At the outset I’ve got to confess that I am not a car person. For many of you that love knowing every possible make of four-wheel drive or two-wheel-drive for that matter, I am not the one to strike up such a conversation with at a BBQ. That is one of the few times I’ll go quiet or shy of the chat (superannuation and penalty rates being among other such topics of disinterest). However, credit where it is due. I am rather fond of Pilchard, my trusty little Suzuki Grand Vitara (2001 Model).
The ‘Pilchard’ out for a stroll in the Bloomfield River catchment
She was named following a 2000 km round trip from Mareeba to the Leichardt River, with visiting scientist and co-pilot Olaf Mecynecke back in May 2010. We were looking to do some baited camera surveys for sawfish and stingrays in the Leichardt and had caught word that the turbidity was dropping and the visibility on the improve. I had just purchased a massive blue esky from Bunnings and some how wedged it in the back section of the little white vehicle. We chocked the esky with some custom block ice, ten bags of pilchards, a 5 kg box of prawns and an equivalent serve of mullet.
Our mission leader was Stirling Peverell in some super big four-wheel drive with winches, bull bars, Engel, shower, toilet and games room. However, after a ten-hour drive through the dust and flanked by the odd graceful wedge-tailed eagle, we arrived to find about 15 cm visibility in the drink. So the next day Olaf and I did the boomerang back to Mareeba as my visitor was here to trial baited cameras and clearly the Leichardt was not keen to play fair. Stirling was left to weave his sawfish magic with Jamie Seymour and the ever-present camera crew.
During the return trip from the Leichardt it must have dawned on Olaf that I was good company for 45 minutes to maybe an hour tops. And so we had ample time to consider our next move. We then set about hatching a plan to get to a clear water river. Our choice was Harvey Creek in the Wet Tropics. Ever-reliable Harvey. By the time we got back to Mareeba something was amiss. The first problem had been Mother Nature, water clarity sub-par excellence. The second problem, was all on me.
Not doing any harm to the stereo-type of an absent-minded scientist, I had forgotten the bung on the new esky. Sure you hear of people forgetting the bung for the boat when launching at the boat ramp ¾a timeless classic. But the bung from an esky cocktail comprising 15 kg of bait in an ice slurry; these are good times, perhaps the best of times.
The fieldwork at Harvey Creek went well and recently the work was published (shameless self promotion yet again). I scrubbed the carpet and the interior of my car. My children did not get in that vehicle for about two and a half months, preferring to walk to school if push came to shove. And that children, is how Pilchard was born.
The baited camera cocktail of pilchard, mullet and prawn equally at home on the deck of the ‘Dirty Worm’ (my boat) as it is oozing through the interior of the luxury field vehicle ‘The Pilchard’.
Ebner, B. C., Fulton, C. J., Donaldson, J. A., Cousins, S., Mecynecke, J-O., Schaffer J. & Kennard, M. J. (2015). Filming and Snorkelling as Mobile Visual Techniques to Survey Tropical Rainforest Stream Fauna. Marine and Freshwater Research 66,120–126.
Acting editor’s note: Having come close to death in the Pilchard on the Kuranda Range I can vouch for Ebb’s trusty little truck. Allswell