Friday, June 13, 2008

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.


Anonymous said...

It's so fascinating to read through your posts. I'm glad you decided to blog your experience. I've shown the girls the pictures and told them that's where Grandpa is this summer. They like the cargo container home and the whale bones best of course. *g*

Happy Father's Day!

summer widow said...

Boy, sounds like you're really having a blast! Keep taking pctures and we can upload when you're on break!

erik said...

Please pass the caribou soup, but hold the whale blubber! PS. Keep the pictures coming! e.