In Talek camp, we live right next to the Talek river, which divides the park from the surrounding Masai lands. For those of us who cross the river daily to run, play soccer, or visit friends, the height of the river is a constant question. Normally, the river is low and easy to cross. I do so by jumping on a stone in the middle of the river (blue path), although those with longer legs and more courage can just leap across like a gazelle (red paths).
|How to cross the Talek River|
When it rains, however, the river swells to precarious levels. Overnight, the river can rise more than 2 meters and change from a tiny stream to a roaring rapid capable of moving logs and boulders. (The stone I use to jump across the river was deposited during a rainstorm sometime in 2013.) If we can hear the river rushing from the breakfast table, we all know that the river is no longer crossable. Check out these comparisons between low and high river waters!
Given the changes above, flooding is a threat that worries all of us in Talek camp. Stories of past floods have made their way into camp legend, as floods are rare but devastating enough to be recounted over and over again. The most recent flood was in 2012, when it rained so much that the kitchen tent had to be evacuated (including the stove!) and taken down. Luckily, the lab tent didn’t flood that time, so we didn’t lose any of our data or equipment. In the 1990s, however, camp flooded so badly that we lost hundreds of dollars of equipment and months of samples, despite our best efforts to save everything we could. This flood has been memorialized on a filing cabinet in Kay’s tent: the bottom drawer was totally flooded, but the middle drawer is labeled “stayed dry” and the top drawer is labeled “above the water line.”
|Kay's filing cabinet, a relic from the 1990s flood|
The person most worried about flooding is always Lesingo, one of our camp night watchmen. His fear of water and the river is great, and I have complete faith that if the river ever were to flood, he would wake me up and say “Hatari!” ("Danger!") over and over again until I understood. I only hope he never does.