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Unidentified singing man  








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Jan Salick, Elizabeth Arnold  







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NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
8 Oct 2005

  • China
  • Daxue Mountain Range
  • 29.59501   101.87913
    Recording TimeCode
  • 46:51 - 49:00
  • Stereo
    Sampling Rate
  • 48kHz
    Bit Depth
  • 24-bit
  • Sennheiser MKH 30
  • Sennheiser MKH 40
    Equipment Note
  • Decoded MS stereo. Sonosax pre-amps used.

LdA: [Testing. MS Stereo recording. Sennheiser mics, MKH40 for mid, MKH30 for side. Preamps feeding to line-level output.]

LdA: [Talking to Steven. Middle of nowhere. Looking at beat-up basketball court.]

Children, river ¿ rushing water, walking.
Engine ¿ car?
Engine, chickens
Walking, dog barking
Dog bark
Whistling, dog barking, hammering
String instrument, hammering, whistling
Singing, hammering
Singing without hammering
Singing, hammering
??: Speaking in ??
Translator: He is explaining to us the meaning of the song. He says this is one of the traditional Bai song. So to normally, to sing this song to welcome people. To distinguished people. And hope that you are having a good trip. In the future you will have a brilliant you know time or future.
Translator goes to ask people to stop hammering
EA, LdA comment on items in room.

??: Speaking in ??
Translator: We are really lucky because he say several months ago he won the first how you say, prize in singing competition.
Translator and ??: Speaking in Chinese

??: Sings, unaccompanied
Strums stringed instrument

EA: [Thanks]

Informal talking
EA: [Marveling at Buddhist statues, shrine]
Translator: [takes one month to make, costs 6,000 yen, approximately $800.]

No Audio

Hammering, sanding
LdA: Testing
[Speaking in Chinese]

Electric Saw
Sounds of [statue making]?
[Speaking in Chinese]

Clipping, snipping, blowing

EA: Yak butter.
Leo: Wow.

EA: Local wood?
Hammering, whistling, dog bark
Female voices, speaking in Chinese

Dog barking
Footsteps on gravel?

Children¿s voices ¿ shouts.

Outdoors ¿ wind, river ¿ rushing water.

River ¿ rushing water.

LdA: [We¿re by the river, test run, we¿ll see what happens.]

No Audio

LdA: [Quite high up. Follow researchers. Waiting for gloves.]

LdA: [Bitterly cold, 4,300 meters above sea-level. Close to 15,000. Shit. Anyway¿Making adjustments, but nothing has changed re: recording. Still stereo, still DAT 1.]

Rustling, walking outdoors, faint voices speak in Chinese.

Walking, rustling.

Walking, heavy breathing.

EA: How you doing?¿slow and steady¿
LA: Where are we Elizabeth?
EA: [out of breath] We¿re heading up to 16,000 feet, not sure where we are, but it feels like it. On a non-named peak [laugh] and following all these different scientists who are going to pull out all the vegetation up here, though there¿s not much vegetation up here. [laugh]
Pay-off is supposed to be the view but we¿re completely in a cloud, so we can¿t really see anything. We better catch up with these guys if we can.
LdA: [switching hands, chatting about challenges of assignment.]
Walking, breathing
LdA: [We¿re walking along this hill and we¿re doing kind of a switchback progress. Glad for cloud cover because we¿re really quite in a very steep area.]
LdA: [Switching hands again.]
Walking, rustling, breathing.
Walking, rustling, breathing.
Walking, rustling, breathing.

JS: They just put this in.
EA: This is a weather station?
JS: This is a weather station, yeah. We were complaining because we didn¿t have good climate data for high alpine areas. No sooner did we say so than they put in a whole new station.
EA: I thought maybe it was for cell phones [laugh].

JS: are we going in the right direction?
??: Yeah, the direction is right.
JS: Can¿t see¿
EA: Are we lost?
??: No

Walking, breathing, sniffling, spitting.
Walking, breathing.
Walking, breathing.
Walking breathing.
LA: [Switching hands. Informal talking.]


