Sunday, June 29, 2008

day 32 pictures

Day 32, 4 frozen,1 burial, 1 death

Wednesday, excavated a burial that looks to have been a predation by a large carnivore. Skull was detached at C3, with 2 large puncture woulds in the back of the skull just above the foreman magnum, with right zygomatic also being crushed. C4 to T5 was there with the attendent ribs and both hummeri but the rest of the thorax, sacrum and the entire left pelvis and leg were gone along with both forearms. Took all day until after 6--
Thursday was a day off because of another Naualatuk,Cleaned one ATV tubby of debris off the point, see attached picture,had to take a bear guard with me, no bear(s)but see attached pictures of a bear/seal confrontation. Notice the fog, it does get a little spooky when the visability drops below 50 yards. this took place about 1 mile north and of where we live and 100 yards out on the ice, right opposite the Napa gas station.The only one in town.
Friday, got stuck in the lab with 7 teenagers, you can well imagine how much fun that was, actually it went pretty well with only 2 or 3 times I had to interfere. All of them are bright, some are sophomores and some are seniors, with different perspectives and goals, some pretty unclear, all of them are interesting, in different ways.
Dennis, Justin, Ali all leave today, by the time I get back Andrew,and Nadia will be gone. Katey left on saturday. That just leaves, me Tony and Krista, with two new ones coming in. One is a Polar Tech teacher from the NE somewhere. I'm out tomorrow morning--having a wee bit of trouble processing that--I've gotten very comfortable here--it feels natural to have sunlight 24 hours a day and to be working my ass off out at the northernmost point in the U.S.and spending massive amounts of time with 20-26 year olds.
Saturday was difficult--8:30 AM a 12 year old on an ATV across the street from where we stay, got himself into an accident--no one saw it snd his three buddies hauled him on the ATV over to the college, ran into the cafeteria, told the adults and took off. Ambulance took 25 minutes to get here, Fire and Police were here earlier, one of our crew, Paddy, was one of the first on site and knew some first aid and CPR--didn't make any difference--Massive head trauma,massive blood loss he did not make it.
Later in the day 4 of our bunch decided to do a "Polar Plunge". the deal is, either bathing suits or naked to go in to the Chukchi sea, submerge and come back out. Water is about 34 degrees. Andrew Katey, Krista and Nadia did it and Nadia and Katey did it twice. Didn't make any sense to me--
Dinner was at Osaka on Anne and Glenn for Clare's birthday, good sushi ( and actually good breakfasts also) but as you may imagine, Really expensive, medium sushi plate by us about 20 bucks--here $54--dragon roll $19
All the restruants here are American slash Japanese/chinese/korean/Thai/ pizza/mexican. all 5 of them.
I'll see a lot of you this week, be safe, be well--life is too damn short to waste on anything but what and who you love.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 28 Playing Catch Up

