Indigenous Weather Knowledge
Erub Island calendar
Discover the traditional seasonal calendar of the Erubam Le, the people from Erub (Darnley Island) in the north-eastern Torres Strait.
The Erub Island calendar has 4 main seasons: Koki, Sager Kerker, Ziai and Naiger. This page explains 3 of these seasons in detail.
Short and variable season.
Hot dry season
Erub Island seasonal calendar
Erub Kerker - the Erub Island seasonal calendar - shows the plants, animals and weather associated with each season
Erub Kerker is the seasonal calendar that recognises the traditional ancestral knowledge of Erubam Le (Darnley people) from Erub in the north-eastern Torres Strait.
This calendar has been created under the guidance of their Elders and community members, with assistance from Erubam Rangers and the Torres Strait Regional Authority's Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) team.
The information within this calendar has been passed down to successive generations of Erubam Le since time immemorial and this knowledge continues to sustain their community and way of life to this day.
The way they have laid out Erubam Kerker is a variation on the standard western calendar format. Patterns of movements of their animals, plants, marine life, stars, clouds, and weather as they occur during the 4 main seasons of Erub have been highlighted.
The seasons are named after the primary winds of Koki, Sager Kerker, Ziai and Naiger. When the seasons change from one to another, this is referred to as Bamu (winds 'fighting' each other or changing) until the next season fully sets in.
How traditional seasonal knowledge supports Erubam Le
Traditional knowledge about seasons signifies what happens in their environment and supports Erubam Le in understanding which resources of their islands and sea country are available during different times throughout the year.
By using their knowledge of animal migrations, flowering or fruiting plants, sea life, the positions of stars, cloud formations and weather patterns, an understanding is passed on about how to survive and thrive off the resources from their land and sea. An example of this can be found in the various positions of the Tagai star constellation.
In the night sky throughout the year, the location of this important constellation tells them when:
- it is time for voyaging
- turtles are mating
- the correct times are for garden preparations and harvesting
- the seasonal winds are about to change
- the monsoon rains will arrive.
Baz — cloud formations
Some Baz also indicate the change of seasons through weather patterns. The central image of this calendar shows the Aum Kep (large cumulus cloud) that sits above Erub during calm weather. They use this cloud to navigate their way home across their sea country.
The traditional knowledge of Erubam Le can sometimes be difficult to simplify when compared to the more recognised standard Western calendar format. Therefore, this means the calendar information should not be viewed as set in stone.
They acknowledge that some Erubam families may have different views or variations to certain parts of these seasonal happenings. The seasonal events captured within Erubam Kerker will be used as a tool and over time will help them monitor any changes. Some of the events on this calendar have been placed where they most commonly occur, although they may happen at other times throughout the year.
Sager Kerker is the (south-easterly wind) dry season and a gradual weather transition to Koki (north-west wind) wet season is forecast by various cloud formations and the arrival of migratory birds. During Koki the gardens have grown and the life-giving produce is harvested and shared at important cultural events.
The dry weather time is when traditional houses are built, and the flowering and fruiting of trees tell them of important seasonal resources available from the shoreline, reef and sea. The signs that tell them Sager is coming or is here are:
- Imer (rain clouds) out on the far south-east horizon.
- Metalug nole wagkak (a period of calm weather) at the start of Sager.
- Aum kep (large cumulonimbus cloud) sits over Erub and is used for navigation.
- Bubwam (puffy white clouds) indicate fine weather for Sager.
- Logab (stronger winds) and rough seas.
Plants and animals
- Waumer (Frigate birds) fly up high in the sky.
- The arrival of Birubiru (Rainbow Bee-eaters).
- The arrival of Nawanawa (Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike).
- Kupei Ti (Mangrove Golden Whistler) in numbers.
- Orange Eneu fruiting in July tells them Au Wiri (Sea Mullet) is fat with eggs.
- Kaper (Helicopter Tree) in flower reminds them it's time to harvest Serar (Tern) eggs on sandy beaches and cays.
- When Kaper seeds are dry, the Sabei (Unicorn Fish) are fat. Falling Kaper seeds indicate Serar (Tern) chicks are ready to hatch.
Shore and sea
- Nam (Green Turtles) arrive in May.
- Time to gather shellfish meat in Mi (clams), Terparr (small clams), Asor (Spider Shells), Izer (Bailer Shell) and Keret (Strombos) off the reef during daytime low tides.
- Tup (Sardines) come back to shore full of eggs.
- Kedked (Mantis Shrimp) are fat in July.
- Dangerous Geb or Dikiam (Stonefish) are on the reef.
- Au Wiri (Sea Mullet) are fat with eggs.
