Sloshing though swamp, Walking in water
Quiet bai ambi
African Forest Elephant
Sight and Sound
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
21 Feb 2002
Central African Republic
- Dzanga-Sangha Reserve; Andrea Turkalo camp; Near elephant bai and Mirador observation platform
- 2.954323 16.364085
- 7:29 - 34:05
Central African Republic
- Dzanga-Sangha Reserve; Elephant bai; Mirador observation platform
- 2.954323 16.364085
- 34:09 - 1:47:54
- SONY TCD-D8
Spaced Omni Stereo
Show: CAR Elephants
Log of DAT #: 4A
Engineer: Bill McQuay
Date: Feb. 21-23, 2002
KP = Katy Payne
CC = Chris Clark
AT = Andrea Turkalo
EC = Eric Spaulding
AC = Alex Chadwick
CJ = Carolyn Jensen
Bill = Bill McQuay
Drive from Doli Lodge to Andrea Turkalo's camp. Hike to the Bai. Beginning of Chris Clark hanging an ARU (Autonomous Recording Unit).
Bill tests speakers.
Ambi. Riding in the truck. Engine rumbling. Revving up and getting going. Bumping along, sounds of seat wires creaking over the bumps.
Ambi. Slows down for a little while to go over some bumps, picks the pace back up.
Lots of bumps.
Truck speeds up.
FX Big bump.
African guides speaking to one another as truck goes on.
Ambi. Truck speeding up, heading along the road.
So this is the road to camp, to Andrea's camp. It's about 10 miles down dirt road, rut road, bump road, and pothole road. We're surrounded by forest all around us, big tall trees, very green. Although it's a wilted green. This is kind of the height of the dry season. Roads in places has sand traps like the one that caught us yesterday.
Ambi, truck keeps bumping along.
FX Truck idles for a few seconds then starts up again.
Ambi. Bumping along.
African guides speaking to each other as the truck idles.
Are we saying park here? What's he doing Carolyn?
He has something that he's meant to carry for some people and he has to give it to them.
Truck starts up again, brief exchange between the guides. Truck revving up and getting going.
There is Katy Payne.
Truck stops, parking break is put on, motor stops.
Katy Payne talking to guides.
Ah, Alex, you made it! How about that!. (Kissing hellos)
We're late, I'm sorry.
That's alright. Carolyn, hi, of course. Nice to see you in this hot and sticky¿Were you recording the journey?
Yes. It's taken us a little longer than we expected, but we had to unpack. (Voices in the background)
Oh, you did very well. Would you like a glass of water?
I'd love some water.
Come on up.
Truck drives away, group going up to the camp, chitchatting about the rain yesterday.
We just have this oil for you. (KP: Oh thank you.) We have, these I carried in the car because I thought they would break.
Oh, thank you, bless your heart. 9 volt batteries, they're on their knees crying out for those little guys. Were you able to find them?
We have everything that Chris wanted. We have more 9v batteries of our own.
Never mind. That's wonderful! This is the great Lizard tree. This is the "Sapele", a fine rainforest specimen and one of the main sources of wood. This mahogany here and the buildings is Sapele, full of monkeys. And we got treed by elephants yesterday.
Treed by elephants? What is it to be treed by an elephant?
It's totally terrifying.
You mean you were walking on the trail and they chased you?
Not at all. We were trying to put up one of our ARUs in a remote, in a far end of the clearing, which is a dangerous place and we thought we had a pretty good time to do it. but there's a very fierce female with two juvenile offspring. And she came and set us off up a tree. And we waited while she rumbled and roared most acoustically.
11:13 KP shows the group around.
This is the Pyote, this is the dining room end of it. This is Chris's bed end of it. And these cabins are for the various researchers and that's the kitchen over there. And this is the one we call the Magazine, which is a workshop as you will see full of priceless but very beat up equipment. And here you see a specimen of the remains of what the elephants have been doing to our ARU's in the forest.
The elephants have been beating them up? This is an indestructible pelican case though, Katy.