Haven't written for about 5 days so will try to catch up in one post--may make it may not. Saturday was the first Nalukataq--eaxh of the boats that has been successful in landing a whale hold's their own, this one was for 2 captains combined--it is basically a sharing ceremony and lasts from about noon to after midnight. They distribute various foods like the caribou soup I mentioned earlier, muktuk and the new one (for me) this time was Mikiauq which is whale meat in fermented whale blood. Sound awful but really isn't, the fermentation adds a bit of zing but all in all its pretty good. there is another one on Thrus and another one on Saturday. Saturday we went to Joe's museum. He's a private individual--actually the son of Fran who owns Pepe's and was the water man here for 25+ years, ( I'll explain the water man thing in a minute) he works till 10 pm so that is the earliest you can go in--he has been collecting stuff that people bring him for 25+ years and his place is pretty small, but he has full sized stuffed polar bear, a caribou, wolverines, wolf, and bunches of smaller animals, and hundreds and hundreds of artifacts displayed in small cases. Age on them ranges from 1800 years old to anout 150 years ago--The water thing--this is Barrow, everything is built on permafrost, everyone uses septic systems and the water is supplied by trucks. Each hut has an internal cistern that is about 150-175 gallons, and when you need water you call the water man and he comes with his truck and fills your cistern. With 4 of us we go through a fair amount of water with showers, flushes etc, sometimes we make it to the next day's delivery sometimes its pee in the toilet and don't dare flush. Washes also eat up water, we all pretty much wash everything we own once a week cause we get pretty dirty out at the site, so those days take water planning and allocation. Any way its not like you just turn on the tap and don't pay attention. We asked about when we should start to be concerned about the septic system and we told when sewage starts to back up into the shower to give them a call!!??
Sunday we didn't have anything scheduled so I'd been trying to organize a trash clean-up out at the point for the last few days. All kinds of people were in until they had to make a commitment for the ATV's --then, not suprisingly, they got very busy with other urgent tasks and the only ones that ened up going we me Andrew and Katey the dental extern who is on the current rotation at the hospital--they rotate a new one in every two weeks, this one went out to the Point with us on Thrus and Friday and hung out with us until she flew out to one of the villages on Monday. It is basically welfare dentistry. The villages know when they are coming and start lining up at 7AM, first come, first served, and if there are too many the remainder have to come back the next day. Anyway, we took 3 ATV's anrt two tow behind tubbies, we started out at Point Plover, about 2 miles east on Nuvuk and worked our way slowly back picking up everything we could without getting bogged down in the gravel, we got back to where we work at Nuvuk and worked another 1/2 mile or so on the Chukchi sea side then called it a day. we filled both tubbies to the brim, probably 300-400 pounds of rusted oil drums, plastic debris, nylon rope, 3 feet of tank tread( that was heavy, it took two of us to lift it)small tires,and suprisingly 3 pairs of jeans, three shoes, several pairs of underpants(both sexes)I can't imagine anyone riding back on an ATV in 30-40 degree weather without jeans on. We off loaded at the warehouse and I thought about laying it all out and taking a picture but figured the other two would kill me so we just dumped it in a garbage bin. The director asked me the next day if I had taken pictures, and what the most interesting things were( answers are No and 3 pair of women's Jeans). I may go out again on Thursday cause the crew is taking the day off for the next Nalukataq, which doesn't start till later in the day.
We've got six burials identified and ready to remove so that will be this weeks priority, along with Clare's driftwood feature, which is looking more like human usage all the time, chert flakes, burnt wood, fish scales (who knew they would preserve) and seal bones. Dating on that feature will be interesting. Yesterday and today I worked shovel test pits, everyone rotates on them and we all hate them, but today i decided to embrace the concept. The target is 30 a day with 20 being sort of acceptable and most people do between 20 and 30. The site record is 55 by Kyle. I had 30 by lunch and finished withh 58, I'm pretty compfortable that I can keep up with the big kids now. Kyle was in the lab today and was really pissed when I told him but we kicked it aroun=d and agreed that 70 is doable, if you really can focus without interuptions. Not by me though, I'll take my one day of glory and retire.
The big news of the day was we had our first bear of the season out on the ice. On the ride out to the point, I was ferrying this little female photographer along on the back of my ATV, and she was taking stills with a really expensive camera whose shutter button froze up as we were passing Birnirk, about a mile later the bear guards spotted the bear and I thought she was such a delicate little thing until she started swearing. I got about six shots with the nice little camera Lois got me and even though he was about 100 yards out on the ice, I've got him in every frame I just have to magnify and crop.
Tomorrow I get to work another burial which should be fun if it isn't raining, but I'll do it even if it is, just have to gear up differently.I'll post pictures so they'll appear at the top of the post rather than at the bottom. I'm scheduled to come late on the 30th of June and fly back to Barrow again on 07/09

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Day 23 --great day at the Point

