One especially striking rock formation—a single large rock balanced precariously on a much smaller one—held my gaze. In time, after the canoe had deteriorated in condition and was, for all purposes, abandoned by park management, Andrew rescued it from the dry dump for his children to use as play equipment. I tore up some clothing to bind the wounds and made a tourniquet for my bleeding thigh, then staggered on, still elated from my escape. As an activist, she’d fought to protect the Kakadu area and to secure its status as a national park. As the pandemic rages now through the heartland, I’m trying hard to understand how so many people in this country can be so convinced that this coronavirus is not real—even some people who are dying of it. I knew now that I must break the pattern. Light rain had started to fall as Plumwood paddled away from the canoe launch point on the tributary. Val Plumwood & Friends: blog site set up for friends to share thoughts and information. Freya Mathews, ‘Val Plumwood’, obituary, The Guardian, 26 March 2008. As my own narrative and the larger story were ripped apart, I glimpsed a shockingly indifferent world in which I had no more significance than any other edible being. I had not gone more than five or ten minutes down the channel when, rounding a bend, I saw in midstream what looked like a floating stick—one I did not recall passing on my way up. Crocodile attacks in North Queensland have often led to massive crocodile slaughters, and I feared that my experience might have put the creatures at risk again. Features ABC broadcaster Gregg Borschmann, anthropologist Deborah Bird Rose, editor Lorraine Shannon, curator George Main and crocodile expert Grahame Webb. The outrage we experience at the idea of a human being eaten is certainly not what we experience at the idea of animals as food. The birds were invisible, the water lilies were sparser, and the lagoon seemed even a little menacing. The National Museum of Australia acknowledges First Australians and recognises their continuous connection to country, community and culture. Before the encounter, it was as if I saw the whole universe as framed by my own narrative, as though the two were joined perfectly and seamlessly together. Crocodile In February of 1985, ecofeminist philosopher Val Plumwood was attacked by a saltwater crocodile. In 1985 environmental activist and philosopher Val Plumwood visited Kakadu National Park. Richard Routley and Val Routley, The Fight for the Forests: The Takeover of Australian Forests for Pines, Wood Chips and Intensive Forestry, Australian National University, Canberra, 1973. But it really started to emphasise the power of nature, and why we weren’t aware of the power of nature, and being deluded about that power. The unheard of was happening; the canoe was under attack, the crocodile in full pursuit! This desperate delusion split apart as I hit the water. They slid into warm, unresisting holes (which may have been the ears or perhaps the nostrils), and the crocodile did not so much as flinch. The unheard of was happening; the canoe was under attack! This was the clue I needed to survive. I went some distance before realizing with a sinking heart that I had crossed the swamp above the ranger station in the canoe and could not get back without it. It’ll just have to come and get me. I braced myself for another roll, but then its jaws simply relaxed; I was free. We all want to pass on our story, of course, and I was no exception. Like the others, the third death roll stopped, and we came up next to the sandpaper fig branch again. Andrew made a detachable outrigger to make the craft more stable. The lights had not come from a boat. After hours of searching the maze of shallow channels in the swamp, I had not found the clear channel leading to the rock art site, as shown on the ranger's sketch map. I briefly felt a hot sensation before being again submerged in the terror of the third death roll. I braced myself against the branch ready for another roll, but after a short time felt the crocodile's jaws suddenly relax. See Plan your visit for important visitor and safety information including a request to provide your first name and a contact number. I didn’t see it for quite some time. Illustration: Aisling Magazine It is, essentially, an experience beyond words of total terror, total helplessness, total certainty, experienced with undivided mind and body, of a terrible death in the swirling depths. As the current moved me toward it, the stick developed eyes. In her scholarly work Plumwood analysed how Western understandings of an opposition between human reason and the natural world were both historically constructed and applied with devastating consequences. Val Plumwood died of natural causes: friend. Yesterday, the water lilies and the wonderful bird life had enticed me into a joyous afternoon's idyll