“Landing on the Backs of Crocodiles…”
Our friend, Dieter, knew the history of the Northern Territory, Native Australians, paleolithic cave art, rivers, cattle stations and their owners and managers, and above all, the inhospitable Gulf of Carpentaria.
The men of St. Vidgeon’s didn’t care about the history of the area, but when Dieter found an avid listener in me, he regaled me with stories of it all–from his crocodile hunting days when he spent time, as a young man, in the stifling heat of the mosquito-ridden mangroves along the Gulf to the sprawling prawning enterprise that replaced the humpback whaling industry.
When I uttered dismay at the hunting of whales, he assured me it had closed in Australia decades before I arrived at the station.
Dieter had described the Gulf as such a hell hole that when I was invited by David, our friend who headed up Northern Prawn Fishery, to fly over the Gulf and see the brand-new trawlers outfitted with Mercedes Benz engines, I declined. However, David had brought his fiancée, Susan, to St. Vidgeon’s to visit me for a couple of days before David took her to the Gulf. His fiancée was a Qantas Airline flight attendant. To me, Susan was the epitome of glamor and beauty, yet she was also down-to earth and fun to be around. She convinced me to fly out to see the trawlers if for no other reason than to fly in a water plane. I was accustomed to flying in small planes and landing on dirt landing strips.
Mentioning that I felt safer with solid ground under the plane rather than landing on water, the pilot immediately told me he could “land on the backs of crocodiles.” Trying to calm my fears as I stepped into the water plane, I soon became enthralled flying over Groote Eylandt, the mangroves, the expanse of water, and seeing the fishing boats bobbing up and down in the Gulf.
The best part of the adventure was landing on the gentle waves of the ocean, near one of the trawlers. The crocodiles were safe – we landed too far out in the Gulf waters!
I’d always felt adventuresome, yet my Australian odysseys challenged me to control my fears!
Afternote: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has reported that Australia’s wild-caught prawns come from the best managed marine fisheries in the world.
Next installment: “A Meteorite or a Flying Saucer?”
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This series of My Life in the Outback is based on recollections of my life in Australia many years ago. My own photographs of Australia are not only limited, but they are also old 35mm film in dismal condition. To make the series more appealing to the reader, I supplement with photographs that are similar to the experiences and locations I’ve described. I’m often dependent on pictures from the public domain and Creative Commons.
Note: Names of some people have been changed to protect their identity since this is not a memoir, but merely my recollections of Australia. The name of the cattle station where I lived was known as either St. Vidgeon’s or St. Vigeon. I use the first spelling in most cases, but on occasion, the second one comes in handy.
All photographs are used in an editorial or educational manner.
Map of Northern Australia Fisheries – National Mapping Division of Geoscience, Australia
“Water Plane Landing” by The Brit_2 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
Prawn-trawler – Public Domain
My Life in Australia – Installment 14 of this blog is brought to you by Tortuga Publishing, LLC