Shark Attack at Minerva Reef

The story begins at the breakwater alongside the Water Front Café in Port Villa harbour, Vanuatu in September 1999.
I was in Vanuatu to deliver a Roberts 65’ back to New Zealand. Brian Loundes, the owner of Relember (not a spelling mistake) had called me and asked if I’d help him bring the boat back to Aotearoa N.Z. from the Central Pacific. I had previously delivered the boat to Fiji. It was a good opportunity to escape the end of the winter at home and skive off to the sun. That and a decent wallop of cash was all the convincing I needed. I flew up and good old Bri’ was at the airport to meet me, with his bloody bags! “Oh yeah, I forgot to tell you mate, he says, I’m not coming. You’re on your own with Lyla.” I’d hardly digested that, as he was walking through the departure gate, when he called back, almost as an afterthought, “Oh, and Lyla, wants to you drop into New Caledonia on the way. See Ya”.
Bloody, ambushing bastard. But hey, there are worse things you could be paid to do!!!!!!
I hooked up with Lyla at the boat and all was sweet. She is a great woman, very capable, a good navigator and an all round excellent crew member.

When I got to the boat, it was blowing hard, circa 35knts and I wasn’t going anywhere. I spent the next few days re-acquainting myself with the boat and her systems and drinking and eating at the Waterfront Café. Life was good. There were a number of Yachts holed up in the harbour waiting for the strong south-easterly winds to abate, before turning for home at the end of the Pacific cruising season.
The general rule is boats from Australia and New Zealand head for the South Pacific around the end of April, early May. They cruise the amazing Islands of Fiji, Tonga, Vanuatu and New Caledonia then head home around the middle of November before the cyclone season begins. The cruising season is determined by the effective sea water temperature. Cyclones or Hurricanes as they are called in the Caribbean and Typhoons as they are called in the South China Sea, only form when the sea water temperature is above 26 degrees Celsius. Now, as a general rule, you can get a ‘Fuck Off’ storm at any time of the year but their prevalence is much more likely when the water is warmer, as the evaporation conspires to energize the weather patterns. Golden rule; go home before things heat up! We’ll see more and stronger cyclones as our climate crisis escalates.
So, I’m hanging at the bar, trading sea stories with Andre Morris, the owner of ‘Sam’s Toy Box’, a gorgeous 75ft Aluminium Ketch from Coffs Harbour, Australia when a distress call came in from the yacht ‘Sea Toy’.
Those of us who had watched ‘Sea Toy’ head out into the gale three days previously weren’t particularly surprised to hear she was in trouble. Firstly she had ‘beat out’ into the sleet and murk, only to return about 12 hours later with her headsail flapping in tatters to show what a thrashing she had experienced. Then after a day to repair both ship and crew and with no change in the weather, she had raised both her anchor and her courage and set out again. The skipper had a court  case in Aotearoa NZ to attend and let his timetable overwhelm good sense. Maritime error 101.

‘Sea Toy’ is a gorgeous Warrick 65’, dig the marketing pictures here. A big, solid, well foundered vessel but no matter how big you are, who needs a beating, right? Her S.O.S. call came in at 8pm, reporting that of the three crew on board, both the skipper and one other were incapacitated with an unknown illness and the remaining crewman was stuck on the helm, as the autopilot had given up the ghost. He had limited experience and needed assistance to return to Villa, bearing in mind that the island is surrounded by an outer reef with limited entrances and it’s blowing a gale, at night, after a hideous day at sea. All the conditions for a disastrous outcome.
Via V.H.F. radio communications we arranged to rendezvous at the entrance through the reef.
Andre and I set off in ‘Sam’s’ centre console, rigid hulled inflatable. We stuck our heads around the corner of the inner harbour and all we could see was foam flying past at warp speed. We bashed our way towards the outer reef, through sleet and foam, nearly colliding with the unlit channel marker and unable to hear each other for the roar of the wind. It was …………crap.
Finally ‘Sea Toy’ loomed out of the dark. Bloody hell, now it dawned on me that I was going to have to jump from the relative terror of the rubber ducky on to the pitching deck of the yacht. We came alongside, with Andre manoeuvring the ducky close enough to off load me but not so close as to be crushed by the boat as she crashed through the waves. The trouble in these conditions is that a 32TON vessel reacts differently to a 100kg tender (tender by name, tender by nature).Andre was a great boatman, he came along side and when ‘Sea Toy’ went ‘Bow Down’; I launched myself ‘Belly Up’ from the R.I.B. landing on the foredeck like a beached flying fish. I made no attempt to land on my feet as just getting on board would be considered a successful flight and I didn’t want to run the risk of stumbling overboard. I literally kissed the deck, scrambled to my unstable feet and proceeded aft to the obvious delight of the helmsman. From there on in it was a pretty straight forward trip in. I took control of the boat and followed a G.P.S. course into Villa. I nestled Sea Toy into the anchorage, medevacked the crew off to the hospital and returned to “Sam’s Toy Box ” and attacked Andres’ store of single malt whiskey.

Sea Toy 2
The next day we were being regaled by the cruising fleet on the bravery/ stupidity of the previous evening adventure when I met a guy called Roger Lindsay. This character and another were in the process of removing the headsail foil from a yacht moored at the breakwater. The foil is the track that allows the head sail to slide up the stay. It is attached to a drum ‘Furler’ which allows you to simply roll the sail either in or out. To lower this equipment on to the deck you must be careful not to bend or kink the foil. I lent another couple of hands and after, Roger offered to buy me a beer and wanted to hear of our previous evenings rescue. We formally introduced each other at the bar and I said, ‘I used to know a Roger Lindsay in Matamata’. He replied a bit nonplussed, ‘I’m the only Roger Lindsay in Matamata’. It turns out that I had worked for Roger and his great dad, 24yrs previously when I was fifteen. Small world ! We’d both changed considerably.

A day or two later we set off, when the wind had abated and moved around into the North – East and we had a beam reach down to New Caledonia. On arrival Lyla and I hung out at the Port Moselle Marina. We went into town and ate great French/ Polynesian cuisine, visited the Gauguin museum and the cultural centre and re-charged out personal batteries before beginning the downhill, seven day voyage to N.Z. I next saw Sea Toy in June of the following year at West Haven Marina in Auckland and I wandered over to introduce myself to the new skipper, Ian Farrell. It turned out that she was being prepared for a trip to Tonga via Minerva Reef and Ian needed additional crew. I signed up. Yay, here we go again.

We set sail from N.Z. on the 7 July on the back of a low pressure system that had just crossed the Tasman Sea. If you leave after the low has passed over your position, while the winds are still strong you get a slingshot effect off the top of North Island with the benefit of knowing that the winds will abate as the low tracks East. On the first two days we had brilliant sailing conditions, with 25 – 30knt winds aft of the beam with a following sea. This ladies and gentlemen is as good as it gets. Sea Toy loved it and galloped ahead swallowing up the miles. After five days at sea we began to close on South Minerva Reef and the crew became excited about landing seriously big fish. Minerva Reef (North and South) are these amazing 2000m high mountains that rise from the ocean floor and stop exactly at sea level. That’s right, they are 2000m high mountains but they start at the bottom of the Ocean so are surrounded by seriously deep water.
Minerva
About five miles before we reached the reef, Ian brought the boat head to wind and we furled our sails and we got into fishing mode and drew forth our weapons. In preparation for the impending battle, Mal’, Sea Toys owner had traded a small bucket of money for a correspondingly small bucket of shiny, sharp and bizarre fishing paraphernalia. If you throw enough of this stuff off the back of the boat you may get kippers for supper. With weapons drawn and armour worn we set off on our quest. Mal’ looked particularly fetching in a cute little gimbled number from Black Magic, which looked like a joint design effort between Versace and Genghis Khan making him look like a sea born gimp.
Moments after the call to arms we heard the familiar chortle of a smoking reel threatening to explode into its 100 individual parts. Mal mounted his trusty steed and set forth with lieutenants at hand to fight the good fight. The brief was for me to retrieve the other lines and for Bruce to wield our magnificent gaff. Six foot of tropical hardwood, strong but supple with a shepherd’s crook of stainless steel, honed to a spine chilling point. We could see the direction the fish was running and Ian maneuverer the boat accordingly. Bruce and I began to retrieve the other lines we had out to avoid a tangle up, when the inevitable happened. Another hook-up. Two more fish, rampaging in two different directions. Result? Unmitigated chaos. We had three smoking reels, singing and in 10 seconds had lost enough line to hog tie Africa. I started grinding on my rod but bearing in mind we had only one gimble, the butt of my rod was jammed in my scrotum. Every time I leaned back to load the rod, my eyes watered. Whilst it was undoubtedly exciting that is not my idea of fun. Mal’s fish is approaching the boat and not too happily. Bruce was hanging from the safety rail by his toe nails with this enormous gaff between his teeth and a crazed look on his almost submerged face. Mal issued a deep throated grunt and an occasional cry of despair as the line was given and taken, then a shriek of delight at a flash of silver and yellow was seen near the surface. Bruce is lunging at the ducking and diving fish and I kept telling him “It’s a freakin ‘gaff, you ‘hookim’ with it you don’t beat them to death.’ Then the tip slid under and into the fish and we had ourselves a monster yellow fin Tuna lunging out of the sea. Finally it was over the rail and a bird in the hand. By now, I’m bawling my eyes out, my scrotum is stretched down to my knees and my arms are aching. With a gimble your legs do all of the work but when you’re simply holding onto the rod it’s all arms and appendages.
Onward the brave and then my fish gives up the ghost, completely different to Mal’s. I could still feel the weight on my line but all the fight was gone out of it. On cue it comes meekly to the surface. Another monster of a Yellow fin with a huge head and ……….. Fuck all else. Some gorilla of a shark had just snaffled 20kg’s of sashimi and all I had to show for it was the head. Pretty damn impressive though. These two fish would have been much the same size when whole and Mal’s weighed in at 33kg’s. There was evidence of two bites having been taken from my fish and I guess each one contained about 12kg’s of prime Yellow Fin Tuna. Little did we know that this was a foreboding of things to come.
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This photo is from an article published in ‘Boating New Zealand”

We began the run into South Minerva. The entrance through the passage into the interior of the reef is relatively narrow, with coral ‘bombies’ to port and a series of sub-marine rocks below, in the centre of the channel. The water is so crystal clear it feels like you are sliding over the top of these rocks but it is an optical illusion as they are 20m below the surface. The reef is a figure of eight shape, about five miles long. The massive mid ocean swells are breaking on and surging over this reef and ‘venting’ out through this narrow passage hence there is a five or seven knot current running depending on how big the ocean swell is. To enter safely it is necessary to hit the passage hard and fast, not normally how you would navigate a narrow entry!!!! I once entered the lagoon at Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef of Australia and was stopped dead in the passage by the outgoing surge. I’ll never make that mistake again!

Ian slid Sea Toy expertly through the pass and into the clear aquamarine waters of the lagoon. There was already one other yacht lying inside the reef and we hoped we weren’t invading their space. When we had entered the lagoon, I had taken up a position up the mast at the first ‘spreader’ to better check for obstructions and I waved out to the two divers who were sitting on the surface as we went by, happy to see someone else after five days of nothing but Pacific rollers. We set our anchor a polite distance away and cracked a few beers and began to relax. When the divers returned to their boat I hailed them on the V.H.F. and spoke to their skipper, Christian. He was a classic, tough old South African and I gave him a good natured ribbing about his rugby team being beaten by the Aussies. I asked them about their success with the renowned Minerva crayfish but to my surprise they said they were spear fishing! About an hour later they weighed anchor and moved to the north – east of the reef about a half mile from our position, stopping nearby for a chat on the way.

After they had left we launched our tender and had a dive for crays but the current was relentless and the famous Minerva reef crays were nowhere to be seen. We’d have to settle for sashimi, sushi and Thai coconut curry. The deprivations of the sea!
The next day dawned but slowly for us. We were drained from five days of two hour watches and we were moving pretty slowly. We began to prepare the boat to return to sea but the transom door refused to close and I spent the next several hours attempting to fix the problem. These hours proved significant for Christian.

