Day 5 (June 30, 2011): Meeting a Dusty Whirlwind

June 30, 2011

This morning Alison and I traveled to Nairobi for meetings with our colleagues, while Jenny and Katie held down the fort at Kampi Safi.

In the Rift Valley, silence is the norm. However, there are a few sounds which, surprising at first, become commonplace. Let me mention here one of Katie’s first experiences with one of the more common sounds.

She was working today with the rest of the crew at BOK-2. The crew diligently chipped away at layers of sediment, while Katie wrote bags for the artifacts. For the most part it was peaceful. Then suddenly, a whooooosh sound fell over the site. It sounded like a massive waterfall. Katie looked around confusedly, looking up in the sky for a plane or wondering if a car was somehow approaching over the dusty hills.

‘What is it?’ she asked Mativo, one of our crew members.

‘Wind,’ he said.

‘That’s it? Just wind?’

image of dust devil approaching excavator Getting ready to duck as the dust devil approaches

At that instant, Mativo pointed to the east. Only a few hundred feet away, a strong gale had formed a swirl, dispersing dust in every direction, gathering energy as it approached. It’s called a dust devil. We often see giant dust devils dancing across the region. Only rarely do we get caught right in the middle of one while excavating. But, sure enough, the dust devil grew and grew into a formidable dust storm. So the crew grabbed their hats and excavating tools, and prepared for the blast. The dust devil came and went in seconds, leaving everything in its wake, including Katie and the crew, covered in dirt.

Just another day at the digs!