Wrapping up in Sylhet

by | 2.11.2013 at 11:36am
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Doug (with Diane) shows off his 3D camera after my interview.

Now that the hartal was over, we were free to travel as we wished.  We also switched film crews.  Doug and Diane from Earth Images are independent filmmakers that make PBS specials.  They arrived in Dhaka on the morning of Feb 6 during the hartal, so could not travel here.  Humayun arranged for them to be picked up by an ambulance, exempt from the hartal, and taken to the Ambala Inn to wait out the strike.  That meant they were able to spend the day walking around getting footage of Dhaka without cars, a rarity. Colorful bicycle rickshaws ruled the road.  They left Dhaka in the afternoon when the hartal was dying down and arrived at the Shuktara around 11 pm.

 

Some women who work feeding stones into a rock crusher stopped to pose for us. Making gravel for construction is a major industry at the edge of the Shillong Plateau.

The geology that we saw over the hartal changed our drilling plans.  Steve Goodbred was excited enough by what he saw to change the day’s well from the flat floodplain to the back of the anticline.  He and the Vanderbilt team went there early in the morning with the AMNH film team to get their last shots before heading to Dhaka.  That meant the rest of us had to stay away.  Most of the group went to the Sylhet anticline outcrops near the cricket stadium and airport.  I later learned that they found clear evidence of rivers cutting through the anticline while it was growing.  It caused mud deposits from the ponding on one side and gravels from the steeper slope on the other.  I was recruited by Doug for an interview and to take him up to the Jaflong area by the Shillong Plateau so he could film that.  Nafisa and Mosher stayed with us.  After they watched my interview from behind a

The pit we visited a few days before had now revealed some large buried boulders from the Rangapani River. The boulders in the background are still there because they are in India.

wall, our group headed north.  At the site where Nano gave us an overview, I repeated his story with a 3D camera rolling.  Nafisa, Mosher and I held conversations about the geology while Doug filmed us over and over.  We then went over to the Rangapani River where border guards stopped us and informed us that foreigners were not allowed to film there.  After some explanation from Nafisa, they call their superiors and we were OKed.  The pits we had seen a few days before were now deeper and the miners had uncovered a large tree trunk and exposed boulders up to 6 ft across.  We continued our conversations for the camera until the border guards told us it was time for us to go.  Doug still tried to get more footage, including outcrops out of site of the guards until they followed and saw us still going. We left peaceably.

Drilling a tube well at the Sylhet anticline. The lever lifts and drops the drill pipe, while the last team member uses his hand as a valve to create a pumping action. A slurry of sediment and water is emerging from the top of the pipe. This setup can drill a 100m well in a day.

All the filming and multiple takes meant there was no time for Jaflong itself.  We rushed back to the Sylhet Anticline in time to catch the drilling before it got dark.  Since we only had a short ride back to the hotel instead of a 1-2 hr drive,  a car full headed to Sylht City for shopping.  As it was the last night of the conclave, we had a barbeque on the deck on the roof of one of the bungalows.  They barbequed fish and tandoori chicken along with a host of other dishes and a procured bottle of vodka.  An excellent end to the meeting.

The next day it was time to head back to Dhaka, stopping at a few of the anticlines from southern Sylhet on the way.  As usual, getting everyone out and the cars loaded up took longer than expected.  Nano and Ellie decided to stay another day in Sylhet and then go straight to the airport rather than have a day in Dhaka.  Our group was shrinking.  Jenn and Sanzida had already left early

We finally remembered to pose for a group photo just before leaving the Shuktara Nature Retreat in Sylhet to head back to Dhaka. From left to right: Doug, Diane, Nsno, Steve, Lauren, Chris P., Saddam, Humayun, Fayaz, Ellie, Mike, Carol, Mosher, Chris S. and Nafisa.

because of ill relatives.  A few people had canceled because of illness.  We were down to about a dozen people heading to Dhaka.  However, the defections and splitting of the groups the last few days made the field stops less unwieldy and more efficient.  On the way south, we had a quick stop at Sreemongal, where a group from Singapore we are collaborating with put in a GPS. Then we saw tea gardens, a sure sign of an anticline.  Tea needs well-drained soils and cannot be grown on the floodplains.  However, the first tea plants were on flat land.  The rising anticline had uplifted some of the floodplain on its flank, another useful observation.  Then we entered the Rashidpur anticline proper.  Several stops revealed that the dips of the beds were not preserved, limiting the value of the outcrops.  We stopped for lunch in a tea garden and continued on to our GPS station and seismometer at a school in Chunarughat.  In

A statue of a woman picking tea leaves on the anticline, which was covered with tea plantations.

2007 when we installed the site, we found the building we originally selected was unsuitable.  It was brick made to look like reinforced concrete.  We found this site by driving down the main street of the town on a Friday night.  We found this school and contacted the headmistress, visiting her at her home on the weekend evening. The next morning we installed the site. Now on this visit, Humayun and I were again pressed into service for filming, along with a Nafisa, Mosher and Fayaz.  By the time it was finished, we had to head straight back to Dhaka.  Some quick stops at the next anticline revealed it too had poor outcrop. We then hit some of the worst traffic I had ever seen.  The highway into Dhaka, never very fast, was at a standstill.  Babu, our driver, turned around and led

Steve and Carol study the rocks at an outcrop on the side of a hill of tea plants.

us through back streets to alternative routes until we found one that was moving.  It was almost 10 pm by the time we reached our hotel and officially ended the conclave and part one of my trip. Still it was extremely successful, pulling together the different groups and changing the direction of our research.

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