Arriving at 3am in Camberwell our Camera Operator Paul began a routine inspection of a 10 metre deep sewer main directly under the roadway.
About 60 metres into the survey, Paul observed a large pink and white obstruction coming into view. As he moved closer he yelled out to us. “You’re not going to believe what I’m looking at!”
There deep underground, below hundreds of tonnes of roadway and rock in a pitch-black sewer pipe was a live, healthy Galah.
The galah had no intention of moving, and Paul needed to get past, so he slowly edged forward and the galah reluctantly stepped aside and watched the camera continue off into the distance. A little further on, the camera began to lose traction on the slippery clay pipe and the survey needed to be abandoned. Now we had another dilemma! The only way to remove the slippery slime from the invert of the pipe is to clean it with a high-pressure nozzle, which would no doubt spell the end for our feathered friend who had by this point become known as “Alf Stewart”.
As Paul retrieved the camera we discussed our options, most of which held a pretty bleak outcome for “Alf”. Luckily when the camera approached “Alf” seemed to know what to do and calmly climbed onto the tail of the camera and hitched a ride like an afternoon commuter on a train.
We were sure that he wouldn’t have the patience to stay perched for the entire sixty-metre journey, but the longer he held on, the more likely it became. We could hear “Alf’s” chirping echoing through the sewer system as his journey continued.
We wondered what would happen when the camera arrived back at the manhole. We knew Alf was too wet to fly and the pipe was ten metres below road level, so once again it felt like we’d done all we could for him. The camera made it back with “Alf” still onboard and Paul slowly backed the tail into view from the surface.
As we looked down at “Alf”, Evan had the idea of assembling all of the maintenance poles into a rescue perch. He attached a hook fitting onto the end and we quietly lowered the pole towards “Alf”. It was like he knew exactly what was going on because he was looking up at the approaching perch the whole time. Once we had lowered the pole as far as it could go, we found ourselves about 2 metres short of the bottom, so we taped our lens-cleaning pole to the maintenance pole and it gave us just enough length to get the perch to where it needed to be.
It only took about 30 seconds for “Alf” to come to the party and climb onto the perch. That was the easy part because the poles
were far from rigid and it was going to be a wild ride. As we raised them they bowed and wobbled about all over the place, but Alf showed courage under fire unlike the three of us. Unbelievably, we got Alf all the way to the surface and he calmly stepped off his perch and onto the road where he was immediately run over by a tram.
Just kidding! We returned Alf to a tree and left him to dry his wings out and get on with his day. We still have no idea how he got into the sewer, but we know there is no way he was getting out alone.
Thanks to our Sewer Contracts Supervisor – James Mitchell for putting together this amazing story.