National Geographic : 1968 Oct
Rekindling life on bark T O KEEP HISTORY ALIVE, aborigines of Arnhem Land paint pictures. First an artist strips a eucalyptus tree of its bark (opposite). Cutting it into different sizes, he buries the bark in sand and builds a fire on top to dry out his "canvas." Plant juices provide the primer, and pulverized colored stones the paints; locks of women's hair become the brushes. Watching two artists at work (above), Robin sees a snake and kangaroo emerge (right). "Now it's mostly the old men who paint to write their history," he observed. "Many of the young do it just to sell their work to tourists." At noon of May 4, I motored into the inner harbor of Darwin, capital of Australia's North ern Territory. I was relieved to be safely out of the shipping lanes. You can bet I looked forward to spending some weeks ashore. Brawny as a frontier town but bright and modern, too, Darwin sits on a low plateau that falls in cliffs into the water. I buddied up with a South African cruising friend. We worked for a month, he as a foreman, I as a fitter's assistant, with an electrical contractor. While the job requirements were few, one almost disqualified me: Workers had to wear shoes. I had none. By extraordinary good fortune I found a pair just my size in a rubbish heap. With cop per wire I made laces and reported to work. We erected three towers for a power station and rigged guy wires and insulators for a transmission switchyard. 482 Two months in Darwin were just enough. Spruced up with new paint and gear, Dove sailed out of the harbor on July 6,1967. Ahead lay 5,900 nautical miles of Indian Ocean to Durban, South Africa. While the Pacific had treated me gently, the Indian Ocean was to test me with its wild side.* If I had known of the storms and damage that lay ahead, I might never have left Australia's shores. Stowaways - a Chorus of Crickets Gales and rain sailors take in stride, but, coupled with loneliness, they wear you down. There's a limit to what you can take, getting knocked about in a cockleshell with only a tape recorder to converse with and a mad cat to yell at. My navigation had proven accurate to date, *See "Science Explores the Monsoon Sea," by Samuel W. Matthews, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, October, 1967.