Ellis Locke–Buluk, Kenya #2: The Old Monkeys, but Not the New

Now I can officially submit my first true “notes from the field!” It’s been a long process, but Ellen Miller and I have finally made it to our camp at Buluk and have settled into after our first few full weeks of work.

Getting here was no minor feat—after several days of problem-solving and hurdle-jumping in Nairobi (lost luggage, broken computer, etc.)—we flew to the Turkana Basin Institute’s gorgeous location at Ileret, on the east side of Lake Turkana. While all fossils collected from Buluk belong to the National Museums of Kenya, the majority of specimens are housed at TBI. After a few days of packing supplies for camp and going through collections from previous years, it was time to embark.

Sunset at Turkana Basin Institute at Ileret.

Sunset at Turkana Basin Institute at Ileret.

Our first stop after leaving TBI was the police post at Buluk, where 60 Kenyan police are currently serving. A rotating crew of four officers will stay with our camp to provide security for the duration of the field season. With our security detail in tow, our motorcade continued on to scout a camp site near the deposits. But no road trip is without its obstacles, and in the course of our drive, the lorry suddenly sunk into a soft, thick mud from an old well. It took a full day’s work to unload all our supplies and water to lighten the lorry enough to drag it out. By the time we set up our tents and called it a night, everyone had put in a full day’s work just traveling from TBI to Buluk—a distance of only 48 km (30 miles) as the crow flies.

Slight delays on the way to Buluk.

Slight delays on the way to Buluk.

Now that camp is fully set up, we’ve all been putting in full days of surveying and collecting. The deposits at Buluk are colorful with black basalt overlaying white ash, which rests on top of a bright red clay. It makes for a picturesque workplace, when we don’t have our eyes on the ground. I’m beginning to familiarize myself with the animals found at Buluk, several of which have no living relatives, like the hippo-like anthracotheres. We’ve had good luck so far, finding plenty of primate fossils representing some of the earliest Old World monkeys. Nearly two more months of the field season lay ahead of me—plenty of time to add even more to the collection!

Deposits at Buluk. A locality known as "Dead Elephant Valley."

Deposits at Buluk. A locality known as “Dead Elephant Valley.”

 

Til next time!

Ellis

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