Sunday, August 12, 2007
From Jon Ranson
I still can’t believe we are here! It’s amazing, having a bed and hot water. And fine food, too! Our dinner last night was bread and butter. We haven’t had bread or butter in so long—how wonderful it tasted.
Today was a day of packing up, cleaning up, sorting out, and getting ready to leave the river. It is time to leave the Kochechum to return to my office. There I’ll check out this great data we collected, work for understanding of it, then share the information with the science community.
This was also a day of relaxation. We went into the banya, which is type of sauna. It is a very important ritual here in Siberia. You sit in the steamy banya as long as you can. Then you go outside, throw icy cold water on yourself, and then go back in for another round of steam. It is also custom to take a bunch of birch twigs, called venik, and beat yourself with them! Doesn’t sound like much fun, does it? But it is invigorating.
We celebrated the end of the expedition as well as my birthday by simply sitting around the forest camp, eating and talking. It was the only time we actually sat down together, all six of us, to just relax. In the woods, someone was always working. They offered toasts to my health—maybe too many toasts! It was a fabulous birthday.
Looking back, I have to say the expedition was quite a success. We did everything we came here to do and more. We have good, solid data that will really help us understand our remote-sensing systems better, fire samples, and excellent, unexpected observations. It was hard and exhausting work, but it was worth it.
It’s been nice that we can report back to people via this blog, but please don’t get the idea that what we have done is something unique. People endure hardship for the sake of knowledge all the time. Right now there are scientific field missions in the rain forest, in deserts, in the United States, in Africa, in Canada—everywhere. Each scientific team has its own questions in mind, but all quest for knowledge, for truth. And each is willing to sacrifice in order to find answers and truths that have real meaning for the world. It’s the adventure of science—and the hard work of it, too.
Before we sign off, I want to mention some of our sponsors. These groups have been essential to this expedition: NASA Terrestrial Ecology Program, the Land Cover–Land Use Change program, Northern Eurasia Earth Science Partnership Initiative (NEEPSI), and, of course, the Russian Academy of Sciences, Siberia Branch; and the Sukachev Forest Institute. We could not have accomplished so very much without the support of these folks.