Sunday, 4 March 2012
Coring Wombat Pool
Today was our very first expedition that required us to carry a relatively substantial amount of weight up to Wombat Pool. This wouldn't have been quite as bad if I hadn't made the mistake of wearing my fleece Henley under my rain jacket, which caused me to overheat and I had to slow down. This was only an intermediary step of thermoregulation when I think about it though, because I cooled off quite fast when we got to the windy top of the ridge that lead down into the pool/pond. This is where we tried to start coring with what has been referred to as a “Universal Corer” which consisted of a tube, and a pressure system that allowed us to take samples of the sediment accumulation on the bottom. This failed miserably, only because the water isn't quite deep enough to use this kind of corer, which is designed to fall a certain distance and use the momentum and gravity to sink it into the mud.
So, after we figured out we had the wrong type of corer we had to go back down to the vehicles to get another corer called a “Livingston Corer”, which was named after a man named Livingston... fitting.
We hadn't had lunch yet, so it was decided that most of us (except the camera crew) would go back down to the cars and eat lunch there before we hauled the equipment back up, which included everything from wooden platforms and aluminum braces to steel pipes and duffel bags full of pvc pipe among other things. I'd have to say the braces and wooden platforms were the most difficult to carry; the braces for their substantial weight, and the wooden platforms simply because they were bulky.
Once we packed these back up to the pool, we commenced with the sampling of the paleo-ecological history of Wombat Pool. Which, as I'm beginning to see, is the entire point of this expedition... not just for Wombat Pool, but for many pools, or lakes, or ponds, or whatever aquatic system we happen to be visiting that day. This was a good sign for me, as it demonstrated the effectiveness of team work and our willingness to 'get shit done'.
There were five excursions onto the water surface in total, from which we were able to sample 330 centimeters of mud. We didn't finish though, because, as I understand it, we have to go back tomorrow so we can sample the “mud/water interface”, which is what the Livingston Corer could not sample, due to its tendency to "smash" the top layer down. I have found out that it is better to use the Livingston Corer to sample long periods of time and the Universal to sample shallower, more recent sediment layers.
Our wise leaders realized that it wasn't going to work so well to try and get the mud/water interface today, and so called it a done-day and headed down the mountain. This is where things get funny, and profound.
I ended up ahead of the main group of hiker-downers and eventually came to a point where the mountain was telling me to stop and listen. So I did. I stopped and turned around, facing the wind. There wasn't a human in sight, but I could still feel the vast array of living beings surrounding me, and knew they were aware of my presence, embracing me, letting me know they had already accepted me into the ecosystem. After a few minutes of meditation, this feeling permeated my being and allowed me to be aware of the plants and animals on a level not easily gained no matter where you are. I am truly grateful for having this experience, and I'm sure it would not have happened if I hadn't stopped when I had, or been ahead of the pack.
As this moment passed, and I was again greeted by the pattering rain, I noticed I was still without human company, so I decided to keep going. I came back to the car and had a brief conversation with a nice Kiwi named Jay, and rested calmly upon the tailgate of one of the vehicles. When the others arrived they told me of an astonishing experience of their own that I could only get through vicarious understanding. They had seen one of the more famous mammals of the southern hemisphere, a wombat. But, not only did they see one, it approached them and allowed them to stroke its infamous fur, an experience I hope to have one day... well, maybe not the stroking part. Just to see one would be an extraordinary thing to behold.
Whelp, they told me the story, I had a brief moment of jealousy, and then felt extremely grateful that they had seen one for themselves. I felt it on a level beyond my comprehension. While they petted and saw with their eyes, I was able to listen and feel with my heart, the pounding resonance of the wombat, only maybe a few hundred meters down the trail. This was a good experience on both ends. I feel lucky to know people who have stroked a wombat, and know one day, I may have the opportunity to pet one as well.
That was about the end of the day, aside from a small incident with leeches, those wriggling, slimy, and dark creatures of the forest. Where I'm from you only have to worry about them when swimming in certain lakes, but here in Tasie-land, you have to be conscious of them even when walking through the brush. This was a sobering realization, knowing how different things are, and being aware of the vast changes that I should expect in my psyche, as a consequence of these differences. I look forward to the days to come, and will definitely be writing about these. Good night, and merry March to anyone who happens to read this.