Archive for January 2nd, 2012

Mekong Journals: 11

January 2, 2012 in Mekong Journals | Comments (0)


[In January 2003 I accompanied an expedition that was conducting a survey of river dolphins on a stretch of the Mekong River in Cambodia. The expedition was led by Isabel Beasley, who was then a PhD student specializing on Orcaella brevirostris: also known as the ‘Irrawaddy Dolphin’ this species is found in many Asian river systems and deltas. The journal I kept during the expedition will appear on this site as a continuous series of posts. This is part 11 of the series.]


Isabel was on her way to visit Clasico, on Nov 26, when she had a terrible accident. She was sitting side-saddle on the moped – which is the normal way for a woman to sit – and the driver was trying to turn. They were hit by another moped, which went directly into Isabel. She was thrown off, her femur was broken and her knee was shattered. She was brought back to Phnom Penh and it was clear at once that she would have to be Medevaced. She had Australian medical insurance and she assumed that it would be a straightforward affair to have the evacuation covered. But when she called Australia to confirm, the insurance company told her about a detail that she hadn’t known about, something in small print – that the insurance company would pay for evacuation only if the driver of the vehicle had an Australian driver’s license. This was a great shock for the cost was huge. She was in utter despair and her brain had begun to swell because her skull was fractured. But somehow, through friends, the money was raised and the plane flew out from Bangkok. Just 15 minutes before she was to leave the CEO of the insurance company called her to say that the company would pay after all. Apparently what had happened was that her doctor had called the company and told them that if Isabel wasn’t taken to Bangkok she was going to die, and the company would be stuck with huge lawsuits. This made the company cave. Isabel was taken to Bangkok, she received medical attention, the procedures were successful and she went off to New Zealand to recuperate. Soon after, two of her colleagues organized Clasico’s release. Everything went well, but for Isabel the release was a disappointment because very little data was recorded.

But the story ended on a happy note. After all the disappointments of 2001-2, she was back in Kratie at last, sitting in this very pavilion, when she noticed, one day, that a dolphin was surfacing repeatedly, very close to her. It happened so many times that it seemed to be more than random; it was almost as though the animal were trying to attract her attention. She took many pictures of it and later when they were developed, she realized that it was none other than Clasico.




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