6 weeks in the swamp ...

We've finally finished 6 weeks of cutting line in the central Florida swamps for a 100+ acre tract that had almost no open areas. I've been unemployed for 6 months when an old employer called me up and offered me a field position again ... I've been getting soft in the office as a manager for about 5-6 years and he wanted me to head a crew up and go line-cutting. I needed the money badly and jumped on the chance to get back out into the field with gusto. Man how 5 years of sitting on your butt can make you soft!

That is one of the only open areas, our rodman was being a smart-aleck and was smiling because we actually got a chance to see the sun. We had to topo this property on a 100' grid, and I bet if you flew overhead now, you could see our grid ... we cut every line out by machete and occasionally the chainsaw. We did however have the benefit of a Gator to haul equipment in as there was no way our truck could get close.

We saw all kinds of critters out there, a cougar (most people call them Florida Panthers but they are really cougars), wild boar, a bobcat, several eastern diamondbacks, many moccasins, a copperhead, a few pygmy rattlers ... the only things I got a picture of though were a couple of pygmy rattlers and an orb weaver (locals call them banana spiders), this one about the size of my hand or slightly smaller; I couldn't get the camera to focus real well on her.

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  • Party Chief

    Great story, and nicely done. Thanks for sharing..

  • Surveying has always been so interesting because of its complexity and diversity in environment, equipment, procedure, education, training, etc.  No two days are ever the same.

  • Well Arnel, you do have an exposure that I do not, King Cobras are very dangerous. Having that Gator was a real treat for us though, it was unexpected and very unlikely to happen again. Most of the time we have to walk and carry our equipment into the swamp and we don't come out until the end of the day. But this project was large enough and our boss went easy on us and rented this Gator for us, it was an immense boost in morale and production. Maybe you could give that to your project manager as an incentive to rent or buy one. Renting is not as cost effective as buying a used one, because buying a used one is cheaper and you will have it every day you need it and will have it for future projects, and the productivity boost is a big pay off.

    I don't have any books or websites specific to snakes off hand, though Cobras are in the same family as our Coral snakes, though the King Cobra is MUCH larger. They have the same poison and the same jaw and fang layout, which can be beneficial to you. The fangs are fixed unlike most poisonous snakes, meaning they have to have something to clamp their lower jaw on to actually bite you, such as a finger, a fold of skin, etc. They can't just bite you on the calf or forearm like most snakes do, just watch a snake 'charmer' and see how they hold their palms out flat to a cobra, the cobra can bite at his flat palm all day and never actually break the skin for poison injection.

    The biggest downfall to King Cobras is their length, snake boots wont help since a snake can and often will bite at 2/3 of its body length. At 5.5m in length, a King Cobra can strike at almost 3.7m high ... taller than most people unfortunately. So he can bite well over the boots height.

    Our Diamondbacks are fairly non-aggressive and they warn you of their presence with their rattles ... usually. In my opinion, our worst snake is the Water Moccasin. They don't get real big like your King Cobras, they average about 1-2 meters in length, but are real thick and tend to hold their ground. Most snakes in Florida tend to want to leave humans alone, but the Moccasin will stand its ground to the end, forcing you to have to kill them with a machete or get bitten.

    Other creatures to watch out for in Florida are Alligators, Bobcats, Panthers, Wild Hogs, Brown Bears, Coral Snakes, Copperhead snakes, Pigmy Rattlesnakes, Black Widow spiders, Brown Recluse spiders, and Scorpions. Some are more dangerous than others, but we come into contact with them all the time.
  • If you have diamondbacks, we have king cobras. King Cobra is agressive and is a real threat to surveyors. I wish to learn more on snakes. Do you have a suggested reading material or a book regarding this? I just want to level up my confidence when I am on site.
    Thank you.
  • Hi Chris!
    This work really inspires me. I thought all the while that surveyors in the Philippines are more exposed to danger as we lack tools for the job for many reasons. One of them and the most frustrating one is the project cost vis-a-vis cost of tools required for the job. We often encounter very tough surveying tasks where our safety is always at stake due to threats of nature and insurgents.
    These pictures proved me wrong. Though you have the required tools but your exposure to the danger of nature is very real. This task is undoubtedly more difficult than what I've done so far. This fuels me up to do even better for my next surveying tasks. Thank you for sharing this.
  • The gator was very helpful, but we very rarely get to use one. This one was rented specifically for this project, we were lucky. It carries all of the equipment and water as well as the people :)
  • Your gator is very interesting. I can see right away the level of help it provides to the survey team. I wish I have one. It is not commercially available in the Philippines.
  • Thank you for sharing the URL's Chris.
  • It was a tough project, but fun. Most surveyors don't wear snake boots around here in Florida, they are not very comfortable and most snakes here would rather escape than attack. But there are various ways to protect yourself. They are usually pretty expensive too.

    Here are actual snake boots:

    And here are snake "chaps", which are uncomfortable due to the buckles pinching your skin:
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