Today the point was beautiful--the weather was perfect, so nice that I could ride the ATV out and back without goggles or head gear--the weather was in the high 40's and NO wind, sun was shining, we excated two burials today--all in all a great day. Last sunday we surveyed a site out on the tundra that was supposed to have three skeletons being frost heaved out of the tundra. It uurns out there at eight for sure and probably twelve with one juvenile--the coffin wood and the square nails point to probably an epidemic in either 1908 or 1924. Pronbably no activity this year if at all, but will probably get them frnced off to keep ATv's from riding over them.
we tried Arctic Pizza the other night, good food and they take our BASC cards---there is a small park across the street with 15 house mounds at the edge of a 50 foot bluff looking out over the Chuchai Sea, beautiful location that was active when Charlie Brower founded Barrow in 1900. Never been dug and has preserved whalebone sticking out of the sod, probably dates all the way back to about 500 AD, in terms of constant occupation. There were polar bear tracks through the point this morning heading out onto the ice, Tried to get a shot of them and will post it later this week. David went out last weekend and got a seal just a little ways east of where we are digging and gave it to another family. Kyle was telling us that he has been on the whaleboat crew since he was 10 and they have landed 2 whales in the last 7 years, one of them this year. his job was fleashing the whale and hauling the meat and blubber to their ice cellar. Said it took him 24 hours straight, and he probably hauled 20 tons, about 40,000 pounds.
Clare got in a couple of days ago from Univ of Alaska Fairbanksand specializes in driftwood, she tried to speciate it and run dendronology dating on it--most is from the Yukon river but she does have one piece of Sequoia. We've been clearing off about 8 cubic meters of grabel off a driftwood accumulation that was projecting out of the bluff about 5 feet below the edge and probably dates to about 1500 years ago--one chert tool showed up and we, of course are hoping for a house floor but we'll see.
Having fun--getting up early--, working hard--, getting buff (well, sort of)--
Will post more later this week--

Friday, June 13, 2008

Day 17 continued

Day 17 end of week 2 continued

I put the pictures in first since that was one oof the requests, the first is of where we are working with some of the shovel pit flags set out, 2-5 are of the whale captains ceremony and pictures of the Umiak and closeups of the bearded seal cover and the stitching. The stitching is doine by the women and there is absolutely no sealand used, the tightness of the stitches is what makes it waterproof. it's important because if it isn;t perfect water leaks in and people die. there are no life preservers or rescues, unless the paddlers can get to ice safely. That little boat made of skins, holds six paddlers, a styeersman and a harpooner. the other picture is of the people at the ceremony. It only lasts about 30 minutes, everyone eats and goes home. servings were caribou soup, muktuk and whale blubber. Yummy!!
The weather this week has been beautiful, three out of 5 days were sunny, warm (40's) and no real wind. Still don't work without glove liners, gloves and Matt's jacket but it is way nicer. Lunch is an hour so the last 20 minutes or so you can lay in the gravel, make gravel angels, put your head on a driftwood log, feel the sun on your face, and a 20 mph breeze all at the same time. For us it doesn't get any better. We've taken out 3 burials so far and found another 2 on the surface that got kicked up by the ATV's wheels passing over them, and someone will go --"hey look!!"
The labor is grueling but it has it's own rythem that you get into. Today for instance, we dug about 150 test pits, back filled another 200 and (ta Da!) removed about 30 cubic yards of sand overcover from this huge peat deposit that runs 200 yards by 8 yards all along the current coast. Why mess with the peat, you ask, good question!!--there are six different time levels that no one quite understands and significant numbers of artifacts are found in and between the peat levels. The various peat deposits were, at one time tundra, that got covered over and later eroded out and lived on by hundreds of years worth of occupation, the latest ones by Inupiat and Yankee whalers. We drag those little trailers behind us each day to bring our gear out and today they doubled as sand dump trucks. the ywould pull one up six of us would shovel like crazy for 3-4 minutes, it would take off to dump its load and be back in 3-4 minutes, just enough to give you a chance to catch your breath and the whole cycle would repeat, we did that for 4 hours in the afternoon.
The big news of the week was i was in the lab on wednesday and one of the high school students came back from lunch and said her mom said to come over to UIC science and pick up a human leg that someone had dropped off. As most of you know, most non osteo people don't know a human leg from a turkey leg, so I jumped in the truck and went over there--SHASAM, it was a whole right human leg, Femur, patella, tibia, fibula, and all the foot bones perfectly intact because it had been partially mummified and there was considerable dessicated tissue holding it together, it looked like the left side had weathered out and been exposed but the knee area and the entire foot were well preserved. I made the conservative choice to deal with it like a recent burial rather than an archaeological specimen so I called Anne on the radio, unfortunately, I didn't think to ask her to switch to channel 2 in order to have a private conservation and the whole conversation, including my description of it went out on Channel 1 the open channel that all of the research recievers in the area tune into. This is a small group here and became even smaller very quickly. They found the guy who had turned it in, he had found it while picking up driftwood for a bonfire the night before about a mile further out towards Plover point going east from us--three or four went out but couldn't find him and the four guys in our cabin were intending to go out this weekend on our own and try to locate him but in the meantime, there is a lot of paperwork to fill out and it turns out there is no coroner, ME or state police in Barrow, so that creates it's own set of problems.
In the meantime, the police came to us today and said that some one had reported 3 burials had frost heaved out of the tundra out by the airport and would we please do something about that--so it might get busy this weekend.
Shelia left this week to go back to Fairbanks and Nadia showed up and took her place, grad student in art history with a focus on revitalized Native Alaskan art being influenced by old art patterns on harpoon heads etc. Ya gotta admire anyone who show up to do 4 weeks in Barrow with only the contents of a backpack to subsist on. She does know what she's doing she is 1/8 native alaskan and has worked on previous digs in tha Alutians.
This site only lets me enter 5 pictures at a time, so the others will have to wait. The meltwater puddles are becoming ponds and the ponds and becoming lakes. The shorefast ice is still here, but looking a little more ragged every day. Apparently when it blows out it leaves in one big swoop but may get blown back by wind and currants again.
The next picture I want to post is the sun at midnight--its hard to communicate just how different that is, it always seems like somewhere between 10 AM and 2 PM. You get tired but you don't really get sleepy. All of the windows in the quonset hut bedrooms have the windows blacked out with Aluminum foil otherwise you'd never sleep, and whoever had my room punched tiny holes in it to look like stars and even put in the constellations.
One last footnote, all of the trucks and cars here have cracked windshields because of the rocks kicked up from the roads, and our truck has the nasty habit of not starting every once in a while and one of us has to crawl under the engine with a piece of rebar especially kept in the truck to bang on the starter--it always starts, just needs a litle prompting.
thats it for now.

