Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Off to a good start

This year's crew, studying ichthyology 

It's been a busy few days since Bermuda Day. This year's students - Leigh, Kristina, Jonathan and Anima - arrived Saturday without a hitch and settled into the condo without problems.

We got hold of our work boat the following day and sorted out a mooring next to our place. At Leigh and Kristina's firm request (recalling last year's Father's Day incident), we had a thorough boat orientation on line handling, boat handling, docking and casting off procedures, etc. and also circled Smiths Island to see it from the water. Later that evening, Jonathan and Anima had their first snorkel lessons in the harbour and off St. Catherine's Beach - and all involved were quite chilly by the end (except Leigh, who sensibly stayed out of the water).

Jonathan loading equipment

Today was the big day - starting up the dig. We loaded up all our field gear early and headed over to Smiths in the morning.

After stowing most of it in the Forbes House cottage, we took stock of the current state of Oven and CHB sites eleven months after they were filled it. CHB had quite sizable papaya trees growing in the backfill, but Oven Site fared pretty well. The fact that Spidey, our site mascot, was still there and inflated was a good omen for the weeks to come.

After a basic orientation, I turned the students loose in teams (Veterans and Newbies) to explore eastern Smiths Island on their own and, hopefully, find yet undiscovered sites. Veterans independently found an early 19th c. water catchment and tank up by Pitcher's Point, while the Newbies almost made it down to Smallpox Bay before being deterred by a large wild beehive in an old cedar tree.

In the afternoon, we had Krystl, our first Bermudian volunteer, join us to shovel out the backfill of the Oven Site. Hard to believe that in one afternoon we moved almost as much dirt as we did all of last season, but then we were digging with shovels, not having to record or sift, and the dirt was nice and loose for us. We didn't quite finish, but took out a foot and a half of fill across the site.

Despite our full and busy day, we stopped off on the way home to explore a large wreck in St. George's Harbour, which was exposed due to an unprecedentedly low tide. Only part of the decking was still there, but enough remained for us to make out that it was an iron-hulled three masted sailing ship with at least two decks below the main one. Topside was an abstract photographer's playground, with all sorts of fantastic textures and weathered colours. It was well worth the visit! Can't wait to get back tomorrow - with any luck we'll get to break new ground!

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