Truckie Profiles

A whale of a time

It was a welcome but “smelly” trip down memory lane for myself and young truckie Ken Cathcart when we met up unexpectedly in Townsville.

The 34-year-old was beside his Freightliner Coronado which was hauling cement railway sleepers from Rockhampton to outback Richmond in Queensland.

“Remember when you did that story on the dead whale many years ago? I was one of the four transport company workers who moved its carcass and bones,” Cathcart said.

We both agreed the smell from the whale bones was one of the most putrid we have encountered.

“I have never smelt anything so bad in my life and it was also an unusual load,” he said.

Some of the people who were near it even wore face masks which didn’t help much.

It was back in 2008 when Cathcart worked as a mechanic/driver for a company called Townsville Towing. The whale was found dead in Cape Cleveland waters south of Townsville.

It unfolded after the 20 tonne rare blue whale died after being stranded near Cungulla and the truck involved in carrying its carcass was a 2002 model 260hp Hino Ranger aptly named Camel Tow.

Weeks after the whale was retrieved from the ocean, its remains were on the back of a trailer at Townsville Towing’s depot in Stuart.

By the time it left for the Queensland Museum in Brisbane, it consisted of bones and huge vertebrae.

I snapped pics of the bones on the trailer at the depot and several of the whale being towed by a boat in the water were provided by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).

The other Townsville Towing workers with Cathcart were his boss Cameron Wright, Peter Peckett and Mark McCormack.

“Myself and some workers arrived on the site at Cungulla and it took three hours to place the bones on the back of our Hino truck. It was very smelly as all the flesh had been cut away. I have never seen anything quite like this and the size of the innards was extraordinary. The intestines and everything else were the size of waterpipes,” Wright said at the time.

Whilst the odour was “on the nose”, it was an extremely important transport job from a scientific point of view.

At that stage it was the only complete specimen of a blue whale in the Queensland Museum collection.

Back to the present time and Cathcart said there was a genuine shortage of rest areas with toilets for truckies.

“We really need a lot more of them, especially in Queensland,” he said.

His favourite roadhouse is at the Moonie Cross Roads which he says provides well for drivers.

The worst road he nominated was the Warrego Highway between Toowoomba and Roma.

An R700 Mack was the first truck Cathcart ever drove and it was at Dubbo in NSW.

Outside work, Cathcart enjoys watching his nine-year-old son Billy participate in motocross.

He rates the Freightliner highly and intends on continuing as a truckie for many years.

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