Friday, April 27, 2012

The Flood That Wasn’t (…THANKFULLY!)

Thought you were done reading me complain about the rainy season? I’ll stop complaining after it stops raining and we can get out of camp!

Two nights ago we were all awoken by our askaris (“night watchman” in kiSwahili) just a few hours after we had called it a night.  Many of us in camp had been on edge given the somewhat consistent, dramatic rainstorms we had been having and the threat of things getting damaged by all of the water.  If you remember correctly, the last time I wrote, we were worried about the lab tent flooding from poor drainage.  We had done our best to fix this problem, and were hoping that we could move onto worrying about something else in the time being.  That’s why when our askari woke us up, we knew it was going to be something a little more troubling.  Two nights ago when our askari woke us up, it was because the river right next to camp, the “Talek”, was flooding its banks.

This type of water situation is much more dangerous and worrisome.  We have at any time 2-3 tents along the riverbank, and depending on how high the river gets from rain upstream, the lab tent (and all of our equipment and data inside) could easily be trashed.  Definitely nothing to scoff at!

After pulling ourselves together and out of our sleep induced stupors, we started evacuating the tent most likely to be destroyed: our kitchen tent.

At the time, this tent was literally packed to the zipper with fresh food from a recent Nairobi trip, and took almost an hour just to move it all to the lab tent and our dining table.

With the river continuing to rise and the kitchen tent evacuated, we moved our attention to the lab tent.  Here, the lab tent was full of months of data: blood samples, photo-ID books, extracted DNA etc.  In addition, we have (seemingly endless) essential equipment to make camp run-- all in danger if the river got much higher.  And unfortunately for us, it didn’t seem like the river was slowing down anytime soon.  So…raise things to higher ground and move all the data and expensive equipment to the cars we did! That way, if the river was still a threat, we could drive to higher ground, out of camp, and into the bush.

What? The river is still rising? I guess we better start taking down the (now empty) kitchen tent and hope for the best.

And wait.

And wait.

And wait.

Luckily the river didn’t get much higher at this point.  A few more feet and the river would have literally been up to the lab tent—forcing us to drive things out of camp to higher ground.

In the morning, we all awoke to the wreckage and slowly started putting things back into their respective places.  It felt a bit silly putting everything back where it came from knowing that the same thing could happen again the next night…but we’ve got a camp to run out here and we need our stuff in their appropriate places!

Although it has still been raining every day, the river is back down to its “normal” level.  We’ve all been sleeping easier in camp, and are doing our best to stay busy and out of trouble by learning new games and watching movies.  We’re running out of new ones (already playing various forms of gin, rummy, bridge, hearts), so any recommendations are welcome!


Kenna said...

Holy crap guys! I'll keep my fingers crossed and do a few anti-rain dances on your behalf.

Anne said...

Yikes! What a hassle. I'm glad everyone and everything is OK. The good news is that you'll probably have a giant burst of cubs in a few months (at least we did after the 98 floods). Have Kay teach you to play blob, and try to enjoy the sound of rain on your tarps.

Deanna said...

Wow! Serena Camp is faring much better. We're glad to hear that the river has receded a tiny bit!

Jack Darwin said...

You guys should get CatchPhrase. My herpetology field class found it to be a great time-waster during the hours of driving we did across California. It's a hand-held electronic word game designed for groups of 4 or more.

The basic concept is a proper name, word, or phrase of some sort appears on the screen and the person holding the game has to get his team to guess the phrase by giving verbal hints. Kind of like charades, but with words instead of actions. For example, I'd say "flying mammal car" to get people to guess Batmobile. Or "arthropod lagomorph" to make people guess "Bugs Bunny".

And it becomes really fun when you get a group of clever people to try to give the most circuitous hints possible that will get people to the right answer.

I'll see about bringing one when I arrive.

Michigan State University | College of Natural Science