Kiama Assignment

It never ceases to amaze me how routine inspections of pestilence can reveal hidden gems. Recently we were called to a two story home because of a cockroach infestation and we found the place a mess of strewn packages of clothes, fabric, household-goods, newspapers, magazines, books, etc. But among the detritus we found a book entitled The Lives of Animals from 1893 and to my great surprise and excitement it contains a drawing of corals.

I am reminded of several previous engagements, such as the apartment in downtown Sydney where we found fabric imprinted with insects or the house on Robinson Street which was jam-packed with a huge variety of art works and other objects. I find myself increasing drawn to these artefacts and wish I had more time to understand their inner meaning and the place they held in the minds of those that created and collected them.


Came across a strange story yesterday on Fox News Latino. The mummified remains of a fetus, which weighed 3 pounds and 12 ounces, were found during an abdominal X-ray exam of a woman in the Dominican Republic who had been suffering stomach pains for decades. (A girlfriend of mine tells me that there was an episode last summer on the series All Saints that featured a similar condition.)

In looking at the Wikipedia I discovered that such a fetus is termed a Lithopedion and that though it is rare it is not unknown.

The cause was already described in 1881 by the American journal of obstetrics and diseases of women and children, Volume 14, Issues 1-2, p. 331, which states

Sometimes the foregoing inflammatory changes do not occur as the result of the death of the fetus, in which case the fluid contents of the sac is reabsorbed, the walls collapse and come in contact with the fetal cadaver. The skin of the latter, and at a later period the deep seated soft tissues, undergo fatty degeneration and form a greasy substance, consisting of fat, lime salts, cholesterin crystals, and blood pigment. At a later period, the fluid portions absorb, so that nothing remains but the bones, lime lamellae, and incrustations upon the walls of the sac, or the fetus may shrink up like a mummy, preserving its shape and organs to the minutest detail (Spiegelberg). A fetus thus altered is termed a lithopedion. It can remain imbedded in connective tissue for years without injury to the mother. The lithopedion of Leinzell was removed in 1720 from a woman ninety-four years of age who had carried it for forty-six years. The presence of the lithopedion does not prevent pregnancy from taking place. In some cases, it may, after years, excite suppuration – a result which is fostered, according to Spiegelberg, by pregnancy and labor. Recovery may follow the artificial extraction of the foreign body, or death may result from inflammation and the discharge of pus.

I found an earlier story entitled The curious case of the stone baby that among other things decries the common tendency to create curiosities out of such phenomena:

In 1582, the autopsy findings of Madame Chatri – complete with illustrations depicting the woman and her stone child — became an instant medical bestseller and the calcified fetus was quickly sold to a wealthy French merchant (sort of the P.T. Barnum of his day) who put it on display at his museum of curiosities in Paris. The fossilized fetus reportedly changed hands several times after that, finally ending up in the King of Denmark’s royal museum in 1653. Two hundred years later, the museum was dissolved and the stone fetus was transferred to the Danish Museum of Natural History.

Cockatoo Inspection 2012 Crisis

Yesterday Laura and her team reported that some of the staff were concerned that the smells noticed in the vicinity of the cavernous areas where we set rat poison several years ago were an indication that these pests have returned. This has made the situation with Ted Wilson whereby we are prevented from inspecting these areas untenable. I spoke with John who tried to reach Ted and found him on the ferry headed home. It appears that Ted has become increasingly erratic and spends much of his time in the ‘cave’, even sleeping there.  The staff consensus was to forcibly remove the lock and enter in order to conduct the inspection, but nothing had prepared us for the experience that ensued.

Even as I write about this tonight I find myself immersed in the mysteries of this cave, reliving the experience as if I were still there.  The sweet smell of beeswax mixes with the odour of fertile, humid soil. My eyes resist the dimness of the cave and I rub my face. I look around in this uneasy environment and see a workspace, crammed with tools and a section of soil in the back. It looks like an excavation. The walkway I am on leads me past buckets, tubs and tools, piles of slabs of beeswax and a makeshift desk full of uncleaned, earthy artefacts. I find myself standing in front of a honeycombed section of soil, at eye-level with cavities and tunnels that branch deep into this earthen wall. The hollows compose a larger form, something like a mould of a human female figure. Am I the only one who is seeing this?  What is going on here?

Back Again to the Cave

I have decided to put a lock on the entrance to the cave. The staff and rangers clearly have no interest in it and I am worried that someone else will get it. Ted Wilson seems to have had a lock on it for a year and possibly two without any one noticing, so I should be OK. It is a shame that I can only come on the weekends.

Today I took a few pictures of some of the objects inside. I am contemplating cataloguing them.

Cave Artefacts 1

I have decided to start tagging some of the artefacts in order to facilitate cataloguing. The whole process is not very systematic, but it is one of discovery.

I have also decided to ask the staff if I can move some of the more interesting artefacts to another location for study. The old Officers’ Barracks/Superintendent’s house would be an excellent location if they will let me use it.

It’s fascinating how many of these wax objects resemble coral.

Tallong Apple Day

Had a chance to visit the Tallong Apple Day yesterday. It’s refreshing to step back in time to visit a Southern Highlands country fair and eat too much of the wonderful apple pies on offer. The local fire brigade put on quite a show. And not a pest in sight!!

I have been thinking a great deal about some of the more personal items I have found among Ted’s artefacts. I feel I should respect his privacy, but I have such as strong need to get to the heart of what drove him to create all these mysterious objects. I have resolved to permit myself access to this material for the purposes of investigation, but will do my best to guard against public exposure. I wish I could speak with Ted about these things, but perhaps I can find someone who will shed more light on the events that are behind this creative outpouring.

Cockatoo Lab

I have spent significant time traveling over the last few weeks and have been too involved in other matters to post. But during this time I thought a great deal about the artefacts in the ‘cave’ and I have become more determined to uncover their hidden meaning. So, I have come to the conclusion that I need to put more focus on the crude lab I started in Building 2. As a result, I set about to accumulate some more equipment during my travels and so far have acquired the following items:

  • Microscope
  • Magnifying Lamp
  • Red Heat-lamps
  • Glass Vitrines
  • Fabric for Underlays (I came across some red silk to which I am uneasily drawn.)

I hope to install these items on site as soon as possible.

Cockatoo Lab II

Got back to the island this weekend in order to install some equipment. Took a camera along this time for a few shots, like this one of the building in which I have been permitted to set up the lab. I am strangely attracted to a number of the artefacts I have discovered, especially those made of beeswax, and would like to mount them in such a way that I can easily review them as I explore the meaning of Ted’s creations. It occurs to me to wonder if there could be anything hidden inside these objects.