|This was our 1998 crew, twoard the end of a 35-km backpack out of our Stolbovaya site. From left to right: Vanya Storcheus, Roman Spitsa, Jody Bourgeois, Sasha Storcheus, Tanya Pinegina|
“A day in the life” from Jody B’s 1998
In the summer of 1998, for six weeks, I worked with Tatiana (Tanya) Pinegina on the
Tanya's well organized plan to work on a shoestring budget was the single, most important contributor to the success of our field season. We took public buses, hired local cars and motorboats to transport our gear, and backpacked and paddled to two remote sites. Berries and fish we caught were important components of our field fare. I've chosen one day from my journal and field notes to typify the experience.
5 August 1998,
We get up fairly early, around seven, emerging from our sardine-like sleeping arrangements--five of us on a 1.5 by 3-meter platform in a 3 by 3-meter cabin dug in to the river bank. The storm has abated, our clothes have dried, the river has dropped, the surf is quiet. Breakfast, cooked by Vanya on the outside fire, is kasha, with (instant) milk and freshly picked blueberries. The boys drink tea, and Tanya and I have weak coffee--we are running low, as we had to wait out the storm. Vanya will stay in camp for the day, to guard from bears, to gather wood, to keep camp and to prepare food.
We pack and dress for a long day. I am still struggling to learn how to wrap my feet in partyanki, rectangles of wool used rather than socks by Russian field workers (soldiers, geologists, fishermen), before stuffing them in my rubber hip boots--standard footwear for the wet grass, marshes, and streams we commonly encounter. This day we aim to the center of the embayment, heading ultimately for the 35-m-high terrace about 2 km from the shore. After crossing the river mouth on foot (tide is low), we stop and pick "princess" berries (gnyazhnika--a kind of ground raspberry)--we are never in too much of a hurry to pick berries, this exercise providing not only part of our sustenance, but also one of our small pleasures.
The weather is pleasant, mostly sunny, the flowers are spectacular in their variety of colors and sizes. Mosquitoes not too bad today. First, Roma and Sasha excavate small trenches on the lower beach ridges. As we work toward the back of the coastal plain, the trenches exhibit older and older volcanic ash layers, and some ‘candidate’ (potential, up for evaluation) tsunami deposits. Before we reach the high terrace, we bushwhack through shrubs, hop over bumpy patterned ground, and traverse a spongy marsh. We collect a pot of water from a slough, as there will be none up on the terrace. Along the terrace front I can see five or six bear trails--places the grass has been flattened, recently. We climb the slope and cross an open field to the edge of a birch grove, choosing the site for a 3-m-deep excavation (shurf), which Roma lays out.
While Roma digs, Sasha builds a fire and boils water. Tanya and I chat, write notes, pick berries, think grand thoughts, discuss ideas. When I excuse myself to go off to the bushes, Tanya says, "Jody, don't go far, here lives bear." Before describing the excavation, we recline in the tall grass and eat lunch--the last of our bread (somewhat moldy), freshly caught salmon and its caviar, prepared last night, caramel (boiled condensed milk, sgushyonka), weak tea. A small shower blows over as Tanya and I describe the trench, then Roma and Sasha fill it back up, and we head north, toward another terrace.
Sasha typically leads the way. A volcano seismologist who grew up in the Russian Far East, he has spent much time in the wilds of Kamchatka and
We head back toward the beach, crossing small sloughs by leaping, stepping on overhanging shrubs, bushwhacking till we find narrow spots. Tanya picks another excavation spot, and Roma starts to dig. Sasha is suddenly at my side, saying, "Jody, bear!" and turning me to face west, toward the terrace, orienting me to get a view. I have not yet seen a
We finish the trench description and head on, one more slough to cross. We jump over a narrow spot, and then find ourselves on an island, with a wider channel yet to go. Sasha leans over the slough, steps on unstable vegetation, makes the leap, successfully. He takes Tanya's outstretched hand, and she reaches back to me for balance, making the leap, successfully. To make a long story short, I tried next, and ended up waist deep in the slough. Tanya and Sasha pulled me out, and I got down on all fours to dump the water from my hip boots. The day was nearly gone (it was after 8 PM), so Tanya decided to send me and Sasha back to camp, while she and Roma did one more excavation.
I was wet, but not miserable. When we got back to the river mouth, though, the tide was too high for us to wade across, so Sasha had to pump up the small rubber boat. Big enough for one, we used it for two, as a ferry on these small rivers. The pumping seemed to take forever. A seal watched from the water close by--probably the seal who took bites out of the flounder and salmon caught in our nearby fish net. (I always called a watching seal nyerpa nol-nol-syem – 007). All we had as a paddle was a small shovel, but it was not far across. Once on the other side, Sasha went on ahead to tell Vanya to stoke the fire. When I arrived, Vanya helped me remove my boots and wet clothes, and gave me a big cup of kompote--berries boiled in sweetened water. I warmed up quickly, eating some lukewarm salmon/rice cakes and noodles, trying to enjoy the spectacular sunset. Sasha went back to ferry Tanya and Roma, and they returned with more fish from our net.
As the sun set, around 10:30, the mosquitoes got thicker, and I retired to the sleeping platform, not even bothering to undress, and quickly dozed off. Next thing I know, I am awakened by a rumbling, shaking sensation--an earthquake. No one else has yet come in to the cabin to sleep. Tanya starts yelling, "Jody, quickly, stand up!" "Jody, quickly, come!" I wonder, is she afraid the dug-in cabin will collapse? Slowly I realize she is evacuating us to higher ground, in case of tsunami. I am sleepy and tired and cranky and do not want to get up. I "reason" that the earthquake was not big enough to make a sizeable tsunami. I forget all the advice I tell folks living on the coast--if you feel an earthquake, don't wait, go to high ground! I forget about all the people in
We chat in the chill night air, and hear a distant rumble but feel no more shaking—a landslide? aftershock? Waiting a respectable amount of time, we then return to our sleeping bags, calm down and finally fall asleep. The next morning, there is no trace of a tsunami on the beach, but there are new bear tracks covering our footprints from the day before.