Cockatoo Island 2006 Week 1

Looking back on last week’s post I realize I have been too engrossed in Voyage of the Beagle. Nevertheless, we are seeing evidence of rats in some of the more hidden locations, no doubt a legacy of the shipbuilding that took place here for many years. It is clear that part of our final report will have to include an eradication plan.

Cockatoo staff and rangers have been extremely helpful in arranging for us to inspect every location we have requested.

Cockatoo Inspection 2007 Finished

I am happy to say that the Rodent Eradication Project that we initiated last year seems to have been completely successful. We found no droppings or other evidence of rats in the cavernous areas we targetted last year, or anywhere else for that matter.

We also inspected some of the buildings for termites and found them pest-free. Laura shot numerous photos to document, some of which I have included in the post.

Cockatoo Inspection 2010 Conclusion

The time and budget allotted for this year’s inspection has now been expended and I feel we have done a very thorough job with one glaring exception. We still have not been able to view what people increasingly call the ‘cave’. Ted Wilson has been unreachable and other staff are too busy with their own responsibilities to get involved. We have all agreed to let this go another year as there has not been any indication of pests that would cause any worry.

Cockatoo Inspection 2011

Our plan for the 2011 Inspection of Cockatoo Island is similar to last year’s in that we will rely on sampling rather than the full inspection which we have conducted every third year and which was last performed in 2009. However, because the former dockyards are such a large area, we will spend a little more time there this year than in previous years. Of course we will also do a full inspection of the tunnels and especially the cavernous area associated with them as we have not been able to examine them for several years now.

Cockatoo Inspection 2011 Cave

Well, we have come to the same impass as in previous years. Ted Wilson continues to resist our inspection of the large cavernous area formed by one of the tunnels that was not fully built out. As no one has time to pursue this further and we have no authority to forcibly enter we must again omit this area from this year’s inspection. Fortunately, our lack of inspection in recent years seems not to have had any deleterious effect on controlling pests on the island as we continue to find the island pest-free.

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 to the Cave

I’ve been very busy with assignments but managed to get back to Ted’s cave this weekend. Since the lock was broken I can basically get in any time I want, though I don’t want to attract too much attention or they may lock it again. I also don’t want other people going inside and removing objects or rearranging things before I’ve had a chance to explore. It’s hard to know what could be in the mind of the person who made all this stuff. They feel like religious objects of veneration or the means to a ritual, but it is so foreign that it’s hard to image let alone visualize what is going on.

As I wander about I often find myself in a maze of twisty little passages, all of them different, as if I were in a colossal cave.

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.