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Heatwave makes it particularly tough work for shearers, labourers, farmers and chefs

Stephanie Gardiner, Saturday January 19, 2019 - 14:36 EDT
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Shearer Dayne West working early in the morning near Dubbo, to avoid the worst of the heat - ABC

When Dayne West is shearing sheep at the height of summer, in temperatures nearing 50 degrees Celsius he turns his mind to the Arctic.

Mr West is a shearing contractor, based near Dubbo, a city in western New South Wales that is , as a heatwave hovers over parts of the state.

His staff have been working early in the morning, or into the evening to avoid the heat, working next to fans, and downing electrolyte drinks. Some farmers have postponed their shearing until the temperatures drop.

Mr West has also been training his team in the breathing techniques and methods of Wim Hof, an extreme athlete known for his ability to endure extreme temperatures.

Hof, who ran a marathon above the Arctic circle wearing only shorts, has a cult following worldwide, including in shearing sheds.

"He's a pretty cool dude. If he can do that, then us shearing shouldn't be a problem," Mr West said.

"At the moment we're just simply not working at all, or knocking off and starting early."

"It's pretty extreme, when they're talking 45 and 47 (degrees), it can be about the mid-50s in the shed, and having fans in there does drop it up to ten degrees, but you move 10 metres then it's pretty hot again.

"It's like being in an oven, almost. It's pretty intense."

Meanwhile, Ross Taylor, a farmer at Kentucky, near Tamworth, found a way to cool off — by jumping in a sheep trough — as the temperature soared to 40 degrees.

Too hot in the kitchen

Ben Allcock runs Elwood's Eatery American barbecue joint in Orange, in the central west, and the demand for hot food does not slow down, even as the mercury heads into the mid-30s.

"For chefs, it's not too bad. Not many people know, but we're part of a super human race," Mr Allcock joked.

"It is very hot. If it's 35 or 40 degrees outside, you're looking at minimum 50 degrees in most kitchens."

Mr Allcock said chefs have a lot of tricks to keep cool - including throwing a cool, wet tea towel around their necks.

Wearing extra layers of clothing actually helps mitigate the extreme heat from open flames, he said.

"We've all stood in front of a barbecue with just shorts and a singlet on, you really feel that heat, whereas if you actually have some heavier clothes on, you'll feel it does protect you a bit."

On the road

When it gets hotter than 35 degrees, bitumen begins to turn into molten black goo.

Orange City Council road worker, Todd Barrow, said working on the road makes a hot day feel even hotter.

"It might hit close to 40 but it'll be closer to 45 with the heat coming off the bitumen," Mr Barrow said.

"You can feel it coming up through your legs and the bottoms of your feet."

The road crew wear long sleeves, pants, and wide-brimmed hats to protect them from the sun, and have been trialling cool gel collars to ease the sweaty conditions.

But the sweetest relief comes at knock off.

"A lot of the boys have a couple of beers just like everyone else, I guess."

While you're here… are you feeling curious?


© ABC 2019

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