EA: Well thanks for doing the highest peak yesterday
[EA, JS laugh]
JS: I¿ll be lucky if I make this one today. At least when we were climbing up yesterday, it wasn¿t snowy. It just started snowing once we were up there. Today it¿s ice and snow the whole way.
LdA: Where are we.
JS: We¿re very close to the border between Sichuan and Yunnan province. So we¿re in the northernmost part of the province of Yunnan. And we¿re in the mountain range called the Daxueshan which is not the highest mountain range in the area. As we go further west we get into the Himalayas proper it will get higher but it¿s still a very remote region, where there are very few people living, and uh, it¿s got some great alpine habitats that we¿re studying here.
EA: It¿s feeling high. [laughs]
JS: It feels high to me too. [laughter] I come to the alpine environment late in life. Only because we found that the diversity was so high in the alpine areas that and so many of the Tibetan medicines came from the alpine areas that I realized this was an area I had to concentrate on and ¿whew!¿ [laughter] I have learned to climb.
EA: We¿re at roughly what right now?
JS: Um well, we¿ll get up to 15,000 feet, um 36 uh um yea uh yeah 3600 meters. Now we¿re probably 34?
EA: There are a lot of plants around I would have thought --
JS: -- No, plants in the Himalayas plants go higher than anywhere else in the world. Tree line is higher than anywhere else in the world, and plants go higher. So you can go up to 55,000 meters and still find plant life. Our highest sites are around 5,000 meters where the plants are definitely filling out and-- but we try to get intermediate sites all the way down, all the way down to treeline. So that¿s as low as we go in this particular study.
So today we are heading for the second, second highest summit. Which is not the second highest summit in this whole area, there are lots of higher mountains, but they don¿t have plants on them at the height¿.OK, before we get left behind¿
EA: Yeah, we don¿t want to do that¿
Rustling, wind.

LdA: [We had that Q and A. I¿m adjusting levels. She probably was saturating a couple of spots. Frost all over me.]

Rustling, walking, breathing

LdA: [I¿m switching hands, it¿s difficult here, not going to pay attention to recording. Real treacherous¿]

Rustling, walking, breathing.

LdA: Top of the ridge here, my god.

Rustling, walking, breathing.

LdA: [Switching hands]

LdA: [Chatting about high climbs.]

??: We having fun yet?
LdA: Chats

EA, JS faint talking

Rustling, walking, breathing.

EA, LdA decide to stop recording.

EA: Do you know what medicinal purposes these are used for?
JS: Uh, the sesouria [??] are used for what they all quote unquote women diseases, and they are loathe to explain in any great detail but as far as I can tell its used for menstruation and giving birth and uh and for and for stopping blood flow.
EA: It is endangered or¿?
JS: Some of the species are but not all of them. When we go to Xondian or Dequin we can see them in the markets you¿ll see whole chains of them hanging outside the markets that they sell for medicinal purposes. The traditional Tibetan use of them probably doesn¿t threaten them much but there¿s gotten to be a h¿ huge international market in medicinal plants and they are sold throughout china now as well and china itself is such a huge market that this kind of explosion in popularity in Tibetan medicine has really done a disservice to some of these high alpine plants.
EA: We don¿t want to lose the group here¿

Rustling, walking¿

LdA: [Windy, microphone totally frozen.]

Walking, breathing¿
LdA: I think we are approaching the summit.

Faint: Singing


JS: This is typical of Tibetans. They sing at a moment¿s notice. [laughter] They get to the top of a peak, and they let loose.
EA: I thought there was something special about this particular spot.
JS: No, they felt it was time for a song.
EA: It was time for a song! I don¿t that I could sing¿
JS: I had one of my colleagues that went up here and decided that he would do the same thing so he got up to the top of the peak, and he started singing um from the Sound of Music, and he let loose in this baritone, and he keeled over from lack of oxygen I thought we were going to have to carry the guy down, about 200 pounds, and I thought how in the world¿but he came to.

