Monday, August 5, 2013

Poisoning for Dummies-Lake Baikal Edition

Today the class went on two botanical hikes: one into the Taiga, the
forest that sprawls over much of Siberia, and the second into Censer
Valley—Kadil'naia Valley in Russian.
Censer Valley, which is named for the scented plumes of smoke that
used to rise up from the processing of the limestone the area is rich
with, slopes up from the shore of Lake Baikal. At first we strolled
through steppe, learning about the various plants around us from two
botanists from Irkutsk University, but later we ventured into the
forest itself. One pretty yellow flower we learned about was
historically used by Siberian wives to poison their husbands—they'd
boil juice from the petals, soak the men's shirts in diluted flower
juice, and the poison would enter their pores as they sweat,
eventually killing them. We also saw lots of aidelweiss, the "clean
and white" flower of Austria, which surprised most of us.
The Valley gave us two great treats. The first was the fossilized
cyanobacteria mattes pictured in the background of our class picture,
which are dated between 2.8 and 3.2 billion years in age—some of the
oldest examples of life on this planet. The second was an incredible
cave, which could only be reached by a steep scramble up a rocky
Siberian mountain followed by a (filthy) hands-and-knees crawl through
a short, but narrow tunnel. The cave was dimly lit by a shaft of
sunlight entering through a hole thirty feet above us. Inside were
plenty of poorly formed stalactites, a small rock table heaped with
rubles and other trinkets, and lots of Russian graffiti.
Miscellaneous fun facts: Kate ate an entire grayling, including head
and spine, for lunch (the graylings we ate were caught fresh from
Baikal the night before). For dinner we had kompot, a sort of sweet
warm juice made from boiled fruit.
The second photo was taken on the hike four of us—Graeme, Gabi, Kate,
and Victoria—took after breakfast. It shows fog seeping across Baikal
over Balshaia Kati. It's because of fog like this that we have yet to
see across Baikal (though of course we could also blame the Lake's
immense size).
Victoria and Diana

1 comment:

  1. We miss you Diana! Crawling through narrow tunnels sounds terrifying to me so I think you're all brave adventurers. =P
    Note to self: Avoid letting people with yellow flowers do my laundry.