Air boats, Alligators and Snakes, OH MY!

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So for the first time ever I have been on a project that requires me basically to spend my day riding around in air boats up and down the bayous of the swamps in Louisiana. Let me just tell you, it’s seriously a blast! I honestly feel like I’m on swamp tour every day. Like I’m out there working but I’m also watching the birds fly overhead, observing alligators resting on the logs and the admiring the ancient cypress trees that are so tall, the tops are barely discernible. The thrill of the wind whipping through your hair as you glide across the water is so exhilarating it makes my job not feel like work. Haven’t had any scary alligator encounters but I did have a snakes event that was definitely intense.

 

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My job is to go see if there’s any archaeological sites in the high probability areas which are define using multiple different probability factors such as elevation, access to fresh water, etc. Well one day I was walking out to one of these areas in a high part that was not covered in water. I hadn’t seen any venomous snakes or alligators while I was out of the boat but I was on my 007 mode ready to run! Well I get all the way to my intended destination, take a gps point and look for my next destination. The second one looked like it was through fairly deep, hip waist high water so I was decided to turn around and head back for the boat. Instead of following the meandering trail I had taken to the point I went straight for shore and decided it would be easier to walk up to the boat that way. When I’m out there in the swamps I take my time walking so I don’t step on any snakes or any other creature that can harm me. Good thing too because as I was walking up the bank toward the boat I stirred up a 2.5 foot long cottonmouth snake! He uncoiled just enough to get into a strike position! He moved so fast he appeared to me to be in slow motion. I shrieked and jumped back about 5 feet so I can see where he was going to go. Some venomous snakes are known to chase you so I wasn’t sure if he was feeling up to it or not. So I pause after I jumped away to see if he was slithering near me or coming at me, etc. My luck he probably went in the direction of the boat where I needed to go so I called my boat driver down and he came to pick me up.

cottonmouth

Once I was back in the boat I was a bit shaken and my adrenaline was pumping but I felt safer now I wasn’t on land. I shook out my life vest, (I’m not a fan of caterpillers or inchworms or anything without a vertebre/exo-skeleton), and put it on. When I looked down to grab my bag and put it away I noticed sticking out underneath it was ANOTHER SNAKE! I yelled to my boat driver, “Shit, there’s a fucking snake in the boat!” and when he looked down he jumped straight onto my seat! It was a copperhead!!! This one was a little over a foot long, which is worse because a baby snake doesn’t know how much venom to use if it bites you. I jumped onto the side railing of the boat and we took a second to look for a long enough stick to get the snake out the boat. Luckily we happened to have one of the bamboo sticks the surveyors use to make their points and my driver expediently removed the snake from the boat. I made sure to shake out my bag in case any of his friends were trying to tag a ride with me back to the hotel.

copperhead

Even with the snakes and all the crazy things, branches falling on you from building size cypress trees, this is probably the most fun I’ve had on a job in a long time.

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