I knew it would be close, but I was totally unprepared for the great blow when it struck the canoe. 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. This concept of human identity positions humans outside and above the food chain, not as part of the feast in a chain of reciprocity but as external manipulators and masters of it: Animals can be our food, but we can never be their food. Working mostly as an independent scholar, she held positions at the University of Tasmania, North Carolina State University, the University of Montana, and the University of Sydney, and at the time of her death was Australian Research Council Fellow at the Australian National University. I threw myself at it with all of my failing strength, scrabbling with my hands for a grip, failing, sliding, falling back to the bottom, to the waiting jaws of the crocodile. “The Crocodile Story: Being Prey” by Val Plumwood “The unheard of was happening; the canoe was under attack! Knowing Plumwood was an experienced bushwalker, ranger Greg Miles asked her to walk the route of a proposed walking trail. For the first time I became aware of the low growling sound issuing from the crocodile's throat, as if it was very angry. The ranger had assured her that the saltwater crocodiles, notorious man … But putting that insight into words can take years. The trail departed from a tributary of the East Alligator River near the station. Crocodiles and other creatures that can take human life also present a test of our acceptance of our ecological identity. Val Plumwood, ‘Being prey’, Terra Nova, vol. The water around the spot where I had been lying was full of crocodiles. 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. Thirty-two years before a woman managed to shoo away a croc with her flip flop, Val Plumwood faced down a reptile in the same park in 1985. The rain and wind stopped with the onset of darkness, and it grew perfectly still. Greg Miles began working as a ranger in the Kakadu area in 1976. 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. In 1985 Val Plumwood visited Kakadu. November 20, 2020 Leave a Comment. A crocodile attack can reveal the truth about nature in an instant. Lawson Crescent Acton Peninsula, CanberraDaily 9am–5pm, closed Christmas Day Freecall: 1800 026 132, Museum Cafe9am–4pm, weekdays9am–4.30pm, weekends. The thought, This can't be happening to me, I'm a human being. In despair, I grabbed the branch again. And I think this has got a lot to do with why we don’t take account of the environmental crisis. 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. What I could see was bad enough. Plumwood recommended that creative communicators bring new ideas to our dying culture; stories that help us find our way home to the family of life. It is a humbling and cautionary tale about our relationship with the earth, about the need to acknowledge our own animality and ecological vulnerability. 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. 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”. I can't make it, I thought. 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. What's more, Aboriginal thinking about death sees animals, plants, and humans sharing a common life force. Light rain had started to fall as Plumwood paddled away from the canoe launch point on the tributary. I used this method and the last of my strength to climb up the bank and reach the top. Illustration: Aisling Magazine As a story that evoked the monster myth, mine was especially subject to masculinist appropriation. I can’t make it, I thought. 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 glow has slowly faded, but some of that new gratitude for life endures, even if I remain unsure whom I should thank. As in the repetition of a nightmare, when the dreamer is stuck fast in some monstrous pattern of destruction impervious to will or endeavor, the horror of my first escape attempt was exactly repeated. account? When the whirling terror stopped again I surfaced again, still in the crocodile's grip next to a stout branch of a large sandpaper fig growing in the water. An ecologist who survived a crocodile attack has been killed by a snake. 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. One especially striking rock formation—a single large rock balanced precariously on a much smaller one—held my gaze. With all of my power, I used my grip on the branch to pull away, dodging around the back of the fig tree to avoid the forbidding mud bank, and tried once more the only apparent avenue of escape, to climb into the paperbark tree. 3, 1996. In 1985 Val Plumwood visited Kakadu. Like the others, it stopped eventually, and we came up in the same place as before, next to the sandpaper fig branch. Cultures differ in how well they provide for passing on their stories. Roads were flooded and the swollen waterways were almost impossible to navigate by boat. Horror movies and stories also reflect this deep-seated dread of becoming food for other forms of life: Horror is the wormy corpse, vampires sucking blood, and alien monsters eating humans. In 1985, the Australian environmental philosopher Val Plumwood was almost killed by a saltwater crocodile as she canoed in Kakadu National Park. This is an enormous challenge. A similar combination of good fortune and human care enabled me to overcome a leg infection that threatened amputation or worse. It'll just have to come and get me. A woman who survived a ferocious "death roll" crocodile attack in the wild has been killed after being bitten by a snake in her garden. Freya Mathews, ‘Val Plumwood’, obituary, The Guardian, 26 March 2008. I was growing weaker, but I could see the crocodile taking a long time to kill me this way. Ranger Paul Cawood recalled that Wauchope was ‘a real bushman’, an experienced buffalo and crocodile shooter, who knew the area intimately. I hoped to pass out soon, but consciousness persisted. That's why I tried to minimize publicity and save the story for my friends alone. Confronting the brute fact of being prey, together with the astonishing view of this larger story in which my ‘normal’ ethical terms of struggle seemed absent or meaningless, brought home to me rather sharply that we inhabit not only an ethical order, but also something not reducible to it, an ecological order. The thought, ‘This can’t be happening to me, I’m a human being not meat, I don’t deserve this fate!’ was one component of my terminal incredulity. I did not imagine that I would survive, so great seemed its anger and its power compared to mine.