as I ventured onto the East Alligator Lagoon for the first time in a canoe lent by the park service. I was as devastated as any castaway who signals desperately to a passing ship and is not seen. A near-death experience can reveal the truth about nature in an instant. the attack), Val Plumwood was equipped to write an account which is much more than an adventure story, one which addresses the meaning of our lives and major philosophical issues of our time. But putting that insight into words can take years. And once again, after a time, I felt the crocodile jaws relax, and I pulled free. Fibreglass patches applied by Andrew Skeat after moving to Magnetic Island in Queensland with the canoe in 1992, A view from the inside of the patches applied by canoe donor Andrew Skeat, The canoeâs stern, showing repair work undertaken by Andrew Skeat on Magnetic Island. The media machine headlined a garbled version anyway, and I came under great pressure, especially from the hospital authorities, whose phone lines had been jammed for days, to give a press interview. I was close to it now but was not especially afraid; an encounter would add interest to the day. After the crocodile attack, park management recalled all canoes for storage at the ‘dry dump’ at the headquarters of Kakadu National Park, near Jabiru. It lasted for an eternity, beyond endurance, but when I seemed all but finished, the rolling suddenly stopped. As I began my 13-hour journey to Darwin Hospital, my rescuers discussed going upriver the next day to shoot a crocodile. Flailing to keep from sliding farther, I jammed my fingers into the mud. I was free. The golden eyes glinted with interest. The left thigh hung open, with bits of fat, tendon, and muscle showing, and a sick, numb feeling suffused my entire body. It seemed to be intent on tearing me apart slowly, playing with me like a huge growling cat with a torn mouse. He had heard my faint call for help, and after some time, a rescue craft appeared. The strange formation put me sharply in mind of two things: of the indigenous Gagadgu owners of Kakadu, whose advice about coming here I had not sought, and of the precariousness of my own life, of human lives. This denial that we ourselves are food for others is reflected in many aspects of our death and burial practices—the strong coffin, conventionally buried well below the level of soil fauna activity, and the slab over the grave to prevent any other thing from digging us up, keeps the Western human body from becoming food for other species. Renowned Australian feminist and environmental activist Val Plumwood, who survived a horrific crocodile attack more than 20 years ago, was been killed by an apparent snake bite.Plumwood was 68 years old. In 1985, the Australian environmental philosopher Val Plumwood was almost killed by a saltwater crocodile as she canoed in Kakadu National Park. In despair, I grabbed the branch again. The rain eased temporarily, and I crossed a sandbar to see more of this puzzling place. Val Plumwood, ‘Being prey’, Terra Nova, vol. Having never been one for timidity, in philosophy or in life, I decided, rather than return defeated to my sticky trailer, to explore a clear, deep channel closer to the river I had traveled along the previous day. But putting that insight into words can take years. As a solitary specimen of a major prey species of the saltwater crocodile, I was standing in one of the most dangerous places on earth. I prayed for a quick finish and decided to provoke it by attacking it with my hands. She was 68. For the first time I became aware of a low growling sound issuing from the crocodile’s throat, as if it were angry. Val Plumwood, Environmental Culture: The Ecological Crisis of Reason, Routledge, New York, 2001. As I paddled furiously, the blows continued. But putting that insight into words can take years. I had survived the crocodile attack, but not the cultural drive to represent it in terms of the masculinist monster myth: the master narrative. Adapted from The Ultimate Journey (Travelers’ Tales, 1999). In my work as a philosopher, I see more and more reason to stress our failure to perceive this vulnerability, to realize how misguided we are to view ourselves as masters of a tamed and malleable nature. Feeling back behind me along the head, I encountered two lumps. Unfortunately this account was un"nished at the time of her death and The Eye of the Crocodile … While the canoe paddled by Val Plumwood in the floodwaters of the East Alligator River is almost five metres long, when imagined in relation to the powerful natural forces of the Kakadu region, its fibreglass and plywood seem fragile indeed. My feet touched bottom, my head broke the surface, and spluttering, coughing, I sucked at air, amazed to find myself still alive. At the same instant, the crocodile rushed up alongside the canoe, and its beautiful, flecked