Home Sweet Maymecha (July 21)

Guarding the gear from the helicopter swash

Guarding the gear from the helicopter swash

A giant helicopter whisked us away yesterday from the shore of the Kotuy river just outside of Kayak and carried us to the Maymecha river. Seth summarized the ride as “bananas.” After landing on a broad gravel bar an hour or so later, we unloaded our mountain of gear right next to the helicopter. To keep the gear from blowing away as the helicopter took off, we laid on top the immense pile. The feeling and sight of a huge machine hovering not feet above your head, pinning you down with the force of its engines, was quite something. The rotor had six blades at least.

The helicopter left us in easily the most breathtaking place we have been so far. The Maymecha river is totally wild… Forests, meadows, mountains, clear water, small rapids, fish galore.  Ben, while taking his evening swim, saw a taimen (a type of fish here) of considerable size swimming through the shallow water. He blurted out a litany of profanity and waved his arms wildly. Although not visually confirmed by Seth, the ferocity of the arm-waving and severity of the cussing suggested a fish of no less than 5 feet in length.

We are not just here to eat caribou and take helicopter rides–so now a bit of geology. Broadly speaking, Seth’s main interest out here is in dating many stratigraphic levels in the Siberian Traps section to define both the tempo of the eruption and when it started. Ben is interested in quantifying the volatiles released from the Traps during various stages of the eruption. One way to do this is with melt inclusions–tiny droplets of liquid magma trapped and frozen inside a crystal as it forms. When present in a magma, volatile gases such as fluorine, chlorine, and sulfur typically degas during the course of an eruption. But they can be preserved inside melt inclusions, so that more than 250 million years after the eruption occurred we might be able to peek at the gases injected into the atmosphere by the Siberian Traps.  With this information we hope to assess the environmental impact of such an enormous volcanic event.

We are here in the Maymecha to sample a section of rocks that only crop out in this area. The Pravoboyarsky suite, which is composed of several hundred meters of tuff, forms the base of the Maymecha section. This unit is easily eroded and therefore very difficult to find in outcrop–but finding it is half the fun! We are also hoping to track down several other promising units of rock. Over the next 10 days we will raft down the river, working our way up the section from older rock to younger rock. Our trip will end at the mouth of the Delkan river, where some of the youngest rocks in the entire Traps section are exposed.

While we were typing the previous paragraph, Roma came sauntering up dragging a 15-pound taimen. It looks like we will be having a second dinner tonight. Fresh, pan-fried fish. This place is FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!


We have no internet here, obviously. These posts are made with the help of a computer, a satellite phone, and Lindy Elkins-Tanton. So while we miss all of you, we have no good way of letting you know. But you can let us know how much you miss us! In case you missed the instructions, you can send a message for free to our satellite phones by going to messaging.iridium.com (we think that’s the website, but we’re still not sure, so you may have to google it) and typing a message to:

8816 3164 1157 (Seth) or
8816 3154 7593 (Ben)

But remember, we can’t reply to these messages, only read them. Quick response to a few texts we have received:
How much does the antelope cost?
Shame on you Rosario.
Target bluebird has been eliminated.


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