Down under

She scrunched up her face and squinted her eyes to get a better view through the magnifying glass. As an explorer it was very important to get a good look at things. Squatting down on the grass like a gangly frog, she lent forward between her knees.
The magnifying glass was like a portal to another world. All this time, she had been unaware of the hustle and bustle taking place underfoot. At ground level, concealed within the grass, this world was hidden in plain sight, tucked away from prying eyes.

She pursed her lips and breathed noisily through her nostrils, taking her work very seriously. Through the oversized lens, she saw what appeared to be a river streaming through the grass.

How peculiar.

This definitely warranted investigation.

She moved the magnifying glass back and forth like a trombone until it focussed closer to the earth.

Suddenly she realised that the trickle was in fact a flow of ants, making their way through the grass in rows of threes and four. They hurried along with such coordination and focus that’s he wondered if they were soldiers.

She quickly drew an ant in her notebook, before continuing her observations.

She squeezed her left eye shut, making her right eye as wide as possible. She jutted her chin to the side and slowly brought her right eyeball closer to the convex glass. This was how to look through telescopes and lenses properly. Only proper explorers knew this.

With her highly trained eye, she noted that some of the ants were carrying pieces of leaf at least ten times the size of the their own body. How was this possible?

If she carried a piece of leaf ten times her own body size, it would weigh as much as a car. And if it was as flat as a leaf, it would surely get caught in the wind and blow away like a giant kite.

Yet the ants seemed unfazed. Maybe it wasn’t windy down there in the grass.

But before she could analyse this further, she gasped. There were even smaller ants on top of the leaves that the larger ants were carrying!

She immediately wrote this in her notebook.

Despite their tiny stature, the endless flow of their footsteps had carved a clear route into the ground. It was so precise that she became curious about what would happen if it was compromised.

An experiment was necessary.

She held her breath as she gently placed a twig across their path.

Chaos immediately reigned at ground zero.

Some circled aimlessly whilst others scuttled haphazardly from side to side. More and more ants arrived on either side of the twig, increasing the confusion and disarray on both sides.

Her shoulders and cheeks drew closer together and her bared teeth felt cold. Pangs of guilt pulled at her stomach like a bungee cord. She hovered her hand in the air ready to remove the twig, but was frozen in fascination.

Out of nowhere, like a river that had suddenly burst its banks, the ants cascaded over the twig.

Several leafless ants had climbed on top of each other and formed a makeshift ant ladder so that the others could climb up and over the branch.

She wrote ‘ant ladder’ in her notebook and underlined it several times. It seemed very important. She underlined it several times. It would definitely become useful later.

Where on earth were they all going? From their urgency she did used that it must be very important. She decided to find out.

She carefully padded sideways along their trail like a crab, maintaining her focus on the ant trail at all times. Time was of the essence, but she knew that she needed to stay calm. The best explorers kept their cool under pressure.

Her mind flickered to the possibilities that lay ahead. She knew that ants had queens like bees did. But what kind of palace would be fit for an ant queen? Maybe instead of bricks, it was made with the leaves brought in by the foot soldiers.

The trail approached a big oak tree. Just short of shouting ‘Eureka!’ She realise that the tree was not the queens palace. She tutted to herself for nearly jumping to a conclusion before assessing the facts. Before the trail reached the tree, it disappeared into a small hole in the ground. From this hole, several ant trails flowed in and out, like a spaghetti junction around the eye of the storm.

This was not what she was expecting.

However, she knew where all holes led to. This simple discovery had given her the answer!

In her notebook, she wrote in capital letters ‘AUSTRALIA’.













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