Excursion!

Sep. 24th, 2017 09:44 pm
ossamenta: Weasel skull (Default)
[personal profile] ossamenta
Last Tuesday was a fun day. One of our professors had recently retired, and as sort of a leaving present, a whole bunch of us at the department and lots of other people (ex-colleagues etc) went on an excursion to several sites that had been important to her in her career. Admittedly, this being archaeology, a lot of sites were passed by on the road as there is not much point in standing in the middle of a field looking at nothing. Prehistoric settlement sites in Scandinavia aren't really famous for visible above ground remains.

But we stopped the bus at two Bronze Age burial mounds, and at a peninsula with several Stone Age caves. One mound had to my knowledge not been excavated, but the other one had been and the burial chamber and entrance way had been recently restored. If I had brought a torch I would have been tempted to sneak in.


The Ålabodarna Bronze Age burial mound in its landscape, between sea and farmstead. (Click to embiggen.)


The very narrow entrance to the burial mound. (Click to embiggen.)


View from the top of the burial mound toward the sea. Denmark's coast is on the horizon. (Click to embiggen.)


The Stone Age caves (well, obviously formed in an geological age and not the Stone Age, but they were used in the Stone Age for temporary occupation) were the highlight. I had never been to one before, but now I want to go back and explore that area more. Scania is said to be flat as a pancake, but the Kullaberg peninsula is one of the not flat parts. Lots of people come here for rock climbing.

It was a long steep path down to the stony beach. Thankfully there were stairs (wood or natural stone, nothing fancy or easily walked), but my legs didn’t appreciate it as much as my eyes did. The beach was gorgeous, with lots of photo opportunities if you liked rock formations. There were several caves accessible from those stairs. The main one is at the beach itself, and you could get to another one at next beach along by stairs up a rocky formation and then a narrow path down the other side. The caves are all tiny, so they can only have been used for temporary shelter (annual seal hunts or sea bird egg collections?).


First part of the path. We're still in a lovely decidious wood. (Click to embiggen.)


The first stairs. Now you can (just about) see the beach! (Click to embiggen.)


A part without stairs, just a stony path. Still a long way to go until we're down on the beach. (Click to embiggen.)


The beach! Cliffs to the right...(Click to embiggen.)


... and more cliffs to the left. (Click to embiggen.)


The beach "next door". (Click to embiggen.)


A funny little plant growing on the cliffside. If you know what it is, please let me know. (Click to embiggen.)


Windswept heather growing on the cliffside. I wonder how old that plant is? (Click to embiggen.)
nanila: Your plastic pal who's fun to be with (star wars: k-2so)
[personal profile] nanila
[personal profile] emelbe and I set our alarms for 02:30 and 02:35 respectively, just to be sure we got up in time to walk over to Caltech for the end of mission. We dressed and poured coffee into ourselves, made sure we had our badges, and got out the door in plenty of time to arrive before 04:00, the official start of the event and NASA TV coverage.

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Walking up to Beckman Auditorium (aka the wedding cake) from the south.

As it happened. )
nanila: YAY (me: abby)
[personal profile] nanila
Thursday was meant to be a quiet day, since we all knew we had to be up and at Caltech by 4 AM for the thing we’d all been preparing for: the actual end of mission.

In reality, there were some impromptu science meetings at Caltech, one of which I attended in the morning. I slipped out just before noon, because I had someone to meet.

I headed down from Beckman to South Mudd to see my former JPL postdoctoral supervisor, from back in those heady days when I was still a lab scientist, for lunch. I hadn’t seen him since 2006. I eventually remembered where his Caltech office was. I could’ve found the JPL one much more easily, but it would have required me to check in and get a badge, which seemed a lot of faff for lunch. Besides, there are nicer places to eat in Pasadena. Once in the correct corridor, I spotted his technician hovering outside the door, plus another UK person from the physical chemistry community whom I’d never met but knows the bloke pretty well. There were lots of smiles and hugs, and we decided to head down to a restaurant over on Lake Street.

We had a very pleasant hour of conversation, reminiscing and catching up. I had a shock on hearing that their children, whom I remembered as children or young teenagers, were now grown up and had careers of their own. Of course I knew that would have happened in the intervening decade-plus, but it’s not until you actually speak together about these things that they’re driven home to you. They were equally shocked on learning that Humuhumu has started school - and has a younger sibling! The bloke and I had been remiss in our communication, clearly. We talked of science, of course, and of politics and its effects on research direction, and of our worries about the future due to Brexit and the current US administration.

I am still kicking myself for forgetting to take a photo. You must instead picture me with a group of men: one starting to disappear into the frailty of old age, peering out earnestly from large-framed glasses, one solid and grey-haired and mostly silent with twinkling blue eyes, and one cheeky-grinned middle-aged bear of a chap with a shock of brown hair and a beard. All sitting together in a booth of a Japanese restaurant, eagerly shoveling the contents of bento boxes into our faces, occasionally bursting into roars of laughter while cheesy ‘90s music played in the background.

We parted with promises not to let another eleven years pass before we met again. I was left with the warm glow you get from (re)connecting with friendly, kind, intelligent people. It was a lovely way to buffer against the excitement and strain of what was to come on Friday morning.

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Chilling out in my JPL t-shirt before the end of mission.
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
On Wednesday morning, [personal profile] emelbe and I saddled up and drove over to the Jet Propulsion Lab for a tour. We put her trusty sat nav on, and I noticed that instead of a car, the little icon was an x-wing. She turned the audio on. “Driven well you have,” said Yoda. “In a quarter of a mile, turn left. It is your destiny.”

It was decided that it was fitting for Yoda to be allowed to direct us to JPL.

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JPL tour badge with Curiosity on the front. We got to keep these.

Tour, with side trips down memory lane )
nanila: fulla starz (lolcat: science)
[personal profile] nanila
I flew into Los Angeles on the Sunday before the last-while-Cassini-is-still-in-orbit-around-Saturn Project Science Group meeting began. I was feeling dodgy when I got up at 6 AM, but I napped in the taxi and took some ibuprofen, and hoped that the feeling would go away.

It did not.

I made sure my usual mobile pharmacy (ibuprofen, paracetamol, Rennie) was stocked in my rucksack before I boarded the plane, and was glad I'd done so about three hours into the flight when my fever started spiking. I alternated ibuprofen and paracetamol every two hours. The flight attendants kindly granted all of my requests for cold water/cans of ginger ale, which were frequent. It was one of the most miserable long-haul flights I've ever had.

I spent nearly all of Monday in bed apart from a brief foray out to get a hot Thai curry into my belly for lunch. This paid off on Tuesday, and I was able to spend half a day at Caltech to dial into the penultimate operations meeting. (There will be one more after the crash, but obviously we’ll no longer have an instrument status to report.) I was excited about this, because I had been saving up something for a very long time.

In fine fettle was the other option )

to be continued

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