Chris Martine - Dad botanist of the year leads children into croc-infested waters
In the last ten years, I have done five field expeditions to northern Australia to hunt for and learn more about the unusual bush tomatoes (genus Solanum) of the Australian Monsoon Tropics. On a recent trip, I was glad to be joined by my wife, Rachel, our two children (pictured here), Isee and Jackson (ages 12 and 9 at the time), and our cousin Erin. The five of us lived out of a truck and three tents for six weeks, logging more than 6,000 km on a loop that took us across the “Top End” of the Northern Territory and Western Australia’s Kimberley Plateau. During this trip we would collect specimens that have led to numerous new understandings as well as the description of two new Solanum species; but on this day we took a break from plant seeking to wade through the 1/2-mile-long cave-tunnel that runs beneath the Napier Range at Tunnel Creek National Park. Soon after Rachel took this photo we turned our headlamps away from ourselves and back onto our subterranean surroundings, only to realize that we were joined in the thigh-deep water by numerous freshwater crocodiles - their many pairs of eyes reflecting our light like little red sparks in the darkness. They say “freshies” are the crocs you’d rather find yourself in the water with (as opposed to “salties”), but that doesn’t mean the trip back out of the cave didn’t feel like we might be walking the gauntlet. Needless to say, we all lived. And the kids had a great story for when they got back to school in Pennsylvania.