• picture
  • picture
  • picture
  • picture
Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Field Note: Scylla and Charybdis on the Zambezi River

Published: October 2, 2020

By Mark Seth Lender

A wide-eyed hippo in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe. Nearly as wide-eyed as the author upon encountering the creature. (Photo: (c) Mark Seth Lender)

Living on Earth's Explorer in Residence Mark Seth Lender muses on danger and perspective in an encounter with wild hippopotamus and Cape buffalo.

Between Mana Pools and Mozambique there were many encounters with hippopotamus. It is not so much that they were trying to kill us. They don’t come that fast and it is easy to get out of the way. If you don’t they will knock your canoe throwing you into the water or break the canoe in half with their teeth which amounts to a more demonstrative method to the same result. Because on the splash the crocodiles come. And them you will not see because they are trying to get you. Taken together this makes canoeing the Zambezi dangerous, far more dangerous than we realized at the time. In retrospect our hypervigilance was justified. But that is seldom the case.

This was the first time Valerie and I were in Africa. First impressions being what they are everything was extraordinary, we took nothing for granted, our recollections are sharp and bright. Nonetheless, though the images in the mind’s eye remain, they are subject to pentimenti. Unconscious impressions and the layers of meaning they hold become transparent to each other. Things that seemed unrelated connect. We decrypt and decipher the previously indecipherable.

What I thought was dangerous now seems as though it was not. What I did not fear I should have. What seemed ordinary now seems special. The extraordinary miraculous. And what I explicitly took for granted no longer exists.

A crocodile on the banks of the Zambezi River. (Photo: (c) Mark Seth Lender)

Back to Mark Seth Lender Field Notes


Listen to the Scylla and Charybdis on the Zambezi River essay

Mark Seth Lender's website


Living on Earth wants to hear from you!

Living on Earth
62 Calef Highway, Suite 212
Lee, NH 03861
Telephone: 617-287-4121
E-mail: comments@loe.org

Newsletter [Click here]

Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.

Living on Earth offers a weekly delivery of the show's rundown to your mailbox. Sign up for our newsletter today!

Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.

Creating positive outcomes for future generations.

Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion

The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.

Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary wildlife photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.

Buy a signed copy of Mark Seth Lender's book Smeagull the Seagull & support Living on Earth