Day 17 end of week 2

Monday, June 9, 2008

Day 13 --600 test pits later

We've fisished about 600 shovel tests pits so far and hit 2 possibly 3 burials, one excavated but is probably exploded and partially in a midden so left for later, and today's, was very neat but little in the way of burial material. The outline was very concise, outlined by 4 driftwood logs and in a 4' X 5' configuration supplemented by a partial mandible (lower jaw) of a bowhead whale, but there was really very little in the way of bone left, best surmise is it was probably hit by carnivores, shortly after burial, because there was only part of the skull, no verts at all, 2 ribs, one partial humerous, no pelvis or lower limbs. It took most of the day to uncover and record, and got "busy" towards the end of the day trying to finish up and get out of there. It got pretty foggy in the afternoon, just enough that it was percipaiting like a light mist, rather pleasent really until we rode back on the ATV's and the dust kicked up blended withe the mist and turned all of us a nice even light brown color.

Lois asked about seals, we know they are out there because that is what the bears hunt but they usually don't come close in to shore, today one of the bear guards shot one ( a seal, not a bear) but lost him when he got to his breathing hole and disappeared.

Edward--there are no glaciers where we are, you need mountains to have glaciers, and Barrow doesn't have mountains. This is a level tundra plain.

Thanks to everyone who has posted comments, this site does note seem to be able to let me just reply to the individual comments and create a conversation stream, so I'll try to answer or respond in my posts.

The weekend was pretty calm, went to another bonfire on Friday night and talked with someone who works for the DMV here in Alaska who was explaining that part of her job is flying to some of the more remote villages and certifying individuals for drivers licenses. That ONLY allows them to drive in the villages, not on state roads, its called a class 6 license. and they have to go through another exam if they want a "regular" license.
Will post more later--Internet is shutting down and want to get this up

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Day 10--end of the first week

