After 3+ months of rainforest living, it is time to go home. As I pack my bag, I think of my various Aussie adventures: capturing 12 foot pythons, diving on the Great Barrier Reef, rolling down the escarpment with a chest full of monitor lizard, handling some of the most dangerous and well-known elapids in the world, surviving Queensland’s worst cyclone in living memory, Blue-tongue Skinks, kangaroos and betongs, sharing my breakfast with king parrots and rainbow lorikeets, and scores of other memories that will stay with me forever. I do not leave with a sense of regret, no, I depart satisfied fully realizing all that I experienced. I leave this land content, with a devout resolution to return to the land of OZ.
Friday, April 29, 2011
Thursday, April 28, 2011
The change in seasons, from wet to dry (Northeast Queensland operates on a binary rotation rather than North America’s quaternary, or 4 season, year), literally occurred over night. The sky transformed from a clouded firmament into a blue abyss, and the sun beat down to dry up the earth. As the forest floor transcended from a muddy quagmire to walkable terrain, the monitor lizards came out to enjoy (in my opinion) the vastly improved weather conditions. And they came in droves. In my previous two months here, I had seen approximately a half dozen Lace Monitors (Varanus varius). In the first week of the dry I encountered at least ten different individuals on site, including one large male twice. This brings me to my story…Being secluded in the rainforest obviously entails some logistical issues which often require altering daily “house-keeping” practices. Following meals, we collect all of our food scraps and deposit them in one of our very large compost piles located in a field abutting old growth rainforest. Following lunch, I was carrying uneaten odds and ends of the chicken we had enjoyed down to the compost for deposition and heard a rumbling underneath the plywood that covers the pile. Upon approaching, a large (approximately 4 and a half feet from head to tail) Lace Monitor came screaming out of the hole only to stop 20 yards from me at the base of a large citrus tree. In an attempt to herd the lizard away from the tree, Andy and I circled around his west flank to hopefully flush him back into the open. The monitor, not impressed, started up the tree. I took off through the understory, leaped, and managed to grab his tail and pull him out of the tree. Yet being on a hill (the site is located at nearly 3,000 feet in elevation and has many steep hills and cliff faces) caused me to stumble backwards and lose hold of the lizard. He again took off for the tree, I again right behind. This time as I jumped up, I got a hold of the lizard’s tail and held on. This was my mistake. The monitor, determined not to be pulled down a second time (seemingly as stubborn as myself), held fast to the branch he had managed to reach. Yet the branch was nothing more than a porous, dust-filled decaying appendage of the living tree he so desperately was trying to climb. As I held on and began my descent back to the forest floor, the branch exploded into a cloud of finite saw-dust particles which instantly blinded me. Branch, lizard, and “captor” (yes, it must be placed in quotation marks) hit the ground in a massive heap of wood and flesh. As I somersaulted backwards down the hill, I felt the lizard crawl off of my chest, over my left shoulder, and heard him scurry away down into the gully. My momentum carried me only so far, and I finally came to a halt next to a large granite boulder. My pride hurt more than my body, I trundled back up the hill, refusing to accept defeat and promised that I would return and catch this monitor. The following day I returned to the compost pile, and found my adversary happily feeding inside once again. This time I quietly approached, slid off the top, and the chase was on. He once again took off in the same direction (towards that damned tree) but I ran him down before he exited the field, grabbed his tail, avoided a side swiping bite, and successfully captured the “one that got away.” Varanid vindication.
(I was not able to get a good enough internet connection to upload pictures.)
Friday, April 22, 2011
On Display Men has posted my new modeling gallery. Check out my new pics with Michael Hallenbeck Photography plus the other gallery with Josh Camero Photography. They also have a behind the scenes video from my first photo shoot. Thanks to Alan Rust at On Display Men and both photographers for their great work.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
This past Saturday night I traveled with a group of students into the dry country of Queensland, just west of the Great Dividing Range. We were going on an overnight stay with a man named Daryl; a true “Outback Jack” character whose property I was told was eerily reminiscent of the film Wolf Creek. Being over 40 km from the nearest town, I was looking forward to some camping in the bush. We arrived at 5 pm, pitched our tents, and sat around a fire. Daryl was a very agreeable man and a great host, offering us food ranging from fried crocodile to gourmet ice cream (no I didn’t eat the crocodile). We sat conversing until dark upon which I ventured out in search of snakes. It was surprisingly cool, and the several mile hike down the old mining roads produced only a small burrowing frog. I returned back to camp disappointed and haphazardly strolled by the corner of Daryl’s house. Something reflected in the shimmer of my headlamp. I look up where the roof meets the adjoining wall and there sits a gorgeous Eastern Carpet Python (Morelia spilota mcdowellii), a different subspecies and color morph than what I’ve been seeing in the rainforest. But the snake was nearly 9 feet up, and nothing around in sight to stand upon. Frantically, I ran inside the house to see if being within the enclosure offered me better positioning…it didn’t. Worried that the snake would escape, I jumped up and grabbed the top of the wall with one hand (praying that no enormous Australian spiders, which are so common, were atop the wall), snake with the other, and slowly worked him out of the cinder block wall. An exhaustive capture, but a successful one nonetheless. Despite the intrusive manner of my capture, this 52” male never once even attempted to strike and sat quietly as he was passed around from student to student for a photo to “freak mom out with.” The rest of the night was spent exchanging stories and political views around the fire into the odd hours of the night, upon which I bid Rosy (Daryl’s domesticated Agile Wallaby which feeds upon spaghetti and watches television on his couch) goodnight and headed for my tent. An enjoyable night in the bush of Australia.
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
This past weekend I journeyed to Cairns to embark upon a 6 hour diving/snorkeling expedition to the Great Barrier Reef. We left at 8 am and traveled northwest, arriving at the reef 90 minutes later. I threw on my wet suit, grabbed my flippers and a random snorkeling mask, and dove in. The biodiversity was unbelievable! I swam along reef edges which dropped precipitously into 50 foot canyons below, snorkeled in 4 feet of water in a near engulfment of dozens of fish species (including several Clown Fish, a popular favorite since the film Finding Nemo), and went on my first ever dive 30 feet below the surface to examine sea anemones, sea urchins, enormous grouper and parrot fish over 6 feet in length, and even found a fairly sizable moray eel. I was surrounded by various types of coral, emanating every color of the visible light spectrum. It was a shock to the senses, and my feeble attempt at a description honestly does not do the reef poetic justice. The GBR truly is a beautiful place, and I look forward to visiting again in the future. Pictures coming soon!