Watching the arrangements put in place for the first attempt to refloat the 40,000 tonne coal-carrier, the Pasha Bulker stranded at Nobby’s Beach,
The dam on the island needed to be widened and deepened. An area of land around the staff quarters also needed to be cleared and leveled to enable extensions to be built.
“Q” who owned the resort was in the heavy-equipment construction business. Conducting the arrival of a large Caterpillar drot, (bulldozer) as shown above in the smaller picture, was done via telephone conversations between him in his office in
When I advised “Q” by telephone the situation, he “blew a fuse”, which in turn caused me to blow one, too…or perhaps more than one! Direct and to the point, I told him that he was the one in the construction industry, not me and if he knew a better way to get the drot onto the island, he should be on the island, not giving pointless orders hidden away behind the walls of his Toowong office. I was furious. Slamming the phone down on his ear, I stormed out of my office and went for a walk along the beach in the moonlight to cool off. I’d been stressing enough for the weeks leading up to the delivery of the drot, how to get it safely onto the island, but I knew everything depended on time and tide. One can’t fight nature, but should stop being so arrogant and learn to work with it as we humans are putty in its hands.
Anyway, Ted, Bernie, “Slip” and my brother Graham, who were my “maintenance” crew and I were up before dawn the next morning to attempt to manouevre the drot onto land. This is another whole episode, which I may have written about previously, but if not, I will leave it for the moment, to write about what happened to the drot a few days later, once it was on the island and why I was reminded of an event by the current situation with the “Pasha Bulker”.
“Slip”, who was “Q’s” head foreman on the construction side of the business, had arrived on the island to oversee the workings of the drot. He, his family and I had become good friends during the short time we had known each other and we’re all still friends today. Ted at times had also worked for “Q” in different jobs on the mainland, constructing roads, airstrips etc., so he and “Slip” had worked together previously many times on projects. They were both experts in their fields and both very proud of their abilities.
When it came time to move the drot around the resort area, they had in mind one way of doing it, and I had another. But, of course, being a woman, nobody was interested in listening to me.
My idea was that they “walk” the drot up along the inland side of the staff quarters to get it into the position they wanted to enable them to start the clearing and leveling. There was room, sparse though it was, to sneak the drot up past the quarters, if they took it carefully and slowly.
“No! No! No!” They echoed in unison. “That won’t work!”
“It will,” I insisted, “if you just take your time and “walk” it through. There is enough room there.”
“No…we’ll “walk” it across the front of the quarters, down along the rocks when the tide is out,” said a determined Ted, with “Slip” nodding his agreement beside him.
“You’ll lose it that way. The sand is too soft and the rocks too slippery,” continued an equally determined me. “Take it up behind the quarter…it is a safer, more sensible option.”
“We know what we’re doing. We’ve worked this equipment for years. When the tide is low, we’ll take it along the foreshore,” both men told me, and that was the end of that.
It was late afternoon. I’d gone back to my house to shower and dress for hosting the evening in the restaurant. Putting on the final touches, I heard footsteps coming past my cottage and a voice quietly calling out to me.
Up the spiral staircase came “Slip”, whose real name is “John”.
“Yes, John,” I said. “What’s up?”
“Come with me….just follow me,” he said, saying nothing further.
“Okay…” I answered following him downstairs and through the bush to the top of the headland looking down towards the jetty and the little beach area beyond that lay in front of the staff quarters. Nothing had been said on our journey across the way.
Looking down, I saw the “drot”. It was lying on its side, bogged in the soft, muddy sand.
“Jesus Christ!” I exclaimed. “How did you manage that?”
I refrained from saying “I told you so!” The looks on both faces of “Slip” and Ted told a million stories. I’ve never seen two more contrite, crestfallen men before or since.
Immediately, I headed to my office to make some phone calls, but I realized I was racing against time and tide. Both would beat me. The sun was on its way behind the mountains over on the mainland. Daylight was quickly disappearing. There was nothing I could organize or do that afternoon. The drot was going to go under water…twice a day until I could arrange for it to be hauled back onto dry land.
Poor “Slip” spent a miserable evening drowning his sorrows out on the deck around the restaurant. Ted, licked his wounds privately and headed back to his quarters very early in the night. I tried to console John, telling him accidents do happen. I could see the humorous side of it, as I can in most situations. There was no point crying over spilled “drots”. A workable plan had to be put into place to lead to our final step in getting it out of the ocean. Failing that, I told, “Q” when I finally plucked up the courage to ring to inform him of the misfortune that had befallen the drot, was to turn it into a “yellow submarine”, thereby turning it into an artificial reef! The drot would just have to remain where it was until a solution could be found and twice a day it would be covered by the salty sea.
Hiring a crane, getting it across to the island was price prohibitive. Finally, the crew from
Seven days later, Saturday of the “removal” arrived. The
Of course, all the guests came down to watch the exercise. And of course, they were all “experts”. The spectators and their “knowledgeable” comments began to aggravate me. I also could see an accident waiting to happen.
If one of the hefty steel cables snapped someone could get hurt or worse, lose their life. So, moving everyone one back up to the restaurant, I concentrated on what was happening without their interruptive comments. They were hesitant to leave, also having volunteered not to go on the offered boat trip for the day. More interesting events were unfolding at the resort.
Ted was correct in his assessment of the D9 operator. That man was amazing. He could turn the dozer on a sixpence. He was wonderful to watch in action. On the first attempt, not like the “Pasha Bulker”, he hauled the drot ashore.
Two guys from Caterpillar were in attendance and with the assistance of my “men”, they drained the diesel from the once week-long submerged drot. Once refueled, the engine was started and the “baby” ticked over at first try. Shouts of joy echoed across the ocean, the one time home of the now landed drot. We had achieved so much that morning and were, rightfully, feeling very proud of ourselves.
The next task we faced was getting the drot up from the level jetty area, but we left that for another day, as I shall with the continuation of this story.