golden eyes looked straight into mine. I can't make it, I thought. A crocodile! With help from other park staff, Miles and his wife embarked on a perilous voyage from East Alligator to meet an ambulance rushing south from Darwin. As my own narrative and the larger story in which it was embedded were ripped painfully apart, I glimpsed beyond my own realm a shockingly indifferent world of necessity in which I had no more significance than any other edible being. Miles lent Plumwood the canoe so that she could paddle across the tributary, then walk along the trail. A framework capable of sustaining action and purpose must, I think, view the world "from the inside," structured to sustain the concept of a continuing, narrative self; we remake the world in that way as our own, investing it with meaning, re-conceiving it as sane, survivable, amenable to hope and resolution. Val Plumwood, who was a respected academic and environmentalist, was found dead on … It is, essentially, an experience beyond words of total terror. A crocodile attack can reveal the truth about nature in an instant. This forum talks about Plumwood’s work and how it helps us understand our place in the world. Edges are one of the crocodile's favorite food-capturing places. Dingoes howled, and clouds of mosquitoes whined around my body. The channel had led me back to the main river. I gripped the branch and pulled away, dodging around the back of the fig tree to avoid the forbidding mud bank, and tried once more to climb into the paperbark tree. The attack taught her to review the relationship she and other humans have with animals and nature. The events seemed to provide irresistible material for the pornographic imagination, which encouraged male identification with the crocodile and interpretation of the attack as sadistic rape. As I crested a gentle dune, I was shocked to glimpse the muddy waters of the East Alligator River gliding silently only 100 yards away. Thinking it was a boat, I rose up on my elbow and called for help. It seems to me that in the human supremacist culture of the West there is a strong effort to deny that we humans are also animals positioned in the food chain. Because we think we are so totally special and apart. A similar combination of good fortune and human care enabled me to overcome a leg infection that threatened amputation or worse. I braced myself against the branch ready for another roll, but after a short time the crocodile’s jaws simply relaxed. I was alone, severely injured, and many miles from help. It is a humbling and cautionary tale about our relationship with the earth, about the need to acknowledge our own animality and ecological vulnerability. (We're British here.) The roll was a centrifuge of boiling blackness that lasted for an eternity, beyond endurance, but when I seemed all but finished, the rolling suddenly stopped. Yes, some people call me ‘the crocodile woman’, as if this is one of the defining events in my life, and I don’t see it that way of course. Respectful, ecological eating must recognize both of these things. In the early wet season, Kakadu's paperbark wetlands are especially stunning, as the water lilies weave white, pink, and blue patterns of dreamlike beauty over the shining thunderclouds reflected in their still waters. As I leapt into the same branch, the crocodile again propelled itself from the water, seizing me once more, this time around the upper left thigh. I was alive! As an activist, she’d fought to protect the Kakadu area and to secure its status as a national park. ... the canoe was under attack, the crocodile in full pursuit ! The only obvious avenue of escape was a paperbark tree near the muddy bank wall. It is hard to estimate size from the small nose and eye protrusions the crocodile leaves, in cryptic mode, above the waterline, but it did not look like a large one. She tried to jump from the canoe into a tree to escape the crocodile, but the crocodile jumped too. In 2012 the Museum acquired the five-metre-long canoe that Plumwood was paddling when the crocodile attack began. During my recovery, it seemed as if each telling took part of the pain and distress of the memory away. Admittedly Plumwood is a kind of academic but the story of her surviving an attack by a crocodile leaves one with the impression that she knows. During those incredible split seconds when the crocodile dragged me a second time from tree to water, I had a powerful vision of friends discussing my death with grief and puzzlement. Few of those who have experienced the crocodile's death roll have lived to describe it. I pushed the canoe toward the bank, looking around carefully before getting out in the shallows and pulling the canoe up. It was a shocking reduction, from a complex human being to a mere piece of meat. Retelling the story of a traumatic event can have tremendous healing power. Our final