It has been tusked about.
It's got holes in the top of it.
And this fine little musical instrument (making a rattling noise) is a hard drive that once contained all the data from the unit that we were trying to replace yesterday. So we have problems, we have technical problems this year. The elephants are very hungry and thirsty and feisty (AC: They're tusking your recording units?) Our recording units have had to be replaced again and again. So that's the new dimension. Meanwhile we think we're getting wonderful recordings on the other ones. We shall see. Well, let me get you some cool water. (12:35)
Chitchatting about the place. They have a little freezer. Forest is quiet, with rhythmic humming of insects.
Well this is it? Actually it will be later.
Bill needs 2 minutes of no sound.
Alex discussing tightness of shoe straps with Carolyn.
Alex gives level check for bill.
We're in Andrea Turkalo's camp. She's not here. But we're here. We're going out to the Bai. I think we'll find her there. And I think we'll find elephants there. I first heard about this place four years ago, about the elephants that are there and about the conditions in this clearing that we're going to. And for four years I've been trying to get here, to make recordings and to see this place. And now we're starting out on the final part of this journey. It's been very hard to get here. Flying across the ocean and to Paris and struggling with luggage there and then on to the capital city of Bangui in the CAR and then this torturous drive, 300 miles of dirt roads, but this is the last part of it, this walk that we're going on. It's going to be 40 minutes or so. We'll cross a shallow swamp and then follow an elephant trail and at last come to this place, this clearing, Dzanga Bai. (19:18)
I'm forty minutes away now from a place I've been trying to get to for 4 years: the clearing of the elephants. We're going to start out, we're going to come to a little swamp, we'll cross that, we'll follow an elephant trail, and at last we'll get there¿Dzanga Bai. (19:43)
Quiet ambi, someone walks away, picks up keys, walking around in the distance.
Katy! How do I look?
Bill wants Katy and Alex to walk by him and he'll follow up behind.
Katy and Alex walking by. Splashing through shallow water. Then Bill walks; more splashing through water.
Katy, is this a compote of elephant dung and urine that we're wading through here?
Elephant dung, urine, and the freshest water in the world. All free. And if you look out for seeds, the dung, as the water washes out the dung, you'll see the most extraordinary necklace and bracelet material, brown and red and black seeds that the elephants have eaten but not digested. We'll be collecting.
Walking through the swamp. Feet plunking in water. Coming out of the swamp at the end, water gets shallower and then they're on dry land.
Walking on dry land. Footsteps on a path. Birds call in the distance.
Back into water. Water gets fairly deep fairly quickly. Wading through. At the end gets shallow again and then back on to dry land.
dry land. Strapping shoes back on.
Shoe time. But it's a sandy path and some folks go barefoot always. I've got soft feet, you like to look up.
strapping on the shoes. Creaking birds in the distance.
Feet walking along the sandy path. Occasionally kicking up a little sand.
Steady hum of the insects.
(Whispering) Alright, we've come about half way, we're walking through a tall forest, the path is very narrow, I'm following a pygmy leader who's our guide who's taking us to the clearing.
Walking off. Feet on dry land, sandy but firm path.
Walking stops. Insects hum and chirp.
Bill: okay, we're very close to the Bai. We're going to come across some improvised wooden bridges here and we're going to come into the Bai.
Walking across wooden planks, then off, back onto the sandy path, some rocks underfoot (35:23-35:30 especially good walking)
The forest is just beginning to clear up ahead. I can see through the trees it's beginning to open. And I start to hear things.
Walking. Feet crunching on leaves, then quiet walking.
No walking. Forest is growing louder. The bugs drone insistently and wind blows through the trees.
Walking again. Crossing over the planks. Two sets of footsteps, one farther ahead. Birds chirping loudly.
Walking stops to record the birds.
Walking over the boards. Whispering people introducing themselves. Nothing very audible. The wind is still blowing.
Set up at the Bai.
Elephant gives a quick call.
Fairly quiet ambi. Birds chirp, insects hum like electrical wires.
