I sat with my film crew,
awaiting the opportunity to begin making our
documentary for the Discovery Science Channel.
All that was needed were atmospheric conditions
that would prompt Bart and his team to leap into
their van and speed towards some location
dictated by the weather report.
Suddenly, Bart appeared
from his cabin, urgently waving a piece of paper.
Weve got one approaching Bodega Bay,
he shouted to us as he, Don and Shelley scrambled
into their weather-chaser. They then sped away
down the track, towards the highway.
I ran with my cameraman and
sound recordist to our four-by-four. Within
seconds we were pursuing Bart at breakneck speed
towards the Californian coast.
The ride took about forty
minutes before both vehicles pulled up in a
parking lot overlooking the sands.
I climbed from our pickup
and glanced up at the deep blue sky, gently
punctuated with a few puffy, white clouds. It was
late afternoon in early September and the
temperature was very comfortable probably
in the mid to high twenties.
For Bart, there was no time
to lose. He pulled a collapsible picnic table
from the van and rushed towards the beach. Don
and Shelley followed, carrying chairs and a cool
box. Their expertise in weather chasing was
evident within two minutes, all were
sitting in recliners on the golden sand and
Shelley was starting to open a bottle of wine.
Did you get all that
action on film? I asked our cameraman, Buzz.
From the moment they
got into their van, Buzz replied.
What do we do now?
Follow me down to the
beach, I said. I think its
probably a good time to record an interview with
Bart and the others.
Buzz and our sound
recordist followed me to where the team were
It looks like
youve found the conditions you wanted,
I ventured to Bart. Is this a good time to
talk to you about weather chasing?
It sure is,
Bart replied. Sit yourself down in that
Shelley passed me a glass
of chilled white wine as I lowered myself onto
the seat. I smiled at her in acknowledgement.
A light, cool, refreshing
breeze ruffled my hair, and I quickly stroked it
back into place. You began your
career as a storm chaser, I said
to Bart, commencing the interview.
he replied. We used to wait for reports of
tornados or hurricanes and then drive right to
the centre of those storms.
Can you explain the
purpose of that storm chasing to our viewers?
admitted, there wasnt much of a
scientific purpose. There was no useful research
that could be done by a bunch of amateurs,
driving around like lunatics, especially as we
had to spend most of our time dodging falling
trees, collapsing buildings, flying debris and
tsunami-like storm waves.
Its amazing we
werent killed, added Shelley.
Why did you do it, then?
It was really
exciting waiting for the weather reports and then
rushing to the locations, Bart answered.
It was a terrific hobby and made us all
feel adventurous and important. Also, it was all
funded by TV stations like yours who kept sending
crews to follow and film us.
I got the impression
from those reports that you were discovering
useful information, I said.
We invented a few
scientific sounding experiments, said Don.
Im our teams science expert,
he digressed in a tone of pride. But we
never got any new or useful results how
So you quit storm
chasing, I said.
We loved it, though,
Shelley commented. Every chase was great
until we got into those fucking storms. Then the
weather was always really, really crap.
Thats how we came up with the idea of
It has all the
excitement of storm chasing, Don explained,
except that when we get to the centre of
the rather-nice-weather, its a Hell of a
lot better than a bloody tornado. Don
removed a thermometer from his pocket and handed
it to Bart. Were conducting a
critical experiment, he said to me,
on how to maintain white wine at the
correct temperature in rather-nice-weather
conditions, like these.
researching how easy it is to get to sleep at
various times of day with these atmospheric
parameters, said Shelley, settling herself
lower in the recliner and closing her eyes.
Its just so
much more pleasant than storm chasing,
concluded Bart, 'and you guys still pay us for
documentaries, just like in the old days, as if
our daft, pointless hobby has some relevance to
the wider world.
We continued filming for
about two hours as Bart, Don and Shelley
monitored the weather conditions and conducted
vital experiments into swimming in the sea,
sunbathing on the beach and eating ice-creams.
Then, suddenly, I felt a cooler breeze on my face.
Bart clearly felt it too
and looked at the others with a heightened
awareness and possibly some anxiety reflected in
his eyes. The weathers turning less
nice, he said. Wed better get
the Hell out of here!
At that exact moment
Dons mobile rang. Its a report
from New Jersey, he announced with
excitement. It looks like some rather-nice-weather
is heading their way. It should hit at about noon
OK, said Bart,
glancing at his watch, we can get to San
Francisco airport tonight and take an east coast
flight to meet that mother.
Ill ring the
National Geographic Channel, said Shelley,
pulling out her mobile. Theyre sure
to want to send yet another film crew to join us.
I stood on the beach and
watched with admiration as the team packed their
van with a speed honed in the teeth of hurricanes.
Barts urgent voice
sounded across the sand: Nice to have met
you guys, but weve gotta go.
A few seconds later, I
could see nothing but a cloud of dust as their
van raced from the parking lot towards the
teams next adventure in their relentless
pursuit of rather-nice-weather.