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Dumbea Tumble Gorge New Caledonia
New Caledonia

Here's a message for all you dedicated 360 photographers.

When I took the photo "Dumbea River Reach" nearly three years ago I can remember balancing on the river rock with my camera rig. At one stage I dropped my wireless trigger into the river and had to do a crazy leap to another rock to get it back as quickly as possible. I also remember feeling disappointed that the real size and splendour of the mountain gorge didn't seem to come across in the sphere image.

So, last Sunday, Freddy and I went back to the same area so I could try another view that might bring out the sheer size of the massive gorge. This time I figured that if I climbed up the slope on the north side I could get a better perspective for this kind of imagery. The bracken here is easy enough to walk through and there were no snakes or other monsters to worry about as I waded through the ferns up the slope. I found my spot, got set up, and took the image. It looked pretty nice and the day was sunny so all was well with the world as I started back down the slope. If you look down towards where the cars are parked by the river you'll notice a dug-out area. This is actually quite a large area and the up-slope edge is a sheer drop. So I needed to find a place where I could find a way down. I angled toward the road a bit, being careful because the whole slope under the ferns was strewn with jagged rocks of every size. Finally I got to the edge. I walked back and forth along the edge looking for somewhere to get down. Finally I found a place that looked OK. I tied my tripod and camera bag onto the end of my hiking stick and lowered it down the first step then slid down myself. So far so good. Next there was a traverse to another ledge - from there I could turn and make the last few meters with no problem. I hoisted my gear and stepped on the first rock on the traverse. The rock popped loose and down I went, thrown on my back dropping almost vertically down towards a jumble of jagged rocks. I had time to realize that hitting those rocks would be really bad - there was only one little place with no rocks and I twisted to hit it. I was practically in free-fall, hammered against the wall when I hit.

The pain in my back was horrifying. I knew I had done serious damage. I tried to call out to Freddy who had been waiting for me to come back down but I could barely breathe and my shout was a pitiful wheeze. I couldn't move. I was down in the midst of the jumble of huge black rocks. Finally I was able to turn over, every motion sent unbearable fangs of fire along my back and chest. I realized there was no way Freddy would find me - I had to get out myself as fast as I could. I pried myself out of the rocks holding on to the tripod and my walking stick and, bent right over, stumbled around the next boulder, and the next until I could see the road. Freddy appeared on the road. I said, "I've hurt myself. Badly." She rushed over and gave me her walking stick and helped me slowly back to the car - which fortunately was only about 50 meters away.

We drove the 20 minutes back to Noumea and went directly to the emergency ward of the hospital. For the rest of Sunday, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I lay flat on my back in the hospital squashed by pain killers, thinking again and again how stupid I had been. If I had gone back the way I came up, If I had slid my gear down ahead of me so I had my hands free, If I had this or that, all punctuated with how stupid, how idiotic I had been.

Of course now, as the pain killers are wearing off and I am able to sit again at the computer, I realize that all accidents are instants of stupidity. But photographic accidents are preceded by a blind recklessness to get the right angle for the shot regardless of the risk. You concentrate on the right place to be and just go there. I want to tell you, my friend, I'm going to be thinking twice about that next time I go taking pictures. No more jumping from one river rock to the next to grab a dropped wireless trigger, no more edging along cliffs, balancing on outcrops of slippery rock above a waterfall. Even if someone were paying me to do it - and nobody is - it isn't worth it. I'm lucky. Nothing was actually broken, just tore some of the ligaments holding the ribs to the vertebrae, and although it still hurts I'm moving OK again after 7 days. Sometimes I wonder how I ever got to be 71 years old.

So, all you dedicated photographers, my message is - be careful, think it through twice before you try it.

Copyright: Richard Chesher
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 16000x8000
Taken: 16/10/2011
Uploaded: 21/10/2011


Tags: mountains; new caledonia; river; trekking; dumbéa; wilderness
More About New Caledonia

New Caledonia is the closest South Pacific Island to Australia and New Zealand. It is a French Territory and although the official language is French the culture is a blend of Melanesian, European, Polynesian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Indonesian, and more. There is one large mountainous island called Grande Terre and 6 smaller islands - the three Loyalty Islands, Belep and the Isle of Pines.The islands are remarkably unpopulated and there are vast areas of wilderness. There are hundreds of kilometers of walking treks, camp grounds, more than 42 parks and reserves, and crystal clear rivers with sparkling waterfalls. Almost one third of the population is located in the capital city of Noumea. Nickel mining is the primary industry and is the major contributor to the high standard of living in the country. Grande Terre is surrounded by the second largest barrier reef in the world and the protected lagoon created by this barrier reef is the largest in the world. Listed as a World Heritage Site in 2008, the lagoon is 24,000 square kilometers and supports a diverse and luxuriant fauna of fish and invertebrates.The vibrant, clear and rich colors are one of the first things that visitors notice when they arrive. Noumea has a complete range of hotels, resorts, restaurants, and activities to welcome visitors.

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