Ambi again. Someone coughs and people are rustling around a bit. Occasional voice or camera lens opening. Fairly quiet but there are people noises sprinkled throughout.
FX, croaking animal, like a frog.
Ambi. Birds, insects. Elephant bubbling water through its trunk every now and then.
Camera snaps, then someone drops something.
People walking on the wooden floor, readjusting, whispering.
Restart, much louder. Lots of feet walking on wood. Then just moving around, walking, adjusting things.
Sitting (in the kitchen?) Andrea is speaking in French over radio system. Speaking with a man in French, shouting to be heard.
Radio static in the background, Alex asks to record the radio. People are gathering to sit.
Andrea talking in French with man on the radio again. Back and forth about message.
Andrea, what was that about?
I got some contorted message at noontime that there was somebody from Bangui that wanted to see me. The message came here via a pygmy and I thought nothing of it and then somebody said, yeah, the message went to Bayhoku also. So I don't know if it's a minister, I don't know who it is. I have an idea who it is. I think it's a minister---------(mumbled).
Bill: Okay, we're at the Bai. This is now Friday, February 22nd. It's 3:55pm.
1:12:37 AC (whispering)
Just a note, this is a post-sector discussion. Mya began it by saying let's review things. On Mya's left is Melissa. On her immediate right is Katy. On Katy's right is Andrea. Most of the discussion is between Melissa and Mya with occasional comments and questions from Katy. And very occasional comments from Andrea. (1:13:08)
The four women whispering. Talking about equipment, methodology, but it's almost too whispered to understand. Discussing how to record accurately the info in a standard format and reviewing what happened recently. They talk about some of the behavior and how they want to record it in order to insure that a year from now they will understand what was happening. This is really interesting conversation, but it's so whispered.
1:13:32 Chris Clark (whispering)
Right now we've just built up one of the acoustic recording units that we're going to put in the forest behind the clearing where the elephants are now being observed. We're going to put it back up into the forest about almost a half mile away. (AC: on this side?) On this side, on the west side. Up in the forest. And we have a series of them up in the forest and that way when we record down here, and they're noting exactly where the elephant is and what it's saying, we're going to be recording it at different distances away, into the forest.
And that's your real goal, for this particular section of the study, to figure out how sound travels in the forest.
Exactly, how they propagate. You'll notice when you hear them here, many of those loud rumbles are very rich with overtones and harmonics. What happens when the sound propagates through this dense forest, the higher frequencies are lost and it's the very low part of the rumble that propagates up the slope. And what we want to know is how into the forest do those different portions of the sound progress. And one of the reasons that's important is that when we put these ARUs in other places where there are forest elephants but people can't observe them but they know they're there because they see piles of dung or they see damage to the underbrush, they never see the elephants. But this way, when we put one of these units in a tree, say in Ghana, we'll have a good idea of the circumference, of the area that we're listening to and that way we can (elephant trumpets) get some better estimates of the population size and the number of elephants that we're listening to. So the trick, as you may have observed from the smashed systems that we've left on the ground, is that we've just made a little backpack with a sling on the back. We're going to go up into the forest and yesterday I went up in there and I found a position, a tree, at a GPS position that I liked. And we'll go throw a line up high over into the branch of a tree. And then we'll haul this whole rig¿it's all turned on, we just launched the whole thing so it's recording right now. We'll throw a line over the branch; we'll hoist it up into the tree; I'll build steps up in the tree so we can service it up high. And we'll just tie it off. We'll cleat it. In fact, I shouldn't use the word steps; you'll have to cut that out. The people in the buildings somewhere, driving a desk, don't want us to be doing that.
How long will that thing, you just started it up, how long will it run?
This can run potentially for 86 days. But we're not going to be here that long.
It's a car battery and a little¿
The power source is a car battery.
And then you have one of these hard little plastic cases.