thoughts during near-death experiences can tell us much about our frameworks of subjectivity. I prayed for a quick finish and decided to provoke it by attacking it with my free hands. Unfortunately, Plumwood’s ordeal was far from over. Perhaps I could bluff it, drive it away, as I had read of British tiger hunters doing. The glow has slowly faded, but some of that new gratitude for life endures, even if I remain unsure whom I should thank. What I could see was bad enough. The grass tuft began to give way. From the 1970s until her death in 2008, Plumwood worked to expose problematic attitudes towards the natural world that she identified within Western culture and thought. In the end I was found in time and survived against many odds. In February 1985, Val Plumwood was having a lovely time canoeing by herself in Australia’s Kakadu National Park. The ranger had assured her that the saltwater crocodiles, notorious man … I waved my arms and shouted, "Go away!" I saw nothing, but the feeling of unease that had been with me all day intensified. Thus the story of the crocodile encounter now has, for me, a significance quite the opposite of that conveyed in the master/monster narrative. Passing on the story can help us transcend not only social harm, but also our own biological death. Everything else is food for us, but we’re not food for anything else. Surviving a Crocodile Attack A near-death experience can reveal the truth about nature in an instant. Prey to a crocodile: Val Plumwood: An experienced environmentalist goes canoeing in Kakadu National Park, Australia. I am very lucky that I can still walk well and have lost few of my previous capacities. When the tearing, whirling terror stopped again (this time perhaps it had not lasted quite so long), I surfaced again, still in the crocodile’s grip, next to the stout branch of a large sandpaper fig growing in the water. When they're allowed to live freely, these creatures indicate our preparedness to coexist with the otherness of the earth, and to recognize ourselves in mutual, ecological terms, as part of the food chain, eaten as well as eater. Miles knew that Plumwood was an experienced long distance bushwalker, and asked her to walk the proposed route and provide feedback. I did not remove my clothing to see the damage to the groin area inflicted by the first hold. Already a Member but The wonder of being alive after being held—quite literally—in the jaws of death has never entirely left me. From the 1970s she played a central role in the development of radical ecosophy. Val Plumwood, who has died aged 68 from a stroke, was an eminent Australian environmental philosopher who lived life on her own terms, often in opposition to prevailing mores. For the first time, it came to me fully that I was the Prey” Val Plumwood, 2006 SUMMARY: Val Plumwood, an Australian feminist and environmental activist describes a nearly fatal attack by a crocodile in her article “Being Prey”. Although the saltwater crocodile population had substantially recovered since the banning of hunting a decade previously, canoeing amongst them was not considered risky. This proved to be extremely difficult. We may daily consume other animals by the billions, but we ourselves cannot be food for worms and certainly not meat for crocodiles. Plumwood was canoeing alone when she saw a crocodile … The focus of my own regret was that they might think I had been taken while risking a swim. CANBERRA, Australia - Feminist and environmental activist Val Plumwood, who survived a horrific crocodile attack more than 20 years ago, has died from an apparent snake bite, a friend said Monday. Not back into the paperbark. I reached out and held onto the branch with all my strength, vowing to let the crocodile tear me apart rather than throw me again into that spinning, suffocating hell. This website contains names, images and voices of deceased Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. The roll was a centrifuge of whirling, boiling blackness, which seemed about to tear my limbs from my body, driving water into my bursting lungs. I did not imagine that I would survive, so great seemed its anger and its power compared to mine. They took the canoe with them and repaired it sufficiently for the family to explore the island’s beaches and reefs. Large predators like lions and crocodiles present an important test for us. The environmental philosophy community mourns the loss of Val Plumwood, 68, who died from a stroke on February 29, 2008 on her property near Braidwood outside Canberra, Australia. I did not expect a search party until the following day, and I doubted I could last the night. I would be safe from crocodiles in the canoe—I had been told—but swimming and standing or wading at the water's edge were dangerous. In the early wet season, Kakadu's paperbark wetlands are especially stunning, as the water lilies