2007: Niku V

Expedition

Updates

Reports are in reverse date order so that those who check every day don't have to scroll down endlessly as the expedition progresses.
July 20
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July 19
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July 14
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The taphonomy experiment is set up and already progressing nicely; the pig bones are covered with small hermit crabs, strawberry hermit crabs, and coconut crabs, all munching happily away.

Kia KiasIn the village, four of the crew from Nai’a volunteered to help clear brush, resulting in about a 400% increase in productivity. Although the work cannot be made light, many hands do help spread the load. All brush is being cleared to the concrete slab of the Rest House to avoid piling it on a potential archeological unit. They are finding lots of ... well, junk is the best word, really – the debris of the village that wasn’t worth moving in 1964. The area known as “dado alley” is cordoned off for intensive metal detecting; this is where several heat shields were found in 2003, apparently scattered by storm and wave action. All of this activity is of great interest to the kia kias (Gygis alba) who are just fledging, and who want to participate. Because Nikumaroro is so isolated and so little visited by people, the wildlife population is lush and bold or, as the kia kias’ parents say, completely clueless.

Clearing is well under way at the Seven Site, and the work is brutal. Hot, airless, and thick, it’s simply a matter of slogging through it as quickly as possible so that the units can be re-opened. The pneumatic loppers are working out very well, and are a great savings in time and labor. In general the work is going well; most folks are adapting quickly; but it’s never fun. They were hoping to get into actual archeological work today.

This is where the dateline and time zones get tricky. We didn’t miss a day, but have changed the time of day Ric makes reports. Now he will be calling before first light most days, before the teams go ashore.

The team arrived at Nikumaroro at 1430 yesterday, and the first boat went ashore at 1510 with a second one right behind. It was dead low tide which makes the landing difficult – walls of coral on either side – but with a calm sea, no rip, and a good briefing everyone got ashore with no difficulties. They had two and a half hours ashore and made the most of it.

Tom King took one group to open a new Gallagher Highway from ocean to lagoon. Flagging was still in place from the previous trail, which made it much easier to survey, and the new trail was completed and operational by the end of the day.

Lamb experimentKar Burns and Mark Smith, the camera man, chose a location for the taphonomy experiment and set up Kar’s time-lapse camera to take a flash photo every 10 minutes. Mark set up one of his cameras to take a photo once per minute. This evening, Kar and Robin Acker will place screws into the pig bones so that metal detectors can find the pieces the crabs take away. They’ll set up the experiment this morning after Ric has metal detected the site to be sure there isn’t pre-existing noise.

Ric took the new folks on a hike around the “corner” to the village, while Gary Quigg and a group worked in from the landing to the cistern, where they met up with Ric and his gang. After discussion, they decided not to cut a trail, but to walk around on the shoreline each day; it only took about 15 minutes and making a trail would be very difficult, as the jungle is quite a bit thicker than it was last trip.

shark treeThe island has sustained more storm damage since 2003. The “shark tree” – so named because baby black tip sharks congregate in its shade – has lost its head and is now resting in the water and on the shore line.

The radio shack (WI15b), which was flattened but complete in 2003, is now a bare slab of concrete with the debris of the roof and contents scattered nearby in the jungle in a tangle of wreckage. The shore line has move a lot as well; Gardner 1, the surveyed datum point for the village, is now three meters from shore in the lagoon.

Today’s plan: High tide is at 0850. John Clauss will take the launch into the lagoon and establish a fuel dump, using the tide to make his way through the passage. Tom King and Gary Quigg will take a team to the carpenter’s shop to begin an assessment and lay out some blocks while Ric does the metal detecting at the taphonomy experiment site. Once the launch is available for use a group will split off and head for the Seven Site to reconnoiter and possibly begin clearing.

ETA is  now about 1400 local time on the 19th. Seas were running so high last night that the boat’s speed was reduced to about 6 knots. The later arrival means they will miss the morning’s high tide and won’t be able to get the launch into the lagoon until the next morning.

JungleThere was a team meeting and briefing in the morning to prepare and plan for the first day ashore. The group, like Gaul, will divide into three parts. Tom King will take a team to begin building the trail from the landing to the lagoon so that equipment and people can move easily from shore to shore. Ric will take the new people along the shore line from the landing to the village (WD21d to WI15b), to look at the coast line and examine changes in terrain. From the village, they will then flag a trail to the cistern (WG17b) and meet up with Gary Quigg and a third team who will flag toward the cistern from the landing. The two teams will then cut that trail.

At low tide John Clauss will set up the tide gauge in the channel. This consists of banging a piece of re-bar into a crack in the reef, then mounting a PVC pipe on it marked into easily-read increments. While all this is going on, Kar Burns will be choosing a place to set up the taphonomy experiment, which will be organized in the morning.

The weather is good, the sea has abated. The outside world has been purged from recent memory; now it is Nikumaroro, the work, the team; no other reality exists.

salonAverage speed still 8 knots. About 400 miles out; ETA Nikumaroro about 1000 on the 19th, local time. Occasional monster rolls knock the unwary off their feet and shower the salon with jam jars and salt shakers. Some work is getting done, though: the air-powered loppers have been assembled and are working correctly in spite of the ups and downs.

 

A formal position report from Nai’a. ETA Nikumaroro is the 19th at about 1030 local time. Making an average of 8 knots due to the seas which slow them down some. As the day goes on the sea state should reduce which will help everyone adjust. Everyone’s just being careful about what they eat and what they look at. One or two people are living outdoors, wind, spray and all, for the fresh air. Dry land will be a relief!

High seasTwenty-four hours out of Lautoka, Nai’a is facing substantial seas and the team is facing substantial seasickness. Everyone is laying very low indeed, and subsisting on ginger ale and meclazine hydrochloride, better known as Anti-Vert. The crew has rigged the sail to help steady the boat but even so, 120 feet of steel and a few yards of canvas are no match for the Pacific. Seas are coming over the bow and it’s difficult to find a place to acquire a satellite without drowning the phone.

Nai'a Under WayUnder way, with all goods and hands stowed and the satphone found. Next stop, Nikumaroro, 1,000 miles and five days distant. Everything has gone smoothly, which makes them wonder what they’ve missed. After the rush of logistical arrangements and an 11 hour flight, now it’s time to get some serious sleep while the world turns underneath the boat.


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