Jason Suiter's Diary
Roman Fort on the Danube

Wednesday, June 16, 2004 Tuesday, June 15, 2004
Monday, June 14, 2004 Sunday, June 13, 2004
Saturday, June 12, 2004 Friday, June 11, 2004
Thursday, June 10, 2004 Wednesday, June 9, 2004
Tuesday, June 8, 2004 Monday, June 7, 2004
Sunday, June 6, 2004 Saturday, June 5, 2004
Friday, June 4, 2004 Thursday, June 3, 2004
Wednesday, June 2, 2004 Tuesday, June 1, 2004
Monday, May 31, 2004 Sunday, May 30, 2004
Wednesday, May 26, 2004  

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Wednesday, June 16, 2004

I am catching an early flight. It's time to head for home. I am flying from Romania to Amsterdam to Minneapolis to Moline.

The plane has touched down. My family is waiting in the lobby. What a wonderful sight!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2004

Traveled the countryside to head back to Bucharest, where it all started. I will stay one more night in the Triumph Hotel. We had one last going away supper before we all said our goodbyes.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Starting our way home. We are heading to see the second largest city in Romania called Constantia, which is a seaport along the Black Sea. I had a chance to see a Roman city under one of the hotels. They built the hotel over top of the remains and now have it open to view the remains of the walls and stones.

We are heading for Istria, a city along the sea where we will stay the night. I had the chance to roll up my pant legs, kick off my shoes, and walk into the Black Sea. While we were there, we made a visit to the museum of history and archaeology.

Saturday, June 12, 2004 and Sunday, June 13, 2004

Dig days. We spent two more days digging in the second pit, removing a lot of dirt and rocks. We came across a wall that didn't seem to tie into the walls of the first pit. Halfway along the wall was a step going down into the middle of the pit that seemed to be a sidewalk of some kind.

After spending a day and a half digging out rocks and throwing out all the tiny pieces of broken pottery and a few animal bones, I was wearing down and ready to put this to an end. This would be our last day digging on the site, and my hands and back are ready to go home. The callout of five more minutes to clean up was given, so I thought I would clean out just a few more rocks. To my surprise, the last rock that I picked up was an oil lamp that dated back to the sixth century. What a way to end my dig at this Roman fort!

Friday, June 11, 2004

Travel day. We took the day to do some shopping in Tulcea. I bought some Romanian music for my family and sent them an e-mail from an internet café to tell them hi. We had a chance to enter a monastery, where we had lunch. Later in the day, we went into a Greek church and visited another Roman site along the Danube River.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

Dig day. It was the hardest day of them all. We finished up the hole that we started and marked off the second pit. The first four inches were grass and roots. Once we made it through that, it seemed that the walls to this room have all caved in. Every shovel load hit rock. We spent the rest of the day removing plenty of rocks until we found the top of the walls.

Wednesday, June 9, 2004

Dig day. We dug all day, cleaning up all four walls and grooming our first pit so we could take measurements and pictures of the site. During the afternoon, we got cleaned up and took a trip to a couple other Roman sites that were guarding the southern parts of the Black Sea and the delta of the Danube River.

Tuesday, June 8, 2004

Trip on the Danube River. We traveled upstream for several miles, left the main channel, and went into the backwaters of the Danube. I got a chance to drive the old diesel boat through the back sloughs. We dropped off three of our helpers on a sandy shoreline to fix lunch while we went deeper into the backwaters of the Danube. An hour or so later, we made our way back to that site to have a great fish and soup lunch they prepared for us. The trip on the Danube was pretty much an all-day cruise, and we took in the beautiful sites of the wildlife along the way.

Monday, June 7, 2004

Dig day. Another typical day. We woke up for a 6:30 a.m. breakfast before we went out to the site. Today was the day I was going to remove the pot that I had found. While carefully removing it from the side of the wall, we discovered the bottom half was gone.

As we dug further into the pit, we were removing some of the small rocks that had fallen into the center. The professor found a coin that dated back to the late sixth century. We dug down another two feet (61 centimeters) and went through many large rocks, where we came across a fireplace pit in the corner of the room. After notifying the professor of our find, which included several burnt pieces of ash and pottery, we came to the conclusion that this site might have been a blacksmith shop or a kiln where they made the pottery.

Sunday, June 6, 2004

Rain out. We woke up today to the remnants of a bad night. The rains filled the pit with water and made it too muddy to dig.

After breakfast, we went into the town of Murighiol to go through the museum. We also took a trip upriver to the town of Mahmudia to a Roman naval site called Dunavatz de Jos. We stopped in a fine hotel along the Danube River just down from that site. When we got back to our site, we spent the rest of the day going over some of the artifacts that were in the storage shed and hadn't made it to the museums yet.

Saturday, June 5, 2004

Dig day. In one of our corners, I found the top of a wall. Inside of the wall between the catwalk, I came across the top portion of a vase with two handles. I took great care not to damage it as I dug around it. The vase I found was sticking into the side of the catwalk. We needed to leave it for a few days and work on cleaning and clearing down the side of the walls.

The rest of the day was tough, clearing out fallen rocks and digging dirt where the rocks had fallen down. Today was a very hard day. We stopped working around 1:30 p.m. and had a great lunch waiting for us. After we were done eating, we went back to the hotel exhausted, hoping to have warm water in our showers. I really needed to take a nap before we attended our evening supper at 7 p.m.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Dig day. I am starting a routine in the mornings, walking to the site for breakfast at 6:30 a.m. I can't wait to get started! We are going to be introduced to our helpers from the village and will get all the tools out that we will be using.

