Primeval tortoises lumber about their ponderous business, unaware of the crisis which threatened their last remaining habitat. When the boat bumps into them it rebounds from their unyielding bulk. These monsters are not aquatic – they just get overtaken by the rising tide when are thinking about other things. If, indeed, they think? Such setbacks do not worry them. They tick over so slowly that the five to six hours between mouthfuls may well pass unnoticed.
It is cool in the water. Their brethren ashore have to seek out freshwater pools in which to pass the heat of the day – or creep under bushes or into tents, if they can find a breach in the heavy barricades with which tents are surrounded when pitched in tortoise country.
It can be hard to come in dusty and hot from a morning’s work to find ones only shelter from the blazing heat full of floury brown carapaces and nowhere left to sit but on their backs. Climb across the torpid mounds to the bunk for a siesta and sleep will be denied by the snoring and belching, tummy rumblings, sighs and snorts all astonishingly human, backed by an all pervading pong. At one, two or three hundred weight a time, one has not the heart to call the boys to move them out. And where would they go? However they do make a handy foot rest or a place to drape my handkie to dry off dirty sand.
William and Jack
We wonder what these men think of our activities, particularly the scientists. It would be most interesting if they could write a book on their impressions of us, the way so many of us write about them. William helps Jack with his tortoises as he feeds in his radio pellets, follows them around, analyses their dung till he finds it passed through and then pushes it in at the front again. Can it possibly make sense to any normal human being?