Wind, walking

LdA: [Chatting, cold.]

Translator, EA, JS: [informal talking]

Singing, rustling, walking
Shouting, laughter
Men: Informal talking.

JS, Man: [Informal talking about plans for where to go. Less than 500m to go. Choosing another site?]

Man: So-ba[?]
JS: So-ba [?], Let¿s go.

Walking, wind.

LdA: I hope we are not lost. What we just heard was a um an exchange between two of the scientists as well as Jan trying to figure out where the coordinates to this site we are supposed to be going to. And it¿s pretty foggy, so it¿s tough to tell what¿s going on here.
LdA: Informal talking about conditions.

Walking, wind.

LdA: Informal talking.

Stops recording.

LdA: OK, rolling again. Informal Chatting

Wind, rustling

JS: I can explain a little bit about what¿s going on¿We mark the summit here with either an X or if there¿s a big rock on the summit or in this case uh we put we put in rebar[?] to mark the top of the summit. And then in each of the cardinal directions, north, south, east and west, we uh [men speaking in bg] measure directly out and we find a five meter drop in elevation and mark a point there, [lots of wind] and then find ten meter drop in elevation and mark another point there uh
LdA, JS, EA: [Logistics of where to stand away from wind.]

EA: How do we get to where we are, what do we do to determine where we are?

JS: [laughs] Well in this fog it¿s hard to determine where we are, but we¿re using global positioning systems, the GPS, from the satellites to tell our position and our elevation. So this was the site when we had come with the Austrian team who are the where the center of the Gloria project is, they had said that this was a particularly good site. So we¿ve now found it again after a good bit of hiking¿
And uh and marked the summit uh the peak you either mark it with an X or if there¿s a large rock there or in this case we stuck a rebar in the summit and then, and then measure out from in the cardinal directions, north south east west from the summit and you measure down a vertical distance of three meters, [men¿s voices in bg] and mark a point in each of the cardinal directions, and then another five meters down to a ten meter point, and again mark each. And that ten meter summit at the top of a, of a mountain is the area that we sample for plants. And then over a long period, every ten years we¿ll come back and re-sample these plants and see if there¿s a change in the, in the vegetation.

EA: Why did Gloria people think this was a good site?

JS: Um, well, it¿s partly the morphology of the summit, it¿s kind of a rounded summit we can get to there¿s no cliffs So that you know you can¿t put a plot on a cliff
EA: Right¿
JS: It¿s its got vegetation on all sides although it differs with the you know the plants that are growing on the north side are different than the plants that are growing on the south side so you can tell, that¿s called aspect, north and south, you can tell the aspect, the influence of aspect um and yet it¿s a fairly gentle terrain so that we can sample easily.

EA: It¿s a pretty good representation?

JS: It¿s a big area that you¿re sampling we well you¿ll see as we go along, they¿re just setting up the quadrants there. We intensively sample meter squared quadrants with ten cm little squares in them so we intensively sample small areas, and then we do general sampling f the larger area to get a broader picture.

EA: So you¿ve got big squares, and then little squares inside¿and then you count¿

JS: And count. And count plants, then you just sit there all day long and count plants. [laugh]
EA: Which is good after the hike we just took. [laugh]
JS: yeah right [laugh] after a while everybody¿s happy just to sit down and count plants except in weather like this when it¿s not so much fun to sit.
EA: What¿s wild is that we¿re hiking along, and we see plants that, as you say, in you would see in your grandmother¿s garden.