Finally we were ready to get underway. When the anchor was raised I went forward to seal the hawser as Sea Toy fell away from her position and we were underway. Without the technical problems we had encountered we would now have been 30mls away enroute to Tonga. As we turned towards the channel entrance to the reef, I saw Donellas inflatable approaching us at speed, driven by Jeremy, one of the divers. He broadsided the R.I.B. to a halt in one movement. He didn’t need to say anything; the side of the tender was covered in bright red blood. I’ll never forget that sight. The inside was awash with pink water. I remember just one thing he yelled. “Shark Attack”. I declined to get into the inflatable as I needed to assemble the first aid kit, so Ian gunned Sea Toy’s engine to begin the trip to Donella.
To leave New Zealand, in a N. Z. registered yacht you must have a Cat One clearance certificate, a requirement of which includes a comprehensive medical kit. I grabbed anti biotics, both powder and pills, syringes, needles and the dreaded narcotics. Gauze and rubber gloves and bandages, bandages and some more bandages. At this stage I was close to a blind panic and started guzzling Rescue remedy.

Eighteen months previously while delivering a boat from Noumea to Auckland; I had a fall and smashed my chest into the companionway, cracking a couple of ribs. I spent the subsequent three days holding my chest in excruciating pain, whilst continuing to sail home, all the while wondering what was going on inside my chest. I vowed to learn more and on my return enrolled in a Coast Guard marine medical course run by Pro Action Medical. I think what follows is called ‘The Deep End’.

We reached Donella and I jumped from the bow of Sea Toy onto the blood encrusted tender then scrambled onto their boat. The cockpit was awash with undiluted blood which was beginning to congeal and it was thick and I mean thick. I simply wanted to run. There wasn’t so much as a rock for 300mls and all I wanted to do was run! Then my training kicked in and I remembered; Stop, Think, and Assess. Stay calm, compression and elevation. Christian was completely coherent. I asked him about his pain level and he said he was ok. Good old shock temporarily masking the coming tsunami of pain. He said he was ok but he didn’t look it, this was one seriously tough African. I slipped an oral pain killer under his tongue. His crew had wrapped a T-Shirt around his fore arm and then bandaged over the top but the leaking blood had saturated both and I was sure it was still leaking. They all said there was a major wound under the bandages. The shark had got both of his arms and he had lacerations to hands, wrists and forearms. We slung a rope over the boom and I tied his arm up above his head. He didn’t flinch. We then strung his feet up and curved his body to keep what was left of his blood concentrated in his torso. We had him strung up like a chicken.
After checking all the wounds I could see, I positioned Ryan on the other side of Christian with both hands around the top of his bicep exerting moderate pressure and said, “When I take off the bandage, if it spits at us, clamp it harder.”
I wasn’t convinced it was the right thing to do, but I knew that when I made contact with the real medics, I would need to be able to describe what the damage looked like. Carefully I exposed the wound, took one look at it and simply crapped myself. The major damage was a 150mm long bite where the sharks teeth had sunk in down to the bone and then ripped the flesh backwards. It was ragged and ugly. I lifted the flap of flesh and could see a long section of forearm bone and all sorts of stuff I hadn’t seen before. There were teeth serration scars on the Radius and Ulnar bones, coming from the underside of his wrist was what looked like pasta with a hole in the centre. I had always thought veins were bluish but that’s only when they have blood flowing through them. I know better now. I tried to make a picture of it in my head so I would be able to describe it to a doctor later on the satellite phone on board Sea Toy.
I tried not to dwell on the fact that the nearest piece of land was 300mls away and I nearly burst into tears. I folded the flap of flesh back down after dusting the wound with anti-biotic powder and moved on. I layered gauze over the major wound and started wrapping with a finger splint bent into a deep “V” to compress down above the severed artery. There was not a lot of blood coming out of such a gaping wound and there were some pretty major blood vessels lying ripped and torn but when you figure how much was in the ocean, on the dingy and awash in the cockpit, I figured the main reason was he probably didn’t have a hell of a lot left. When I first starting wrapping the blood just soaked through but as I got more and tighter layers on that stopped and the further away I got the better I felt. We stripped off Christian’s shredded wetsuit and I said I wanted to get him down below. He simply stood up and walked down the companionway. We were in awe. We lay him down and began to rehydrate him slowly.
I kept asking him questions to monitor his level of response and his answers were always consistent. I think he thought I was an idiot, repeating myself and I wasn’t sure he had much faith in me but that didn’t matter as I had very little in myself. I said I was going back to my boat to call the doctors and would be back as soon as I could. His crew were two young teenagers but they had behaved admirably. There initial care had saved Christians life, now it was my turn. It was a particularly short queue. There were seven people in a 300nm radius. Ian had anchored about 80m away. It seemed like a long trip and my mind was racing. On board I picked up the Saturn-m sat phone. Handy eh? Without it we would have been in deeper trouble as SSB communications had been patchy for the previous few days. I called John Farrel, Ian’s father, who was also a skipper who had sailed to Minerva and would be well prepared to coordinate help. Shortly thereafter I was contacted by Taupo Marine Radio and I was patched through to Doctor Pierre Bradley at Wellington Hospital. I relayed the events that had transpired. He was a real pro reassuring me that what we had done so far was correct and giving me a new set of tasks. I returned to Donella with a new sense of purpose and confidence only to be freaked out when I saw Christian again. The initial adrenalin he had been getting by on had subsided and he was going into shock. He was pale and greyish, considerably weaker and worst of all the blood had soaked through the dressing. I had thought we were on the road to recovery and things were stabilizing but we had only just begun. I added more crepe bandages, concentrating on tension at the top of the wound area and topped it off with a dense adhesive bandage. I asked Christian how he was feeling and what the pain was like and he said he was ok and it was manageable but his answer lacked conviction and his former strength was abating. I tried to reassure him but he saw right through me and we all began to realize how serious our collective situation was becoming. After administering more pain relief, I high tailed it back to Sea Toy with Jeremy driving. I told him I thought Christian’s life was in the balance and that he needed to keep him still and his arm and feet elevated. Jeremy was visibly rattled as I don’t think he realised how serious things were. I reported back to Pierre that the bleeding had continued and that I had re bandaged. He asked me to stand by for a minute or so then came back and began asking me a series of questions about my medical skill level and I didn’t like the direction the conversation was heading in. I had told him that I had a Coastguard Marine Medics Certificate but I could feel the water beneath my feet getting deeper and deeper. Pierre told me to go back to Donella and if the bleeding was at all apparent through the new bandaging to apply a tourniquet at the arm pit. I nearly started crying. ‘That’s a huge call you’re asking me to make’, I told him. His reply was “If the bleeding continued Christian would die. Better to lose an arm than your patient.” All the good feeling that had been established between us evaporated and I thought “You come and bloody do it, he’s not my patient”! It was an illogical stress response. I couldn’t have got through this without Dr Pierre Bradley, nor would have Christian.
I’m a trained yacht skipper and am supposed to remain cool and calm at all times but it was all turning to gobshite. It was getting late in the evening and word came through from the New Zealand Navy ship Resolution that she had responded to our distress call and was motoring at best speed to our position and would be on station at 2200hrs the following day. Over 24hrs from now. I put Jeremy and Ryan on two hour watches over Christian with instructions to contact me if there was any deterioration in his condition or if there was any sign of blood coming through the dressing and I decided to get some rest myself. I was feeling shattered and needed to get my head together as tomorrow was going to be another long day. I got out my medical training manuals and prepared for what I thought would be his inevitable heart attack, fortunately it never happened !
I lay the hand held V.H.F. beside my pillow with the volume on full so I would hear the lads hailing me if I was needed. I dreaded the thought of a call as it would only mean one of two things. That we were losing Christian or that he was bleeding. Neither bore thinking about. I knew that if I approached Christian to apply a tourniquet there was no chance he would allow it. I began plotting to knock him out if necessary, what a fuck up.

That was what I was thinking as I slipped off to sleep. I awoke with the dawn and the realization that I hadn’t been needed. The sense of panic from the previous day was lessened. I hailed Donella on the V.H.F. and was answered immediately by Ryan with the news that there was no new bleeding and Christian had passed a comfortable night. Narcotics rock! Things were looking up big time. There wasn’t much more we could do for Christian except maintain watches over him and so for some light relief I staged the inaugural Minerva Reef Golf Open. The place was predominantly rough coral heads sticking out about 1metre above sea level at low tide but there was a small coral sand beach which we used as a bunker. We adapted one of the ships buckets as a chipping hole marked with the Gaff and on top a Squadron Burgee as the flag and we had chipping practice on Hole One. ( I had brought a couple of old golf clubs with me as you do when heading to sea).
This little beach was adjacent to a small channel running through the coral . As we dorked around chipping, I swear, a small Black Tipped Reef Shark meandered through adjacent to us only a few meters away. That got a wry look amongst us I can tell you. Moments before we had been rescuing errant balls from this shallow little channel!!!
Hole two was a driving competition where we blasted our store of golf balls into the Pacific Ocean ( Mea-culpa) from the top of the Shipwreck Cairn built by the Australian Navy.

In the early sixties a sailing trader carrying 17 Tongans had been wrecked on the reef and they were lucky enough to be able to survive 144 days in the hull of a previously wrecked Japanese fishing boat. The Aussies, gawd love’m, had concreted together blocks of coral and old engine parts and what have you, with a piece of pipe sticking up from it to hold on to, if ever the same thing happened again.
It was a ‘two hole’ open. Yeah, Yeah, all right—Giz a break! With a total population of seven, having an ‘open’ at all was an achievement in itself. I met someone years later in Tanna, Vanuatu, who was telling a story about finding a golf club at the Cairn and they were blown away to meet the ‘caddy’ who had left it behind!

HMNZS Resolution motored over the horizon and hailed me on the S.S.B. and we began to prepare for her arrival. Minerva Reef was well outside her operational region, she had no chart of the area and would be arriving after dark, a far from ideal scenario. We had on board a Max – Sea navigation program which was state of the art at the time and I devised a method where I would mark all of the outer points of the Reef with way points which would give me latitude and longitude which I could relay to the Resolutions navigator. All he had to do was connect the dots to have a chart of the reef. We gave them our exact position, that of Donella and the original way points we had used to enter the passage through the reef. They now had a chart with a route. Resolutions plan was to stand off the reef and launch their R.I.B. which would motor through the reef entrance to our position. For the previous few days, the weather had been settled but as each hour passed and our rendezvous approached the weather deteriorated, to the point that when the Resolution appeared, we had intermittent rain squalls and winds gusting 20-25knts.We listened with anticipation as the ship deployed her R.I.B. and the crew with medical team approached and then entered the reef.
The trust they showed in following our route on a windy, rainy night, through choppy seas was a tribute to their training and command. The R.I.B. beat to windward the 1.8nm to the Donella and the first tangible assistance in 30 hrs of genuine stress and worry was at hand. I hailed the commander of the Resolution at 2100hrs and handed over responsibility for my patient, which he formally accepted. It was a defining moment. The next morning after transferring Bruce over to the Donella to supplement their crew we set off for Nukualofa, two yachts in tandem.

Minerva Reef fell away behind our stern but not from our minds. Later that night during our watches we experienced a total Lunar Eclipse in clear blue skies and calm seas. We all lay on our backs on the deck of Sea Toy watching as the earth drifted between the sun and the full moon. It took one hour for the earth’s shadow to fully block out the moon, it was covered for two hours and then another hour for it to uncover again. We went from having this amazing moon shadow on the water, slowly dull away, and then equally slowly, return as the moon came back into the suns path. Whilst it was blocked out there was still a light ‘Halo’ where we knew the moon should be. It was absolutely magic and was like a massive reward for all we had been through.
We murdered Mal’s single malt. He didn’t mind. We arrived in Nukualofa harbour two days later with the Donella a further half day behind us. The resolution had come and gone, depositing Christian at the local hospital where a combination of Tongan, New Zealand and German doctors had stitched him back together again. The arm looks a bit ‘munted’ but it still works, it’s still attached to his body and he’s still alive. All good.

Soon after the Resolution returned to Nukualofa and I was invited to a official Tongan government event on board where we were feted and treated to fantastic Tongan cuisine.

‘Minerva Reef and the story of the 17 Tongans’, It’s an epic tale of maritime glory and skill, If you can find a copy read it, it’s epic.

In 2007 I told the story of the shark attack and the golf game at the Port Resolution, Tanna Pirates Rally and was awarded the Island Cruising Association “Best Nautical Braggers Award”

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As we left Minerva we played the Finn brothers song “Shark Attack” for some gallows humour;

Thanks for spending the time to get to the happy end. I can feel a book coming on.

