Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day to Remember!

All I wanted for Father's Day was an hour or two digging in the hearth - the perfect way for an archaeologist to spend the day, free from the usual paperwork and photo-taking that accompanies excavation... I got this, but a whole lot more excitement to boot, thanks to the vagaries of Bermuda Weather Service forecasting.

The day's forecast at 8am read thus:

Today - 

  Cloudy, rain/showers & risk of thunder,easing late afternoon...  Winds east-northeasterly light to moderate, becoming light and variable in the afternoon...  High near 25°C/77°F. - (MORE ON THIS LATER...)

We headed out from Red Barracks (our house-sit) with Mike, Charlotte, and Becca with moderate winds blowing out of the east. En route we passed Rambler at Ordnance Island and saw her exhausted crew lounging dockside after WINNING THE NEWPORT-BERMUDA RACE! She was in by at least 7:50, which means she shattered the old race record of about 48 hours. The rest of the 160 or so other racers will be drifting in over the next few days. We picked up the students at Convict Bay and had a bumpy ride over to Smiths Island. We had to use the public dock at the west end because Garth's north dock was too exposed - big waves were coming through Old Town Cut and crashing on the north shore. Since the dock was full of other boats, we had to rig up a stern anchor to keep us pointed east. Several rain squalls soaked us walking to the sites, but the tarps kept us dry as we dug. Mostly.

After setting up the crew at CHB to start a new layer, I went to Oven Site to dig my hearth layer!

I made a remarkable discovery as I followed out the emerging edge of the stone basin that forms the base of the hearth - there's a horizontal cut feature running east, perpendicular to the oven in the back of the hearth that extends at least 3 feet in - I put my arm into the only semi-filled cut and could not touch the back wall. Very puzzling - we'll get a better idea once we excavate the fill of the oven itself and then can map and excavate this new feature.

New cut feature is in front and to the left of the oven
Mimi and Leigh were also working at Oven Site and in between discussions of unicorns, time travel, interstellar colonization, aliens, mermaids, fast vs. slow moving zombies, dumb colonists, and the benefits of public transit, they uncovered two post holes and revealed what we thought to be a post hole partly cut into the bedrock wall actually connected to the strange grotto-shaped feature we've been revealing this past week - they are connected by a hole at the base of the cone-shaped cut. We speculated that this arrangement might have been used to channel water down to the basin-like cut or, alternately, might have been the air vent for doing some sort of smelting work within. There may have been a plate or set of stones in front of the circular opening when this feature was in use originally that are now gone - any thoughts on what this is (in comments) would be greatly appreciated:

By the time we had lunch at CHB, it was raining pretty steadily and water was pouring off the tarps. We all wished Kristina a happy birthday (her 19th).
Cake Break
By three o'clock, the rain was coming down in sheets and the wind was picking up a lot.

Unbeknownst to us on Smiths Island, the Bermuda weather forecast had changed to:

Today - 

  Mostly cloudy with showers...  Winds northwesterly strong to gale force gusts to gale force, backing west-southwesterly strong early this evening, then easing further moderate overnight...  Low near 21°C/70°F.

We got to the dock to find the wind had swung round 180 degrees and the boat had swung completely around. In the midst of a rain squall we got aboard and headed into 2-3 foot waves and strong winds - a necessity because the boat was at risk and the winds were only going to get stronger. It was a wet ride home, with the wind whipping the (quite warm) waves over us. (No pictures - I was otherwise occupied trying not to sink the boat to  take photos.) We also had to contend with Newport race boats coming in across our course with low visibility. After a safe crossing and dropping off all the students (and Becca and Charlotte) at Convict Bay, Mike and I had an even rougher ride to Red Barracks to clip the boat onto a chain mooring - and then had to swim ashore. (Which means me swimming to get it tomorrow morning.)  No sooner had we got the boat moored than the sun came out. Once ashore, the winds picked up further to 50-60 knot gusts. We watched the palms bend over and the whitecaps march across the harbour from the safety of Red Barracks' veranda.
Smiths Island from across the harbour
Everyone was very cool under pressure and behaved wonderfully. Kristina won't forget this birthday anytime soon! 

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