like a herd of elephants!

Tuesday, Jan 04.

Christian enters forest, crossing a stream via log bridge

I accompany Hadrien, scientist for Smithsonian, and team of Arnaud and Christian to place camera traps in several forests between Vera Plaine and the Atlantic. We discover the transects in the forest are inundated with water and some require a new approach, cutting through forest and wading forest swamps as we search for the beginning of a transect.  We wade out into one swamp to discover it opens to a sea of floating vegetation preventing further progress.  Hadrien, having learned English by way of France, explains to team that we can go no further, for he has discovered “floating herbes”.  My imagination hears this comment as “floating herpes”, as in reptiles, and I am in agreement to search for another route.  We retreat, traveling by road to the other side and trek into forest, finding more manageable swamps to negotiate while searching for the transect. Midway through the transect we reach a moment of dry ground, and immediate and without misunderstanding we hear the incredibly loud trumpet, more like a roar, of an elephant maybe forty yards off,  letting all Vera Plaine know of our presence. Amid crashing boughs and screaming monkeys, we pay attention to be sure the grand disturbance is receding, not approaching.  No sooner does this subside than we hear from the other side, more crashing trees, splashing and sloshing through the soggy undergrowth and we are presented with six more elephants this time at thirty yards; we observe them as they careen past us with urgency into the deep forest. Suddenly all is quiet again, with the exception of my pounding heart, leaving the forest now more alive than ever.  We resume our forest crossing as I pay particular attention to every sound I hear.

Arnaud and Christian encounter another swamp at the edge of the forest

Catching a glimpse of the edge of the forest up ahead, I learn that this does not always indicate the end of challenges, as we encounter another swamp at the forest edge, narrow but deeper than expected. Passing among clusters of water-thriving trees, we proceed through waist-deep waters to arrive at what appears to be shallow pools with vegetation only to discover the vegetation is floating and barely supporting our weight.  We cross this ten meter mess one person at a time, taking care not to linger, as doing so allows us to sink slowly into the morass, spewing currents of tepid water and sludge to the surface from depths unknown.  I can only imagine what new creatures await scientific discovery beneath my feet.

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