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Glacial Geologic Investigations of the
Nevado Firura Glacier, Peru
This Project is supported by a generous grant from the
Dan and Betty Churchill Exploration Fund
Kurt Rademaker, Gordon Bromley and Louis Fortin
June 15, 2005 to July 14, 2005
23rd June -2nd July
Field work in the Alturas de Firura
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Field work has been progressing rapidly since we arrived on the plateau. After the initial problems with altitude we have now mapped and sampled many tens of square kilometres of moraine and drift, powered by our well-rounded diet of cheese and sugar. Kurt and I have discovered drift units relating to four significant glacial episodes (though it’s too early to comment on likely ages), cored valley-bottoms with the Dutch Corer to retrieve basal peat samples for radiocarbon dating , and have collected over twenty samples of basalt erratics and striated bedrock for exposure-age dating. I pity the poor mule chosen to carry that bag out! Meanwhile, Louis has used a GPS to map the positions and elevations of all the moraine-dammed lakes and many moraines in the area, thus documenting the last recession of the Firura ice front.
I have found the short days rather infuriating. There is only so much ground we can cover before night falls and the temperature plummets to around -12?C. Fortunately, dry Llama pooh makes a magnificent fire and Louis has diligently been collecting sack loads of it. During the day, camp has been a bit inhospitable, plagued by flies if it is calm or by incessant dust storms if windy, so it is always good to get out and mapping early. That wasn’t possible yesterday, unfortunately, for we had foolishly feasted on ‘unsuitable’ salami the night before (it was only two weeks old!) and Louis and I were confined to our tents to suffer the result. On a lighter note, a very bold mouse has joined us and currently resides under the wall.
Louis writes: Camping out in the Andes Mountains was quite an experience. Personally, I have never gone camping before, so living in the middle of nowhere for two weeks was a surreal experience. No longer did I have the city life amenities that I grew up with and took for granted for so long. It was just us three for miles (excluding the alpaca herder and his 300 alpacas). Mornings at first were like a Twilight Zone episode: You would wake up in your confined space of a tent and the minute you start moving you would have these mind wrenching headaches. Next you would stumble out of your tent and instead of seeing Maine and pine trees, you saw these rocky undulating hills and mountains surrounding you, with not a single tree in site. At first it may sound like it was quiet and lonely up there, but it actually wasn’t. During the day a constant wind could be felt almost everywhere you went, and if it wasn’t windy there would be these annoying flies (reminded me of horse flies) that would keep you company. At night when the sun set around 6:00 PM, the temperature dropped drastically. Once everyone was back from field work, supper would be prepared and eaten, after we would head to our tents to sleep. By this time the temperature would have been around 20? Fahrenheit, if not in the teens.
After a few days of working through elevation sickness, we are all feeling 100%. We have a great team, with everyone lending somewhat different skills to keep the field work moving forward. Louis is the tech guy – all our mapping equipment and solar power supply is functioning now, and he has been collecting a lot of spatial data that we will eventually incorporate in our Geographic Information System (GIS) to better understand this fascinating landscape. Louis has also been helping me locate and map early preceramic archaeological sites, which abound on the soil surface in a vast area of weathered basalt. Meanwhile, I have been learning a lot about glacial geology while working with Gordon. Every day we are getting stronger and better acclimated to the elevation and the extreme diurnal temperature swings – towards the end of the project we are hiking 20-30 km each day. Camp life has been fun, too. We have been visited by a small desert fox, and one night three runaway alpacas sneak by our camp to parts unknown. Gordon has managed to make us a great breakfast cereal which consists of rice, powdered milk, raisins, and strawberry marmalade. For dinner we usually doctor up ramen noodle soup and eat by the light of our llama dung campfire, dreaming of Pat’s Pizza and watching shooting stars.
For further information, see the project page.