Indigenous Weather Knowledge
Masig is a very small low-lying coral cay in the Central Islands Cluster of the Torres Strait about 160km northeast of Thursday Island. The topography of Masig is very flat with ground level generally less than three metres above local mean sea level. More than half the Island is covered in undisturbed vegetation including dense trees on the eastern and western parts of the Island. Native Title is recognised over Masig and is held in trust by the Masigalgal (Torres Strait Islander) Corporation RNTBC.
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander visitors are advised that the following webpage may contain names or images of people who have died.
Build up of storm
Wind blows from south-
west in the afternoon
Named for a south-easterly
Hot dry weather and calm
Permission to host the Masig seasonal calendar is given to the Bureau by the Masig community. Ownership of the knowledge contained within remains with the community.
Navigate back up to the calendar overview with the links at the end of each season
Learn more about the Masig seasonal cycle: Download the graphic calendar with its seasons (High Res JPG)
Masigalgal, are the people from Masig Island, a small coral cay 160km north east of Thursday Island with a population of 270 people. Masig Island and the surrounding eleven islands within the Masigalgal Native Title determination are part of the Kulkulgal nation of the central Torres Strait. They speak Kulkalgau Ya, an endangered dialect of the Kala Lagaw Ya language of the western Torres Strait.
The Masigalgal Seasonal Calendar is a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) project conceived and driven by the Masigalgal RNTBC (PBC) with significant input from Masigalgal elders and Rangers. The calendar was created to preserve and promote both the significant body of traditional seasonal knowledge that the Masig elders possess in addition to promoting the preservation of Kulkalgau Ya language.
Masigalgal recognise four distinct seasons throughout the year: Naigai, Zei, Kuki and Woerr. The timing and duration of these four seasons varies from year to year and for generations, Masig islanders have observed signs in the winds, weather, sea life, plants and animals that tell them when one season is expected to change to another.
In every season, Masig Islanders harvest and utilise a variety of different resources from both the land and sea. Community celebrations, hunting, gardening and cultural activities are based around this annual cycle of resource availability and renewal.
In the past, Masigalgal worked together and relied on these resources for survival which continues to this day. Everything used came from nature. The foundation of this conservation philosophy is Gud Pasin and Mina Pawa (good ways and appropriate behaviours), which respects the wisdom and knowledge of the elders. It is vitally important to Masig elders that the collective wisdom and knowledge of their ancestors is passed down to the younger generations to keep the Masig culture rich and strong into the future.
The coming of Kuki season is indicated by the build-up of Begai (big storm clouds) together with lightning in the far north-west. When Kuki arrives, the wind blows from the north-west and brings heavy rain and squalls with hot and humid weather. Masigalgal know the weather is turning rough when the Waumerr (Frigate birds) fly low in the sky. The cooling rains of Kuki replenish the wells and water tanks. Crops in the garden grow quickly.
During this season, logs of Tuku (Nipa or Mangrove palm) and Bissi (Sago palm) wash down from the Fly River in PNG and are collected by Masigalgal for carving of Makarr (model canoes) and Warup (drums) or for building purposes.
The Gainau (Pied Imperial Pigeon) and Weiba (Rose-Crowned Fruit Dove) become fat and plentiful during this season due to the abundance of ripe fruit on the island. The eggs of Sara (Bridled Tern) and Sileu (Little Tern) are collected during this time.Calendar
Zei is the season between Naigai and Kuki. It is a short season, when the wind comes from the south-west and blows in the afternoon. Zei will blow stronger closer to the full moon and the new moon. The Zei wind is described by Masigalgal as a ‘jealous wind’ that ‘fights’ (or alternates) with Naigai and Kuki.
The Zei wind is a sign of Buthu waru (nesting turtle season), which is indicated on Masig and surrounding islands by the Piru (flower stalks and dried leaves) of the Urab (Coconut) falling in abundance.
The tasty fruit of the Kurad (Beach Cherry) are red and ready to eat in this season. Mosquitoes are also in abundance.Calendar
The Woerr season is named for the Woerr wind (also called Sagerr) which blows from the south-east and is the predominant wind throughout most of the year in the Torres Strait. Woerr is considered by Masigalgal to be a forceful wind with a strong personality- it can blow from April to September.
When the Biru Biru (Rainbow Bee Eater) fly from south to north towards PNG, it is a sign that Woerr will soon arrive. The start of Woerr on Masig is indicated by the presence of the Zugubal constellation which appear clear in the night sky early in the morning and by the heavy flowering of Pulla (Beach Convovulous) along the shoreline.
Small Woerr rain at the start of the season provides water for the Manietha (Cassava) and Kumala (Sweet potato) and keeps them growing in the drier months to follow. They will be harvested later in Woerr season. The presence of Waumerr (Frigate birds) flying high in the sky and the Gapu Nathar clouds indicate fine weather during this windy season.Calendar
Naigai is the season of hot dry weather and calm winds. The constant wind of Woerr eases during this time and the seas become calm. During Naigai, the sky remains red for a long time at sunset (Kulkanathan), indicating that the weather will be Muthuru (fine).
For Masigalgal, Naigai is the time for traditional house maintenance, preparation for the coming wet season and trading with PNG coastal villages. Gardens are prepared for the coming rain by clearing grasses and bushes, burning these in piles and using the ashes to improve soil fertility. Fallen ripe fruits of Ubar (Wongai) are collected from the ground in the Sau (Ubar orchards) and dried in the sun.
The start of Sulawal (turtle mating season) during Naigai is indicated by the ripening of the Kubil Gim fruit (Sea Ebony) and the flocks of Biru Biru (Rainbow Bee Eater) flying south to the mainland.Calendar
This seasonal calendar was produced in 2018 as a Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) Project supported by the Masigalgal RNTBC and Masigalgal Rangers under the guidance of PBC Chair, Mr John Morris. This work would not have been possible without the generous contributions of community elders Mr Moses Mene, Mr Wilfred Williams, Mr Gabriel Nai, Mr Michael Nai, Mr John Morris and the Masigalgal Rangers Mr Francis Nai, Mrs Edna Nai and Ms Loice Naawi.
Thank you to all Masigalgal who contributed to this calendar including Mr Songhie Billy, Mrs Marie Mosby, Mr Dan Mosby, Mr Percy Missi, Ms Kimiko Mosby, Ms Hilda Mosby, Mr Ned Mene, Mr David Mosby, Mr Eric Nai, Mr Kaziko David, Ms Dala Billy, Mr Robert Gela, Mr Kebisu Nai, Mr Brian Mosby, Mr Eddie Asai, Mr Stephen Mosby, Ms Aigire Asai, Mr Solomon Elia, Mr Samuel Gela, Mr Charlie Asai (jnr), Mr Ned Mosby and Cr Ted Nai.
Artwork by Francis Nai and Rebecca Stevens. Photographs by Melinda McLean, David Fell, Tristan Simpson, Mark Geyle and Loice Naawi.
The spelling of Masigalgal language words on this calendar was at the direction of Masigalgal elders and traditional owners.
© Masigalgal RNTBC and TSRA Land and Sea Management Unit, 2018. This Calendar cannot be reproduced without consent of Masigalgal RNTBC. For further information, contact TSRA Land and Sea Management Unit on (07) 4069 0700 Spelling on this calendar is LMS orthography.