The Natural Area consulting team were commissioned to undertake flora and fauna surveys in Pilgangoora as part of feasibility studies in the area. Natural Area’s Senior Botanist – Sharon Hynes, Lead Biologist – Alex Devine and Field Hand – James Piper undertook the works.
This is what James Piper had to say about the experience:
I’d agreed to meet at Terminal 1 nice and early to avoid that stressful rush, so naturally I arrived ten minutes late to see Alex and Sharon waiting patiently. After a bit of trial and a lot of error with the self-check in machines, a very nice Virgin staff member had us on our way to the gate and some of the most testing but enjoyable work of our careers. My first sight of the magnificent Pilbara was from several thousand metres and I was taken aback with the endless expanse of burning red earth speckled with deep green vegetation, broken only by dry, meandering creek beds and unnaturally straight rail corridors. Even a seasoned Perth boy like myself felt suffocated by the heat, yet I just could not stop smiling at where I was actually going to be working. A bit of quick banter with a very laid back and welcoming CEO of Altura Mining in Bryan Bourke revealed to us that we would be in for a truly adventurous few days of work.
Now I have been welcomed into people’s homes in many countries around the world, but I have never felt so truly invited into a home as when I arrived at Indee station. In the company of Betty and Colin we really felt comfortable and all enjoyed sitting around the dinner table chatting about the recent goings on with regard to the upcoming cattle muster and of course the ongoing mining activity in the area. I’ve got to say for a bunch of enviros we held our own and slotted into the rugged lifestyle quite smoothly, especially with some choice words such as “tucker” and “sheila” from Alex.
Our first day of real work was dominated by coming to the realisation that we were going to be the hardest working folk in the Pilbara, as Alex stated “no one else is out here hoofing it and digging holes by hand”. Just try to imagine digging holes into hard packed earth and rock with a crowbar, and in 45+ degree heat whilst keeping one eye on a scrub fire that seemed to linger eternally on the horizon. Despite these conditions my smile was still there beaming away, because this was what it was all about; the rocks and rugged terrain, the harsh vegetation and scale of the operations out there in the wilderness, even that unrelenting sun and flies were somehow filling me with excitement and joy. Despite the progress being a bit slower than first expected, from day one we were surrounded by amazing critters and our trap lines succeeded with results every morning. Highlights have to be a Northern Beaked Blind Snake (Ramphotyphlops grypus), Yellow-spotted Monitor (Varanus panoptes rubidus) of a nice manageable size and several different species of gecko as well as several centipedes and scorpions. Indee station had its fair share of incredible animals in the yard, from Long-nosed Dragons (Gowidon longirostris) to Yellow-throated Miner birds (Manorina flavigula) and even scampering around the dinner table were Broad-banded Sand-swimmers (Eremiasincus richardsonii) as well as an endless supply of old cars, farm machinery and general rusty steel to explore after a hard days work. And of course after all that hard yakka was always a cold beer and a cool, well warm shower to help us unwind.
After three days of character building work in heat that at times felt intolerable I thought I was ready to go home, but heading to the airport and boarding that plane to head south again I realised I was going to miss Pilgangoora and the people who call Indee station home. It’s a very special place and despite looking like an endless baron expanse it’s easy to see that it is teeming with unique creatures and resilient vegetation. When people asked me how my trip was I said, “It was brutal! But incredible! The hardest work of my life, but I’d go back in an instant and do it all again”.