31 May 2006

Trouble in Tasmania - the Pirates of the Weld

My alarm goes off and I stumble bleary eyed out of my cabin onto the deck, it must be time for my watch. A possum strolls across the moonlit bow...... eh???

I'm on a whole different kind of ship, a life size pirate ship built in the forest. I'm living at a blockade in the middle of the Tasmanian forests. The camp is on the end of a forestry road blocking access to 2000 threatened hectares of ancient tall trees forest bordering the Tasmanian World Heritage Area, a protected areas of wildernes that stops as soon as the tall tress begin.. funny that.

Forests that have been growing here undisturbed, for longer than we've been on this planet are now being logged by Gunns, who own 4 wood-chip mills in Tassie, their contractors and under the mismanagement of Foretsry Tasmania. Most of the trees end up as woodchip. Paper.... Nice report your printing out? and is that loo roll good and soft for you? There was a whole family of spotted quolls living under that tree.

The pirate ship is built on the road and has a sit up it mast, and around there are many more lock-ons, fort style barricades, tripods, mono-poles and tree sits up huge threatened eucalyptus trees.

The forest is breathtaking, I still cant believe I've been lucky enough to call it home, eucalyptus trees have always been my favourite and here are whole forests of them! Along with my fave from New Zealand, the Ponga tree-ferns, called man ferns here. See My forest pictures on Flickr

Mad Marsupials
Kookaburras cackle like gangs of monkeys in the forest as flocks of black cockatoos circle the camp. Night falls and the little marsupials come out to play.. Possums fight over our compost scraps and knock pans over in the kitchen. Creatures with acient linage that have been wiped out on the mainland still roam these forests. Walking about in the bush and driving the forest roads at night you can spot stripy bum bandicoots, wallabies and spotted quoll. I didn't get a glimpse of a Tassie Devil though, there is a mystery blood transferred catchable cancer wiping out their population, no one knows what started it, but the chemicals used in the forestry plantations are high up on in the possibilities....

There is a Platipus living in the in the creek that runs through the camp, where we get our water from. Catching a glimpse of this crazy shy duckbilled marsupial is rare, but one night on the way to the fabulous camp firebath secluded out in the bush I heard an unmistakable splosh so sat down on the bankand I watched it swimming about for ages.

I love the smell of napalm in the morning

The clear-fells. Ouch. What can I say... look at the pics. There is a clear-fell just out the front of camp, and its what forestry plan to do with the forest in my photos. They chop everything down and take out what they want. Then they then drop this stuff, extremely similar to Napalm, and burn.. burn.. burn.. My forest destruction pictures on Flickr

Reminicant of the Stockon mine overshadowing Happy Valley, while living in the beautiful rainforest every now and then in the distance you can hear the sounds of chain-saws, the beep of macherery then the slow chilling crash of falling trees. Suddenly the atmosphere at camp changes, you can see the pain and anger in people faces. And the passion. "I can't sit around and listen to this.. lets go out tonight and *******"

The local rednecks and forestry workers aren't keen on the camp, they totalled one of the camp's cars and they sometimes drive up near the camp at night the weekends and let of gunshots in the darkness.. but nothing more serious than failed attempts at intimidation so far..

Doing it backwoods style
Anyway....back to that first night on the deck of the pirate ship.... I'd just arrived in Tassie and when I first met up with the crew for a lift earlier in the day everyone was really flaked out and vague.. I started to wonder if this was all a bad plan.. Then I found out they had just all got out o the cop shop after getting up at 3 am to lock on to a bunch of machinery.. their 3rd action that week. Wicked, my kinda crew! Recent Tassie forest actions

My alarm has gone off at midnight for a reason. Logging is currently happening up in a nearby coup around the nests of the endangered wedge tailed eagle, and there are only 117 breeding pairs left. The tripods and lock-ons have stopped work for most of the week.

Get in the the the back of the van! - Tonight is no different... a few hours later I'm pegging it down a dirt road after the van after we see headlights approaching, leaping in the door and being grabbed by many arms as I roll inside and we speed of into the night...