A couple of notes before I forget, the exploratorium people were out with us on Wednesday and spent all day sticking still and video cameras in our faces and there is supposed to be a webcast at 3PM EST on saturday but you can access it by going to hit the polar banner which will get you to ice stories, and that is were we are supposed to be but--at least that is what they told us but the reality may be different and they may just truncate the whole program, but they did shoot a lot of video and the still guy said he shot 250 still and promised to generate some CD's of what he had, so we'll see. It was the only day we've seen sun, other that that it is daylight 24 hours a day but cloudy. On that particular day it was sunny and no wind, go figure. On thursday morning there was steady rain from 7AM to noon, it was SOOOO fun riding out to the point on the ATV's getting blasted with cold and rain. I went through 3 pairs of gloves(soaking wet) by noon and 3 of the kids bailed, cause they just could not deal with the cold wet conditions and their equipment wasn't that good. We hit out first burial that afternoon, Andrew found it, so the rule is whomever finds it gets to work it, along with the two senior archaeologists. I shot in points on the rest of the pin flags and shot in the elements of the burial as they emerged. We just hit another one at the end of the day but didn't expose it because we couldn't get both of them out before the weekend.
Friday I got stuck in the lab, cause we all have to rotate as supervisor and they had an extern dentist coming out to cast the teeth from all of the burials that were found in 2007. I sat and worked with him for most of the day but there were only 13 of the 24 burials that had dentitions.
So far I'm not seeing any of the wear that we see in California N.A. populations. Nowhere near. (thats for the arch people reading this).
The crew that went out to the point today saw their first polar bear, the bear guards pointed it out, it was about 200 years offshore looking for seals. Now is the time that the ringed and bearded seals have their pups so the bears are right there. the ice is still fast to the shore, some surface meltwater showing which will hasten the breakup as the snow on top melts and percolates down through the sea ice.
One of the kids fathers is a whaling captain and is going to have his whaling party tomorrow, and we've been invited, of course we'll go. I'll let you know what Whale meat, blubber and Muktuk taste like.
That all for now, this 24 hr daylight thing is interesting, its now 11:30 my time and the sky is clearing with pink clouds and some sun peaking through,looks to be about 7 in the evening no tiredness, we all have the same reaction and have to remind ourselves to go to bed, otherwise we'd be up way too late.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 8--Work, Eat, Sleep

This will probably be pretty short today, three days in the field of doing shovel test pits takes adapting to--I expected it to be difficult for the first two weeks, and I'm pretty much on pace, I can keep up with most of the Barrow kids, but just barely, and a couple are built like cage fighters so they just tear into it, so no one tries to compete with them. We are expected to do a miminum of 10 a day working up to 30 a day. unless pulled off for other stuff or we hit a burial.
Actually today, me and two of the Barrow kids, pulled and or shot in all of the pin flags we set up the first day. The idea is to discriminate all of the junk from either historical artifacts, post 1880 that are of some value, Inuit artifacts and human bones from the modern trash and faunal bone that litters the landscape. They let me use my judgement, go figure, actually the younger of the two that was with me has a really good eye, and between her and I we found an additional 40 or so pieces of worked bone, a beautiful chert end scraper with great flake scars, some historical bottles that are identifable and 4 solid brass shelf supports with copper pins that must have come off a ship that were about 8" to 10" long and weighted about 3 pounds each. We also have two pieces of human, a lone tooth and the left half of a mandible with one milar remaining.
We did hit what probably is a real burial today. Andrew found it and so far we only have two pieces of worked whalebone and an ulna(forearm), but we really haven't started to excavate yet, just cleared off and set the outline. Since this whole area is loose gravel, ANY vegetation, especially a low mound with lichens, mosses is an indicator of organic remains of some sort. It could be just a historic or prehistoric midden (Domestic garbage) or it could be a burial. there is no soil as such here, so plants grab onto anything organic as a source of nutrients, even bleached and decaying walrus and whale bone.
That's it for today, the internet gods have been kind and let it function for 2 whole hours now!!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Day 6, Reality Check

Lois is partially correct, I AM cold but not sad, just wondering why no one has posted any comments--enough whining--the internet was down here for about 36 hours so i better write fast--