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Posted in Island Cruising Association, Shark Attack

Has the Climate Crisis Passed the Point of No Return?

I was recently interviewed on Josh Schlossberg’s podcast series titled “The Green Root Podcast” Josh has had some great guests, check the series out at the link above. Our interview is below;

Issues we discussed are referenced below;
I mentioned our interview with Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University in Australia. Professor Corey Bradshaw explains the unfolding “Extinction Cascades” on Nature Bats Last.

More info on Wet Bulb Temperatures as discussed here; Wet Bulb Temperature Soon to Become Leading Cause of Death

Dr Andrew Glikson is a geologist living in Australia. He is an Earth scientist and paleo-climatologist currently serving as Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University. Dr Glikson believes we have crossed tipping points in the earth climate system;
Tipping Points in the Earth Climate System. Dr Andrew Glikson returns to Nature Bats Last

We discussed the role militarism and imperialism is playing in this extinction event.
““U.S. Military World’s Largest Polluter – Hundreds Of Bases Gravely Contaminated
Producing more hazardous waste than the five largest U.S. chemical companies combined, the U.S. Department of Defense has left its toxic legacy throughout the world in the form of depleted uranium, oil, jet fuel, pesticides, defoliants like Agent Orange and lead, among other pollutants.”
Militarism’s Role in the Sixth and Possibly Last ‘Great’ Extinction

The issue of nuclear plants and weapons was discussed, I’ve covered that aspect of the predicament here; The Inevitability of Nuclear War and Subsequent Nuclear Winter

We discussed the issue of “Climate Grief”, I’ve covered that issue previously on this blog;
Navigating Hospice at the Edge of Extinction

The interview with Stephen Jenkinson I mentioned is embedded here; Stephen Jenkinson returns to Nature Bats Last

We discussed my time in Africa, a very long story on that adventure is embedded here;
Adventures in Africa- Brushes with Death- A Love Story

I made the analogy of us playing Extinction Jenga; Abrupt Climate Change and Extinction ‘Jenga’. The very last ‘game’ on Earth.
On a brighter note readers can follow our rewilding work at the Rakino Island Nursery here;

Seneca

 

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Climate Grief, Climate Racism, Corey Bradshaw, Imperialism, Josh Schlossberg, Nature Bats Last, Nuclear Threats, Professor Guy McPherson, Seneca Cliff

Pestilence: Another Consequence of Losing the Cryosphere and the Permafrost

The Corona 19 virus has had an unprecedented effect on our complex, interlinked global economy. It is merely a forewarning of what we have unleashed as the cryosphere and the permafrost melts.
“For the past 15,000 years, a glacier on the north-western Tibetan Plateau of China has hosted a party for some unusual guests: an ensemble of frozen viruses, many of them unknown to modern science.”

“Scientists recently broke up this party after taking a look at two ice cores from this Tibetan glacier, revealing the existence of 28 never-before-seen virus groups.” Only two ice cores uncovered 28 new viruses.

Investigating these mysterious viruses could help scientists on two fronts: For one, these stowaways can teach researchers which viruses thrived in different climates and environments over time, the researchers wrote in a paper posted on the bioRxiv database on Jan. 7. Ancient never-before-seen viruses discovered locked up in Tibetan glacier

From an article in Popular Mechanix titled “Welp, Scientists Found 28 New Virus Groups in a Melting Glacier

  • “Scientists have unearthed 28 previously undiscovered viruses, which were trapped in glacial ice from 15,000 years ago.
  • The team collected the samples from the Guliya ice cap in Tibet, and published their work to the pre-print website, BioRxiv.
  • As glacial ice and permafrost around the world continues to thaw, scientists are concerned that ancient pathogens and toxic chemicals may be released into the environment.”

“When reindeer started dying in Siberia, at first scientists blamed the heat. But there seems to be a more insidious cause: Anthrax.”
“After an investigation, scientists have determined that the culprit is anthrax, which hasn’t been seen in the country since 1968. Scientists believe the source of the anthrax is an old reindeer carcass that was frozen during the last anthrax epidemic 75 years ago. The current heatwave thawed the carcass, allowing the dormant bacteria to spread.” Thawed Reindeer Corpse May Have Triggered Russian Anthrax Outbreak

“Mammoth bones are surfacing in the Russian Far East — so many that people have begun selling the tusks as a substitute for elephant ivory. And in 2016, more than 70 people in western Siberia were hospitalized for exposure to anthrax, likely spread from a decades-old reindeer carcass that thawed from frozen ground.”
Thawing Permafrost: “25% of the Northern Hemisphere is permafrost”

Ignorance is our enemy

“In my darkest moments, I see a really horrible future for Homo sapiens because we are an animal, and when we extend our borders things will happen to us,” said Birgitta Evengard, a researcher in clinical microbiology at Umea University in Sweden.”
“Our biggest enemy is our own ignorance,” she added. “Nature is full of microorganisms.”
“Microorganisms can survive in frozen space for a long, long time,” said Vladimir Romanovsky, a professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.

Climate change may bring back viruses that were long thought to be dormant

“There is zero guarantee that this set of living arrangements will hold together much longer considering the threats we know it is under with the next ‘Black Swan’ hovering in the wings about to appear.” This is the End, Beautiful Friends, The End

So much to look forward to, so little time. Brace for imminent impact. These are the ‘Good Old Days’, they certainly aren’t going to get better. Every single last analogue is heading in the wrong direction and our predicament can only be worse than we know.
“The Path of Increase is Slow but the Road to Ruin is Swift” Lucius Seneca
Seneca

 “Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Dylan Thomas.

Posted in Arctic, permafrost, Pestilence, Viruses

Could the Imminent Collapse of the US Dollar Trigger the Collapse of The Global Economy and the Biosphere?

US Dollar Hegemony is drawing to a long overdue collapse. Could it trigger the collapse of the global economy, trigger the loss of the “Aerosol Masking Effect” and the collapse of the biosphere?
“What do you get when you add up a massive exodus from the US dollar, insane monetary and fiscal policy, record COMEX deliveries, and a wave of institutional funds headed towards the precious metals? Join Mike Maloney in today’s video to find out”.

As we circle the drain, both ecologically and financially and US dollar hegemony collapses because of the debasement of the fiat currency we see the Gold and Silver prices being manipulated.
The run on silver isn’t because of increased industrial demand, it is a flight to tangible assets.

The system is and will be gamed until collapse unfolds and then the debate will be academic.
This is exactly how complex societies collapse. The debasement of the currency contemporaneous with pathological sociopathy and psychopathy at the helm our sinking ship. Andy Schectman: Silver Supply Is Getting Tight Again

“No one seems to be worried about the falling dollar, veteran stockbroker Peter Schiff writes on Twitter, as the US currency continues to slide versus major rivals amid gold and silver record growth.

According to Schiff the ignorance is “likely to remain the case until the fall becomes a crash, which I don’t think will begin until the Dollar Index breaks 80. At its current rate of decline that level could be breached before year end, perhaps by election day.”
Dollar crash will topple the entire US ‘house of cards’ economy by year end – Peter Schiff

” Get ready to understand Quantitative Easing (indiscriminate printing of money by central banks), how the financial system works, who owns your financial system, who lets them get away with it and why, why gold is not necessarily going to come to the rescue like many hope it will, why it’s all about to come crashing down (no exaggeration) and why we’re seeing such extreme social, political and societal shifts at this present time.”

Watch this masterpiece and see how broken the economic system is.

Peter Schiff suggests getting out of any asset denominated in US dollars to mitigate the coming implosion of the Greenback:

Ok, so how does economic collapse trigger the collapse of the biosphere?

My co-host on Nature Bats Last on the Progressive Radio Network, Professor Guy McPherson and I have been warning of the potential consequences of a substantial economic crash or the collapse of industrial civilisation and what the loss of the aerosol masking effect will have on the climate, specifically warming.
It is still being debated how quickly the loss of aerosols will advance global warming. For me following the “Precautionary Principle” is paramount. When 911 happened and three buildings mysteriously collapsed in NY, all aeroplane traffic was grounded and within days the particulates fell out of the sky and their was a near immediate spike in temperatures.
October is the time when most of the major economic crashes take place which is why this latest work from Professor Guy McPherson is so pertinent.
” Although the paper by Rosenfeld and colleagues is ambiguous with respect to planetary warming beyond that forecast by Levy et al., an interview with the lead author of the paper indicates that the paper by Levy and colleagues underestimates by half the impact of the aerosol masking effect (thus, less than a 20% reduction in industrial activity will drive a rapid temperature spike of 1 C). ”
Think about that for a second. A 20% reduction in economic activity triggers a 1C global mean temperature rise. That’s another 40% of all anthropogenic warming so far in days or weeks.
This is why I follow the global economic system so carefully, sadly we are chained to it. Total collapse will be just that.

The Aerosol Masking Effect: A Brief Overview

The graph below shows the spike in temperatures in India as a direct result of the loss of aerosol pollution.

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In Hemingway’s 1926 novel “The Sun Also Rises” Bill asked
“How did you go bankrupt?” .
“Two ways,” Mike said. “Gradually and then suddenly.”

This is exactly how civilisations collapse, slowly and then suddenly.

I was in Berlin one week before the Berlin Wall collapsed, which went on to trigger the collapse of the USSR. There was not a single hint that the end was so close. It will be the same with the ‘Empire of Chaos’

The cognitive dissonance around not seeing the obvious signs is amazing to me.

Posted in Aerosol Masking Effect, Collapse, Jared Diamond, US Dollar Hegemony

Dr Sid Smith Rocks the Boat on Nature Bats Last

The August 2020 episode of Nature Bats Last featured an excellent discussion with Dr Sid Smith, the episode is embedded here:

 Dr Smith is former co-chair and current secretary of the Green Party of Virginia. He holds a Ph.D. in mathematics, and he is a writer and small-business owner in central Virginia. His website can be found at bsidneysmith.com .
Both of Dr Smith’s You Tube presentations are embedded below.

We discussed Dr Smith’s essay titled “ Socialism and the Green Party”, in it he wrote:
“ The value to the economy of a barrel of oil is an amount that is equivalent to 11 years of human labour. Supposing a minimum wage of $15 per hour that is more than $330,000 worth of work.” I think that observation exposes our addiction clearly.

Central to the discussion we talked about the melt down of 450 nuclear power stations and 1300 spent fuel pool fires and the possibility of our psychopathic owners using a nuclear winter to cool down the planet, I’ve covered that aspect of our predicament here. The Inevitability of Nuclear War and Subsequent Nuclear Winter

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The comparison of our predicament to the game “Jenga” was made, I have written previously about that observation. Abrupt Climate Change and Extinction ‘Jenga’. The very last ‘game’ on Earth.

!Jenga_Extinction
Jenga  Art credit Ken Avidor
I mentioned our interview with Arthur Keller and his contention that collapse is the only realistic conclusion, that discussion and Arthur’s incredible You Tube presentation are embedded below.
Collapse, the Only Realistic Scenario:
Further reference for Alice Friedmann who blogs at Peak Energy & Resources, Climate Change, and the Preservation of Knowledge

Posted in Collapse, Nuclear Threats, Professor Guy McPherson, Sid Smith

Adventures in Africa- Brushes with Death- A Love Story

A broken neck in a war zone, saved by the Cuban Revolution and four bouts of Malaria. A love Story.
In 1999 a distant cousin of mine from Ireland turned up in N.Z. with her Kiwi husband, on holiday from their jobs in Mozambique. Maureen was a mid-wife who had spent the previous 10yrs of her life teaching African women to be mid-wives. You couldn’t count the number of lives she would have saved, by imparting that knowledge, in some of the poorest countries on the planet.

Ian her husband was an engineer, who, whilst re-habilitating the water supply in Beira, Mozambique had come up with an amazing idea how to save thousands of lives in the barrios surrounding the city.
What used to happen when the rains came was the ground water would become polluted with faeces from the appalling sanitation conditions the people lived in. As a result everyone would soon come down with dysentery and a huge proportion of them would simply die, especially the new born, elderly and infants, predominantly from diarrhoea and dehydration.

