Trapping the under toad

Grahame Southwick, the rogue (and owner) of the Royal Davui. Photo by David Lansing.

Grahame Southwick, the owner of the Royal Davui, has gone back to Suva but he left something behind for me: a copy of his autobiography, Hard Day at the Office. I spent much of the weekend reading it, a bit surprised at how good it was, although I have to say that if I was as careless with fish hooks and long-lines as Grahame is with punctuation and spelling, he’d toss me off his boat in a heartbeat (in the same chapter where he bitterly laments the lazy method his crew uses to locate tuna using spotting binoculars, he pens this sentence: “Mostly, avid “Grog swipers” as they are known, always ensure that their “grog cloth” travels with them, but on this occasion, this was a detail overlooked, much consternation and what to do…?” I have no idea what he’s trying to say here, do you?)

Anyway, despite the fact that Grahame can’t type worth a damn, he’s a good storyteller. One of my favorites is about a marine biologist who asked to go out with Grahame and his crew one time when they were shrimping. Grahame’s crew would haul up traps from 1,200 feet or deeper and the marine biologist was curious as to what else they were hauling up from the deep. The crew would take a trap and dump it on a table and sort everything out, keeping the shrimp and tossing the rest of it back into the sea.

So the crew is doing this when the biologist notices that they’ve brought up a cane toad. He says to Grahame, “That’s impossible! Its 400m down there and the water temperature is 12 degrees…and how would they breathe?”

Grahame writes, “Over the next 20 traps we caught about a dozen of these fat creatures and he was absolutely flabbergasted. They were photographed, measured and weighed. All details were recorded in the book. When we returned to the jetty that night he thanked me for a most interesting day, shook my hand and his head and left.

“Today, this young lad is one of the Pacific’s premier marine consultants and I often wonder what he wrote in his book and if he ever produced a paper on the cane toads that lived with the deep sea shrimp in 400m of salt water or indeed if he had ever lectured about them or told anyone.

“I never told him what that was all about, after all why let the facts again get in the way of a good story. The facts being that the day before we went out, we had made up another 50 traps and left them on the lawn near the jetty. Overnight, there had been heavy rain and there were toads all over the lawn. Some had obviously taken refuge in some of the traps and when the boys baited and set them the previous evening, they hadn’t bothered to take the toads out of the traps.”

Ah, Grahame, you rogue!

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