Thursday, December 7, 2017

(mostly) Unedited

Instead of trying to consolidate many days worth of stories, I thought it might be worthwhile to include an actual entry. Hopefully this helps demonstrate the true spirit of daily field life on the Big Lake.

I've injected it with important contextual information (found in brackets), some of which I only learned WAY after the fact. 

-ejh, 18 October 2015

Tuesday, 14 July 2015, late

I am just finishing in time for the nightly drum circle. What the....

[It's Ramadan, and every night around 1am, a pack of children roams the village banging on pots (?) to wake folks up so they can end their daily fast. Unfortunately, the timing usually aligns with that sacred hour we finish lab work and can finally call it a day.]

It was an incredibly amazing day. Scary at times but we live to tell the tale.

Maybe DEET kills foot fungus?

[The Fungus seems angrier at night, when we're out of the water and sitting down. Adding to our misery, mosquitos direct their efforts to our swollen, burning feet while we process fish.]
George opts for the salt water and toothpaste solution. Unfortunately it doesn't work and actually made it worse.
This morning I set off with Pete and Magoti to launch the Hobo at S1 and get snails along the shoreline villages for anthropogenic N. It didn't go well. But...

[This little snail collection could turn out to be super cool. Nitrogen from humans looks very different from other sources, and snails living near villages pick up that tell-tale sign in their tissues. By grinding up a little piece of foot muscle, we'll hopefully be able to relate village population size to local nutrient pollution in the lake. To do this, we literally pull up to a village, Magoti asks a local to take us to the grossest place in the lake (the place where they wash dishes, bathe, use the bathroom...), and Pete snorkels around to look for snails. Ick. Meanwhile I collect water samples from the boat.

Hobos are loggers that measure temperature until some distant point in the unforeseeable future when we collect them again.]
This lady found Pete highly amusing. She also knew where to find the snails.
Notable events of the day, to be elaborated upon later:

* We didn't sink the Zodiac, but we tried. 

[The waves in the south are NOT MESSING AROUND and seem to be trying to break us. It was funny, at first, when the boat started to fill and Magoti and I casually laughed it off. But the waves didn't stop, and soon I started bailing water with the cooler, our stuff started floating away, and I finally screamed over the wave crashes at Pete to get back in the boat so we could leave. Turns out he'd lost a fin in the chaos, but we got away in time. Barely.]

* Giant fish at S1--remember to tell/show Solomon. 

[Solomon (friend and expert on all things fishy) says it's Polypterus endlicheri, one of the most primitive ray-finned fishes. They also have ganoid scales, which is apparently a Big Deal.] 
This is one TAFIRI folks caught in a gillnet a couple years ago.
* 2m waves. Deadly anchor. Teaching Magoti how to ride in the waves.

[It's an art, really...riding in the Zodiac and not ruining your back in the process. We somehow acquired a larger-than-necessary anchor that keeps bouncing towards me with every wave we hit, and a broken and/or impaled foot or popped boat seem inevitable.]

* Ring nets.

[We were just about to call it a day when we happened upon a legal but very questionable fishing method known as "ring netting." The target: tiny baby dagaa (sardines that sustain millions of people around the lake), that left to grow a bit bigger could have been harvested at many times their current size.

The scene scarred and horrified poor Pete, who got in the water to see the scene up close:

"With every pull of the net, the scales of the baby dagaa were scraped off and would billow out in clouds, along with the heads or decapitated bodies of fish that had started to squeeze through the net. The water became silver-flecked for many meters around the net, and a massive feeding frenzy was underway below the net, drawing all manner of cichlids as well as sardines."]
All those little specs are baby degaa scales, bodies, heads...
* Swimming with BRAZILLIONS OF DAGAA!!!!!

[I hopped in the water for a chance to swim with literally billions of tiny fish. It's one of the most incredible things I've experienced.]
The GoPro was acting up, so I had to keep checking that it was on. I couldn't NOT record this!
* Boat fulla dagaa

[We saw the full harvest from one of the ring nets. It was shocking to see so many fish, but again, the catch could have been so, so much bigger had they just waited until the babies grew...

One of the fishermen asked me to say hi to Obama, which I intend to do, next time I see him.]
* The atoll--such an incredible place. Kuhe and barbs and really pretty Tropheus.

[There's a magical place we're calling 'the atoll' that is as close to pristine as I've seen in the lake. We'll go back there again, someday.]

* Sibwesa kids watching Pete swim.

[Having a tall white guy come to your village and snorkel around is easily the most interesting thing that can happen on a random day in July (or ever). Onlookers watched as Pete swam back and forth in front of the beach, searching for snails.]

* Every single part of me hurts. I'm basically one giant bruise.

[I'm quite certain I have a broken sternum. More on that soon.]