West Coast Crocodiles

More years ago than I can get my head around, it seems volcanoes, were something of a common sight in these, the more southerly latitudes of what was once Gondwanaland.

And while most of us are aware of today’s many pieces of evidence relating to prior volcanic activity, my own interest here lays solely in one particular geological phenomena, namely, “conglomerate rock”. As the name suggests, conglomerate when associated with the word, “rock” means an amalgam of various stones, quartz and minerals, which presumably had been scattered on the slopes of some long ago volcano, only to be steam-rolled into a ball of cooling lava previous to the lava’s solidifying, without sufficient heat to melt the extra matter. And while much of the West Coast’s conglomerate is often found in the form of naturally occurring gravel, I have seen a good deal of the stuff that has been rolled into balls as big as trucks and houses, and in which might be discerned a great deal of foreign material.

One of the more unusual elements associated with this natural manufacture of conglomerate however, is its shades of pink, which when mixed with tar, in the making of bitumen with which roads are sealed, the resultant mixture likewise takes on much of the same pink over-tones. What has this all got to do with real live crocodiles, do I hear you ask? Well, just bear with me and I’ll explain.

It must have been back in ’61 or ’62, when our little survey crew was squatting and/or standing round the open fire at the side of the bitumen, generally chin-wagging, smoking and sipping scalding tea, when up rolls a shiny, late model car of European pedigree, complete with two well dressed couples. On taking in what surely must have appeared to the camera laden tourists, to be the last remaining remnants of Tasmania’s convict past, the limo purrs to a stop, allowing its occupants to clamber out for a “photo shoot” of we four red-necks, pannikins in hand; a scruffy tableau seen through the little fire’s haze, and a rugged, west coast mountain-scape looming large in the back ground.

Of course, I wouldn’t be entirely truthfully if I was to say that at least one or two of our group didn’t “play” to an expertly wielded, movie camera lens. If I remember correctly, even I was persuaded to boil another billy of water for the benefit of our visitors and to swing the scalding liquid over my head in a couple of big loops – all without spilling a drop, ostensibly to allow the tea leaves to infuse with the water. I was to be left somewhat chastened however by our mate Peter who was to deal the final blow in our bit of, “one-up-man-ship”. By this time the subject had turned to surveying in inhospitable places and to building roads generally, when one of our new found friends chanced to ask the reason for the “pink roads”. Here, I swear the prevailing, gentle breeze dropped away to nothing, not a leaf stirred, not a bird called, nor animal rustle through the undergrowth, when into the silence, quick witted Peter, with all the nonchalance in the world, observed, “crocodiles won’t cross ‘em”.

To this day, I still recall the profane exclamation of surprise of at least one of the men folk, who, quite genuinely, confessed to not knowing that Tasmania actually had crocodiles.

A remark to which Peter opined, “Works then, don’t it?” Shortly after, the visiting quartet took their leave with more than a few furtive glances to left and right as they boarded their vehicle, presumably for less hostile and more civilised places.