Dense mist draped the rubber plantations, the lush limestone cliffs and the small villages on our way to Nong Thale Pron. The sky was still grey when we arrived at the lake around 8:30, but the sun which had started to break through the clouds announced yet another very hot day.
We started to pump up the zodiacs and to prepare everything we needed to endure another day on the lake. Suddenly a loud scream cut through our silent preparations – Moo had stepped into a wasp nest that was hidden in the reeds and the wasps immediately swarmed over her head and attacked her violently. Moo was running away, screaming and shaking, but the wasps continued to follow her. She tried to protect herself as much as possible, but had by then already suffered from more than 20 stings! Nut, and our two drivers Luped and Lek came to her help and distracted the wasps which gradually gave up. Moo did not know if she is allergic to wasps, so I sent her to the next hospital, just in case she would have an allergic reaction. Luckily, the doctor found out that she already earlier had developed an immunity against wasps! But just to be on the safe side, he gave her some medication. It was such a relief to hear that everything was fine with her when she phoned from the hospital. The rest of us went out on the lake to continue our coring operation from yesterday. Nerys was filming, and Nut and Ludvig cored. We got core after core, more nice and extremely promising sediments. The sun had by now risen and it had become unbearably hot. Without sun protection, a hat and loads of drinking water, it would not have been possible to spend more than half an hour in the middle of the lake. It may sound great to spend one’s days on a lake in southern Thailand in the full sun, but the reality is not really so great. We get sunburnt and dehydrated, dirty from coring and exhausted by all the hard work.
By lunch time we had still not finished coring, although we had now attained a sediment depth of 13 m. We still needed to obtain the overlapping cores, and this meant returning to the coring spot once again after lunch. Moo, Nut, Ludvig and I took up coring again in the afternoon, while Nerys, Sheri and Koy did some sightseeing in the surroundings of the lake. Nerys needed some good shots of the villages, of the plantations and of the local people. Christophe on the other hand went shopping to get what he still needed to construct a rain gauge. By 4 pm we were finally forced to quit our coring.
We had still not reached the bottom, but our anchoring system was too weak and the wind had become too strong, which meant that the zodiac could not be kept stable enough to core the compact sediments below 13 m depth. So we will definitely have to return should the sediments be as old as I imagine! Sheri, Koy and Nerys came back from their trip with loads of freshly cut, small bananas, which they had received as a gift from a local farmer, “as a bribe”, Sheri and Nerys said. The three had stopped at a farm house where several young men were enjoying the afternoon, and Koy had started to talk to them. Soon after the mother of the young men arrived on her motorbike and joined the discussion. She became very interested in Nerys and Sheri and told them that they were very pretty and that she has these two son …… maybe Sheri and Nerys would like to trade their current lives with a new live amid rubber trees and banana plantations. To support her offer she loaded them with loads of bananas! But neither Nerys nor Sheri were very keen on the offer and felt that their current lives were a much better option.
The last thing we needed to do today, was to find someone who could regularly monitor the precipitation and who could take water samples in the lake and also sample the rain water. Koy contacted the mayor of the commune for advice, and he invited us over to his house to discuss the whole issue in more detail. It turned out that his wife was a school teacher, that she was willing to do the sampling for us during the coming year, and that she will send all the samples to Chulalongkorn University. We were even allowed to set up the rain gauge that Christophe had constructed, in their garden. The mayor’s wife even has a Facebook site which means that we can easily connect with her.