Monday, July 12, 2010

Macro Monday - Crocodile Recollections

DSC09302 Nile Crocodile scales detail

DSC09379 Nile Crocodile

When talented sculptor Patrick Gracewood published a post about crocodiles a few days ago, I was inspired to write about my recollections about crocodiles.

My first memory of crocodiles was in 1960 when we were ready to leave Java for my mother’s native land, The Netherlands. Indonesia’s spiraling inflation triggered the rupiah’s devaluation thus forcing my parents to invest their available cash in material goods. Their challenge was in finding goods that were easy to transport and not subject to stiff import duties. Even though I was only five years old, and my sisters eight and ten, we were dripping in solid gold bracelets, necklaces and rings as we boarded the Garuda airplane. Jewelry that was worn was not subject to duty fees. My mother also selected high-quality, compact Balinese sculptures and paintings plus two crocodile purses and one large crocodile suitcase. The concept of conservation and the term “politically correct” had not been invented yet. For my parents, it was a matter of survival.

It was fun to wear all the jewelry, but they quickly became a nuisance and their novelty wore off almost immediately. Of all the goods my parents bought, I was most intrigued with the crocodile luggage.
I loved endlessly stroking my fingers across the rich brown reptilian armor. I shuddered at the thought of encountering the animal that bore the high-ridged scales now running along the length of the suitcase. My mother noticed my fascination and told me that she planned to sell as many of our new purchases as soon as we landed in Amsterdam so that we would have cash. I was crushed. As luck would have it, or maybe by design, my mother never sold the crocodile goods. Until our last day in Holland. The couple that gave us a ride to Rotterdam admired our luggage and my parents sold all three pieces on the spot. I still remember how the attractive young wife pranced around with glee with the suitcase in one hand and a purse in the other.

In all likelihood, the crocodile the Indonesians used was the Saltwater Crocodile, (Crocodylus porosus), the largest of all living reptiles. Never again in my life did I ever see a crocodile suitcase that was as large, with ridges as high, and color as deep as the suitcase we owned for six years. Mostly, I think that is a good thing.


DSC09401 Crocodiles and Elephants

Last year, we visited the Cuando (Chobe) River in Botswana along the Namibian border. We arrived in time to see the elephants bathing in the river at sunset. It was easy to get caught up in observing the elephants’ social behavior in their tightly knit social groups. All our camera lenses zoomed out to the max, hoping to catch the antics of the baby elephants, still learning how to use their trunks. It wasn’t until our son gasped “Waaaa!” that we realized that two large crocodiles were right under our nose. I was more than a little unnerved to see these menacing creatures up close.

DSC09398 nile crocodiles

Over the next couple of days, we saw about a dozen Nile Crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). All were camouflaged artfully in their surroundings, like this pair catching the last rays of the sunset:

DSC09437 Two Crocodile sunset

Having trouble seeing them? Here’s is a close-up of one; the other is out of frame, further up the riverbank on the right.

DSC09436 Nile Crocodile

DSC09438 Nile Crocodile detail

The only time I was actively concerned about my safety was when Poniso, our guide, pulled the bow of the boat up on the bank and then killed the engine.

DSC09377 Nile Crocodile

Without wanting to sound an alarm, I gave a tiny squeal of concern. “Oh, don’t worry. He’s not coming after us. Look how full his belly is. He’s just had a full meal.”, Poniso rationalized. What if the engine won’t start up? What if he’s thinking about a little dessert? I can read it on his face.

DSC09300 Nile Crocodile

He still looks pretty hungry to me.

DSC09380 Nile Crocodile open mouth

Never have I been so relieved to hear an engine start up. I don’t mind a little adventure, but I don’t believe in pressing my luck.

Speaking of pressing one’s luck. We saw a young adult on another boat with his legs dangling over the edge of the boat and his bare feet ankle-deep in the water. Brrrr! This is an apt time to cite the delightful little Lewis Caroll poem that Patrick Gracewood found:

How doth the little crocodile 
Improve his shining tail,
And pour the waters of the Nile
On every golden scale!

How cheerfully he seems to grin,
How neatly spread his claws,
And welcome little fishes in
With gently smiling jaws!

.....Lewis Caroll

Thank you Patrick for inspiring me to write this post. Please pop over to his blog to read his post about some beautiful crocodile sculptures.

Please visit lisaschaos, the lovely home of Macro Mondays.


Ruth said...

He turned off the engine? Don was looking at these photos with me while I read your text, and he was just shaking his head. No way.

How extraordinary, your experience in Africa. You have captured my fascination soooo many times.

I remember a crocodile bag my mom had too. Wow, crocodile luggage. I can see how it would have been hard to see that go.

Anonymous said...

What wonderful images from your adventure...your crocks make me shiver, but I love the purses! :)

Ginnie said...

