August 7, 2012
Ah, a quiet night in Lima. So much work to do! But this blog is a welcome way to procrastinate and process what we’ve done today.
I got to sleep around 3am; customs took about an hour longer than we expected, but was otherwise pleasant.
Honking notwithstanding, life in the touristy areas of Peru seems surprisingly laid back. Visitors and locals seem comfortable with their setting. The streets around Miraflores are packed with tourists, business people, ditch diggers, taxi workers, security guards, and police in determined expressions.
Dave and I walked to the coast to get our bearings, then headed to the Pontifica Universidad Catolica del Peru. Like our beloved USC, PUCP was a giant construction zone with classes out of session. We met with the chair of the engineering and mines department, Dr. Rosas. We had much to discuss; our field work starting Friday, her plans for new geology classes at the University, the rocks themselves. Dr. Rosas earned degrees published in Spanish, German, and English. Amazing!
And she’s an enviable organizer. All the microscope slides from her dissertation research are carefully numbered, stored in wooden boxes, and keyed to descriptions in her dissertation. Yikes! Dave and I marveled; what if a plucky young student from another contient comes to look at MY thin sections in 20 years? I should probably at least formalize my terribly haphazard system of nicknames for sponge-bearing rock units…
Then the best part – her new petrographic microscope with a color camera and computer attached. Heavenly! I’ve gotten spoiled using sedimentologist Frank Corsetti’s scope at USC, and didn’t guess I’d have access to a scope camera here.
So with a few hours to go, the hunt began. Microscope slides of rocks are fascinating; you can see every crystal of every grain of sand, the details in bubbles of muck that formed around sea shell fragments, even little burrows from microbes that bored into shells. The detail, however, is daunting. Overwhelming. In fact, the crystals are often new features that obliterated fossil fragments. I can play with the light and focus to find the ghosts of shells that disolved 200 million years ago. Spooky, no?
At first I felt like a kid in a candy store with so many slides – hundreds! to look at. Soon, though, it felt overwhelming. After all, Dr. Rosas worked on these for years herself. Is there anything special, some little clue, hidden among some of the slides that will help us decide where to look for fossils on Friday?
All day long people ask us, “Oh, when are you going to Cuzco?”, that being the hub for Machu Pichu travel. No one can really understand why we’re staying in Lima. At least half of the science that seems to happen on these expeditions happens in our heads, happens in hotels, happens while we’re standing in line at customs on the way back to US soil. When I’m not in the microscope room I’m thinking about the minerals and fossils I saw today. We’re talking over dinner about what to say in my talk next Wednesday.
Oh! Yes. Dr. Rosas invited me to give a talk at the Geological Society meeting on Wednesday. I jumped at the chance – but it will be a ton of work. Though I can do the talk in English, the audience will be “economic geologists”, miners. We speak very, very different languages. I may as well try to give the talk in French!