We finished our work at the river transect. Now we had one more sample to collect. Alamgir had arranged for drillers at this new site, but they were delayed because of a knife fight between two villages over some property.
Geohazards in Bangladesh
The success of the tube wells for drilling and obtaining samples was a great boon to our field program. We drilled three additional tube wells to complete a five-well transect across the abandoned river valley. When we date the samples, we will find out if the river switched position suddenly, possibly from an earthquake.
The resistivity testing was hampered by bad roads and flooded fields. The augering was proving similarly difficult in the thick muds of the abandoned channel. It was time to change to our alternative plan: drilling with tube wells. That worked better and we had turned a corner.
Heading out to our field area, we discovered that the abandoned river valley we planned to study was completely flooded. There was pani—the Bangla word for water—everywhere.
Returning to Bangladesh for additional fieldwork, I stopped off in India for several meetings, but we found time for some sightseeing, too. We were able to see the Qutub Minar complex in Delhi as well as the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort in Agra. Plus all the meetings in Delhi, Kolkata and Dhaka were very successful.
We arrived in Kolkata, and filmed by the Hooghly River. While it is no longer the main channel of the Ganges, it is still the Holy Ganges and we saw a funeral procession spreading ashes of a loved one while filming there. Then a 5 hour trip by car, ferry, rickshaw and boat to the Indian Sundarbans. The mangrove forest here is undergoing more erosion and land loss than in Bangladesh, where more river sediments can replenish it. The water here is more saline and the trees are small. A tiger was spotted by another boat, but was gone when we got there.
In the small town of Kolasib, we stayed in Hotel Cloud 9. I had been told since I was a child that I was always off on Cloud 9 and now I was actually here. However, the electricity wasn’t for the first few hours, so showers were cold, but the dinner was hot.
We finished our time in the Sundarbans with a silent boat ride in a tidal creek. The highlight was sets of fresh tiger footprints. We then had a long sail back to Dhaka with only one stop at a village. We then had a whirlwind tour of Old Dhaka with enough shopping to send the students back happy.
Leaving Hiron Point, we headed east through the Sundarbans to Kotka. At Kotka the students had walks through the forest seeing deer, wild boar and monkeys, while a smaller group also sampled near a set of 300 year old salt making kilns for OSL dating. We managed to finish while the tide inundated the site. We ended our day with a visit to an island that has recently emerged from the slain which the succession from bare sand to mangrove is visible.
We visited Polder 32, an embanked island in the delta that was flooded for almost two years when the embankment failed in several places during Cyclone Aila. In addition to the problem of increased subsidence due to the embankment, the area struggles for fresh water. Then we sailed to Hiron Point, a forest station in the Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest. We serviced equipment we have here while our armed guards watch for tigers.