1999 Field Season: Day 2

June 26, 1999

Today began bright and early with breakfast at 6:45 in the morning.

Several things were in order for the day including a traverse of the basin to orient ourselves with the local stratigraphy. We spent the morning hiking across the basin from east to west passing through all of the major rock formations noting their properties, and commenting on which we would particularly focus upon in the upcoming field season. Starting with the oldest and moving up to the youngest, we walked through the thirteen distinct units of sediments present at Olorgesailie. Although the aim of the hike was to familiarize ourselves with the geological units, we couldn't help but find a few fossils which had eroded out of the surface. Unfortunately, we couldn't stay and look in detail, as time constraints kept us moving at a good pace, so we marked each spot to return to later for a more detailed study.

Dr. Rick Potts examining a fossil.
A small cairn of rocks to mark the position of the find.

After lunch we decided to help complete the camp setup, which included getting our electrical power up and running. For field work of this kind, a generator is too large and too expensive to maintain. And out in the open here, plenty of sun is not a problem (as sunburned noses on this first day out can attest to...), so we rely on a rig of solar panels and a car battery for our electrical power. When we finished the installation, and went to test the system...no power and a lot of blinking warning lights. This set into motion an hour-long search for the problem: We had hooked two wires up in the wrong way; did this short out our AC converter? We weren't sure if there was current passing through the voltage indicator; was it shorted out? Were the solar panels dead? Was a wire connection not secure, or was a wire severed during its year-long storage?

Our car battery power rig.

What followed was actually a good example of what science is all about. Component by component, we tested what each piece of equipment did, and compared it to what it was supposed to do. Each step of the way we eliminated the possibility that a particular component was the cause of the problem, until the only one left was the car battery (which, in the end, we remembered we had bought used...). So we ripped the battery out of one of the Land Rovers, and, sure enough, we had power!

Camp is now finally set up and we can concentrate on the research ahead. Among the diatomite dust and low-lying acacia bushes that we found on our arrival here, we have erected a fully functional field camp. The crew has tomorrow off, and we shall use the time to outline our excavation strategy for the season.

A view of the Kampi Safi tent city.