“Caught by the Tide” from Carl McMaster


Natmappers occasionally had problems with navigation in the air and on land. I recall a ground marking recce in the Shoalwater Bay area in 1965 (refer maps below). As it happened, unbeknown to our hierarchy, Army Survey had already been in the area prior to resuming it for training purposes and Grahame (Squeaky) Harris and I were not initially welcome as the property owners thought we were Army in disguise - as if !




Some of our ex-Army Natmappers may recognise Raspberry Vale, where the boss and his son ended up digging the hole for the ground mark in their horse paddock after they were convinced we were civvies and had no designs on their land or their very shy daughter. Incidentally I had my first and last custard apple there.


We had previously driven through Pine Mountain where the mozzies were unbelievable. We resorted to pulling socks over our hands and towels around our heads and despite opening and closing gates in world record times, ZSU 135's cabin would be still full of them. After giving the usual prudent answers (as southerners) as to what we thought of Jo Bjelke at the homestead and slapping down the mozzies while being told "you should be here when they are bad", we headed off towards the coast.


The air photos we had to navigate on must have been taken at the wrong time of day and we decided to just blunder our way forward. Signs of civilisation in the form of a set of narrow wheeltracks appeared running across the mangrove mudflats. Squeaks immediately drove or fell down the bank to follow the tracks and got about the Inter's length before sinking to the axles. An afternoon's digging made no difference and we radioed Neil (Luigi) Fenton for help and roughly told him where we thought we were. We wisely decided to unload the Inter and sleep on the bank.






Graham Harris at Bill Nolla's fish trap and Inter 4WD (Courtesy Carl McMaster & Andrew Porteous)


We were woken about midnight by the sound of Luigi's Inter and Squeaks leapt out of his swag to switch on the headlights but was startled to find that the tide had come in and water was at the dashboard level. This was a salutary lesson in the tidal ranges in the north. As it happened Luigi had stumbled across a Yeppoon fisherman’s hut and fishtrap only a couple of miles away. The fisherman, Bill Nolla, had a stripped down “tin lizzie” whose tyretracks had led to our downfall and Bill reckoned he knew where we were.


Fortunately Bill also had a Land Rover and with the combined efforts of Luigi's Inter we extricated ZSU 135 the next day. A few days at Bill's hut dried it out and we tow started it and drove it to the Inter dealer in Rocky. This vehicle saw several more years service until an un-named Natmapper stacked it returning to Collinsville - but that's another story.