Fossil site, vegetation work and teacher planning. Day 24 – 28

July 4 -8, 2022. I may be slightly off on the number of days I’ve been here since finding time to write this blog can be troublesome simply due to the fact we are working during the day time.

Today was my first time on an active dig site, Site 8A. The day began by learning (I was new to this site and process) how the 5 meter by 5 meter section was being processed. We conducted a surface scrape only and sifted the material.

The area is truly saturated with fossils EVERYWHERE. Fossils lay exposed on the ground in all directions, long bones, crocodile teeth, turtle plastron, hippo fossils etc etc. see image below. I will be explaining later how this type of site and sight happens. This site 8A has provided some amazing discoveries over the past few days which must remain hush/hush until proper analysis can be done in a controlled lab setting.

Very large fossil, hippo I believe.
Site 8A surface scraping.
Short break from the scraping.
Equipment used in the excavation.

July 5, 2022. Boma ecology surveys today. This Boma was so full of vegetation it was amazing several new species identified inside the boma, providing anecdotal evidence of increased biodiversity inside the boma areas. Another hot day surveying in the sun with drone flights at the end.

SPECIAL SECTION ABOUT THE FOOD WE EAT. Every morning we have some type of porridge: wheat or oats, along with dry corn flakes cereal, hot milk, instant coffee (🤮) and hot spiced milk tea. We have bread each morning and sometimes mandazis, fried triangular bread which is identical to Sopaipillas, and jam/peanut butter. Lunch comes in two forms: in the field lunch and drive back to camp lunch. In the field consists of a cooler with bread (always homemade) canned tuna, canned beef product, canned pineapple, sugary concentrated quencher drink, peanut butter, jam, fake butter. At camp lunch consists of HOT foods such as beans/potatoes/corn as a stew, bread, canned pineapple. Lunches can vary to include pasta with a type of red sauce or a hardy potato salad (😃) as the main. Supper is much more extensive and always begins with a soup for a starter around an hour prior to the main course (we eat very late here around 8pm). The main courses here have been amazing. So far we have had: fresh fish, Talapia from the lake, either fried, stewed or in a pineapple sweat and sour sauce; fresh goat stew (they buy from local Daasanach and process on site here) or goat roast or fried goat; spiced rice with potato/hominy/bean stew; mashed potatoes with some kind of meat sauce. Sides: bread; canned fruit of some kind; always homemade bread with choice of peanut butter, fake butter, canned jam stuff.

Typical broth style soup with bread appetizer prior to the main supper.
Beans, rice, bread. The carbohydrate overload supper.

July 6th, 2022. Human Bio team today in a village called Aiy-Beete (aye-bet-a). There was a political rally happening when we arrived so we had to wait a while for towns people to show up for anthropometric data collection. Then they will go back to rallies shortly. Political elections are held around August so local politicians are out in full force for the local offices. After a slow start we got several families done. On the ride back to camp we met several land rovers overflowing with people hanging on every available handhold. All these vehicles are promoting one political official after another. Music played from some and all people wore some kind of neon bright shirt with a politician’s face on it. People were happy, cheering, and singing. The pictures below are of the school we worked in (after cleaning it up a bit) that hadn’t been used since February this year.

School we worked in.
Some old weekly schedule.

July 7, 2022. Today is my birthday and this is the most interesting location I have ever been to during my birthday. Typically Kevin Schrad and I would be leading groups of students to a South American country for ecological and cultural exploration. So I have spent my birthday in Costa Rica, Belize, and even Japan during one of our sister school visits. However I have never been to the African continent let alone over my birthday. Field work on my birthday!! Rest assured I have a treat for myself today, drip coffee I brought from home. I also plan to stay at camp today to take advantage of one more day of cell signal to work on lesson plans. Chelle and I have a couple more we need to outline before filling in all the details and writing up the labs that will accompany the plans. My phone has been my computer while here as I can access google suite, write and create contents while I have cell signal.

So we worked until about 11:15am really well until the battery power on the computer was too low to continue. So we took a break. I used my electric (rechargeable) clippers and shaved my head a bit. Afterward I was able to get my bucket shower done to refresh my spirit and get rid of hair. Bucket showers are the norm around here and I will explain to those who are not familiar with them. You get either a bucket of basin and around 4 liters of water in the basin. We have either a concrete shower area (open air but private) with a plastic mug for showering located inside it. You can either stand directly in the bucket or basin or off to the side. Gather a cup full of water and wet your hair and the rest if desired. Soap up, then rinse until clean. It is wise to stand in the bucket to conserve your water despite the water getting more soapy as you rinse. If pressed for water resources you can then dry yourself, dress, then even wash dirty clothes in the soapy water from the shower. The process might be repulsive to some people but it works well. This is a remote field school and research, which water resources are greatly prized.

July 8th, 2022. Cloudy morning this morning with a strong wind. No rain last night but it sure looks like it should rain. We are eagerly awaiting instant coffee, hot chocolate or sliced milk tea as we are all a bit tired, sore and stiff from about a month of sleeping on the ground. Morning meeting will inform us what and when our next move will be since we’ve had a stomach bug making its way through the camp over the past week and a half. Almost every researcher, student and support staff has been affected at some point. So we may not be traveling soon but rather a bit later. Each morning at 7am, we have the “morning meeting” to cover any questions or changes to schedule. So in about a minute we should find out what the plan is for the next few days and how much, if any, our travel plans have changed. Update: we will be staying here until at least tomorrow then evaluating again in the morning. We have been informed to pack most things up so we are ready to go tomorrow if possible.

I should be headed to site 8A again in the afternoon and will try to get a good perspective photo of the shear number of fossils scattered on the ground. Right now I am wanting to work on interviewing students, staff and our Daasanach interpreters.

Site 8A was awesome. Tons of fossils. See image below of just a small area with a few items circled for you. one image is not circled so you can zoom in and find your own fossils. Now we should have time to head to the lake for a quick swim/bathing then supper later tonight.

Look at circled areas to find surface fossils.
Find your own fossils!

We leave Illeret tomorrow for Koobi Fora base camp early. We cannot travel to our northern most camp as the water well there is broken. No water=no camp. So we will stay in base camp and have longer days traveling to karari for day trips. One last picture here in Illeret to end our stay here. Enjoy the sunset on a truly beautiful place. FYI. Right now as I write the local Daasanach children are singing in the night a melodic fast chant with highs, lows and excited youthful spirit. I am emotionally struck like an instrument waiting to interrupt the silence.

Our sunset while returning from the lake.