Ian went into the barrios with a dumpy level and ‘shot levels’ to find where all the ‘High’ ground was and then appropriated (misappropriated!!!) the company digger and sunk deep latrine holes to act as long drop toilets. The idea was when the rains came the faeces weren’t washed into the water supplies and the level of contamination and therefore illness and death were heavily reduced.

This simple solution saved thousands of lives.

These two people quickly became my heroes.

Ian was now working on the re-construction of the main port in Beira on a European Community Development Project. When he heard I was an Electrician and that I had High Voltage experience and qualifications from the London Electricity Board he offered me a job building the port Sub-Stations and installing the container cranes used for loading and unloading the ships.

This sounded like an amazing opportunity. As a result of being hired to go to Mozambique to work on the re-construction of the Port in Beira, Ulli and I began to organize our departure from Germany, said good bye to our friends and her family and set off first for Paris then to London. Our mission was to reconstruct the port so that the “Front Line States” could export via Mozambique rather than being held to ransom by the apartheid state to the south. We vowed to not enter South Africa until they had a black president.

Our good friend, Lucy was due to have a baby in London and we decided to be with her for the birth and then to fly to Africa. All our friends in Germany, collected baby clothes for her and one friend said she had a “Perambulator” and did we want to take it to Lucy ? Now, I was expecting some kind of fold up pram but when she arrived, she genuinely had a perambulator.

It was a classic piece of German engineering and design. Beautiful ‘White Wall’ tires. ‘Leaf ‘suspension, for a typically smooth German driving experience. A gorgeous ‘wicker basket’ type bassinet, which could be removed and used as a separate crib for a new-born.

It was simply gorgeous BUT bloody enormous. How the freakin’ hell were we going to get this bloody thing ‘overland’ to London and the only answer was, push it.

We trained to Frankfurt from Aschaffenburg where we had been living. From the Train Station to the adjoining bus station we simply piled our backpacks into the pram and pushed. We got some seriously weird looks, with some people craning their necks to see if there was a baby underneath it all. At one point I lifted the back packs from the pram and exclaimed “The baby, the baby, we’ve lost the baby”, Ulli shook her head sarcastically  !

Eventually we made it to Lucy’s home in Brixton, London where we presented her with a mountain of baby clothes and the single flashiest perambulator in the whole of the U.K.

We hung out with Lucy for a week waiting for ‘Scarlet’ to arrive, but to no avail. She was going to come in her own good time and we were booked to fly to Africa the day before the war started.

George Bush snr had organized a war with Saddam Hussein for the 17 of January 1991. How bizarre was that.

Ring, Ring. “Hullo, Saddam here, how can I help you?”

‘Yeah, Hi Saddam, George Bush here, waddup?’ ‘Feel like a bit of a ‘set to’, old ex mate?’ ‘How are you placed for the 17th?’

‘ Yeah, why not’ says Saddam,’ we’ll give you the Mother of all Wars and seeing as though we’ve both got god on our sides, why don’t we call him the umpire?’

‘Righto, I.C.B.M.’s at dawn it is. Stay in touch, don’t be a stranger. GB

‘Hi to wee George!’ SH

So, seeing as though the war had a fixed start date, ( I am not kidding, Google it) We decided we would fly over the Middle East the day before to avoid any misguided, guided missiles or the odd justifiably irate Islamic jihadist. We said our goodbyes to Lucy and the unborn Scarlett and headed for Heathrow. After wading through the interminable queues, taxis and the tube and just before we were about to board the plane, I spent the last of our local coins on a final call to Lucy, to hear that her waters had broken and she was waiting for a taxi to the hospital. Scarlett was arriving to bear witness to the war.

Our ticket was to Nairobi, Kenya. We flew in and booked into the crummiest backpackers in Kenya and I high tailed it into town on the hunt for a T.V. with C.N.N. which, as a general rule, tended to have ‘great’ imperialist war coverage, being a war mongering propaganda station!

I proceeded to sit captivated, in front of that T.V. for three solid days watching Bagdad being carpet bombed until Ulli dragged me kicking and screaming into Africa on the threat of her leaving without me if I didn’t come.

One of the first things we saw when we arrived at this derelict backpackers (everything in Nairobi was pretty derelict) was this amazing overland Truck, which looked like a huge loaf of bread on giant wheels. Sitting under it with room above her head, was this little blond German woman carrying out repairs. This view was to become a recurring theme on our trip.

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We headed north through Kenya, risking our lives on a daily basis on the incredibly dangerous roads littered with the corpses of motor vehicles whose luck had run out. Mostly, we travelled in decrepit Japanese mini-vans or Peugeot 404 station wagons, poorly maintained, overloaded and at death defying speeds.

Tanzania:
We stopped long enough in Arusha for me to go to the local police with a traumatized African Woman to get our bus driver arrested for the single most dangerous piece of driving I have ever witnessed. He was drunk and stoned on Kif, a mild narcotic leaf chewed in the rift Valley as an appetite suppressant.

He had been racing another bus, two abreast on the main highway, driving around blind bends on the wrong side of the road at 100km’s / hr. This is an unheard of speed in those days and on those decrepit roads, every one on the bus was screaming with fear. An older African woman asked me for help to stop the driver from killing us all. I intervened.
After dealing with the cops, whilst we were waiting at the Arusha bus station, we heard a huge kafuffle, people yelling “Thief” and saw some young guy running thru the enormous crowd with everyone having a swing at him. Eventually he tripped and went down and the mob pounced on him and was in the process of kicking him to death before some army troops who just happened to be in the station, waded in to his rescue. They beat everyone off him and then dragged his bloodied mess of a body into the Station police office where They started beating ‘the living daylights ‘out of him. We couldn’t bear to watch and left while he was still alive and have no idea what happened to him.

I wouldn’t fancy his chances as it doesn’t pay to get caught if you’re a pick pocket in Kenya.

We bussed across the border into Uganda crossing the source of the Nile at the junction of Lake Victoria.

We became instant millionaires. We changed about $100U.S. and received a brick of Ugandan money which was seriously embarrassing and a little intimidating to be carrying around, even though it had so little relative value.

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We loved Uganda. The people were beautiful, traumatized and sad but mysteriously it was a wonderful place. Kampala was fantastic. Teeming with people with nothing to do and everywhere we went we saw these enormous crane birds, the size of an Albatross sitting on roof tops and the defunct street lights. I asked people about Idi Amin and the consensus was Milton Obote was worse!!!

Kampala Train Station

We looped around the Ruwenzori Mountains where the last mountain gorillas eke out a precarious existence, sandwiched between interminable civil wars. We were very close to their last remaining habitat and decided the best thing we could do for them was leave them alone so we never saw them.
We skirted poor old Rwanda, just a few short years before the genocide that was to soon decimate their nation and slipped back into Kenya to try our luck again in the Kenyan traffic all the way down to Mombasa.

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We had heard that you could take a dhow along the coast to Pemba and on to Zanzibar. Sounds exotic right?

We found the port and located a dhow that was heading down the coast. We negotiated a deal with the captain and he then took us to the local port authority and Customs post, where we were made to sign a disclaimer that  pretty well said “We acknowledge, we are both stupid and stark raving mad but are still going to take the dhow down the coast.”

By the time we arrived back at the boat there were another 20 passengers on board and approximately 5 tonnes of grain in sacks. The dhow had about six inches of freeboard and not a square inch of free space for the fare paying mzungus ( Europeans). We climbed up onto the coach roof of the steering station with everyone asking me, the experienced sailor, if this was safe. “Yeah, yeah I said, it’s just a coastal trip.” There was no life rafts or life jackets for the 20 passengers or crew.

We set off hours later than we had planned and it was soon getting both dark and windy. The longer we were at sea, the windier it became, until by midnight we were in a full on gale with mountainous seas and this overloaded tub rolling from gunnel to wave washed gunnel.

Now, we were on the coach roof where the hideous pitching of the vessel was accentuated and we were literally holding on for grim death. The mzungus’ repeatedly asked me, ’is this safe?’ I continued to reassure everyone that we were and the boat would not founder as long as the engine kept running, but I was literally crapping myself. In the early part of the evening we could see lights on the coast but as the night wore on I realized we were out of site of land and only found out later that we were 80miles offshore. Some coastal trip.
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Somehow we survived the night and late the next day we arrived in Pemba, exhausted both physically and emotionally.
Back in Mombasa we had seen another dhow loading for the same trip and they had left around the same time. She foundered with the loss of 81 lives with only one survivor, a German woman who swam and swam for her life until being rescued mid-ocean.
We paid for what passed for a decent room in Pemba and slept the sleep of the traumatized and abandoned the thought of continuing in a dhow and waited for the arrival of an impending coastal trader. We secured tickets on her for the second leg to Zanzibar.

That trip was pretty uneventful until we approached the main Port in Zanzibar. We approached the wharf at an angle of about 25degrees which would be pretty standard for a yacht but for a 200ft, 5,000 tonne, coastal trader would be pretty acute, as they don’t alter course quickly but my main concern was we were doing about 5knts.

5knts and 5,000 tonnes, you do the math. When we were about 100m out I said to Ulli. ‘This guy is pretty confident’.

When we were about 20m out I said to Ulli and the other passengers, ‘Brace For Impact’.

Man, we smacked that wharf with mind numbing force. It had obviously just been re-built with huge 500mmX 500mm ‘Whalers’. Massive, square, machined, whole tree trunks for precisely this purpose. To protect the concrete wharf from destruction.

It was appalling, everyone on the boat, bar Ulli and myself, were knocked down with the shock of the impact. When the bow made contact, these massive hardwood ‘Whalers’ splintered and fired spears straight thru the welcoming party and straight thru the corrugated iron walls of the adjoining packing shed. We bounced down the wharf destroying the new protective ‘whalers’ eventually, coming to a shuddering halt. Even the people on the concrete wharf had been knocked off their feet. Miraculously, no one had been impaled.

After a moment or two of chaos, everyone on land and ship picked themselves up, dusted themselves off and those on the ship casually prepared to disembark and face the next adventure in their lives. African people, man are they resilient.

After disembarking, I walked around to the front of the ship to inspect the damage and there was about a cubic metre of hardwood compressed onto the bow of the ship!

We were now in the exotic, former slave trading capital, Zanzibar.

Zanzibar is a beautiful Island city with an immeasurably tragic history. The last place millions of African people saw of their wonderful, tragic home before beginning a voyage of death, humiliation and subjugation and the biggest slur on western culture to date. Zanzibar was a focal point of the Slave Trade. You could cut the air with a knife. In my country we would describe it as being “Tapu”.

We were pretty stuffed after this adventure and headed out to the coast to rest and recover. We camped at this amazing village adjacent to the lagoon where the local women farmed and harvested sea weed for export to Japan and the men fished for beautiful reef fish, lobster and octopus.

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It was a pretty cool place and I learnt a local song that I would sing to the women working the sea weed farm as I waded out to the reef for a dive.

The chorus was Hakuna, Hakuna matata, hakuna matata. (Hakuna matata means No Problem; they are a bloody philosophical lot, Africans!). They seriously loved me singing to them and it got them laughing from the souls of their feet. It was nice for all of us.

We hung out in Zanzibar for a while and then headed for Dar Es Salam, the capital of Tanzania and the home and possibly the birth place of Pan Africanism. The University of Dar Es Salam was a hot bed of Pan Africanism. Many of Southern Africa’s independence leaders were educated and cut their teeth intellectually here and you didn’t have to look hard for a debate on Colonialism or Apartheid. I was in my political element.

Whenever I was asked what I thought of the apartheid state and what should be done to the regimes leadership, my standard reply was that they all deserved a “Soweto necklace”. It was a great ice breaker.
We decided to head for the Serengeti and Ngorongoro National Park. You’re not allowed to travel add hock through the park but we skipped off a bus at the first village, thinking that hitching would be more fun. It was my idea, not Ulli’s !!!

We would have been ‘takeaways’ for all the animals that were lurking just outside the villages, had the sun gone down before we were picked up.

We arrived in Ngorongoro village on the edge of the crater hoping to check into the local camping ground (even though we didn’t have a tent). We were disappointed to find out that the camp had been recently closed because a family of leopards living in a nearby copse of trees had developed a taste for tourists and had started plucking the odd one out of the camping ground and it was thought that it might be bad for the tourist industry feeding naïve backpackers to the local wildlife.

