Thirty glass squares and thirty marble squares prepared by Drake students,Ceramic sign prepared by a Drake student,
One square meter of shade cloth*,Landscape fabric pins to anchor shade cloth*,
Diamond tipped engravers, soil scoops, knife and other tools,Light meter,
Drake High pennant,Dell laptop computer with power and ethernet cables,
Data stick, assorted plug adaptors and modem adaptors, PolarTREC manual,Digital camera with battery charger, spare battery, card reader and cable,
Binoculars, hand lens, compass, global positioning system (GPS) with manual,Two books on Namibia, four scientific articles on hypolioths, one Russian novel,
Waterproof field notebook, pencils and pens, examples of student work,
Hat, hiking boots, socks, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, bandana, water bottle,...
I am going to Namibia in April! Specifically, to the Namib Desert near Walvis Bay. I'll be there from April 18 to April 25.
It was out of print, and cost me $70 for a used one!
Why? And what does this have to do with the polar regions? If you remember my post on this site from March 23 2009, you'll remember that deserts and the polar regions have a lot in common.
Both are extreme environments that appear hostile to life at first, but are full of hidden surprises. Both have beautiful, other-worldly landscapes, remote and empty. Both are fragile environments sensitive to climate change. And, both have hypolithic cyanobacteria.
We found this one on White Mountain Peak in California, but they grow in Namibia too.
Cyanobacteria are some of Earth's oldest, simplest and toughest...
Back in the USA, I had to hit the ground running.
There were two weeks of school left, including final exams and graduation. My substitute teacher, Mr. Lazlo Toth, had done an awesome job of executing my lesson plans while I was gone. He is a retired high school teacher himself, and he really knows his stuff. I could not leave my school for this long without his expertise. THANK YOU, Lazlo.
It is impossible to overstate how much this trip has affected me. I wrote in my previous post about the importance to the modern world of doing this kind of research. In the end it comes down to that old adage "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
What about its importance to me personally, and to my students? I have learned that there is no substitute for field work....
I usually have a very good sense of direction, because I know the sun rises in the east, crosses the sky to the south, and sets in the west. In Finland at this time of year it is usually cloudy and you can’t see the sun. Even when you can, it just goes in circles and circles around the horizon! There’s no telling which way is north, or even what time it is anymore. I get lost. We have entered the zone of perpetual day. "Yesterday”, "today” and "tomorrow” no longer mean anything.
From the balcony of my apartment
I haven’t seen the moon or a star in a month. I no longer turn on the lights indoors, even at midnight. The curtains in my room don’t work to keep out the sun while I sleep. I miss the dark.
Oulu University Campus, returning from the lab...
Somebody finally asked me why we do this. What do we gain after tromping through the Finnish woods all day, or after finding a few flakes of quartz stone from 5000 years ago? Would it matter if we didn’t do it? In the short term, the answer is easy. Everything we do and everything we find (and don't find) gets put on maps and written about in reports that are sent to the Finnish National Board of Antiquities. They keep these maps and reports so that anyone can read them in the future.
Next, the graduate students and professors I am here with write articles about the sites and publish them in scientific journals that are read mostly by other archaeologists. This lets other archaeologists know what we're doing, and also helps the graduate students earn their Ph.D.s and the professors...
I was invited by language teacher **Sirpa Walton** to visit the **Yli-Ii School**. Ms. Walton teaches English and Swedish to middle school students. All Finnish school kids study English and Swedish, and some take German or Russian as well. Ms. Walton is Finnish but is married to an Englishman, which is why her last name will sound familiar to my North American readers.
Yli-Ii is a rural community about 40 miles from Oulu. It has a combined elementary and middle school with about 300 students. After they graduate from this place students can opt for high school or technical training in other towns.
I spoke with some middle school students about school in California, and showed them some pictures of Sir Francis Drake High School. They were attentive but shy,...
Finland is famous for modern architecture, particularly the works of Eliel and Eero Saarinen and Alvar Aalto. Finland is less well-known for traditional buildings, but there are some very attractive ones here.
People who know me know which I prefer. But, judge for yourself! Here are photos of ten buildings, five traditional and five modern.
It's after ten at night
Now these serve as shops and cafes
Across the square from Oulu Cathedral
I have tried hard to be fair. Finland has plenty of massive, Soviet-style apartment blocks with no discernable landscaping around them. I have not photographed those. Similarly, Finland has plenty of tumble-down sheds in the woods. I have not photographed those either. Also, I have shown you two buildings from...
Every Wednesday we meet for lunch at the Kierikki Stone Age Center and build a fire inside one of the Stone Age row houses. Or, we cook outside if the weather is nice. We roast makkara (Finnish hot dogs) on sticks over the fire. It’s a lot of fun.
Kierikki Stone Age Center
Kierikki Stone Age Center
We also take "cookie breaks” halfway through every morning and every afternoon. It’s a disaster if nobody remembered to bring them. For adults in the modern world, we seem to be unusually concerned with where our next snack is coming from. I guess it’s a hunter-gatherer thing.
In the woods near Yli-Ii
I like this passage from the*** Kalevala*** (see my post from May 8.)
A young woman, just married, is about to leave the home she grew up in and go away to live with her husband’s extended family. It is a tense moment. Her mother lashes out at her unexpectedly:
‘Go along, sold maid
with him now, bought hen!
Now your hour is close
right at hand your time to leave
for your leader is by you
your dear taker at the doors
and the stallion champs the bit
and the sledge awaits a maid.
Since you were keen on money
quick to give your hand
eager to become betrothed
to try on the ring
keenly now get in the sledge
eagerly in the bright sleigh
quickly get away
and like a good girl be off!
Young maid, you scarcely
glanced to either...
It is important to understand changes in** sea level** in order to understand our research here! In most of the world, sea level is rising. That means if you live near the beach, every year the water gets a little higher and a little closer to your home.
Finland is different. Sea level here drops 6 millimeters each year. That’s about ¼ inch. Every 100 years sea level drops a couple of feet! The rate used to be even faster. Five thousand years ago, when the people we are studying lived on the coast, sea level dropped more than three feet every 100 years.
watching the ocean recede through binoculars
Some people born that year are still alive today
To understand why, you need to think back to the end of the last ice age. Finland and the rest of northern Europe was...