Friday, April 20, 2007
How I met our new member, Monkey...
...or how a super simian saved my life.
When I was going to school back in rural New South Wales, I would have never dreamed that sometime in my future I'd be flying in an old C-130 Hercules loaded with cattle over the Amazon jungle at midnight. It all started in 1996 when the president and acting manager of a Bolivian agriculture cooperative contacted me. The cooperative wanted to improve their cattle production with "superior bovine genetic strains", consequently it was their desire to purchase some good Brahman cattle in Australia, ship them to Mexico and then fly them on to Bolivia.
My supposedly fit to fly c-130 Hercules in Mexico
The reason to purchase the cattle in the Snowy Mountains was because of the similarities of the climatic conditions and the cattle's destination, Monteagudo, a small outback village located in the southwest of Bolivia. The cooperative had a project near the village where they planned to recuperated the animals from their hard trip, then cross breed them with the tougher than hell but notoriously infertile local cattle; known as Criollas.
Nothing with this many dials should turn off unexpectedly
Unfortunately my payload of virile Aussie bulls never quite made it. And whether it was my fault or a misunderstanding with the non-English speaking ground crew in Mexico, neither did the C-130. On May 3rd 1996, 462 years after the Spanish had suppressed Bolivia and about 9 minutes after midnight, Bolivia experienced it’s first and last cattle bombardment. Of course, at about 5 minutes past midnight the bulls where in a dark hold of a newly serviced aircraft not expecting anything of the sort. At 6 minutes past the Hercules did something I wasn’t prepared for in the least, my instrumentation decided it had had enough of the flight and without asking for leave turned itself off. Now flying without instruments is something you’re trained for but flying a large aircraft, full of bulls, on a night with broken cloud cover is never something that makes you think, 'fantastic!'. Neither is frantically finding a torch and getting half-way through your re-power tests only to have all four of your props, at once, stop running. No sputtering. No smoke. No moment of, ‘Hey, I still have 3 engines’. Nope. Total electrical failure of the aircraft and all your engines silenced except for the low whine of your props coming to a complete stop.
By 8 minutes after midnight, with torch in mouth, I’d put on a parachute and was now crouched below the ass of a Brahman manually winching open the back tray. By 9 minutes after midnight on the 3rd of May 1996 some 462 years after Spanish conquest, myself and a dozen or more bulls decided that running off the back of an aircraft somewhere over the Amazon rainforest at 14 thousand feet was about the only option we had left. I of course had a parachute that, much to the surprise and disappointment expressed in a large wide brown moonlit eye, the momentarily floating bulls did not. As I pulled the rip-cord and the bulls accelerated away into the darkness with a solitary and unforgettable ‘HRROOONNNHHH’ I wondered what it would have been like in the remote village I was flying over as cattle noisily rained down.
Posted by G3T Films at 2:33 AM5 Comments: Materialize new comment