July 27: Mosquitoes Are Protein Too

Roma, Anton, and Anya celebrating Roma's birthday

Roma, Anton, and Anya celebrating Roma's birthday

Two of the things we think about most out here are (1) geology and (2) food. Since the last post focused on geology, it follows that this post will revolve almost entirely around our caloric intake over the past twenty four hours. We chose to post this now because today was Roma’s birthday. In celebration of his turning 29, we have consumed some out-of-the-norm Siberian delicacies.

For those of you might have missed this, Roma is an experienced paleomagnetist who has spent the last decade working field seasons in Siberia.  Anya is his student and has also spent a considerable amount of time doing field work in the Traps. Volodia Pavlov, also a seasoned paleomagnetist, has been working longer than he cares to mention up and down the various Siberian rivers. And Anton, who knows an amazing joke about hunting geologists, is Volodia’s student and manages to traverse the most treacherous outcrops in a battered pair of sneakers. It’s thanks to them that we have not starved to death, stranded ourselves in the river, or picked a lunch spot right under an unstable rock overhang.

We started the birthday celebration last night at 12:01 when we (Ben and Seth) surprised Roma and Anton at their tent with two squares of chocolate–a veerry precious comodity. Seth had bored a hole in the middle of the chocolate just large anough to fit a rolled-up piece of paper, which served as the solitary birthday candle. After lighting the candle, we sang a stirring rendition of happy birthday to a bleary-eyed Roma, who thanked us, smiled for a picture, ate his present, and promptly went back to sleep.

We woke this morning to a hollered “zaaaaaftrak!!” Which roughly translates to breaaaakfast!!! Anya had woken up early to make pancakes over the fire. Amazing. From deep in pits of the bags sequestered on her boat, she summoned flour, salt, and condensed milk–all the makings of a fantastic morning. After consuming a ridiculous amount, we packed up all our things and prepared for a bloated float down the Maymecha towards the mouth of the Delkan river, our final stop.

The current has been slow in the river. It took several hours to reach a cliff exposure of Maymechites (a very magnesium-rich rock). After a bit of geology, we were charged with building the fire and preparing lunch. It was not quite late enough for supper (only 5 pm) and we had obviously already eaten breakfast, so Volodia wanted to know the word for breakfast and lunch combined–we said brunch–he said BRUNCH!!–Siberian brunch is now in the lexicon. We prepared a delightful vegetable-broth soup with wild onion, carrots, egg noodles, tushonka (which means canned beef and beef accessories), canned peas, and many boiled mosquitoes. After tea and small-talk, down the river we went.

Dinner tonight was, as usual, a feast. Spiral noodles cooked in tandem with the lovely vegetable broth, tushonka (2 cans), canned peas, dehydrated carrots, and many, many dead mosquitoes. To this fantastic combination we added mustard, ketchup, raw garlic, parmesan cheese, hot sauce, mayonnaise, raw pork fat (Volodia’s favorite), more mosquitoes, and a splash of 100% deet bug spray for good measure. With dinner winding down, Anya slipped away quickly and returned triumphantly with a three layer, home-made birthday cake. Between each layer of ginger-like cake was a healthy helping of boiled condensed milk, which tasted for the most part like caramel. The cake was also topped with this spread and decorative concentric circles of a frosted-flake analog. After dessert, we presented Roma with a new chisel wreathed in locally grown wild-flowers and a pair of sunglasses plus headstrap that he, in his own words, “has been dreaming about.”

We are now laying fat and happy in our tents ready for four days of sampling in the Delkansky formation.

(Editor: For good measure, here is a photo of Roma’s birthday in 2008, when we were already back in Khatanga waiting to fly out)

Ben, Roma, Anya, and Brad at Roma's birthday dinner 2008 in the Khatanga Geologists' Guesthouse (photo: Elkins-Tanton)

Ben, Roma, Anya, and Brad at Roma's birthday dinner 2008 in the Khatanga Geologists' Guesthouse (photo: Elkins-Tanton)

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3 Responses to “July 27: Mosquitoes Are Protein Too”

  1. Why are you always eating mosquitoes?

  2. I just discovered this site last night. Wow. It reads like an action adventure movie screenplay. You just need some evil henchmen in the mix. I am completely inspired and will begin work on my screenplay after I finish the page proofs of my textbook “Women and Diabetes” . Maybe we can call it “California Seth (not sure where Ben is from) and the Quest for Siberian Traps” (or the Zircon Crystals, or the Permian Extinction”). When you are back in Moscow you should try swing dancing. Here are some websites even though I can’t read a word. http://www.swingdance.ru/
    http://www.msds.ru/en/

  3. Do mosquitoes taste like chicken?

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