I MOVED up to Cape Tribulation from the University of Wollongong in 1988 to set up a research station for James Cook University.
JCU then walked away from the project so I set up AUSTROP (the Australian Tropical Research Foundation) as a notfor-profit foundation. I’ve been operating it ever since.
The environment here is one area I can do something about, make a difference and have a direct impact. Part of my job is research and education as well.
My first memory of Dwyght is of him turning up with one of our US interns and a canoe. He only arrived at the beginning of this year permanently but it was about four years ago.
He came back because he loved the place - simple as that. He’d lived in Port Douglas for the last seven years and he wanted to get out of the urban lifestyle.
Dwyght is now the “Kensington Palace Gardener” of the place and general station supervisor. He especially likes supervising the girls.
We’re both bosses of our domains. I’m the station and science boss, and Dwyght is the grounds boss.
He takes a few too many risks, but then again, we all do here. It’s his personality; he’s a bit of a risk-taker physically. Like a lot of men his age, he hasn’t quite figured out there are limits to the human body.
He has a great sense of humour - except in the mornings - and is an incredibly hard worker, which I like about him.
When they made Dwyght, they threw away the mould. There aren’t any other Dwyghts around. He’s very unusual individual, but you’d have to be to be around here.
I admire that he is honest and forthright and very hard working. And he really cares about the environment.
One of the most memorable moments was discovering that he had fallen off the roof while he was thinking about his girlfriend (a true romantic) and trying to behave as normal with a broken rib.
We argue about everything. It’s not nasty arguments but we both have very strong personalities and often have conflicting ideas about how to do things. We argue it out until we come up with a resolution, which is what life’s supposed to be about. It’s in the positive sense, not in a nasty way.
There is probably nothing that would change or end the partnership. We’re both so attached to the area because we probably need psychiatric help. There’s a whole newspaper you could write on that one.
But really, it’s to do primarily with the beauty of place, importance of the environment. I’m a very hands-on conservationist so part of my role here is trying to undo the mess everyone else is making of the place, which is considerable.
Dwyght, even though he’s not biologist, is a conservationist at heart and he has the same feelings about it as I do. it’s maintenance or when scientists are there I help out. The station’s resident cat and the bats are the bosses.
Hugh is like my surrogate father. He’s just family, it’s just like way we work. I lost my father a couple of years ago and Hugh has kind of taken up that space. I’m old enough to not have a male fatherfigure in my life but I look up to him.
I like that he is one of the most environmentally aware people in the area and he’s very good humoured as well. He’s so unique because he walks the walk that he talks, although it doesn’t always make him popular. I admire his patience.
The only thing that would end the partnership would be death. I love travelling and I’ll still go on my journeys but I’ll always come back here from now on.
Scaring Hugh when he was trying to repair some electrics was very memorable. Boy, he got angry. On another occasion, it was very funny to watch him using the chainsaw in his undies.
But I don’t like that he overfills the washing machine. We argue about everything but we agree on lots of things, especially getting rid of coconut infestations. Why can’t people open their eyes to the problem of coconut trees?
A bit batty: Dwyght Walton and Hugh Spencer