USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts & Sciences > Blog

July 2, 2013

Things get LOCO

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathleen Ritterbush @ 7:52 pm

It’s past my bedtime so I have to keep it brief. At last I have internet!


After leaving the jungle we went to a mine at the top of the world. It was freezing cold, something like -10 C at night. Hours of medical checks, confusion about our housing, and a geologist very skeptical about our chances of promising rocks soured my mood. I figured if we found nothing in the morning, just as well: we’d continue to the three sites I know well from last year.

In fact at about 16000 feet we saw some of the finest fossil sponges I’ve ever seen. They really tie the room together. Everything I’ve seen in Nevada and everything here in Peru makes way more sense in light of this outcrop, in the center of a stark mining district, at an almost impossible elevation.


Now we’ve switched sites again. I thought I was adjusting to the elevation but was wrong. The headaches got so bad I was literally useless on the outcrop my last day, after working four days at 16000 feet and sleeping at about 14000. Now we’re sleeping in a new town, at about 10,000 feet, and I feel way better.


Each day we need to commute to the field sites, which takes about two hours and more guts than I’ve ever seen in a driver. Saens (pronounced, “Science”!!!) has more measured daring per kg than anyone I’ve met. All three roads between the altiplano and western cordillera are under construction at once, limiting travel of people and goods to nighttime races. Today a jam of eighteenwheelers in the narrow cliffside alleyways between adobe villages was resolved by a half dozen brave guys who, after directing all the vehicles into a tetris of functionality, vanished back into their trucks and vans and disappeared into the night.  The week before our arrival there was a terrible accident where 30 people died in a bus that went over a cliff. But compared to anywhere else I’ve seen such traffic I’m in awe of how well people handle these impossible situations. I’ve yet to see so much as a single dead dog. And there are a LOT of dogs.


More images and hopefully video from the adventures and fossils to follow, but I really only get to the hotel in time to go to sleep and get back up to leave at 6 sharp so we don’t get stranded. It’s a wild time. It’s cold, but the rocks are amazing.

word of the day: arcoiris, rainbow. Not sure how to spell it. Also morecielago, bat. Not sure how to spell that either.  Now that it’s just me and local scientists and Science himself, I need to pick up my spanish.

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