Well this thread seems to have gone quiet for over a year now, so at risk of turning it into my personal “Blog from the Bush”, I will spin another yarn…… it’s a bit lengthy, but some of you might find it interesting…..
In January 1993 a workmate and I were instructed to travel to a remote wellsite and shut in the beam pump (also known as a pump jack or nodding donkey to our US friends). The South West Queensland region was recovering from flooding rains, so a truck could not get in to empty the oil tanks, and we needed to switch it off so it would not overflow. The area was also a notorious radio dead-spot, so we lodged a detailed travel plan before leaving.
The outback gets quite boggy after rain, so we took two vehicles, one fitted with a winch. Our strategy was to get the non-winch (and lighter) vehicle across any obstacle, and if it failed, winch it back out. If successful, the winch vehicle would then try, and if it failed, the first vehicle could hook up and tow it through. If the first vehicle bogged down, the winch could then come into use and the winch vehicle would still get across.
We crossed 4 creeks in this manner, covering territory in half a day that would have had Mike and Mal crapping their Kimbies, (translation for the US…. Chuck Norris would be worried) and then we came to a “dry” clay pan. It was about the size of an aussie football oval side on, and we were looking at crossing about 100 yards of clay. We were highly suspicious of the claypan, so we drove 1 about a mile north, and then a mile south, looking for an opportunity to cross the watercourse running in each direction. But no go, the claypan appeared the best option, so we walked it with a star dropper (a steel fence post), stabbing at the clay as we walked. We found no soft spot, so we decided to attempt the crossing.
I drove across the claypan with the non-winch vehicle, and got a little over half way, when the crust broke and I was down. It is surprising how fast a couple of ton of Toyota Landcruiser stops from about 80kmh (50mph) when the diffs hit clay…….
We run the cable out from the winch vehicle . But with every inch of cable out, and using a length of chain, we were still about 40 feet short of hooking onto my vehicle. So the winch vehicle sneaks onto the clay, and we connect up.
The winch move my vehicle about 6 feet backwards before the crust broke under the winch vehicle. Oh-oh. Now life gets hard. The winch will only pull the vehicles closer together, so we disconnect the winch. Now we need to turn the winch vehicle around to hook up the winch and get it out. We cannot jack and pack, as we have nothing to put under the wheels (the utes were style-sides. I now prefer tray tops….. those sides can be really useful at times). We select a tree that is growing off the southern edge of the clay pan, and start digging in a spare tyre as a ground anchor and winching the vehicle towards the tree.
After the third ground anchor, we had turned the winch vehicle through 90 degrees, and the cable and chain could now just reach the tree. It was a warm day in the mid-30s (90f), and pretty humid, and clay is a mongrel to shovel, so we’d been sweating at the job for a few hours and we were glad the end seemed to be in site.
It was a substantial tree, about 6 inches across the trunk, and the best chance of letting us winch out. Unfortunately, as the winch took up tension and the winch vehicle started moving, the entire tree came up out of the deck, root ball and all.
That was enough for us. We gathered firewood and did a stock take of our supplies. We had a decent amount of water (25L/7usg) in a 20L container and 2 half filled 5L containers, and a half a dozen tins of pears. We had toilet paper, so we could filter and boil more water if we needed, as there was still water laying in the watercourses north and south of the claypan. We removed a side mirror from one of the vehicles and skinned a tyre that we had staked earlier. No issue, as there were 2 spares per vehicle.... We started a small fire to help keep the mosquitoes at bay. Then we settled down for the wait, and shared a tin of pears for our evening meal. We regularly tried the radios, but received no response. The reputation as a dead spot for radios was well deserved.
The next morning we dug ramps under the vehicles, so that when the clay dried out they would be easier to retrieve. We did this early, while it was cool. And then we went back to waiting. We had another tin of pears for breakfast. And then around 10.00am, we heard a helicopter to the northeast. There was a slight rise in the red dirt that I went onto with the mirror, and I started trying to mirror flash the chopper, while my off-sider threw the tyre carcass and more wood onto the fire. After 5 minutes, I noticed the helicopter (a speck, some distance away,) change direction toward us. There was quite a column of black smoke from the fire, but they did not see it until they were landing. From height, the smoke was not obvious against the land and shadows. The pilot later told me they had seen the mirror flashes from nearly 8 miles away.
Because the helicopter was available, and our company was paying for it to come out and find us anyway, we flew to the well and shut it in (we were only about 6 miles from the well), and then flew back to camp. We had been back at camp for an hour, and had a good feed before we realized that everywhere we went, we were still carrying our water bottles. They were the only things we had taken with us from the site, we got off the chopper with them, they were in our hands while we spoke to the bosses, we had taken them into the diner with us and they sat next to our chairs as we ate. We hadn’t noticed it until another bloke pointed it out to us. Obviously we valued our water!
It was also notable that when we returned to the clay pan 48 hours later with a couple of recovery vehicles, the ramps we had dug allowed one vehicle to reverse out under it’s own steam. The other needed a little help, but we hadn’t dug the ramps as well on that one.
It also took me about 5 years before I went near another tin of pears…..
Last edited by curan; 02-25-2016 at 11:04 AM.
Safe queens should be taken out and shot!
Team ANZMO - #58 - born and bred
Team 1894 - #347 - 1894M
Team 30-30 - #998 - 336 Zane Grey
Team 39 - #372 - 1954 and 1960 39As