weave white, pink, and blue patterns of dreamlike beauty over the shining thunderclouds reflected in their still waters. Towards the end of her stay, Plumwood camped at the East Alligator ranger station where Greg Miles was planning a new walking trail. That spot was under six feet of water the next morning, flooded by the rains signaling the start of the wet season. For our narrative selves, passing on our stories is crucial, a way to participate in and be empowered by culture. Two recent escape accounts had both involved active women, one of whom had actually saved a man. Reflection has persuaded me that not just humans but any creature can make the same claim to be more than just food. Val Plumwood shows how the crocodile as trickster can help us reshape the old human-centred master narrative into a more modest tale appropriate for new times. I was a vegetarian at the time of my encounter with the crocodile, and remain one today. The grass tuft began to give way. In contrast, many Australian Aboriginal cultures offer rich opportunities for passing on stories. A celebration of the life and legacy of Val Plumwood, recorded at the Museum on 7 May 2013. The rain and wind stopped with the onset of darkness, and it grew perfectly still. I think the message was that this is an illusion and that we are food like everything else. I probably have Paddy Pallin's incredibly tough walking shorts to thank for the fact that the groin injuries were not as severe as the leg injuries. The second time I almost made it before again sliding back, braking my slide by grabbing a tuft of grass. The lack of fit between this subject-centered version and reality comes into play in extreme moments. In despair, I resumed my grasp on the branch, dreading death by slow torture. Miles often used the canoe to cross local waterways. The drizzle turned to a warm rain within a few hours, and the magic was lost. Crocodile attack. In her later work, Plumwood emphasised the vulnerability of modern, industrial society to the forceful effects of anthropogenic climate change and ecological degradation — a vulnerability produced by a widespread cultural failure to understand human dependence on dynamic and life-giving systems of nature. I grabbed the branch, vowing to let the crocodile tear me apart rather than throw me again into that spinning, suffocating hell. With severe injuries, Val Plumwood began walking towards the ranger station, some kilometres away on the other side of the river. 15% off DVDs and more at Animal Planet Store* http://bit.ly/animalplanet A quiet afternoon in a canoe is quickly interrupted by a hostile crocodile. Part memoir, part collection of philosophical and eco-feminist essays, The Eye of the Crocodile contains Plumwood’s last pieces of writing – she was working on the draft when she died in 2008. Then it is merely a question of holding the now feebly struggling prey under the water a while for an easy finish to the drowning job. by Val Plumwood, from the book The Ultimate Journey, Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs: A Beginner's Guide, Functional Medicine for Autoimmune Diseases, Your Revolution at Home: Radical Fossil Fuel Divestment. For the first year, the experience of existence as an unexpected blessing cast a golden glow over my life, despite the injuries and the pain. Few people have survived three death rolls from the Saltwater Crocodile, perhaps the most formidable remaining predator of humans, and lived to … She is includ… In Western thinking, in contrast, the human is set apart from nature as radically other. Today, I wanted to repeat that experience despite the drizzle beginning to fall as I neared the canoe launch site. “The Crocodile Story: Being Prey” by Val Plumwood “The unheard of was happening; the canoe was under attack! I knew it would be close, but I was totally unprepared for the great blow when it struck the canoe. For the first time I realized that the crocodile was growling, as if angry. Before the establishment of the national park, the Northern Territory government constructed three wildlife ranger stations inside the sanctuary. Feeling back behind me along the head, I encountered two lumps. In this essay, environmental philosopher and ecofeminist, Val Plumwood tells the story of how she survived a crocodile attack when canoeing in Kakadu National Park, Australia.Ironically, her actions as a conservationist contributed to the large numbers of crocodiles in the park and an unconsidered increased risk of human attacks: Although I was paddling to miss the crocodile, our paths were strangely convergent. My feet touched bottom, my head broke the surface, and, coughing, I sucked at air, amazed to be alive. I was alive! I noticed now how low the 14-foot canoe sat in the water, just a few inches of fiberglass between me and the great saurians, close relatives of the ancient dinosaurs. We