All of Waw’s trenches are completely filled with water because the groundwater level is still too high and thus only parts of the sections that we plan to sample are visible. One of Mr. Chui’s water pump is broken and cannot be used, and he is reluctant to offer us his second pump, which is understandable since he uses it to pump water into the bungalows/huts.
Luckily we have the Swede boys Mats, Martin and Jesper on board. These three are not only divers and excellent excavators, but also interested in all types of machines. After only a couple of hours they had managed to get the pump motor working (they actually took the whole thing apart and assembled it again, using what ever stuff available to repair the old, rusty thing) – a real success! Step number two was to see if the pump would really pump the water out of the ditch.
The pump seemed to work and initially some water ran out through the pipe, but then it stopped because the filter had become clogged with sediment and organic debris. Several new attempts, using different types of filters (old plastic baskets, wires, a homemade steel filter, a homemade plastic filter) finally set the whole thing in motion and the water kept streaming out, gradually lowering the water level in the ditch. Now more and more of the section became visible, but so were the eels, fish and snakes that had been populating the trenches. Somadu and Andy worked hard to catch all the eels (for eating) and fish (for breeding elsewhere), and Waw, Svante and I quickly sampled the tsunami and soil layers to get material for radiocarbon dating.
As soon as the pump stopped, the water level rose again and most of the time we worked in water and mud up to our knees. Rubber boots were useless, because they became filled with water (and other floating stuff) immediately. Shoes or being barefoot was best and had the additional side of feeling the eels and fish swimming through the water! The other positive side of standing in the muddy water full of eels, snakes, spiders and fish was that it cooled the lower part of one’s body, while the upper part was exposed to the mid-day heat!
More pumping was needed to lower the water level even more and we had to be really quick to hammer in the steel frame to retrieve as much as possible of the whole section in one piece. Suddenly dark, menacing clouds started moving in from the sea, announcing a heavy monsoon rain, and telling us that we need to work even quicker. When the first raindrops began to fall, we had finally been able to dig out the steel frame full of sediments and then managed to wrap it up before the full monsoon rain hit upon us.
This 70 cm long sediment section is probably the most precious piece of a sediment section I have ever recovered, given all the work involved from repairing the pump, pumping the water out of the trench, cleaning the section, sampling it, standing in muddy water that contained who knows what kind of strange things …. A huge thanks to everyone for helping getting this precious piece of sediments!!
It is too bad that I have no photos illustrating all our efforts. But I did not want to loose my camera in the mud, did not want to touch it with my muddy fingers and was far too busy to get things done before the heavy rain started and the water level would rise again, that I completely forgot about taking pictures.
It was a relief to being able to get out of the wet clothes, to take off the soaked, muddy shoes and to have a shower! A delicious New Year’s Eve dinner was waiting for us, and so were the Changs and Singhas! What a great feeling to end the old year like this!