The leech

The leech

Attention turns over one foot then the other, from one side to the other, front and then back, alert to the slightest movement. Simple eyes in their rear see shadows move, tiny hairs in their sensilla home in on the vibration of footsteps, but there’s no use keeping still, they close in on you, their prey, by chasing your carbon dioxide gradient. Time measures the start of that elastic looping movement swinging upward in a rush to clamp onto boots and clothes and find skin to cut with their two jaws. They make a V-shaped incision and start sucking naturally.

Young Coachwood forest with logged tree

I had over 40 attacks, but repelled them all with a flick. I get infections these days so am vigilant. I imagine some kind of revenge on behalf of all invertebrates lost with 99.95% of this habitat, the most ancient in Australia, once covering ancient Gondwana.

“And don’t forget the insect repellent – you’re in a rainforest and can expect mosquitoes and other insects as well as possibly leeches sometimes, particularly after rain and in summer. Spraying your shoes, socks and exposed limbs with insect spray will keep them off you.” That’s misinformation from a website: Things To Do In Coffs Harbour.

Muttonbird Island
Giidayn Miirral, Muttonbird Island from above

From the lookout the city spreads against the shore and its two jaws, Gumbaynggirr’s sacred Giidayn Miirral (Muttonbird Island) and Jordan Esplanade, gouged, quarried away, the marina sitting inside a curve of breakwater. We have no idea how fragile cities are.


Blood trickled from a leech bite a few months ago and I thought of Arthur Coga.

Pope Innocent VIII made Tomas de Torquemada the Grand Inquisitor of Spain and urged inquisitors to investigate diabolical sorcery. He had a least 16 illegitimate children, but by the summer of 1492 he was weakened and in a coma. He was given the blood, probably orally, of three young men – all four of them died.

In November 1666 a blood transfusion between dogs was undertaken by the experimental physician Richard Lower, encouraged by that brilliant man, Robert Boyle. Boyle was interested if blood had psychological properties. Would a fierce dog’s blood transferred to a tame pet maker it wild?

The first experiment by doctors on humans occurred the following November, Lower tried to get a madman as subject, but the Keeper of Bedlam refused. A volunteer was found and paid a Guinea, a certain Arthur Coga, Cambridge Divinity student, but ‘cracked a little in his head’ according to Samuel Pepys and described by Lower as ‘the subject of a harmless form of insanity.’

Mr Coga took sheep’s blood into a vein with no ill effects, ‘in the presence of many considerable and intelligent persons. Edmund King wrote, ‘The Man after this operation, as well as in it, found himself very well, and hath given in his own Narrative under his own hand, enlarging more upon the benefit, he thinks, he hath received by it, than we think fit to own as yet. He urg’d us to have the Experiment repeated upon him within 3 or 4 days after this; but it was thought advisable, to put it off somewhat longer.’ I really want to know what happened to Arthur.

People died from human transfusions until after 1901 when blood group antigens and antibodies were discovered

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