A local aid worker stopped to ask us if he could help us and suggested the cheapest place to stay was Rhino Lodge on the edge of the Ngorongoro crater rim .

He gave us a ride down a long twisting gravel road, about five miles out of town to the Lodge. He dropped us off at the door and waved us goodbye.

We went to check in and I went ballistic. This place was little more than a glorified backpackers but they wanted US$55/ night. The secret to nuclear fusion is try to charge me ten times more than something is worth. You could have bolted a gas turbine on to me and generated electricity

I absolutely went thermal and refused to pay. Ulli operated the pressure relief valve on me ( she stood back and waited), then pointed out that we were in the middle of the jungle, miles from even the most primitive of villages and it was dinner time and she didn’t mean ours.

Ulli and I haggled for about 15 minutes with each other, and then she exercised her veto and said “you always get your way, but not this time.’ ‘We are not going to be some predators dinner’. On that note, I sulked my way into the most expensive hotel room I’d ever had at that stage of my life and had a shower and went off hunting for a compensatory beer. That was the first time Ulli saved my life in Africa.

We were sitting on the deck of the lodge, me sulking and a couple came out, getting ready to drive somewhere. I asked where they were going and they said to one of the other Lodges which had a magnificent view down into the crater and asked if we would like to come. We had successfully ‘bludged’ a lift.

As we were driving out of the car park, the woman in the passenger seat turned to us in the back and said. ‘If we’re lucky, we might see a leopard on the way’.
Ulli is now looking disdainfully at me. We drive about 50 meters from the inner gate up the driveway and the husband stops and turns the Range Rover off.

Coming down the Driveway!!! are a pack of hyenas, 6 of them and they are about twice the size I thought they were, with the biggest heads I have ever seen. They walked down the side of the Range Rover with their heads just outside the window eyeballing us. I have by now, shrunk to the size of a 3yr old and am trying to squeeze down the back of the seats. It turns out, that was the best argument I ever lost in my life. Go Ulli, saved again !
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We hitched a ride out of there on the back of a flat deck truck with our back packs at our feet. It was brilliant crossing the Serengeti like that and really gave us a taste for having our own transport which we were able to satiate later on in the adventure.
At one stage we were driving down a long straight and in the distance was a copse of trees. As we approached half of the trees simply walked away. They were giraffes, it was magic. HTF could any low life shoot these harmless animals?

Giraffes Plural

We headed down to the border with Malawi.

Now Malawi was ruled by this crackpot called President Bandra. He had been installed by the Brits in 1970’s and had clung to power with ever declining sanity and increasing senility.

One of his inspired dictates, to lift his country out of abject poverty, corruption and nepotism was to ban women from wearing trousers or shorts. Radical shit eh? That was bound to work! Why hadn’t someone thought of that before?

So, we’re at the border crossing and Ulli has to wear a sarong over her trousers to gain entry into the country. I couldn’t take it seriously and drifted off on one of my surreal tangents and wrote on my immigration papers, under “Occupation”, that I was a Brain Surgeon. I started walking around the customs post with my hands turned up like a doctor doing scrubs. It left a few people perplexed and Ulli mortified. She said ‘what if someone is sick and they want you to operate’ ?

It took ages to clear through into Malawi, until we realized that ‘unofficial’ customs fees were due and the longer you haggled the longer you waited. One thing we had on our side was time and we waited for their shift to nearly finish when the crossing rate plummeted; we handed over some shrapnel and crossed over.

Because the sun was setting we had to sleep in the local school class room. It was just as you would imagine. No windows, cute little wooden chairs connected to little desks, dirt floor. Homemade blackboard, stubs of chalk.

The next morning we headed for Nakata Bay on the edge of Lake Nyasa. We bussed into town and were dropped off in the main square which was surrounded by older woman selling vegetables under banyan trees. Quintessential Africa.

We were approached by a group of young men who offered us accommodation at a number of lodgings. We picked one, just out of town adjacent to a small stream.

Being a world class eater, I struck up a great friendship with the cook and knowing that his survival was intrinsically linked to my appetite, I endeavoured to guarantee his employment by supporting the kitchen. It helped that he was a great cook.

We dumped our gear and headed down to the local beach and low and behold what is the first thing we see when we navigate our way down the precarious dirt track to the beach but our much admired Bread Loaf overland truck and Axel and Christa. We had said hullo to these two folks a couple of times previously and had had brief conversations about each of our travels and it was good to catch up again.

We hung out together, went swimming, lazed around under the trees and continued eating.

As we left, later in the day, I asked if there was anything I could bring back the next day from the market. Fresh bread? An avocado?

So began a small ritual, each day we would arrive from the village with fresh goodies and have breakfast together. Ulli loves coffee and so did these folk. We were collectively making brunch one day and I went to empty out the espresso machine and dump the old coffee grains and Christa said ‘keep those ‘. They used to mix the coffee grains with washing powder as a hand cleaning agent for when they had been working on the truck. It was soapy and abrasive and cleaned like grease lightning. Try it.

One day I was strolling round the village and saw a couple of blokes working under a large Fiat Ducato van and we said ‘hi’ as I walked by. The next day they were still there under the vehicle and I asked them what they were doing. They said that the clutch had jammed and they couldn’t operate the van, they had limited tools and little idea of how to fix the problem. And money ? forget it.

I suggested we borrow tools from the Bread loaf and we pull the gearbox out together to have a look at the problem.

Axel loaned us all the tools we needed and in a few hours, the three of us had the drive shaft off, the gearbox out, unjammed the clutch, re-adjusted it, chucked the gearbox back in and Max and Kazim were up and running again. They were ecstatic. That night we went to one of the bars for a beer. These guys were great people but were pretty uncertain about Axel, Christa, Ulli and myself. Four blond Europeans, the personification of everything evil that had happened on their continent.

The relationship between black and white people globally has been compromised by the events of history and in Africa, it can be toxic. They hadn’t had a relationship with white people before on this level. It started with the three of us climbing under the van together with little idea of what we were doing, working together and achieving a result collectively, equally covered in grease, dirt and each others sweat.

I’m lucky enough to come from a multi cultural society where we treat each other with (a growing level) of respect but Africa is way different. It’s fair to say they were a little intrigued by us.

Not long after, the rains came and disaster struck. We woke up in the night and the heavens had opened and the building we were staying in was dissolving. I kid you not.

It looked like a sturdy building made of solid, plastered and painted walls but when that torrential rain got into it, it literally dissolved.

As we were lying in bed, we started to hear the leaks. Then with our torch, we saw water running down the walls, then next thing you know, there was a big plop on the bed beside me and I found a large piece of plaster which had de-laminated from the wall and fallen off in one piece.

We stayed awake, the whole night, literally watching the place dissolve. We actually couldn’t stop laughing. It turns out the place was just a mud hut that had had a cosmetic makeover to make it look like a cottage.

Next morning I went outside to go to the long drop toilet and it was on a slight lean. Ulli watched me going in and said, ‘I wouldn’t go in there if I was you’, but I confidently laughed off her concerns.

Now I’m a firm believer that Number 2’s should not be rushed and I’m known for taking my time but as I’m sitting there, the bloody lean becomes more pronounced and I could literally feel the ground moving beneath my feet and outside Ulli’s protestations are becoming more and more strident.

I abruptly finished my deliberations and just got out by the skin of my teeth. I had barely exited the door, taken a few paces to where Ulli was standing with a look of horror on her face and turned around to witness the entire Khazi drop on a 45degree angle into the stinking cess pit that it straddled. Had I not left when I did, I’d have been up to my neck in Shit ! That was the second time she saved me.

This all appeared highly amusing at first, until the level of destruction that was unfolding around us became apparent.

Our guest house was near, but above the stream. We looked down and through the trees and couldn’t believe our eyes. That little stream that had been as small as 1m and as large as 5m wide was now a raging torrent in some places 200m wide. Large trees, wrecked homes and debris was racing by in the dirty, muddy water. The scariest thing was where there had previously been flat land between the stream and the cliff, there was now only water and the edges of the cliffs had been scoured away as had the shacks located there!.

Then, the dawning of the terrible tragedy that had unfolded, whilst we had been sitting up all night, laughing at the crumbling plaster. Hundreds of simple mud and straw huts had disappeared. Not only people’s homes, businesses and livelihoods but the people themselves.

That night, within hundreds of meters of where we had slept, officially, 17 people had been washed to their deaths. The real number was probably many, many more, possibly hundreds. We woke to a village grieving, we grieved together, our tears mixed on the muddy ground as we hugged and cried together as we did what little we could.

We gingerly made our way into town around the souls of people gone. The place was a disaster and people were walking around pretty shell shocked. Apparently the town of Nakata Bay was cut off from outside help. We walked past the end of the town, down the main incoming road to find a massive slip where thousands of tons of hill side had simply slipped away and there was a yawning chasm possibly 75m wide dropping down a ravine more than a 100m. They weren’t gonna fix that in a hurry.

The only other way out of town was now cut off by a raging, swollen river. We weren’t going anywhere.

We were simply boxed in with no chance of moving. Our friends in the Bread loaf truck were on the other side of that torrent, at the bottom of the cliff and we had no idea what their predicament was. There was no way we could cross and we were seriously worried about them.

As the days went by, we helped with the clean up and waited for external assistance, it never arrived. It didn’t come but we did see the occasional military helicopter fly by with people in it surveying the damage. Probably 2 or 3 days after the arrival of the rain, people began to drop like flies. But the problem wasn’t flies, the problem was mosquitoes.

With the rainy season comes mosquitos. With mosquitoes comes Malaria.

There were a quite a few mzungu’s in the town staying at various places and we had seen each other around. When we heard one of the English women had gone down with malaria, Ulli and I went up to the local hospital to check on her. It was about a one km walk. She seemed reasonably ok and soon bounced back and I got talking to the lab’ tech who said that there was a shortage of blood in their blood bank and that African people didn’t as a rule donate blood except in an emergency and then only for their own families. We decided to canvas all the tourists to get them all to donate. I put up hand written notices for backpackers to donate blood, a large number did.

The river slowly subsided and we were able, after a week or so to ford it and walk to where the Bread loaf was parked. The rough, winding track that they had driven down was gone. It was now simply a cliff. When we got to the bottom of it Axel and Christa were ok but their truck was now parked at the bottom of said cliff.

Naturally they were pretty disheartened and at a loss what to do. My suggestion was that we cut a new track and as no one could leave town we weren’t really being held up.

I went to the local council building and borrowed picks and shovels and the three of us started digging. At the end of the day I struggled home exhausted and covered in mud and Max and Kasim spotted me. ‘Waddup?

I told them what had happened and now we were five. When I got back to our guest house there was a written message from Ulli. ‘Sick, probably Malaria, gone to the hospital’.

I ran up to the hospital and the love of my life is flat on her back, pale, feverish and yep, she’s got Malaria. I promptly went to the Lab’ technician to warn him that the blood he had from Ulli was probably infected with Malaria. He was unconcerned. He said that if the person was sick enough to need a transfusion he would give it to them and treat the malaria later!

Ulli progressively got better as the medication kicked in and  I got her home to the guest house ( with a functioning shower and toilet, unlike the hospital ) and her temperature started to drop as the Chloro- Quinine started to take effect. When she was on the road to recovery, I went back to road building with Kasim, Christa, Max and Axel.

Meter by meter we carved out a track. After 4 or 5 days we had a passable track and decided to have a go at driving the truck out. Poor old Christa simply couldn’t bear to watch.

I instructed Axel to keep the driver’s door open just in case he needed to jump if the truck was to slip back down the cliff. Axel was pretty experienced and worked his way up the hill pretty well but at about the ¾ mark, the truck lost traction and with all four wheels driving forward, the truck came to a halt, held, and then began to slide, both backwards and off our track. As it began to gain momentum, the left rear wheel hit a boulder and there was a loud smashing sound as the truck came to an abrupt bone jarring halt. The smashing sound wasn’t the impact of the truck hitting the boulder but of the rear axle exploding.

Now we were stuck, ¾ of the way up the cliff with a broken axel. We had a brief cry, then anchored the truck with strops to stop it going anywhere, had another cry and went home to rest and regroup. I hated leaving Christa and Axel alone that night as they were completely demoralized. Two freakin broken “Axels’.

