Desert Birder Death

To: Baus Aus <>
Subject: Desert Birder Death
From: Syd Curtis <>
Date: Thu, 09 Oct 2008 22:43:38 +1000

May I offer a recommendation for something that just might have avoided that
tragic death:  a "Spanish Windlass".  At least that was what it was called
by a grazier heading north from Chinchilla to his property when his vehicle
got bogged. This was c. Christmas 1941 and I had been invited to spend the
school holidays with his family.

Wheel ruts full of mud. The wheels spun uselessly.  He attached a long
length of rope to the back axle and fastened the other end to a tree back
along the road.  Then he went into the bush and cut two poles: one about two
metres long and perhaps 8 cm diameter; the other a bit thinner and perhaps 3
metres long.

Dug a small hole, maybe 20 cm deep and just wide enough to take the shorter
pole standing upright, about half-way between tree and vehicle.  Twisted a
loop of the rope around the longer pole near to one end, but with enough
protruding beyond the loop so that it could be rested against the vertical
pole.  Then one person held the vertical pole upright while another walked
around it pushing the long pole to wind up the rope while rotating the
vertical pole.  (It's obvious, I guess, but perhaps worth mentioning: brake
off and gear-box in neutral.)

Difficult, but possible, for a single person to do both.  I have.  I was
lucky.  I was not in a life-threatening situation.  I could have gone for
help and suffered nothing more than embarrassment, but preferred to get
myself out of the difficulty.

I appreciate that for much of Australia, the local bush wouldn't provide
pole material.  Nor trees to anchor a rope.  But it might be possible to
carry two shorter but useable "poles" as well as the rope, when venturing in
to remote and unknown regions.  And take a shovel, so that in lieu of a tree
to tie the rope to, you can bury the spare wheel, vertical and at
right-angles to the direction of the vehicle, with rope attached to the
bottom or the centre and a minimum width sloping trench towards the vehicle
to bring it to the surface.  (Sorry I can't attach a diagram.)

If in a situation where there is solid ground between two deep muddy wheel
ruts, you could have the misfortune to have a 4WD resting on its two
differentials and all four wheels spinning.  Then you must jack up, or lever
up each wheel, and pack material under it and in the ruts in the direction
you hope to wind the vehicle, to have much hope of Spanish Windlassing it

A lot of hard work, but if it saves your life ...

For consideration.

Syd Curtis


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