23 July 2013
Most of us take roofing, for granted. But for Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve ranger, Barry Lyon, such luxuries have been a long time coming! Barry reveals how stoked he was at the prospect of getting shelter from the elements for his crew and gear, especially when the annual Crocodile Research trip time rolls around again.
Living and working on the Steve Irwin Wildlife Reserve we have a saying: "If there is not something exciting going on at the moment, then something just happened, or is about to happen!" For example, as I am writing this, some Torres Strait pigeons have just landed in a Nonda plum tree nearby and begun feeding eagerly on its fruits. These are beautifully coloured white and dark brown birds that migrate to parts of tropical Australia each summer from New Guinea to breed.
Something also incredibly exciting that has been happening over the past couple of years is the building of our operational base at Coolibah, near the Wenlock River - and all by volunteers! Coolibah is in fact an abandoned sawmill, where a bloke by the name of Smiley Burnett and his family cut railway sleepers back in the 1970's for the distant town of Weipa. Amongst the burnt-out ruins (from bushfires many times over the decades) there remains a large concrete slab.
So back in 2009, our son-in-law Drew Polderman, reckoned he could get a crew together and build a decent roof over the slab. It must be understood that all the while we rangers and visitors on the Reserve have been camping out - full time, in all types of weather. To have protection from the elements for us and our gear was a hugely exciting prospect. Drew and the two business partners he works for - Aaron Johnson and Mitch Schofield of Weipa Cabinets and Building, got together to design a suitable structure for the 20 X 13 metre slab.
In December of that year they brought over a truck and bobcat and other equipment, and with help from a number of Weipa tradesmen and volunteers, tidied up the slab and concreted in the posts. This was a fairly major effort. The truck had to come the long way, requiring a 14-hour round trip from Weipa over rough gravel roads. Four-wheel drives coming the short way had to contend with an even rougher track, and the deep river crossing over the Wenlock. It was also the hottest time of the year, with daily maximums averaging 36 degrees Celsius, and storms all about. The work was finished only a few days before the monsoon arrived, closing all road access for five months.
Volunteers ramp it up
The following July, the trio and their band of volunteers returned. Drew drove a Manitou - a type of small mobile crane across the Wenlock to aid with construction, while a truck brought in the trusses, beams and roofing iron that had earlier been barged into Weipa, again the long way. This lively crew completed the so-called shed (it has a very attractive hip roof) in a staggering two days. They also installed a gas stove and huge kitchen bench. A mighty effort! The building was thus ready for the forthcoming month-long crocodile research trip, and was roundly applauded by the croc research team who formerly camped under flapping tarps that often tore free in strong winds. As well as providing shelter for us, the shed is also vital for storing vehicles and equipment in at all times of year, and especially over the wet season.
A note of thanks
This July, Drew cranked up again, and with Mitch and Dan Wright, built in an office, two showers and an extra toilet over a mere two days. Plumbers Jason Stelling and Phil Ryle plumbed in a pressure pump, taps and other amenities. Once more it was ready for the annual croc trip, with the new additions making life much easier. So this article is a way for Australia Zoo to say a huge 'thank you', especially to Drew, Mitch, Aaron and Dan who undertook the brunt of the work and/or volunteered essential machinery and tools. A full list of those involved in the building are: Drew Polderman, Mitch Schofield, Aaron Johnson, Sean White, Dan Wright and Noel Stankey (all from Weipa Cabinets and Building), Dave Hill, Tony Michael, Brynn Philliskirk, Jason Stelling and Phil Ryle. Ranger Josh Lyon and many of the worker's wives or partners helped with the catering.
2013 Croc Trip Donations
The 2013 trip will be soon underway, and we're requesting your support in making a donation or donating food or materials for this important research for the benefit of our future generations. To make a donation or to find out more information please call Australia Zoo on 07 5436 2000 or email email@example.com.
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