Ulli was regaining her strength bit by bit and was aghast at how the three of us looked each day when we came home. Kasim and Max insisted on checking on Ulli each night before they went back to their van to sleep. As a general rule we were filthy, sweaty, and exhausted.

The next day we rendezvoused at the bread loaf to decide our next move. I said, ‘we need to remove the axel to see if it can be fixed’.

Axel climbed up on the roof of the truck, opened a large wooden box and triumphantly held up a spare axel that he had wrapped in grease proof paper. Freakin Germans, how the hell they lost the war to the Brits, I do not know!

Sweet, easy, out with the old and in with the new!

Not!

We jacked the truck up precariously on the cliff face, pulled the large, nobly, wheel off. Removed the outer hub and bolted on the ‘gear puller’ that the ‘bloody think of everything German’ had. We started cranking on the pressure and banging the end of the shaft with a hammer to ‘Break the hold’.

We got so much strain on the gear puller we couldn’t turn the bolt another millimetre. This bloody shaft had been in there since the day it was built in 1962 and after 37 yrs of hard work it had no intention of being extracted.

We left it overnight on load, came back the next day, tried again, borrowed a gas torch and heated it all up, bashed, swore, cried, added a pipe to the socket bar for leverage and preceded to break the gear puller.

Found another gear puller, broke that, and can’t be sure but probably cried again.

We hunted down the  gas welding set again and Axel welded a steel plate on the end of a nut screwed it back onto the shaft and the four of us lay on the ground alternating with two sledge hammers banging away at the plate and after an interminable number of crazed and obsessive strokes the freakin’ thing ‘popped’ and then came free. Try using a sledge hammer when lying down on the ground, on a cliff, with the truck jacked up above you!

It had taken three days to remove the broken axel and it took us one hour to install the new one.

Since the road had been washed out, very few provisions had been able to get into the town and the one that was running out the fastest was beer. There were about a dozen small bars in the town and one by one they had to close as they ran out of anything to sell. Each evening after working on first the track and after, the truck, we would adjourn to whichever establishment was still functioning to hear what were the latest developments in the repairs to the roads and retell of our own progress with the truck which had become a cause célèbre in the village.

Prudence and time to gather our thoughts dictated that we found a tractor with a long strop and pulled and drove the truck, at the same time, the final 50m or so to the top of the cliff. It had taken over a week from go to wo.

We were completely elated and physically and emotionally fucked. We had sweated, cursed , cried and cajoled both ourselves and each other for a week and all this with a daily growing audience intrigued by this multi-cultural team ‘slaving’ ( is that an appropriate term ? ) away together, drinking from the same water bottle, eating the same food, debating solutions equally. I didn’t fully realize it at the time but apparently it was unique.

Once we had the truck safe and sound and had stopped jumping round, dancing as only Africans and mad mzungu’s can and kissing each other and all the bystanders, Axel and Christa pulled me aside and said ’We want to ask you one last favour? We want to swap our truck for your and Ulli’s backpacks. What do you think?’

But that I was so exhausted, I would have taken their temperatures, thinking that they too had come down with Malaria!

I said ’You can’t be serious. Chill, relax, you’ll feel better tomorrow.’

But they explained to me that they had had enough of such dramas over the last 17months they had been on the road and for the sake of their marriage they believed that they needed to get away from the truck.

I was completely stuffed, my girl was at home sick in bed and I couldn’t in any way get my head around this incredible offer and I said I’d go home and we’d talk about it the next day.

Like any marathon you run, you ration your reserves until the finish and then you are spent.

I went back to the guest house, told a resurgent Ulli that we had recovered the truck and the amazing offer that Axel and Christa had made to me and then crashed and slept the sleep of the dead.

I woke up the next day with no real plan or obligations. We slowly got it together and with increasing reserves of energy, Ulli and I made our way up the road to see Christa and Axel.

Their position had not only not changed, but had solidified. They were adamant and they explained themselves to us in both English and German.

They had lived cheek to jowl in that small truck, experiencing adventures and challenges for one and a half years and they were completely over it.

The offer was one Overland truck, complete with every spare part you could imagine, stereo, tools, futon, ‘Carnet de Passage’, the works, in exchange for two backpacks.

It was a great deal.

Ulli and I deliberated, but also knew it was too good an offer to refuse but it was also too generous, so we came up with a counter offer.

We proposed we would give them, the two backpacks, a U.S. $1000 that we had on us in cash and one day we would come to Berlin and take them out to dinner!

Deal? Deal done !

After showing me all I needed to know about the truck, Axel and Christa jumped on a ferry that was doing relief supply runs down the lake whilst the road was out and literally sailed away with our backpacks. The last thing Axel said to me was he was sad he couldn’t keep his personal tools.

We drove the truck down into the village and parked it under one of the banyan trees and considered our new found circumstances.

Not long after I fell ill. In my experience of contracting malaria, after you fall ill, you remember that in the hours preceding there was a very low level headache. Then it just hits like a brick.

We had anti–malarial medication and I immediately began taking a course of Chloro-Quinine. Malaria feels like a massive dose of flu. High temperature, sweats, fever, vomiting, the shakes and the single most massive headache I have ever experienced.

Fortunately, Ulli had by now recovered and she was able to look after me. At first it appeared that I was getting better, then I had a terrible night of all of the above symptoms and then I started to struggle to breathe. I simply couldn’t get air into my lungs and I started to deteriorate. Fortunately, the local cop dropped in to see how we were and the moment he saw me, he piled us into the back of his Landover and raced us up to the hospital.

The hospital was run by a Finnish doctor and I was taken directly into his office, rather than the ward. He was pretty laid back! He lay me down on a bench in the office, took my temperature and listened to my lungs. By this time I was pretty unresponsive, couldn’t sit or stand and was finding it difficult to respond to questions and was progressively slipping from consciousness. The remarkable thing was, I could understand everything that was being said and could process the information but just couldn’t contact the other people in the room. I was literally drifting away.

He put me on a drip of saline and injected quinine into the solution

The doctor said very calmly to Ulli that I was very, very sick and needed to be admitted. He opened a draw in his desk and pulled out some medication and put it on the table.

He said ‘I keep this drug for people who are very sick’ ‘It is called Fansadar, it has been banned and removed from the market because of its possible side effects. I keep them for people who are about to die. I think your boyfriend should take them’ !
Ulli asked what the side effects were. He replied ‘Heart failure, liver function failure, kidney failure’. I don’t remember him saying etc etc but the way his voice trailed off you couldn’t be sure he was finished but he had probably covered off the main points. As I said, by now, I was little more than a catatonic spectator and Ulli was left to make the decision on her own. It was a very lonely decision to have to make but she didn’t hesitate and said ‘If you think he should take them, then let’s do it’. Life saving decision !

They wacked a Fansadar into me and then carted me off to the ward.

I am sure I won’t be able to paint the picture of what a ward in a hospital in a small village in Malawi looks like but I’ll give it a go.
I was put in intensive care which was characterized in its difference from the other wards by a sign on the door saying “Intensive Care”. The windows were broken, the plaster was cracked and the paint flaking. The cistern didn’t work in the toilets and they were abominable. The beds were old metal spring bases dating from the 60’s. Only some of the rooms, had doors.

Whilst I was in my catatonic stage I would watch, as a rats’ head would poke through the ceiling where the steam vent pipe from the sterilizer went through the roof. He would stick his head out, survey the scene, casually descend the pipe, and walk across the lid of the sterilizer (I kid you not) and climb down on to the floor. He then proceeded to wander around all the bodies of the people sleeping on the floor looking for grains of rice dropped by my roommates. For every person in a bed, there were probably two or three people sleeping on the floor.

Around this time, I hit a hospital all time record by recording a temperature of 41.4 degrees C. Technically impossible to come back from. They were wacking continuous drips into me, dosed with quinine and fansadar. I completely ballooned up with fluid retention.

I started to realize how sick I had become when Max and Kasim came up to the hospital to see me. I was still at the catatonic phase and couldn’t respond to any one. The two of them came gingerly into the room, took one look at me and without saying a word, turned around and left with a look of horror on their faces. I took that as an extremely bad sign. In four or five days, I’d gone from a fit 29yr old to Michelin man, burning up with fever and looking down the barrel of death.

It was impossible for me to eat and if I had have been able to would have vomited it up immediately. Ulli was continuously pouring fluids into me and I just puked them up immediately. It is one of the problems people have with taking oral medication for malaria as, because of the nausea and vomiting, a lot of the medication is thrown up before the body can absorb it, thus under dosing the patient. One thing you don’t want to do with malaria is under dose yourself as you can knock it back but if you don’t knock it out it just re-gathers strength and comes again.

There were a number of reasons why I survived this bout of malaria. The great Finnish doctor and his banned drugs. W.H.O. saline and quinine, a reasonably robust constitution, but undoubtedly the love and care afforded me by Ulli, was the single most important contribution to my survival. She literally bathed me continually for four days. I’m sure this dropped my temperature that critical fraction between life and death. This was the second time in as many months that she had saved my life. Thanks Bella.

It must have been a seriously crap time for her knowing that I was probably going to die. The body language from the staff was pretty grim and their ability to influence events beyond what they were already doing was nil. They had seen a lot of death and I was just another person in a long line.

Whilst I lay there boiling, with a truly thumping headache and completely unable to communicate I remember thinking, ‘Shit, what a bastard, I’m gonna die here and Ulli is going to have to ring and tell my mother and father, that is so not fair to her.’ I was completely ambivalent about dying. I wasn’t scared, fretful, none of the things you’d expect. From that time to this I have had not a fear of dying, for better or worse.

Finally, we got on top of the fever and I pulled back from the brink. My temperature began to drop, I regained my faculties. I could speak, couldn’t really eat but could drink soft drinks which had sugar in them and I began to get some strength back.

After a day or two more the Doctor said I could leave and stay at the guest house, where there was a functioning toilet and shower. He said to me and Ulli, ‘You both did well, there is no one who has walked out of this hospital who had been as sick as you’.
At first I could stand up but not walk, then slowly I would be able to take a few steps but I was so frail that my energy would die immediately and it was weeks before I fully recovered my strength.

I had gone 11 days without food and my weight had dropped from 69kg’s to about 60kg’s. I was ……..skinny!

I started to regain my strength with the help of the great food cooked for us at the guest house and I started putting on weight.
Now there is a product that Malawi is famous for and that is Pot, It is sometimes described and sold as a ‘cob’. The pot is dried and compressed and wrapped in the husks of maize. We’d heard lots about the amazing Malawi cobs and we were keen to try one. I asked around a bit and were shown a few miserable looking things and bought one. The pot was truly good but the cob didn’t live up to the visual spectacle I’d been told about. We mentioned this to our cook and he said ‘I’ll fix that’.

Next day he came to our room with a sack and inside was half a dozen of the biggest ‘Corn Cobs’ I have ever seen. They were massive and the quality of the pot was diabolical. We’d stumbled on El Dorado. I can’t remember how much they cost but somewhere in the region of a few dollars each, it was ridiculous.

By the time all our health dramas were concluding the roads had reopened and we were able to plan to leave. We arranged to drive in tandem with Kasim and Max down to Lilongwe, the capital and major city in the south of Malawi. Kasim and Max’s boss wanted to meet and thank us for the help with the truck and frankly we weren’t sure if the clutch was truly repaired so a convoy seemed a good idea.

As we drove to Lilongwe we stopped frequently on the side of the road to buy vegetables. We would be cruising along and we’d see maybe five tomatoes piled up on the side of the road in a small pyramid, or a cucumber sitting alone on a banana leaf, maybe a few spuds, mushrooms or a cabbage. We’d stop the truck, wait and soon some woman would come rushing from the bush after hearing the truck stop and sell us her excess produce for just a few cents.

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A huge percentile of Africans, don’t live in the cash economy and selling anything to generate money is imperative if you want to buy sugar, cooking oil etc. I will never forget the taste of those tomatoes. One of my most entrenched memories was the amazing taste of those home grown African tomatoes.

We hit the big smoke of Lilongwe and were welcomed into the homes of Kasim, Max and there extended families. Everyone was interested to hear of our adventures. We made some great friends.

I can remember going to the bus station for fried potatoes. They had these 1 meter round, steel plates slightly conical with boiling cooking oil in the middle fired by a gas burner located underneath and large chunks of potatoes or pieces of meat being deep fried. When the spuds were cooked they would just drag them out of the oil higher up the plate and away from the heat to drain. Then they would serve them with salt, pepper and a Cajun type seasoning. It was beautiful, filling and cheap.

