Saturday, August 20, 2005

boat stories

The first day, I almost fell into the water. I'd stood up to take a closer look at a spider that was hanging off a tree that stretched almost horizontally across the water, and it was too early in the field study and consequently the boat was moving a bit erratically. I was absorbed in watching the spider and didn't notice that the boat was drifting away. I was at one end of the boat and I realised that I was just about to be pushed into the water by the tree. I couldn't sit down because there was no time or space to sit down. I grabbed onto the tree and strove to push the boat back, and succeeded, not without getting some bruises from the tree as a parting gift. But we soon grew better with the boat, except that I always had problems with the fine precision movements designed to bring us close to the webs but not crash into the webs. Measuring spider webs is more or less routine work on land, but on water it becomes quite tricky. The boat is always moving, and holding it steady for the measurements involves 1 person with instruments and 2 to hang on to the roots/ branches/ leaves/ whatever that doesn't break. Because this stretch of the river is quite popular with fisherman, occasionally a motor boat with a cray fisherman whizzes past us sending a series of waves that rock the boat. After getting used to the placid lake like character of this stretch of the water, the waves come as a rude shock. But this is a rare occasion, and most of the time, the greenish water flows by with hardly a movement.
The submerged logs are more insiduous. You're whizzing along, care free, your oars are in rhythm when suddenly with an alarming thunk the boat halts in mid oar. There are logs all along the bank, and they're always poking their ends out of the water. Like crocodiles. I found out that I have an uncanny ability to direct the boat right into the trees. Even the overhanging ones. I have now a close acquaintance with many pandanus crowns. Which, I hasten to assure you, has really thorny edged leaves. Apropos of nothing, we did see a log hanging halfway up another tree, no doubt put there by some flood in the past.
Today was a good day for birds,- the heron that watches us with tranquil amusement caught one, and so did a bird that looked like a small blue kingfisher. We were also passed by three white ducks winging their way upstream, all the time quacking mournfully.