Today was reality check day, we went out to the point for the first time today, the temp was about 30, with a 15-20 mile per hour wind coming off the ice, so it felt like 15 degrees. I took some pictures so you'll get an idea of the landscape or lack thereof--it is a flat level plain of gravel at the end of a nine mile long spit of land which is also gravel. Driving out on the ATV's we buddied up, and the Barrow kids have grown up with these things all their lives so they got to drive, for the first 6 miles or so it is pretty packed and the ride isn't smooth but pretty easy, but the last 3 miles is in soft sand/gravel and these damn things slew around all over the place, and its fine if you're driving and in control but clinging to the back can be an adventure. One bear guard leads and one brings up the tail end. We get out to the point and one of the tents has blown about 50 yeads across the plain. We have two, one is the cook tent(except we forgot the propane stove) and the other is the bathroom tent which consists of an 8X 8 tent with a 5 gallon honey bucket with a toilet seat. the bathroom tent is the one that blew away. These are not tents like you are used to thinking of tents, these are 1 8X8 and 1 8X12 mental framed with waterproof coated canvas, and it takes 6 people to set them up, the frame is 3/4" conduit and the canvas has to be stretched tight or the whole thing blows away, the bottom of the tent has an extra 18 border, which you flatten out on the ground, put logs on, and shovel about a foot of gravel on top of it to keep it stable. The NSF people ( the 7 0f us) are supposed to have a lunch provided, which today was supplied by Pepe's (nothernmost mexican restraunt in existance) and with all the bucking and slewing of the ATV's the lunches ended up scattered all over the equipment we were hauling in little trailers behind us, so we spent about 30 minutes cleaning off mayoniase, mustard and cherry pie off shovels, buckets, and supply boxes. Next we started the survey, which consists of the 20 of us standing about 4-5 feet apart with a handful of orange and red pin flags. We walk in a line for 100-150 yeards, looking closely for 1--human remains(red) or 2--anything out of the ordinary, like historical artifacts or Inuit artifacts(orange). The whole area is littered with discarded faunal bone, seal, whale, walrus, caribou. We do this 4 times covering an area of 80-100yeards X 150 yards. after we are through the area is a flutter with orange flags and actually 3 red flags that we'll look at tomorrow. Meanwhile the bear guards are patrolling about 50-100 yards out on the perimeter on their ATV's like indians circling the wagons, cept these indians are on our side.
Clothing wise I did not overpack--Today I had on the -45degree boots with sock liners and 1 pair of mohair socks, long underwear and jeans, tomorrow i'll probably add either another layer of long underwear or the wind proof pants, the top is long underwear, sweater, shirt, and Matt's heavy jacket, I went through 3 pairs of gloves, once they get wet, you gotta change them(even the waterproof ones--the head had on a skin tight backlava, polar fleese hat drawn down over the ears, a polyproplyene full face mask and the hood of Matts Jacket thrown over the whole thing. I still ended up with a reverse racoon look, normal around the eyes, and sorta purple around any exposed skin. We wrapped about 3PM and reloaded all the gear and took it back to the lab and worked there for a couple of more hours.

We went out to dinner at a place that has a Thai cook, but you have to call ahead to make sure he's there that evening, he also gives Thai massages and cuts hair (see the pictures!!)

On another note, BASC has about 6 of those king cab pick up trucks, anyone who need one for business can take one, (along with a two way radio in case you get into trouble and need help) this is not a place where you want to break down and have to walk. The keys are always over the visor, only rules are don't lock the truck and don't put on the parking brake. No one here locks cars or houses, one of my roommates is from NYC and is struggling mightily with that concept.

For those people who are giving Lois trouble I've included a "Proof of Life" picture with 5 of us in it--from the left are Brittany, me, Tony, Shelia and Paddy. Brittany and Shelia are volunteers from Fairbanks, Tony is a grad student from Missouri and Paddy has her masters from Mcmasters in Canada--Andrew is the one taking the picture from NYC, entering grad school at Cornell and Krista is not in the picture but in Grad school from Western Ontario. The background is the skull of a Bowhead Whale.
Tomorrow we lay out transit lines and start shovel pit testing. Its very much like playing the game Battleship--we run a line 100 or 150 meteres long and every even number put a pin flag, run another 1 meter away and put a pin flag at all the odd numbers, do that 2 more times and you have 300 pin flags. At each pin flag you dig a 1/2 meter X 1/2 Meter X1/2 meter deep hole. if you find anything you extract and record it, if you don't find anything (or if you do ) you do a shovel pit test form recording stratigraphy. If you get lucky and find a burial you expand the pit to accomodate the size of the burial.

More later--see the pictures, please