It was time to keep moving and we said our goodbyes to the Max and Kazim, dumped our remaining ‘cobs’ and headed for the border with Zambia.

We crossed over with a couple of young English girls and headed for Lusaka. As evening fell, we pulled into a clearing on the side of the road and proceeded to set up camp. We got our little stools out, tuned my little broadband radio to the BBC, set up the gas cooker and rustled us up some food.

African people would always be intrigued by the mzungus’ in the ‘Bread loaf’ and would shyly peek inside and marvel at the luxury. We often invited people for a cup of tea and this day was no exception. We were in the middle of nowhere but out of the trees came a mix of people. Young, old, shy and the kids invariably inquisitive. One guy came up to me carrying a sack and a bucket and asked if I wanted to buy some tobacco. I declined saying I didn’t smoke but offered him a cuppa. He sat down and we had a drink and a chat when it dawned on me I hadn’t see ‘raw’ tobacco before so asked to have a look in the sack.

He cracks it open and low and behold the bloody thing is full of Pot. I’d nearly missed it. I said ‘This tobacco, I smoke’. He had a 1ltr bucket and we agreed on a price for a bucket of pot. It was completely stupid of me as we were only planning to stay in Zambia for a week or two and a cup would have been tons. I paid a coupla bucks for the lot and had to give the bulk of it away not long after. Duh!

To be honest I think I just liked the idea of buying my pot by the bucket full!

Later a tourist overland truck arrived in our clearing and swept into action like a whirlwind. Tables and trestles were set up, tents pitched, food cooked, sleeping partners decided on, beer drunk, consciousness lost and when the new day dawned the reverse and they were off. Man it was slick.

We didn’t hang around long in Zambia and soon crossed into Zimbabwe. In those days Zimbabwe was positively modern. Good roads, Robots, as traffic lights are beautifully named, lots of modern consumer goods and a modern efficient private sector. We found this great backpackers called Sable lodge, where we parked the truck in the drive way and headed into town for luxuries like Pizza, Mexican food, movies and bars. It was pretty refreshing.

I found an engineering shop to repair the broken axel and turned up with the two pieces. The Zimbabwean owner said yes he could weld it but a better idea was to make a new one. They had exactly the right grade of steel and a brilliant engineering workshop. I came back 3 days later and there was an exact copy and a spare, beautifully made. I pulled out my Vernier to measure the diameters and spec’s on the spline etc to check that it would fit and it was exact and the price? $66U.S., a fraction of a new one or the cost to make one at home. Brilliant. These people are prepared for the coming collapse because they either live it or have recovered from one.

Shortly after we had a slow leak on one of the tires on the truck and I said to Ulli one morning after breakfast, ‘you do the dishes and I will remove the tire and repair the tube’. The wheels were a design called ‘split rims’, where the two sides of the wheel are bolted together, so to remove the tube or replace the tire you simply un- bolted the two halves. A simple and low effort project.

I started working and shortly after, Ulli came out and found me slumped over the tire.

Malaria Case #2.

It’s amazing it just hits me like a bolt of lightning.

We reacted pretty quickly and Ulli got me into a taxi and down to a local doctor. He asked me what was wrong and I stupidly said ‘I think I’ve got Malaria’ to which he hit the roof, saying ‘how would you know. I’m the doctor, I’ll decide, tell me your symptoms’. Grumpy old white bastard that he was.

Surprise, surprise, yep I’ve got malaria. Now I’m not purporting to be an expert but I’d had recent experience and I thought his reaction was a little over the top.

This bout was pretty straight forward. We were careful with the doses and I wasn’t particularly ill. Compared with the first dose it was a breeze.

We made friends with the guy running the lodge and located, in Zimbabwe, something akin to Malawi Cobs. Our van became a focal point of stoners hanging out, drinking a few beers and having a smoke. It was very salubrious.

The next leg of the journey was to our destination, Mozambique. We drove to Mutare which is a hill station town located on the range that separates Zimbabwe from Mozambique.
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We stood at a lookout gazing across the frontier with trepidation into Mozambique. We needed to get from Mutare to Beira. It was a straight forward trip except that there was a civil war raging on both sides of the road. We took a deep breath and set off.

The drive was surreal. The road was deserted except for the odd Military truck patrolling along it and occasional groups of refugees who looked completely traumatized.

One of the first things that were suggested to me, once we arrived in Beira, was to get armed. There was a thriving market for weapons and buying one was simply about deciding what you wanted. You could buy literally anything, an A.K.47 was standard issue, a Walther PPK as made famous by ‘Bond, James Bond’ all available. I wasn’t really into the idea but did see the need to have a weapon, so settled on an 11shot, 9mm semi-automatic Markov, an East European pistol. It cost me U.S. $40 and fortunately we never had to fire it in anger.
My work colleague who organised the pistol suggested he borrow a couple of Mauser sniper rifles from the local military commander and we go into the bush in our truck to shoot game for the local soldiers to eat, the officer commanding was prepared to give us a platoon of soldiers to guard us in exchange for the use of my truck. I replied “You can’t be serious, there’s a war going on out there”. He replied, “Common, we might even get to shoot a Rhinoceros” ! I replied “WTF, there might only be one left”, his retort was “Someone’s got to get it” !!! I knew immediately that the species was doomed.
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We had a wonderful work supplied home adjacent to the Indian Ocean. I had recovered some weight in this picture !

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These are some of my work colleagues, old blurry photo but you get the ‘drift’;

Beira Workmates

I dropped with another bout of malaria whilst working in Beira but it too passed without much ado. Hard to believe you could become passé about malaria but none of the subsequent bouts ever amounted to anything like the debut episode.

Whilst installing the control equipment above, working side by side with my team I had a fall and broke my neck, C3 to be exact.
I fell and when I regained consciousness my white shirt was red and pink half way down my chest from blood seeping from a head wound.
My colleagues carried me to a work truck and rushed me over a pothole covered road to the Beira Hospital which was overrun with victims of the civil war raging in the country that was funded and armed via the apartheid state. No neck brace through all of this!
When we arrived at the hospital a Cuban trained doctor from Sierra Leone preceded to stem the bleeding and take x-rays of my head and shoulders. There was a clear split in the third cervical vertebrae. Whilst the two pieces of the vertebrae hadn’t moved, I was developing pins and needles in my feet and hands indicating some spinal damage !
The doctor preceded to cut the top of a cardboard box, wrap it in cotton wool, wrapped it around my broken neck and then set my head, shoulders and torso in ‘Plaster of Paris’. Her advice to Ulli and me was; “You both need to get out of this country asap, there are no treatment facilities for your injury in this country.”
The reality is I would not be here today were it not for Ulli and the Cuban trained doctor who saved my mobility and no doubt my life. The medical profession in Africa is dominated by Cuban trained doctors.
My employers hired a twin engine Cessna from South Africa to come to medivac me out of the war zone, problematic in itself. In my ‘Plaster of Paris’ cast, I started arguing about our destination. Ulli and I had made a pact to never go to South Africa until the apartheid regime had been overthrown, after much debate we agreed on a medivac to Harare in Zimbabwe instead. Neither the pilot nor my employers were happy with our decision.
The plane arrived and I was carted out to the airfield with the long suffering Ulli supervising and we boarded the old hulk.
The pilot started the planes two engines and their was a flashing red light on the dashboard that read “Engine #2 Generator Failure”. The pilot banged on the dashboard a few times then said “It will be ok” and began taxiing down the runway !
I started complaining and said “What if the Engine #1 Generator Fails” and the pilot admitted that could be a problem ! I pointed out I already had a broken neck and an emergency crash landing in a war zone was somewhat ‘problematic’ for me.
Ulli’s eyes rolling in her head !!
I refused to fly until it had been repaired and I was unceremoniously removed from the plane.
I pointed out to the pilot that I was an electrician and wouldn’t be boarding the plane until the repair was completed, he was somewhat disgruntled with me!
The problem was fixed, I made the pilot prove that he hadn’t simply removed the bulb and we flew out of Beira airport and flew across the beautiful, war ravaged countryside.
We arrived safely in Harare where I went into rehab for a while as the injury stabilised and they carried out tests to decide on my fate. I refused surgery and requested medevac’ing back to Aotearoa NZ.

This is a photo of me recovering in Harare with my new, ‘flash’ neck apparatus;
NECK

When we were in Zimbabwe we met two kiwis who wanted to buy the truck. I asked them what they thought it was worth and they said US$10k. I explained to them that I had been given the truck for free and if they paid me half of that figure then we would all benefit equally. I said I couldn’t sell them Axels’ tools and I DHL’d them from Harare to Berlin !

They jumped at the chance and paid us $5k. After arriving in N.Z we sent a letter to the Max and Kasim enclosing $250 each with instructions to confirm that they had received the dosh. When we received that, we sent them another $250 each. Both of them set up businesses with that money which was a considerable amount of seed capital relatively speaking where they lived. Our chance meeting was life changing for us all.

We were repatriated back to Aotearoa NZ where I sought specialist treatment and was told the injury was healing brilliantly and surgery wasn’t necessary.

About three months after we returned to N.Z. I began working as a contract electrician and was rushing one day to finish a job so I wouldn’t have to return for just a few hours the next day. The moment I was finished and began to relax in the packing up stage, it hit me again. I was walking to the van and wham and I lay down on the grass and waited.

Soon enough the owner of the house came looking for me and was disconcerted to find his electrician lying on the ground like a stunned mullet. He wanted to call an ambulance but I stupidly said “Na, just call my girlfriend and my boss.” John sent one of the boys around to recover the van and Ulli turned up, shaking her head. She was a bit over malaria by this stage. Ulli drove us to a medical centre and we sort help. I was a little reluctant to tell the quack what was wrong with me after getting a bollocking the last time from the arsehole doctor in Zimbabwe.

After he had examined me and was obviously perplexed, I ventured, that I had a suspicion it was malaria. When he heard that I’d been in Africa and had three previous bouts of the bloody thing he started beaming. He couldn’t believe his luck and started taking blood samples for testing. Vial after vial after vial. I said wow, Christ, leave me some. If I hadn’t stopped him he’d a drained me dry. He had called the Lab’ to get an urgent test and they had said, “Get as much as you can and we’ll send it to the University so the students could have a look at the pathogens in his blood.”

Bloody vampires.

But having said that, the head of the tropical diseases unit at Auckland put me on a course of drugs that seems to have cured me and 31 yrs later I haven’t had a recurrence.

When we said our goodbyes to Kasim and Max we said that when we sold the truck we would send them some money as we believed they should be rewarded for their work at the cliff face.

 

Two years later we turned up in Berlin and settled the contract with Axel and Christa. Axel said one of the most amazing aspects of the story for him was answering the door bell and being greeted by a DHL courier holding his tool box.

Full circle!
That was our adventure in Africa, it was a love story. I dedicate this tale to Ulli Eisert. Without her care and love I would not be here today to tell the tale.

Posted in African Adventures, Cuban Trained Doctors

Planet of the Humans on Nature Bats Last

Jeff Gibbs, the director of Planet of The Humans was the guest on the July episode of Nature Bats Last.  The episode is embedded here:
Jeff Gibbs
“Statement from Director Jeff Gibbs On The Censorship Campaign Against “Planet of the Humans”

“This attempt to take down my film and prevent the public from seeing it is a blatant act of censorship by political critics of my movie. It is an attempted misuse of copyright law to shutdown a film that has opened a serious conversation about how parts of the environmental movement have gotten into bed with Wall Street and so-called “green capitalists.” There is absolutely no copyright violation in my film. This is just another attempt by the film’s opponents to subvert my right to free speech.”

“Opponents of my film, who do not like it’s critique of the failures of the environmental movement, have worked for weeks to have my film taken down and to block me from appearing on TV and on livestream. Their efforts to subvert free speech have failed, with nearly eight and a half million people already viewing the film on YouTube. These Trumpian tactics are shameful, and their aim to stifle free speech and prevent people from grappling with the uncomfortable truths exposed in this film is deeply disturbing.”

“PEN America, which was founded in 1922 and fights for the free speech of artists in the U.S. and around the world, came out strongly and denounced the initial attempt to censor this film, and we hope all champions of free expression condemn this act of censorship. We are working with YouTube to resolve this issue and have the film back up as soon as possible.”