That's supposed to deter animals from crushing it but it doesn't work very well with elephants. And inside we have an actual data storage module, so there's the disc drive. So that's a 30gigabyte drive in the back and this is just the intelligence, the central processing unit that we've programmed. And then there's a filter amplifying board so this is a low pass/high pass variable gain that we can plug into the computer and program with different filter settings and different gains. And then there's a microphone in that little brown bell up there. So we hook up the microphone batteries; we program the filter amplifier board and then we program the computer, which is essentially a modern day tape recorder. But in this case we can tell it how often we want to sample. And that's how we can get 86 days of it. We're not going at the typical commercial audio sampling rates. We're going at 2000 times a second, not 44,000 times a second. Because the elephants, as you know, are very low and we don't need very high sampling rates. So that's how we get away with 86 days. But so far the batteries won't last that long. It's not the recording unit that won't last it's the batteries won't last that long. But we've got another 5 weeks to go. So hopefully these units go out into a tree and then on a very regular basis we go out to them and give them a time mark a synchronization mark. And we monitor the battery voltage and the mike voltage, just to see if they're happy. And it was during that procedure that we discovered that the elephants had damaged the systems when they were on the ground because the early ones we were putting on the ground and covering with sticks (elephant calls). Because two years ago there wasn't any elephant vandalism. But this year there's been a lot of it.
They're just finding these things and tearing them up?
Yeah, Andrea thinks it has to do with because it's the dry season and they're searching for vegetation and they're rummaging around and it's not as content as they are when it's nice and wet and there's all this vegetation. Why don't we head off into the woods, into the forest like Peter and the Wolf. (1:19:35)
Bill goes for another DAT. Alex, Carolyn, and Bill discuss who's going where and with what.
Restart. Walking through the forest. Muffled voices in the back. Feet crunching loudly through the underbrush. Microphone occasionally bumping something.
I just want to note that Dr. Clark is heading deeper and deeper into the forest, without apparent benefit of a BaAka guide. (1:23:51)
Hiking through the forest. Crunch crunch.
What kind of a place are you looking for?
So I'm looking for a tree that has a bifurcation, a crotch, about 20 feet up so we can throw a line over it and hoist it up.
Have you already found that tree? Do you know where you're going?
Yeah. See where it's light over there? That's where there's some downed stuff from an elephant. And then I've got to get into an opening and get the GPS working cause right now I can't get any satellite.
What've we got, a mangabee or something? Did you hear that?
Yeah. What is it?
It's a monkey of some kind. (Whispering): it's amazing how quiet it is. I came up here just about this time yesterday and it just got totally quiet and you can here the elephant calls.
How far are we from the clearing do you think?
We're about half a km, 500m, a quarter of a mile, a third of a mile. Okay, we'd better find a tree cause we're going to run out of light.
There's one with a crotch up there.
Group goes to find a good tree.
So, you need to get my backpack has the white line in it.
Guy goes back to get Chris's backpack. Chris is moving around, fiddling with the ARU, grunts.
So we'll just put a line around that, throw it over there, hoist it up.
Loud crunching of vegetation. Chris getting ARU in place. Chris and Eric discussing how to throw the line up and where to put the steps.
No shortage of trees.
Getting set up again, crunching around, unzipping a backpack. Tubes falling to the ground, cutting steps into the tree. Discussion of the tree. Throwing the line over, crunching around, telling Alex to get out of the way. ARU is making beeping noises. Metal pounding metal. Drilling into the tree. Calling up to the Bai on walkie-talkie to see if they can hear the hammering from there. They can't. Chatting. Drilling.
(Over drilling sounds) The first time we tried this we had some very small holes in the wood, we didn't have any holes in the tree. The nails just, it was like they hit steel, they just bent. No matter how hard you hit them.
And you had thought to bring that Maquita?
Eric, thank goodness. I'll tell you, he didn't go into the local hardware store to find it.
Hammering loudly into the tree. Discussing height of tree, angle of ARU, getting it strung up in the tree. Quiet for a little while, then more drilling. Talking, drilling, etc.
Bill goes to switch DATs. Stopdown.