The morning air was still on the cool side, and it looked like it was going to be a nice day. The boys from the village prepared the site the day before by clearing some of the grass debris from the land. We started by finishing up and removing all of the weeds that were left behind.

With a map of the site, stakes, and strings, we had to measure out the two spots we were going to dig. Grass, roots, dirt, and a lot of rocks took care of the rest of the day as we dug down about 2.5 feet (76 centimeters). My hands and back were sore, and I think I found a few new muscles that I had forgotten about.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

First day on site. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. because I couldn't sleep. I got ready to take my mile walk, making sure I had my bug spray on because rumor has it that the mosquitoes could eat you alive.

We were suppose to meet at the site at 6:30 a.m. for breakfast, and the mile that I was walking seemed to be more like two. After we were done eating, the professor took us to the top of the hill to walk around the top of the Roman fort to see all the other sites that had been investigated over the years. We went over a few of the safety tips and learned about the history of the site. By 1 p.m. the day was over, lunch was served, and we spent the rest of the day in the small village looking at some of the sites.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Leaving the hotel. We were getting ready for a long ride across the country of Romania in a crowded van. We left around 10 a.m. On our way, if the weather permitted, we were going to stop at a place to look at a mud volcano, which is really a hillside where natural gases arose to the surface and created air bubbles in the muddy waters on the hill.

Mid-afternoon we stopped at a roadside restaurant in the middle of the woods to take a break from the long drive. We still had another four hours to go before arriving in the East Coast. We traveled through many small villages, winding roads, and very beautiful countryside. There were miles of farm fields with hundreds of people working them, still by hand with a hoe. There were many horses and carts along the roads that they used for transportation.

We arrived in Murighiol late at night to the hotel where we would be staying for a couple of weeks. The hotel is around a mile from the site. By the looks of it, it is not a four star hotel. But it has locks on the doors, and they say sometimes we will have hot running water.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Arriving in Romania. Being Americans, I think we all stuck out. When I got up for breakfast in the morning, I ran into two more members of our team. We had until 7 p.m. to find something to do before we had to meet up with the rest of the group for a welcome dinner. So, the others and I spent the day walking and taking in the sites in the capital of Romania. We went through many museums and several churches and got to see a very large presidential palace. The one that made me fill a little bit like home was a place with big golden arches called McDonalds.

Monday, May 31, 2004

The flight was long. Jumping from plane to plane and through plenty of time changes really made it feel like a long day. The feeling of touching down in Bucharest, the capital of Romania, was great. Then the hard part came. I had to find the hotel and get hold of someone who could speak a little English to get me there. It wasn't so bad. I had a piece of paper that had the name of the hotel on it, and I showed it to the cab driver. He said he knew exactly where it was. Now I just hope that we were going in the right direction to get there.

I arrived a day early to have plenty of time to get out and see some of the capital. I came across a few of the other Earthwatch members that night and had a great evening with them.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Leaving home. I am leaving from Moline Airport to a city in Romania. I don't know what is in store for me other than I'm heading for a part of the world I have never been before. This is the first time I have ever left my family for more than a few days on business. Saying goodbye to them for two and a half weeks wasn't easy.

The goodbyes were said, and now I am on my way for a chance of a lifetime to see a world and a different culture on my own.

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Since this is my first diary entry, I thought I'd give you a little background about myself. I'm a 20-year employee with Alcoa Davenport Works in Iowa. I'm an equipment operator in the Platemill, and most of my time is spent on a flatbed truck, trucking equipment in and out of a machine.

Back in December 2003 while sitting in the break room trying to stay warm (a little snow was on the ground), I came across an article in the company newsletter that talked about Earthwatch and Alcoa looking for employee volunteers to participate in research projects worldwide. What a great deal, and the company would will pay for it! How do I sign up, or what do I need to do?

It was the first of the month, and the application had to be turned in by the 19th. I wasn't sure what needed to be turned in because I couldn't get access to the website that contained the information. I did a little investigating on my own and, with the help of the person who wrote the article, I found it. Who, what, where, why—in 50 words I wrote an essay on why I should be picked. Wow, that was more than I have written since high school. And that was a while ago.

Australia, dolphins, nice weather, sandy beaches. What a dream, but I am only one Alcoan among many worldwide vying for 16 spots. It is like the lottery—if you don't play, you cannot win. I filled out the papers, and it became a waiting game.

In February 2004, I was turning 42 and still buying lottery tickets. I received a letter that read "Congratulations, Jason Suiter, you will be traveling to Eastern Europe as a volunteer for Alcoa and Earthwatch and will be helping on an archeological dig of an ancient Roman fort along the Danube River." Wow, I thought, I did hit the lottery! What an adventure and life experience that I get the opportunity to be a part of.

A few months have past, and I have one week before I leave. I better start getting my things in order.

Related Sites

The Danube River Basin
Facts about the second longest river in Europe.

Photo Gallery

View the images from Jason Suiter's diary.

Earthwatch Institute

Learn more about this international nonprofit, which supports scientific field research worldwide.

Roman Fort on the Danube

Learn more about the expedition and its scientists.