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Visual Science: The Daredevils Who Chase One of the Sky's Greatest Mysteries

Some brave pilots fly tiny gliders into an amazing type of cloud that forms only in Australia.

By Tyler Nordgren
Aug 14, 2008 5:00 AMNov 12, 2019 5:05 AM


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Off the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia, amazing funnel-shaped “morning glory” clouds sometimes ripple across the sky. These stunning cloud formations are the objects of desire for a guild of daredevil pilots—cloud chasers seeking to glide thousands of feet above the ground along the heavy wind stream that creates these rare clouds. Riding in a fiberglass gliders is one way to surf over a morning glory. One often-used glider—PIK-20E glider—has a 49.2-foot wingspan and a retractable engine, and it can fly up to 174 miles per hour.

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