The town logo of Nova Iorque. Photo by Ken Angielczyk.
One of the ironies of writing this blog for the New York Times is that we're staying in a town called Nova Iorque, which is Portuguese for New York. It's a quaint little town located on the edge of a lake called Boa Esperança (Good Hope) that was made by damming the Parnaíba River in 1969. Indeed, the original location of the town is now underwater in the lake. It's a very convenient place to stay because it is just a few kilometers from the outcrops we're working on at the moment, and there are a couple of little restaurants near the lake that make excellent food using local fish. According to Juan, the original (and now underwater) town of Nova Iorque was a port on the Parnaíba River that was used for shipping palm oil made from a variety of coconut that grows in the area. The engineer who designed the port was from New York, hence the name of the town.
Top: The church in the town square in Nova Iorque. Photo by Ken Angielczyk. Bottom: The guest of honor at dinner: a type of catfish called a surubim. This specimen is only a medium-sized individual. The woman holding it turned it into a delicious meal of fried and stewed fish. Photo by Roger Smith.
We're doing our fieldwork at the end of the rainy season in this area. There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The main advantages are that it is a bit cooler at this time of year than during the dry season, and the rain sometimes makes fossils easier to see in the outcrops because it cleans them off. The disadvantage is that when it rains, it really rains. We had a huge thunderstorm last night, which wasn't too much of a problem except for a few leaks in the roof of our house. However, we also got caught in a heavy downpour while we were out in the field this morning, and we ended up totally soaked. In fact, I'm currently writing this post around lunch time because we are back at the houses trying to dry off our clothes and gear.
Crossing the Pedra de Fogo River during a heavy rainfall. On April 14 we studied rocks in the dry river bed just a few hundred meters from here; what a difference some rain makes. In the bottom right is a camera mounted to the hood of our truck that Jeff is using to get footage of our travels. Photo by Ken Angielczyk.
The houses that we're staying in are located just on the shore of the lake. They're nothing fancy, but they provide a nice view of the lake while we eat breakfast, as well as very nice sunsets on the days we get back before dark. Staying in houses while doing fieldwork is a bit of a luxury (particularly since we can shower every day after work!), but there aren't many good areas to camp that are closer to the outcrops.
Sunset over Boa Esperança. Photo by Ken Angielczyk.
Tomorrow our plan is to try to find a couple of localities where previous researchers collected fossils. These collections were made in the days before GPS, so they used local landmarks in the scientific papers describing the specimens to indicate where they were from (e.g., 5 kilometers from town, 300 meters east of the road). Using our GPS receivers and the satellite photos available on Google Earth, we can get a good general idea of where these places are, but it can be frustratingly difficult to be sure whether we're really in the right place. We also have some old photos sent to us by one of the scientists set us, but they include features that can be used to differentiate one outcrop from another. Nevertheless, they found some of the few terrestrial vertebrate fossils known from the Pedra de Fogo Formation at the localities, so it's important for us to try to return to them to see whether 40+ years of erosion has exposed any new material.