Maningrida is in the Northern Territory. One way to get there is drive from Darwin through Jabiru and Gunbalanya and weave in a north-easterly direction to the northern coast of West Arnhem Land. The other is to fly due east from Darwin. Either way, it’s a pretty long distance.

A young environmental scientist was working in Maningrida community for several weeks. As the Map shows, Maningrida is due west of Darwin and is about an hour’s flying time. It’s a beautiful spot, nestled on the ocean, that started as a supply depot for Aboriginal language groups in the middle of last century. These days, it is home to three language groups from the area, and many other groups now reside there.1442514-3x2-940x627

The photo to immediately below shows about half of the community. Overall, approximately 4000 people reside in the town, in which a lot of new housing was constructed around 2010.25-000-tarentules-australie

At the time this story takes place, it was late February, and temperatures and humidity were very high, as they always are in the wet season.

The young man of whom I write had been warned about the dangers of swimming because of the many crocodiles that inhabited the area. He’d also been told to always check with the local people, even if all he wanted to do was stick a toe in the water. dsc06392

One Sunday afternoon, having been in the community for several week, he decided to head for a beach, wearing shorts and thongs and taking a towel.

As he walked along a sandy beach towards a boat on the shoreline, he passed three old men in the shade of a tree chatting, while several camp dogs cavorted in the shallows. 669391061_0d12b35afd

The cavorting dogs motivated him to walk to the men, point at the water and ask politely,  “Crocodiles?”

One of the oldies shook his head. “No, not today.”

The young man threw down his towel and with unrestrained glee, leaped into the water, swimming out a fair distance, and then leisurely stroking his way back to shore.

As he toweled himself after making shore, he walked to the old fellas and asked, “On a hot day like this, why aren’t you fellas in the water getting cool?”

The old man who’d spoken earlier pointed at the water again and said quietly, “Shark!”shark-fin