Of native animals, land-crabs and rats swarm in numbers. Whether the rat is really indigenous may well be doubted; there are two varieties as described by Mr. Waterhouse; one is of a black colour, with fine glossy fur, and lives on the grassy summit, the other is brown-coloured and less glossy, with longer hairs, and lives near the settlement on the coast. Both these varieties are one-third smaller than the common black rat (M. rattus); and they differ from it both in the colour and character of their fur, but in no other essential respect. I can hardly doubt that these rats (like the common mouse, which has also run wild) have been imported, and, as at the Galapagos, have varied from the effect of the new conditions to which they have been exposed: hence the variety on the summit of the island differs from that on the coast.
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.
Based on extensive inspections and a thorough analysis of our findings we have set in motion the plan depicted as a means of controlling the pest uncovered here.
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.
It would seem that we must forgo any inspection of the tunnel and cavities areas of the site this year as Ted Wilson informs me that he has stored some technical equipment there on a temporary basis. He promises that we may inspect next year if we simply give him a quick call before coming. This area has been clear of pests for the last two inspections and there is no evidence of any problem so we shall have to respect his wishes in the matter.
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?