Day 1 (June 26, 2011): Arrival

June 26, 2011

a barren land site with a few small bushes Before: The barren land site for our field camp. Today started in Nairobi, noisy and busy, as capital cities are. It ended in our Olorgesailie research camp, in the windswept grandeur and peacefulness of the Rift Valley of southern Kenya. Our initially small research team consists of Alison Brooks, Jennifer Clark, and myself. With each passing week, scientists of all sorts– archeologists, paleontologists, and geologists – will join us, and you’ll get a chance to meet them and hear about what they do. A field season always involves logistics – planning food, getting water, and helping colleagues and students arrive, do their research, and depart. And, we expect, this field season will also be an adventure in discovering new things and solving scientific problems.

By about noon today, we filled our field vehicle with luggage and supplies, and I drove through fairly light Sunday traffic out of the city. Because the three of us stopped a couple places to shop and eat lunch, we took an extra hour and a half to make a trip that usually takes only a couple hours. Alison, Jenny, and I arrived at camp, and Kampi Safi looked terrific. The Kenyan crew arrived at Olorgesailie on Friday, two days ago, along with a 16-ton truck jam-packed with our field gear. When we arrived today, we saw the amazing transformation of a barren patch of land from a couple of days ago into a bustling tented camp. True, the same thing occurs at the start of every field season. Still, it’s amazing how quickly our crew of 30 can set up camp, complete with a kitchen area, two mess areas for eating and relaxing, a research tent for collections and study, and a canvas shelter for every person.

Image of large canvas stretched between wooden poles creating shade over a fire pit and table and chairs After: our field camp, called Kampi Safi, has been erected swiftly by our Kenyan crew About an hour after arriving in camp, thunder and rain approached, threatening to douse one and all. The wind picked up, though, and drove the rain clouds to the south. But then a great gust blew over one of our mess areas, scattering wooden chairs and breaking our dinner table. No big deal; we’ll set it all up again and fortify it tomorrow, making sure the canvas tarps and wooden poles can withstand the evening blasts of wind. So we ate under the parting clouds of the night sky. By the end of our meal, we caught a glimpse overhead of the astonishing blur of stars of the Milky Way. Hyenas called fairly close by, but otherwise the night is quiet. Very quiet.

We’re all looking forward to a good start to the research work tomorrow.