Weblog: Dr. Jon Ranson in Siberia

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

From Evenkiyskiy Region, 10:20 p.m. Siberia (10:20 a.m. EDT)

After their first eleven days, the expedition team still lingers in the upper reaches of the Kochechum. Over the next five days they will have to travel about 300 kilometers to reach Tura, their final destination. With stops for food and refueling the boat motors, it will take about thirty hours—three long days—on the river to complete the journey.

The scientists’ minds are still engaged in observing, measuring, and theorizing. But thoughts are beginning to stray towards home. Slava carefully calculates the time and distance to Tura. The satellite phone minutes are running low, and the computer battery is still dead. Their urge to reconnect is growing.


From Jon Ranson

It is another wonderful day! We woke up to fantastic sunshine, got into dry clothes, then went to work. We spent about three hours collecting samples for the fire-return-interval study, broke camp, then went about 20 kilometers down river to the GLAS footprint sites.

For the first time, we saw willows that are grown enough to be called trees. We’ve seen willow before but they were all quite small and shrubby. This is the first sign of the change into the more southerly forests.

Ever since we started on this journey, I’ve been looking at the boat motors. They do a great job, but they use a lot of gas. It ties up a lot of resources to just propel us downstream. I keep wondering—to myself and out loud—why can’t these motors do more than one thing? Why can’t we use that power for something else, too?

Well, just a little while ago Slava very quietly revealed to me that the motors do, in fact, have a 12-volt outlet of sorts. I’m pretty excited about it! Gouqing and I have been looking into it, and we think we have what we need to convert that 12-volt DC outlet to 110-volt AC. If that is the case, then I will be able to get the computer up soon! Of course, I don’t have a surge suppressor, so I suppose it’s possible that we could end up frying the computer, but—no—won’t happen. We’ll make it work. I think.

I was a bit puzzled that Slava took so long to let me know about this. But Slava is a very wise man. I suspect that he knew that we Americans could not resist trying to modify the plug once we learned about it. He probably wanted to be at least a bit closer to home before risking his motor! I guess getting home might take a wee bit of precedence over the Internet out in here Siberia.

Speaking of home, Paul keeps talking about pizza. He has been on this topic for days now . . . pizza! When he starts, I try to think about borscht. The fishing has been poor, so we are eating mostly pasta, canned beef, and borscht. The borscht is fantastic! Now I hear that the vegetable supply is getting low but there is plenty of canned beef left. Lots of it. Hmmm. I suspect I will be wishing for fish soup very soon.