Andrew Paton's Diary


Friday, June 10, 2005 Thursday, June 9, 2005
Wednesday, June 8, 2005 Tuesday, June 7, 2005
Monday, June 6, 2005 Friday, June 3, 2005
Thursday, June 2, 2005 Wednesday, June 1, 2005
Tuesday, May 31, 2005 Monday, May 30, 2005
Sunday, May 29, 2005 Saturday, May 28, 2005
Friday, May 27, 2005 Tuesday, May 17, 2005
Sunday, March 20, 2005  

Friday, June 10, 2005 We go gift shopping for Joseph, Zuzanna, Peter, and Pavel. That night, we have a beautiful meal in a restaurant underneath Bethlehem Square, which was built in the 10th century. We exchange gifts and then go to Wenceslas Square, the site of the Velvet Revolution. We say our farewells.
 
Our hosts, Joseph and Zuzanna, have been great. We have learned much about the project itself but also about the country and its culture and history. Although we only knew a few words of Czech, the locals seemed to appreciate that at least we made the effort. It was fun learning new words or phrases.
 
I would thoroughly recommend the whole experience to anybody interested in applying and wish Joseph and Zuzanna all the best for their project in the future.

Thursday, June 9, 2005 We drive to Jabolonec to see glass blowers and painters in action, do some souvenir shopping, and have a farewell lunch at a restaurant. We pack our bags and are then on a shuttle bus back to Praha. That night, we do a bit of our own sightseeing in Praha plus a group dinner at a Chinese place.

Wednesday, June 8, 2005 In the morning, we do rain gauges, stream and dam readings at Sous Dam, then lunch at another chalet. We have borsch, which is a thick beetroot soup with cabbage and three different types of meat. It was very good on this cold day.
 
We head back up to the Jizera Mountains, where we can now see snow on the peaks of the Polish mountain range. Zuzanna explains the story of Tough Bill, the last remaining tree from the original forest that was not destroyed by the acid rain. John and I collect rain gauge samples.
 
After dinner, we have many samples for analysis and recording. This is followed by a talk from John on Widnes (in England) and the bottling process for Guinness and whiskies at the Diagio plant in northern England.

Tuesday, June 7, 2005 In the morning at Oldrickov, Chris, John, and I dig for Joseph an eight-meter (26-foot) trench that’s one meter (three feet) deep. We drive into Liberec to pick up some drain coil so we can gather water samples from the profile we dug to determine the alkalinities that leach out of the soil at different levels. For lunch, we head to a chalet for bratwursts with mustard. The room is full of antlers.
 
Lab work that night is followed by a presentation from Frank on the Netherlands. There’s a fire roaring, which feels good after the wet day.

Monday, June 6, 2005 Because we have had some rain, it was decided that we would go to Josefuv Dul Dam again to do stream and rain gauges for comparison analysis and to also repair a damaged fog gauge. After lunch, we head off to Jizera Mountains to do rain gauges. It was very wet underfoot, and on the way we see a baby deer.
 
On way home, we stop at a Bohemian glass shop. After dinner, Martin gives a presentation on Mexico. About 120 million people live there, with 22 million living in Mexico City.
 
It stays light until 9:30 p.m.

Friday, June 3, 2005 Today is my daughter’s ninth birthday. 
 
We drive to Liberec to pick up Petra (another research graduate).
While there, I phone home but get the answering machine.
 
We check tree vitality today by pushing a small gauge into tree trunks to measure resistance. The group does more than 300 trees.
 
That night, Chris gives a presentation on Canada.

Thursday, June 2, 2005 At Oldrickov Dam, Martin, Joseph, and I take the boat out. At designated spots, we take samples every meter for pH and conductivity. I crabbed a bit with my rowing stroke but not too badly. On the way home, we visit the site of a dam constructed in 1916 that burst soon afterward, killing 62.
 
That night, Natasha does her presentation on Belarus using a laptop and a few props. She is a visiting scientist with her own Earthwatch project in Belarus, which focuses on bogs.

Wednesday, June 1, 2005 Today we go to Josefuv Dul Lake (big dam), where Chris (Canada) and Ish (Sri Lanka) take the boat out with Joseph. We later hear how Ish rowed in circles and was barred from rowing, so Chris got to do all the rowing with Ish giving encouragement.
 
Pavel, Martin (Mexico), and I check the feeder streams for temperature, depth, width, velocity, pH, and conductivity. It was a lovely walk around the lake; I can feel my legs getting quite a bit stronger now.
 