have this illusory sense of invulnerability. I turned back with a feeling of relief. I set off on a day trip in search of an Aboriginal rock art site across the lagoon and up a side channel. The crocodile dragged Val Plumwood out of a tree. This is what the mass media do in stereotyping and sensationalizing stories like mine—and when they digest and repackage the stories of indigenous peoples and other subordinated groups. the crocodile tear me apart rather than throw me again into that spinning, suffocating hell. With the last of my strength, I climbed up the bank, pushing my fingers into the mud to hold my weight, reached the top, and stood up, incredulous. We don’t understand ourselves as embedded in an ecosystem. I did not wait to inspect the damage but took off away from the crocodile toward the ranger station. An ecosystem's ability to support large predators is a mark of its ecological integrity. November 20, 2020 Leave a Comment. This is one reason why we now treat so inhumanely the animals we make our food, for we cannot imagine ourselves similarly positioned as food. She was buried at home on Plumwood Mountain on March 30th in a ceremony conducted and attended by many friends. Val Plumwood survived this incident in February 1985. In her 1996 essay "Being Prey", Plumwood described her near-death experience during the crocodile attack. I was growing weaker, but I could see the crocodile taking a long time to kill me this way. When she didn’t return to the station by nightfall, Greg Miles led a search party that eventually found her. I hoped to pass out soon, but consciousness persisted. The Eye of the Crocodile is a posthumously published collection of writings by Val Plumwood, Australian ecofeminist and environmental philosopher, edited by Lorraine Shannon. As on the day itself, so even more to me now, the telos of these events lies in the strange rock formation, which symbolized so well the lessons about the vulnerability of humankind I had to learn, lessons largely lost to the technological culture that now dominates the earth. Up the impossible, slippery mud bank was the only way. Transcript. account? It is certainly one of the more philosophical accounts of surviving a wild animal attack. I recall thinking with relief, as I struggled from the attack site, that I now had a good excuse for being late with an overdue article and a foolish but unusual story to tell a few friends. I struggled on, through driving rain, shouting for mercy from the sky, apologizing to the angry crocodile, repenting to this place for my intrusion. Not long ago, saltwater crocodiles were considered endangered, as virtually all mature animals in Australia's north were shot by commercial hunters. Andrew Skeat was working as a biologist at park headquarters at the time of the attack, while his wife Hilary was employed as an executive officer at the Alligator Rivers Region Research Institute. The reserve included most of the area that became Kakadu National Park in 1979. Let us hope that it does not take a similar near-death experience to instruct us all in the wisdom of the balanced rock. Although I had survived in part because of my active struggle and bush experience, one of the major meanings imposed on my story was that the bush was no place for a woman. Thinking I had the eye sockets, I jabbed my thumbs into them with all my might. James Wauchope, an Aboriginal ranger based at East Alligator who was instrumental in rescuing Plumwood, retrieved the canoe from the backwaters of the East Alligator River a day or two after the rescue, somewhere along the tributary near where the philosopher was found. The rain and wind grew more severe, and several times I pulled over to tip water from the canoe. The thought, This can't be happening to me, I'm a human being. Towards the end of her stay, Plumwood camped at the East Alligator ranger station where Greg Miles was planning a new walking trail. I learned many lessons from the event, one of which is to know better when to turn back and to be more open to the sorts of warnings I had ignored that day. Horror and outrage usually greet stories of other species eating humans. Plumwood recounted the details of the attack and her escape in her 1996 essay "Being Prey". The terrifying experience of surviving a crocodile attack while canoeing alone in Kakadu National Park in the Top End of the Northern Territory in 1985 inspired Plumwood to explore philosophical ideas about death within an ecological context. The film's story line, however, split the experience along conventional gender lines, appropriating the active struggle and escape parts for the male hero and representing the passive "victim" parts in the character of an irrational and helpless woman who has to be rescued from the crocodile-sadist (the rival male) by the bushman hero.
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