The next night the road was successfully blocked by a another tripod and 'Wedgie Wilderness or Wasteland' banner ready to block the contractors arriving in the morning.. See my pics from the action and pics of the camp here>> Resistance Pictures on Flickr

Across the forest is another area being logged, the Styx. There has been a tree sit, continusly occupied for 51 days by another of the Tassie crew in the cold wind and even deep snow.. after many failed attempts we was finally removed James Bond style with cops rappelling down to his sit from a chopper.

land of giants
The big trees really are big.. there are tree sits SO high up. At seeing some pics I took up a UK tree sit someone exclaimed "Its so close to the ground!". In Tasmania only Trees over 83 meters tall are protected, whatever the species, so many of the many 'smaller' giants (oh, only 50-80 meaters high!) are, up for the chop and have been felled.

The tree sits are at anything from about 30-60 meters up these giants.. It takes a long, long time to prussic up, and I have total respect for these guys that have at times, for months on end, been heading up these trees every night. I still have calluses on my hands from my few prussicing and absailing excursions into the canopy.

Link to video clip of me in a tree sit

My Big Tree Pictures and tree climbing pics can by viewed here on Flickr

Tree Fishing

So how to you climb such big trees? Well you can try Larching (I think its called that) when you loop 2 bits of rope around the tree and hang prussics of them and slide them up.. and basically friction stops you falling.. But its lots of slipping about and I'm not sure my nerves will take that at height! Another way it the art of tree fishing.. Take one bow & arrow.. add weight the front end of the arrow and attach fishing line to the back end. Get ready with fishing reel and shoot away. The art it to get the arrow over the branch then stop the real as soon as possible to stop the arrow heading off to get tangled in other trees!

It was great do an ideas swap and to learn heaps new skills (some of which I wont be mentioning on a public blog!)

But oh! it was so cold! There was snow on the mountain some days and I had 2 sleeping bags, a big blanket and a hot water bottle every night brrrrrr.

Oh no, its the pigs!

One night we were driving back from a stomping bush dance, with out one sober driver and about ten of us ferals rolling about drunk in the back of the van and we were pulled over by the local cops, initially for a dodgy exhaust.

A cop came over.. shining his torch in the van windows looking at each person in turn, then stuck his heads through the window to ask.. "OK, it there anyone in this van I haven't arrested this week?" *muffled giggles* "oh, Who are you? your next week right?" *less muffled giggles* "Jane? is Jane here" *sweeps his torch around* "Oh hi Jane, were done with your rucksack now, you can pick it up from the custody desk.."

Driver's breadth test was passed so we drove of howling with laughter into the night... wow the cops here are nice!

It was hard to leave the forest, its is so unbelievable wrong that they are clear-felling this ancient woodland to make paper. Also it was hard to leave the amazing folks living out here, doing such great work.

And what of my friend the platypus, sloshing around in his little creek - our life-source? We bush pirates can move on to other places, but where would he go if the area was chopped and burned? Would he make it out?

Check out all my Tasmainia photos on flickr

1 comment:

cookie said...

To the tune of: Hotel California

On a dark forest highway, cool wind in my hair
Warm smell of eucalyptus, rising up through the air
Up ahead in the distance, I saw a flickering fiirelight
My head grew heavy and my sight grew dim
I had to stop for the night

There they blocked the roadway;
the trees were not to sell
And I was thinking to myself,
this could be heaven or this could be hell
Then they lit up a head-torch and showed me the way
There were voices from the pirate ship,
I thought I heard them say...

Welcome to the camp weld blockade
Such a lovely place
Forestry won't deface
Plenty of room at the camp weld blockade
Any time of year, you can find us here

Their minds are mushy-twisted, they got the stones bends
They got a lot of barking, barking dogs, that they calls friends
How they munt round the fire, away from the winter wet.
Some munt to remember, some munt to forget

So I called on the fezzers,
please bring me some wine
They said, we only had goon here for a very long time
And still those voices are calling from far away,
Wake you up in the middle of the night
Just to hear them say...

Welcome to the camp weld blockade
Such a lovely place
Forestry won't deface
There livin it up at the camp weld blockade
What a nice surprise, bring your alibis

Smoke crystals on the ceiling,
Sweet stones on ice
And they said we are all just prisoners here, of our own device
And in the tarp chambers,
They gathered for the meet
How to take out forestry,
How to bring down the beast

Last thing I remember, I was
Running for the gate
I had to get my passage back
and not be late,
relax, said the ferals,
We are here to receive.
You can walkout any time you like,
But you can never leave!