

Stay tuned for the exciting news ahead.

Ian Stewart
President Lorne Country Club

Lorne Ward Events Calendar


18th/19th – Great Ocean Road Running Festival, Running, music, wellness, adventure.

19th Lorne Aquatic & Angling Club – Winter Fishing Competition No 1, Weigh cut off 12.30pm. Free mixed grill and salad lunch for competitors.

25th – Lorne Dolphins Football and Netball V Birregurra, at Stribling Reserve, juniors match from 9am, seniors at 2pm



8th – Lorne Market, 9-3pm https://www.lornemarkets.com/

8th – Lorne Dolphins Football and Netball V Colac Imperials, at Stribling Reserve, juniors match from 9am, seniors at 2pm

15th – Lorne Dolphins Football and Netball V Otway Districts, at Stribling Reserve, juniors match from 9am, seniors at 2pm

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