That night, we all go off to the local bowling alley. It was a great night with lots of laughs.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005 It’s cold today, and we’re dressed warmly as we head off to the mountains. We again split into groups, and I work with Frank and Natasha. We cut and collect grasses and vegetation from a square we toss onto the ground. We also take a soil sample, pH, and moisture content with a small gauge. We do this every 100 meters (328 feet) over two kilometers (1.2 miles).
 
We had chicken, gravy, dumplings, garlic soup, and ice cream for dinner. Later, Pavel, one of the research graduates who specializes in civil engineering, gave a small talk on water velocity and how it affects civil engineering. As part of our culture nights, I gave a small talk about Australia, using a small photo album I brought along.

Monday, May 30, 2005 Breakfast is at 8 a.m. Zuzanna then gives us a demonstration on how to use the equipment that will be required each day.
 
We are split into three groups: sample and clean rain gauges; measure stream velocities; and measure sediment and leaf cover in a culvert. John (England), Natasha (Belarus), and I tackle the culvert. By measuring culvert sediment, we get an idea of stream characteristics for the last 12 months.
 
After dinner, we do our lab work. The rain gauge samples are measured for alkalinity and conductivity and logged into the computer. Our culvert measurements are also logged so they can be compared with previous years.

Sunday, May 29, 2005 We’re off for Bedrichov in 12-seater shuttle bus. On the way, we have lunch in an open cafeteria followed by a visit to Rohan Castle, which is situated on 150 acres.
 
We arrive at our new home (boardinghouse). It’s used as a ski chalet in the winter season and has six levels, including an attic and basement, with views overlooking the village below.
 
We walk about 400 meters (1,300 feet) past chairlifts and open fields to our restaurant, which we will do each night during our stay at Bedrichov. Dinner consists of three courses of home-cooked meals. Some nights it’s dumplings (traditional Czech fare), and it’s always very filling.
 
After dessert, Joseph gives us an overview of what we will be doing during our stay here.

Saturday, May 28, 2005 I meet the other members of the group, who are from Canada, Belarus, Sri Lanka, England, and Mexico. I also meet Frank, the fellow Alcoa expeditioner from the Netherlands. Joseph and Zuzanna, our hosts and project scientists, introduce themselves and outline what is ahead for us.
 
We walk into town for dinner over the Charles Bridge and then on to an 11th century church for baroque music.

Friday, May 27, 2005 I arrive in Prague 31 hours after departing Perth. I’m a bit tired, but it’s a beautiful day.
 
I check in at the hostel and then walk down old cobblestone roads to the magnificent Praha Castle and St. Vitus Cathedral. The palace gardens of the castle overlook the entire city.
 
I have a few pivos (beer) on the way back, with steak and dumplings for dinner.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005 I’m in the home straight now, with less than two weeks to go. Flights are booked, expedition briefing is read, contact has been made via e-mail with some of the other members of the team, the empty suitcase is sitting in the corner of the bedroom, and I received an email from our project leader tonight while at work. The planned weight loss and fitness regimen hasn't quite eventuated, nor has my learning of the Czech language, but I am ever hopeful.
 
My flights to Prague, including stopovers, will take 30 hours. I have planned to get there a day early in case of any delays and to give myself some rest time to recharge the batteries before our project.
               
Last night I had news that Terry, my workmate of 20 years, has been offered a place on the Storm Petrels over Portugal project. He had been the first alternate. Unfortunately, Kenny Wang of China had to decline due to work commitments. I hope Kenny will get another opportunity at a later date.
 
Terry has two weeks to prepare and organize what has taken four months for the rest of us. I wish him the best of luck. If that wasn't a big enough task in itself and just to complicate things a bit more, he is also planning for his wife and daughter to meet him at the completion of the project.
 
Some time ago, Terry sailed in an eighteenth century replica sail ship from Perth to Sydney—approximately 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles)—so he really has an adventurous spirit and the stomach for the long journeys. I look forward to hearing all about his latest adventure. 

Sunday, March 20, 2005 December 27th.  It was a quiet night shift at the Wagerup refinery (Australia) where I work as an operator when I first spied the email about Earthwatch fellowships. “Participate in ecological projects throughout the world and all expenses paid” sounded too good to be true.
               
I concentrated my application on the water quality and quantity problems we are having locally and some of the solutions our politicians are devising. The application went off early that morning, and six weeks later a congratulations email comes in telling me I'm off to the Czech Republic to work on the Mountain Waters of Bohemia. What a beauty. I couldn't wipe the smile off my face. My wife and kids are excited, but “where exactly is the Czech Republic, dad, and when are we going?”
 
Two months to go. No travel plan as yet, but I have purchased my Czech phrase book. Kids are adaptable—they'll get over it.


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