A Surveyors Short Story

With the average age of a surveyor rising, with more retiring than being recruited each year… there is definitely call for change! We began our campaign last month to collect everyone’s stories and create some snippets of information to share with the community. This is so they can see how awesome a career in geospatial really is!

Our aim: to showcase how diverse the industry is, what adventures it can take you on and the opportunities it could bring.

Please visit our Facebook and Instagram pages for more fun content. Plus longer videos are being added to our YouTube channel throughout the week.

A Short Story by Gary Hinkley, Australia.

During my early career in remote Solomon Islands, I lived an exciting life. “A Cadets Dream!” in remote Environments, in which I witnessed many exciting events, foreign compared to my past!​ This story is of my adventure in Islands North of Australia, unfolded & sporadic at first, but rapidly my expertise increased!

“It’s the real deal!” all events will graphically illustrate how my expertise germinated while venturing in these Islands. Originally, I had gained this role through default! I.e. “Not many people applied for the position”! Why? A 2-year contract in isolation… I didn’t hesitate and grabbed the opportunity to immerse myself in this learning curve; with a further bonus of living in a pristine Environmental Paradise.

After the initial training, I was given Sole responsibility for field data collection in Hydrology/Geology (mainly charting Core Drilling , obtaining data results of depths & angles). Surveying was a much larger learning curve. I had left Australia in a world of relative safety and personal comfort, now choosing adventure instead.

I boarded the latest American Boeing aircraft in Australia, then departed for New Guinea with a hotel stop over at Rabaul. I had acted as a tourist to visit the major Rabaul (Tavurvur) Volcano of New Guinea (which prior to the 1994 eruption, was a visually fabulous place to view the bubbling red cauldron of lava). Stationed in the luxury Colonial Hotel, our group of 6 young professionals edged their way to “arrogance and self-importance”. *Alarm Bells* should have rung!!! The next day we were all in for a shock and reality soon set in. Our egos were rapidly deflated plus about to be addressed and penalized. Upon boarding the aeroplane our eyes opened in shock. It was an ancient D C 3 Aircraft, which now in more recent times are used as a Cargo Transport Aircraft. Immediately we were directed to position ourselves in the Cargo Hold – a freezing area where Butchered Animals were hanging from the rafters (yes, our egos were instantly trimmed back and deflated!). I chose a whole Lamb carcass to stand next to and gritted my teeth. It lasted for a whole 2 hours, that seemed like a full day!

Upon arrival and slowly thawing out, I spent the night in a Sak-Sak Hut in the Compound. As I was about to sleep I witnessed a Cat, who had paused at my open doorway – it then looked me up & down!? “Here Pussy Cat” I naively said. As I looked closer, shock, I discovered it was a giant rat!! The rat did not take a backward step and it simply continued to look me up and down; like a potential meal I thought to myself! No sleep that night- Welcome to the tropics Gary!

The following morning we were all transferred by helicopter to our Exploration Camp Site; while in flight I viewed the Island. I was gifted with views of barren seas, laden with coral reefs and marine life. Rivers skirted the shores and flowed unpolluted into their Ocean wonderland. Poetically creepy scenes emerged with volcanoes standing like giant Grenadier Guards; reaching for the skies, protecting the wilderness and demanding respect. Never-ending rainforests, viewing many rivers that were darkened by surrounding dense jungles with giant trees.

After settling into my responsibilities, I made a number of field trips. During one exploration trip (most via helicopters), my hydrology recording surveys were being witnessed by “unannounced 1st Nation warriors”, all choosing to stay spectators and remaining camouflaged. I only noticed them when prompted by my Island assistant, James Buta. These practical learning curves were in spurts; eventually it generated my dormant brain and some mature intelligence started to evolve! Wow! I had certainly jumped in the deep end.

Imminent disasters at times I was becoming “Bush Wise”, with foreign bursts of energy. I had collected a multitude of data – Hydrology /Geological /Land Surveys /Weather, eventually I clicked as a valuable company employee.

These seemingly improbable events expose another story. Soon I was to meeting an aged Cannibal, with barely a lap-lap to cover himself, but room for a warriors knife and axe! Merely a prelude to the event that followed, I was fortunate to have my Island Assistant with me, to assist in communication. Very soon another event overshadowed that unsettling meeting… As I ventured deeper into the next remote location area; situated by the Sea (located on the Western side of the extreme Solomon Islands). I witnessed an unusual episode, this time a young native man in an extreme isolated village where my Helicopter had transferred me to further collect wind and hydraulic data. The young powerful man appeared from the opposite side of the village, then slowly began crawling across the open central compound, dragging himself and edging closer towards me! This was a meeting I did not expect- Was it some sacrificial ceremony? My throat was dry. Earlier I had been directed to visit this central village location by a warrior who had approached us earlier in the day (in fact, he was the village Chief! He had confronted me in such an authoritative manner that I could not refuse).

Now in his village, I refocused more clearly as this powerful looking native man dragged himself nearer “What was he dragging?” Fear remained bottled in my brain, “but was I going to be killed?” A prelude to a sacrificial ceremony? As he neared my position, I viewed him more closely. No Knife! So, what was he dragging? His foot was affected with elephantiasis and was about the size of a football. He lifted his hand to shake mine and he was smiling. Although mute, I had a rush of common sense (usually void in youth). I knew I did not deserve this honour! Without hesitation or fear I quickly shook his hand and half smiled. The area was hugely remote, but that event was life changing to my character. I stood next to the Chief of the village during this resulting episode; now cordial greeting yet I felt fortunate to leave intact!

Later that day I returned to the shelter and comfort of my company employer and medical support (all previously taken for granted). Now, years later, I know that I only passed half the humanity test. You may guess what I neglected? Amazing how a singular event changes your perception of life! Keep smiling, as we all need this elixir of life.By G

This story explains how events/experiences can also germinate maturity and growth. It certainly refocused my life; a learning curve of basic human behaviour resulted. To now, the city civilisation that I find myself in, cushions such raw human emotions.