Monday, October 11, 2010

Swarm

The Alligator River
35 40.21 N 076 02.76 W

SWARM.  It sounds like the title of a horror B movie.  In this case it applies.

We motored all day yesterday from Columbia into the Alligator River.  At sunset, we pulled over to the side and anchored.  It was a very light wind night so there was no need for protected shelter.  In retrospect, we pulled over too much and got too close to the swamp (about 500 meters).

Soon after dark I was reading my book.  I heard a mosquito buzzing my head, so I brushed it away.  Then another, then another.   I stood up to get rid of them.  What I saw was horrifying.   We didn't have 2 or 3 bugs inside the cabin, we had 2 or 3 thousand!.  I've never seen anything like it.

We had the companionway door in, but we didn't have towels stuffed into the small gaps at the edges.   We had the hatches closed, but one was cracked a little bit.  That's all the bugs needed to get in.  I grabbed two fly swatters, enlisted Libby's help and I set about closing the boat tight even as we swatted.   

It was a hopeless task.  There were far to many to swat.  Besides, we were creating ugly black stains of squashed bug bodies everywhere we hit.  One very big blessing; they weren't mosquitoes but some kind of non-biting relative.  

I heard a strange noise.  I turned off the radio to hear better.  It was completely spooky. Outside was the buzz of a billion bugs swarming around the boat.  I shone the flashlight out the window.  Solid bugs covering everything outside near the places where light leaked out.  

Libby got out the flying insect spray.  I said, "Wait! We're inside an enclosed space. I have to remove the plastic covering the screen and start the fans before you spray."  To remove the plastic, I had to open the hatch for 5-10 seconds.  That allowed another 2000 to enter.  Oh my God, it was like the swarm scene in "The African Queen" 

Well, the insect spray proved to be very effective.   Within 3 minutes all the bugs inside the cabin were dead, and we had the openings sealed so that no more got in.  Libby and I inhaled almost zero.  We set out with brush and dustpan to clean up the bodies of dead bugs.  Yuck.  Then we had to wash down the interior surfaces to clean up bug goo.  Yuck.  

Finally, with chores done we could turn out the lights and go to bed early.   I didn't sleep easy though because of the buzz sound coming from outside.

This morning, I went out in the cockpit, and found a big mound of dead bugs in front of the companionway hatch.  There were thousands of them in a heap.   I grabbed a bucket and washed them overboard.  The rest of the boat was untouched.  Only those places where light leaked out attracted the bug.

We're not very fond of the Alligator River in the first place.  Now we have even more reason to dislike this place.

Do I have pictures?  Hell no!

One wonders about the early settlers and the Indians native to this region.   Were they able to find relatively bug free areas for villages?  Could they make dwellings that kept them out?   Did they just tolerate the bugs around their faces?  Historical accounts never discuss that subject.

1 comment:

  1. I read in a diary from the fur trade era that the locals used rancid bear grease. Kinda hard to sell that one to Libby though. Ken

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