- Sabei (Unicorn Fish) are fat.
Cultural activities and events
- Serab sereb nar (model outrigger canoe) racing.
- Traditional house building and maintenance.
- Gardens harvested and produce blessed and shared on Rogation Sunday (held in April) and Coming of the Light on the first of July each year.
Nawanawa arrive on Erub during the dry Sager Kerker seasonCalendar
Ziai is a short and variable season that is part of the transition from Sager into Naiger. It is recognised by:
- shifting winds that change from the south-east to the south-west
- Melalug nole wagkak (a calm weather period) that comes before Koki.
The appearance of Zomkolbe (yellowish red afternoon clouds) that change to Zomkolbe kolbe (very yellow clouds) is a sign of Ziai.Calendar
Naiger is the hot dry season with light northerly winds and calm seas. It occurs after the short and variable transition season of Ziai. When the winds changed to the south-west, it is the season for:
- canoe travel and trading
- garden preparations
- house and tool maintenance
- Sirwar nam karr nam (turtle mating). Sirwar nam karr nam is signalled by the appearance of particular flowering plants.
When certain clouds appear and seeds fall from a particular tree, it's a sign that important seasonal food resources are available. For example, Dabor (Mackerel) and Serar (Tern) chicks.
The signs that Erubam Le observe within Naiger are:
- Metalug nole wagkak (a period of calm seas and low winds) before Koki.
- Ab gegur clouds (like the scales Māori Wrasse) signal when Dabor (Mackerel) are biting.
Plants and animals
- Kaper (Helicopter Tree) seeds falling indicate Serar (Tern) chicks ready to hatch.
- Flowering of Kob (Cotton Tree) and Ager (Elephant Yam) tells of the arrival Sirwar nam karr nam (turtle mating season)
- Waiwi (Mango) start to form fruit. Plenty of fruit after good Koki season rains indicates abundant Nam (Green Turtle) hatchlings at Maizab Kaur> (Bramble Cay).
- Birubiru (Rainbow Bee-eaters) fly south from Daudai (Papua New Guinea).
- Appearance of Ab Nor Nor (Eastern Koel).
Shore and sea
- Harvest Nam (Green Turtle) eggs at Merad.
- Juvenile Zegnaipui (male Nam) are fatter and better eating after Sirwar.
- Dabor (Mackerel) are biting as signalled by appearance of Ab Gegur clouds.
- Appearance of Beuger (Brown Booby).
- Serar eggs harvested at Maizab Kaur when water is Metalug (calm).
Cultural activities and events
- Trading time with Daudai (Papua New Guinea) villages.
- Bush is cleared and burnt in preparation for new gardens.
- Houses and tools are repaired.
This calendar was produced in 2021 as a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) collaboration between the TSRA TEK team and Erubam Le Traditional Land and Sea Owners Regional Native Title Body Corporate (TSI Corporation) with the support of the then chairperson, Mr Jimmy Gela. It builds on the knowledge gathered during the development of the Erub school seasonal calendar by McNamara et. al. in 2010.
The production of Erubam Kerker would not have been possible without significant direction, guidance and ongoing contributions provided by the Erubam Le community, in particular Kapua Gutchen, Lala Gutchen, John Mye, Pau Stephen, Sarah Stephen, Ben Stephen, Jimmy Thaiday, John Armitage, Jimmy Gela, Joshua Thaiday, Kelsie Soloman, the late Tom Sailor, the late Bully Sailor, Reena Ida Pilot, Abba Pilot, Ellarose Waigana, Kathy Wapau, Harriet David, Annie David, Josie Kiwat, Nancy Kiwat, Pellista Jammon, Telita Gutchen, Jalaya Binawel and others.
Special thanks go to Erub Arts team particularly, Diann Lui, Lynette Griffiths and Jimmy K Thaiday. The artwork showcased within this calendar has been created by the talented team at Erub Arts.
TSRA also acknowledges the assistance of Erubam Le Rangers Kevin Mye, Aaron Ketchell, Barry Pau, Boggo Gela and Charles Thaiday for leading this project to finalisation.
Photographs and artwork by Ethel Charlie, Solomon Charlie, Emma Gela, Florence Gutchen, Lavinia Ketchell, Nancy Naawi, Racy Oui-Pitt, Ellarose Savage, Sedey Stephen, Jimmy John Thaiday, Jimmy K Thaiday, Appie Thaiday, Maryann Sebasio, Erubam Rangers, Lynette Griffiths, Melinda McLean, Belinda Stanley, David Fell, Erub Arts, Nelson Thaiday Jr and Rebecca Stevens.