It intrigues me to hear more of your story related to The Netherlands, DB. I love the bits-n-pieces we learn along the way from each other's posts. Some things, like crocodiles, deserve a healthy fear, I 'spect. But how fun to get those images from the wild. Lucky you (knowing you are now safe!).

Short Poems said...

Beautiful photos and interesting story's, love them!

Unknown said...

They really are quite beautiful when you see the skin up close. And I didn't realize how well-camouflaged they are. You can barely make them out in the grass. Do you suppose the coloring changes to fit the surroundings, like a chameleon? I really don't see how it could though.

I would have been completely freaked out being in that stalled boat. Yikes! "Ain't no mountain high enough...."

CC said...

By the time I saw the Crocs in your photos I'd have been in serious trouble.

Fascinating pictures AND story.

Unknown said...

These are all great! I can't believe your parents sold their luggage! I bet you wish you still had it. I would have been scared to be that close too. Amazing creature!

Kala said...

These are amazing images. I cannot believe those scales and those teeth!

Marilyn Miller said...

And a great post too! That first picture of the crocodile is very beautiful. One of my best friends is Dutch Indonesian. Her parent just visited us this past week. I loved your story.

Rambling Woods said...

Wow..what an adventure and I really enjoyed this post as I will never get to visit these places...

rochambeau said...

Hello Dutch Baby,
Beautiful post!
What an adventurous life you have led! Do you morn that your parents sold the luggage? Do you wish you still had the bags? Do you still have any of the jewelry?

So glad you and your delicious family made it though another one of your nine lives, together!!

Crocodiles have a nicer smile than Alligators. Never realized it till today. I have never met a croc. only a gator.

What about that wedding. Do we get to see??? If not will you send me a shot?


Martha said...

Hoi, ik kom ook even op jouw blog kijken en ook jij hebt mooie platen geschoten in Botswana. Als ik lees Chobe river, krijg ik heimwee. Wat een prchtig land is dat!
Ik schrijf wel gewoon in het nederlands, dat vind je misschien wel leuk.

Groet Martha

patrickgracewood said...

Wonderful Croc post, Dutchbaby!

I love a single subject, crocodiles, can give us a view into so many others: Native art, folk art, fashion, politics, economics, world trade,immigration,conservation,camoflage, tourism, and last but not least, our reptilian brain which is concerned with get that child's legs OUT of the water!

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ruth,
I seemed to be the only one in the boat that was alarmed and I certainly didn't want to rile things up for fear of intensifying our presence. I think I watched one too many a Discovery Channel animal show to know that things could have turned ugly very fast.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear tammymcchesney,
The purses are indeed beautiful, especially the vintage ones.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Ginnie,
I am so very lucky in so many ways, I am constantly pinching myself!

I still have many more photos from Africa to write about; I can't believe that it's now coming up on a full year since we were there.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Short Poems,
Thank you for your kind visit.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Susan,
I had the same thought about their ability to blend. How could they look just like a branch in one instance and blend in with green grass in another. I think the shine on the armor allows the surrounding light to reflect upon it.

It was tough to stay cool, calm, and collected in that boat, I'm tellin' ya.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear CC,
But I bet you wouldn't have been able to resist getting out your sketchpad! They are grizzly and beauteous all at the same time.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear lisaschaos,
I'm not so sad that they sold the luggage, but I would be curious to see the big suitcase only to see if it truly was as big a crocodile as I remember. The sale of those pieces brought a fitting end to a painful chapter in our family.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Kala,
Thank you! Those teeth are impressive aren't they?

blogfia said...

Wonderful pictures! I love the close up on the croc's skin :)

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Marilyn,

There are many of us who have taken that well-traveled road from Indonesia, to Holland, and then to America.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Rambling Woods,
I'm happy to provide you with an armchair experience :)

Dutchbaby said...

Hello Constance at rochambeau,
Some of our adventures early in life were unpleasant but I am reaping the benefits now. I don't mourn the loss of the luggage because I saw how much joy it gave the new owner.

I know you saw most of the photos I've processed so far. but here's a newer one of the bouquet my partner Tracy made:

Dutchbaby said...

Lieve Martha Ples,
Welkom aan dutchbaby!

Ik vind het erg leuk om je reactie in het Nederlands te ontvangen, maar vergeef mijn roestige Nederlands a.u.b.

We hadden geluk gehad dat we beiden het wonder van de Chobe rivier hadden gezien.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Patrick Gracewood,

Your post somehow jogged my memory of our crocodile luggage. Thanks for the inspiration!

As for that foolhardy lad, we tried to send hand signals to encourage him to draw his legs inside the boat, but he just gave us an audacious smile. Here is a clear case of someone who has more brawn than brain.

Dutchbaby said...

Dear Birgitta,
Welcome to dutchbaby!

I was quite amazed at the golden tones the crocodile scales had when I was processing the photos after the trip.

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