Bill McKibben from 350.org featured in the documentary and has since written critically of the documentary. Jeff Gibbs response is embedded in the following link; Response to Bill McKibben regarding Planet of the Humans.

I have been sceptical of Bill McKibben since I attended and spoke on a panel at a climate change conference at Victoria University Wellington in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2006. McKibben was the keynote speaker who pretended to cry when talking about AGW. I was with a group of indigenous speakers from the South Pacific Islands, Kiribati and the Solomon Islands. They agreed with me that he lacked credibility.
I will also note that 350 ppm of carbon in the atmosphere was never safe. The target set and promulgated by 350.org was never safe, the 1.5C / 2C guardrail set by the IPCC was patently never safe.

The next episode of NBL will feature a conversation with Dr. Sid Smith, Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Hampden-Sydney College and General Secretary of the Green Party of Virginia. We will be discussing his presentation titled: How to Enjoy the End of the World.

The next episode will broadcast live on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm EST, the 4th of August in the United States. If you miss the broadcast, you can find shows in the archives at PRN.fm, the podbean, or at Stitcher, and feel free to rate us on iTunes.

 

Posted in Jeff Gibbs, Michael Moore, Nature Bats Last, Professor Guy McPherson, Sid Smith

Professor Corey Bradshaw explains the unfolding “Extinction Cascades” on Nature Bats Last.

Professor Corey Bradshaw from Flinders University was this months guest on Nature Bats Last.

The audio of the episode is embedded here:

“Dr. Bradshaw is the Matthew Flinders Fellow in Global Ecology at Flinders University, where he directs the Global Ecology Laboratory and is also Chief Investigator of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Australian Biodiversity and Heritage. He heads the Flinders Modelling Node of the latter organization. Professor Bradshaw has published some 300 peer-reviewed scientific articles, 11 book chapters and 3 books. His book titles include The Effective Scientist, published by Cambridge University Press and, from Chicago University Press and co-authored by occasional guest on this show Professor Paul Ehrlich, Killing the Koala and Poisoning the Prairie. In total, his work has been cited more than 20,000 times. Bradshaw is co-Head of the Ecology Section of the Faculty of 1000 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of South Australia. He was awarded the 2017 Verco Medal from the Royal Society of South Australia, a 2017 Rockefeller Foundation ‘Bellagio’ Writer’s Fellowship, the 2010 Australian Ecology Research Award from the Ecological Society of Australia, the 2010 Scopus Young Researcher of the Year, the 2009 HG Andrewartha Medal, and a 2008 Young Tall Poppy Science Award. He is regularly featured in Australian and international media for his research. The Professor’s blog has been visited more than 2.3 million times.” Quoting  Professor Guy McPherson

Links to Professor Bradshaw’s published works are embedded here, his personal blog with a subscription option is Conservation Bytes 

“More than 99% of all species that have ever existed have gone extinct”. See the short presentation at the top of the Professor Bradshaw’s blog for more on that diamond of information and lets get over our human hubris and invincibility.
We have previously discussed on the show Professor Bradshaw’s work with Professor Paul Ehlich. That episode is embedded in the following link: Professor Paul Ehrlich returns to Nature Bats Last
Until recently I assumed that at least Tardigrades would get through the extinction bottleneck. That has recently be called into question as we discussed on the show and  below;
“Tardigrades are tough little critters. When conditions get nasty, they can dry out, reconfigure their bodies and enter suspended animation – called dessication – for years. You can throw virtually anything at them: frozen temperatures, zero oxygen, high pressures, the vacuum of space, cosmic radiation, and even being boiled.”

“But new research has shown these tiny organisms may have a weakness – long-term exposure to high temperatures, even in their dessicated state. The longer the temperatures are maintained, the lower the tardigrades’ chances of survival.”
Tardigrades Are Basically Indestructible, But Scientists Just Found Their Weak Point

In the following embedded Flinders University presentation Professor Bradshaw jokes that his colleagues describe him as Dr or Professor Doom. This subtle form of gas lighting has stoked scientific reticence as the extinction event accelerates, discouraging the less courageous scientists from telling you what they really think is unfolding. Professor Guy McPherson and I admire Professor Bradshaw’s courage, professionalism and scientific integrity. BRAVE | There’s No Plan(et) B – What you can do about Earth’s extinction emergency.

Carl Sagan Extinction is the rule.

Professor Bradshaw and I discussed the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. Embedded below is the trailer to a new documentary titled “Murder On The Reef”

All my time at sea over 16 ‘blue water’ passages and hundreds of races taught me the importance of the “Precautionary Principal”. The prudent skipper needs a wide margin of error. Caution and prudence seems to have been cast to the wind as the dominant culture grinds the living planet into dust.
Next months guest will be Jeff Gibbs, director of “Planet of the Humans” recently censored off You Tube for daring to question the renewables sector.

Posted in Abrupt Climate Change, Corey Bradshaw, Extinction Cascades, Extinction Rebellion, Jeff Gibbs, Nature Bats Last, Professor Guy McPherson, Professor Paul Ehrlich, The Great Barrier Reef

We’re actually heading for a 10C global mean temperature increase in the coming decade or two. Probably much sooner.

“John Doyle is a long time EU staffer stationed in Brussels. Stuart Scott was asked to make a ‘reality-check’ presentation to UN aid agencies with responsibility ( for) climate change in May 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. Here is John’s ‘catastrophe-check’ to UN aid agencies. Diplomacy is the art and science of posturing, distortion and fabrication about underlying false and ideological mental positions about reality. We are operating under a global political network of self-delusional agencies and individuals who seem to believe that if they just keep repeating a false narrative about Reality it will become true and real.”

In the above presentation John Doyle mentioned the imminent threat of European cities facing “Wet Bulb Temperatures”, I have covered that issue previously here:
Additionally it was mentioned that we could lose the Arctic Sea Ice later this year! The consequences of that are described in the following embedded link; Cascading Consequences of the Loss of Arctic Sea Ice
“Losing the remaining Arctic sea ice and its ability to reflect incoming solar energy back to space would be equivalent to adding one trillion tons of CO2 to the atmosphere, on top of the 2.4 trillion tons emitted since the Industrial Age, according to current and former researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego.”
“At current rates, this roughly equates to 25 years of global CO2 emissions.”
Our former guest on Nature Bats Last on PRN.FM Robert Hunziker has recently published the following on Counterpunch: “Earth at 10°C above pre-industrial is unimaginable. It’s a deadly horrifying thought, but as shall be explained herein, it should not be dismissed out of hand.”
“The following story might be labeled as reckless, and it might be criticized as a fearmongering piece of journalism and probably will be. Nevertheless, “10C Above Baseline” explores a dystopian world envisioned by John Doyle, Sustainable Development Policy Coordinator of the European Commission in Brussels.” 10C Above Baseline

John Doyle mentioned the President of Finland saying “If We Lose The Arctic We Lose The World”, that quote can be substantiated here:President Niinistö in North Russia: ‘If We Lose the Arctic, We Lose the World’.

Corroborating John Doyle’s analysis is the following post from Sam Carana’s Arctic News Blog:
“How much could temperatures rise? As the image shows, a rise of more than 10°C (18°F) could take place, resulting in mass extinction of many species, including humans.”

“How fast could such a temperature rise eventuate? As above image also shows, such a rise could take place within a few years. The polynomial trend is based on NASA January 2012-February 2017 anomalies from 1951-1980, adjusted by +0.59°C to cater for the rise from 1750 to 1951-1980. The trend points at a 3°C rise in the course of 2018, which would be devastating. Moreover, the rise doesn’t stop there and the trend points at a 10°C rise as early as the year 2021.“Abrupt Warming – How Much And How Fast?

Don’t expect the psychopaths at the helm of our sinking, burning ship to stand idly bye as the planet incinerates. I expect to see a false flag attack on Russia or China by the empire of chaos creating a nuclear winter. If you think that’s an insane suggestion have a close look at the lunatics in power in Britain and Washington. The Inevitability of Nuclear War and Subsequent Nuclear Winter
Time is very short, seize the moment.

Grim Reaper

Posted in Early Stage Runaway, John Doyle, Rapid Climate Change, Robert Hunziker

“Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change”

To understand the true severity of our predicament it is imperative to connect as many disparate, peer reviewed analysis, as are available and to then apply the precautionary principal. Below is a synthesis of peer reviewed papers and some audio and video explanations of them.
Abstract:
“Climate change and human activity are dooming species at an unprecedented rate via a plethora of direct and indirect, often synergic, mechanisms. Among these, primary extinctions driven by environmental change could be just the tip of an enormous extinction iceberg. As our understanding of the importance of ecological interactions in shaping ecosystem identity advances, it is becoming clearer how the disappearance of consumers following the depletion of their resources — a process known as ‘co-extinction’ — is more likely the major driver of biodiversity loss. Although the general relevance of co-extinctions is supported by a sound and robust theoretical background, the challenges in obtaining empirical information about ongoing (and past) co-extinction events complicate the assessment of their relative contributions to the rapid decline of species diversity even in well-known systems, let alone at the global scale. By subjecting a large set of virtual Earths to different trajectories of extreme environmental change (global heating and cooling), and by tracking species loss up to the complete annihilation of all life either accounting or not for co-extinction processes, we show how ecological dependencies amplify the direct effects of environmental change on the collapse of planetary diversity by up to ten times”.“Co-extinctions annihilate planetary life during extreme environmental change”

One of the co-authors of the above peer reviewed article Professor Corey Bradshaw was interviewed on Radio Ecoshock. That interview is embedded here: The Rules of Extinction

“A new study shows that as rising heat drives some key species extinct, it will affect other species, as well, in a domino effect.” Unchecked Global Warming Could Collapse Whole Ecosystems, Maybe Within 10 Years

“It gets unimaginably worse by the day, of course. Recent information from the peer-reviewed journal literature finally caught up to me in concluding the Sixth Mass Extinction could annihilate all life on Earth. A paper in Scientific Reports draws this conclusion based upon the rate of environmental change, consistent with my own conclusions. More than a decade after I began pointing out in this space the importance of interactions between organisms, particularly the relatively unknown yet important microbes, microbial life is deemed important in a synthetic paper in the 18 June 2019 issue of Nature Reviews Microbiology: “[Microbes] support the existence of all higher lifeforms and are critically important in regulating climate change.” Five-and-a-half years after I described the horrors of interacting factors, a paper in the 21 December 2018 issue of Science concludes such interactions are tremendously important.”
“Extinction Foretold, Extinction Ignored”.
Below is a comprehensive overview of our predicament from my co-host on Nature Bats Last on the Progressive Radio Network.

Professor McPherson’s latest peer reviewed paper is embedded here:
“The new study, published in the journal Science Advances, shows that even with extremely conservative estimates, species are disappearing up to about 100 times faster than the normal rate between mass extinctions, known as the background rate.”
Paul Ehrlich and others use highly conservative estimates to prove that species are disappearing faster than at any time since the dinosaurs’ demise.” Stanford researcher declares that the sixth mass extinction is here:

Our predicament can only be worse than we know and our tenure on this planet less certain than even the most pessimistic of us surmise. The Black Swan‘s are circling, the likely hood of another threat to this set of living arrangements arriving before the current threat abates is a certainty and then rinse and repeat.
“A catastrophic loss in biodiversity, reckless destruction of wildland and warming temperatures have allowed disease to explode. Ignoring the connection between climate change and pandemics would be “dangerous delusion,” one scientist said.”
“How Climate Change Is Contributing to Skyrocketing Rates of Infectious Disease”
These literally are the “Good Old Days”.

Carl Sagan Extinction is the rule.

Posted in Corey Bradshaw, Extinction Cascades, Nature Bats Last, Professor Guy McPherson, Professor Paul Ehrlich
Kevin Hester

Kevin Hester is currently living on Rakino Island, a small island in the Hauraki Gulf near Auckland, New Zealand, monitoring the unravelling of the biosphere and volunteering at the Rakino Island Nursery is currently developing a proposal to create a marine reserve near by. The Island has no grid tied electricity or reticulated water.  I catch my own water from the roof and generate my electricity from the ample solar radiation on the island.

My Submission to the Ministry of the Environment
Kevin Hester, Dropping Anchor in an Exponential World
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