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Full Circle

Day 127: Katherine

Michael Palin - Full CircleOut on the farm you can tell which are the crocodile sheds long before you get to them. A rank, rotten smell of ammonia and dead meat hangs in the noonday heat. Bluey shows me inside. The temperature is kept at a constant 32° (which today is a good three degrees cooler than it is outside). Bluey lifts one of the polystyrene covers. There is a sudden thrashing, clacking scuffle as dozens of metre-long crocs slither over each other, jaws snapping angrily. The underside of the cover is crawling with cockroaches. 'Our secret food source,' says Bluey. He reaches in, picks up a croc by its tail and, without ceremony, whacks its head on the side of the pen.

'Green dream,' he says and grins.

The ex-croc is taken to a shed next door where Peter sets to work opening it up in order to try and trace a mystery infection which has affected a growing number of the two and a half thousand animals on the farm. He traces it to a lung and takes a section away to be analysed. In the back of the shed, industrial fridges hum away protecting Bluey's newest investment - hundreds of crocodile eggs which he and his men have collected from nearby swamps and brought in here to incubate. Janelle must have noticed my look of disapproval.

'Only one per cent of those eggs survives in the wild,' she points out. 'Seventy per cent survive in controlled conditions.'

As if to convince me of this haven of crocodile happiness, Bluey appears with a tray of eggs, about four inches long, one of which he hands to me.

'What do I do?'

'Just break the top.'

(The use of the word 'just' in such a context means that whatever it is you have to do, it will not be easy, as in 'just pull that sword out of the stone' or 'just split that atom'.) Sure enough my hands begin to tremble as I pick away at the shell, feeling as I do so the corresponding thrust of a sharp pointed object trying to help me from inside. Then all at once we are united. A slimy, wriggling, miniature dinosaur strains to get out of my fingers as it strained to get out of the egg. Only then does it occur to me that I've just delivered a crocodile.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 127
  • Country/sea: Australia
  • Place: Katherine
  • Book page no: 183

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