To Meghalaya and back

by | 9.18.2011 at 7:08am
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Meghalaya, the home of the clouds in the clouds.

Steve cutting his flan birthday cake

Steve cutting his flan birthday cake

From our return to Jamalganj, we headed east searching for a river to carry us up to the Indian border across the Dauki Fault.  Along the way, we celebrated Steve Goodbred’s birthday.  However, even the biggest of the rivers proved too shallow for our boat.  We switched to the launch, taking the CHIRP profiler along.

Everyone in their boats crowd around to watch as Steve moves the CHIRP from our boat to the launch.

As Nano Seeber described this excursion: “We are navigating the big rivers on the big delta. The seismic reflection profiles are disappointing, but the surroundings are completely captivating. Yesterday we pushed upstream as far as we could on the big boat, then we hopped on our launch and continued north to the Indian border. It rained progressively heavier as we approached the border and the ‘abode of the clouds’  (= Meghalaya). We were one of the many boats traveling the river. Our boat sported a bunch of wet scientists dripping at their noses and their telephoto lenses. The others carry mostly rocks, but some deliver children to school and people to market, an altogether happy scene. Thin long dark wooden boats covered with neatly colored people, vivacious eyes, and umbrellas leaning against the driving rain. The rocks are coming down to build Dhaka city, this fat ugly monster insatiable for people and rocks, getting fatter by the day. As the monsoon feeds the short but energetic rivers of Meghalaya, hard boulders from the ancient rocks

A dry moment on the launch as we head into the clouds.

of the Shillong Plateau pour down with the white waters onto the plains and across the border into Bangladesh. There, they are met by an army of small gnarly young people fully engaged into a rock-feeding frenzy. They manage to take from the river so much of its solid deliverance that they alter the morphology. This anthropo-geological action is engineered with technologies dating back to the Egyptians — this is indeed the place to learn how the pyramids were built!  We had tea with them, crouching under a tarp stretched about four feet from the sandy bar one foot above the river: a thin layer of human bodies sandwiched between ground water and air-water. We were so crowded under that tarp that light had a hard time getting to the tea kettle at the heart of the circle, but the tea tasted great!”

Luisa waits for hot tea under the tent.

The tarp-covered restaurant is known locally as an “Italian Hotel” because crouching under the low tarp, you usually sit on a brick, “it” in Bangla.  Here, close to the border, we got as good a look at the Shillong Plateau, one of the wettest places on earth, as the downpour would allow.  The home of the clouds is appropriately named.  In the pouring rain, the closest we got to the Shillong Plateau was a brief stop at a rock crushing facility, where stones of every kind from the plateau were closely examined.

After this wet interlude, we decided to spend our time elsewhere.  We are heading south to the one area on the Meghna River where we got good seismic imaging and then to the big rivers, including the mighty Brahmaputra itself.


Rafael, Nano and Steve examining the variety of rocks coming from the Plateau.

As we leave the rock pile, the whole village comes to see the unusual visitors off.

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