JS: Right no there have been a lot of plants domesticated from this part of the world. And since this is a temperate zone up in the high mountains, they could introduce these plants into Europe fairly easily. And so a lot of plants that you see in the Himalayas have been, uh have been introduced into your grandmother¿s garden.
So you¿ve get lilacs, and¿and uh uh¿.rhododendrons¿
EA: What are these big puffy ones?
JS: Hydrangeas
EA: Hydrangea!
JS: Growing in the wild
EA: Yeah.
JS: So it¿s a fun area to work in. And then also you see a lot of plants that you recognize from alpine areas elsewhere in the world you know there¿s this kind of alpine flora that has somehow or another dispersed among all the mountain tops and so uh alpine botanists love to travel to different parts of the world because they can recognize so many of the plants at the same time. You know there¿ll be different species there will be differences in how many of one¿in this area there are lot of rhododendrons, compared to other parts of the world but um but still you know, you recognize a rhododendron. [laugh]

EA: Why such diversity here?
JS: Well the theory is that in Asia you¿ve got a huge expanse of, of temperate and even artic flora that can move into the mountains regions fairly successfully. And so um it¿s well connected with a very well-established flora. And then lower down you even get the tropical influence because the southeast Asia has got a huge tropical flora as well. And so that tropical flora moves further South in Asia than it does anywhere else. And so in China you get this mix of this very diverse temperate and tropical flora coming together and so it¿s a great part of the world to work in cause there¿s just so many plants, a little intimidating. [laugh] But nice work.

EA: so in other places that mixing area might be really skinny.

JS: Right, in Central America for example in you know you get a very rich northern temperate flora but you don¿t get a lot of the tropical flora because it has to come from south America through that little isthmus in Central America and so the influence of the tropical flora as great in North America as it is here.

EA: I¿m going to ask you this a number of times¿so why are we doing this?

JS: [Laugh] Well, this particular project that we¿re doing, this Gloria project
Is aimed at monitoring global climate change using plants. We¿ve got a lot of data around the world that we can look at carbon dioxide changes over time and uh temperature changes over time, we have a lot of data on that, but we have very little on the change in plants over time. Except in a longer term sense where we can find fossil plants and so on but for the recent period of climate change we don¿t have much data. This whole project was set up to monitor climate change and the theory is, is that we will see the most drastic climate change in alpine areas because we know from the paleontological from the um from the fossil record that plants move up and down the mountains with changes in temperature.
JS: So they have tracked pollen cores[?]. They make pollen cores and they cha- can see the change over time in the pollen cores. So we¿re anticipating that change. And we¿re saying so we¿re taking these mountain tops and we¿re saying we¿re going to watch the flora change we¿re going to watch the flora move up the mountain with the warming. Which is what we¿ve seen with the pollen cores in the past. Um, uh, the since we¿re looking at peaks of mountains, some of the highest mountain plants will be pushed right off the mountain. And the idea is that these plants could be threatened by global warning, threatened to the point of extinction. So we¿re testing that hypothesis to see if that¿s true to see if the plants are in fact as the competitors, the more vigorous competitors move up from the lowlands, if these little alpine plants that just barely hang on in this harsh environment if they¿re just out competed completely.
EA: as the climate changes other species creep into their territory.
JS: Right it¿s the competition so there are other species that are better adapted to growth in warmer climates. These little alpine plants might do fine in warmer climates but they are not adapted to competition in that environment. They¿re also adapted for very high¿
You can see a lot of the adaptation in these¿there are a lot of fuzzy-leafed plants that they¿ll keep the snow off of the plant surface and they¿ll also bring the moisture into the plants. So they are adapted to these harsh environments where other plants aren¿t, so the lower plants cannot come up when it¿s snowing and miserable like it is today. [laugh].
EA: But as it gets warmer those lower plants might compete¿
JS: Exactly, exactly, so those are the hypotheses that we¿re testing we¿re not sure yet but that¿ what the whole project is aimed at and we¿re doing it around the world in different places. [hammering] This is the first time that this has been established in the Himalayas and in china. So we¿re just beginning in this part of the world.
EA: But there are people all over doing the same kind of thing.
JS: Exactly
EA: Hopefully in better weather.
JS: From what I understand from the Austrians, wherever you work in the alpine you just have to be ready for whatever happens. I have never seen people with bigger packs and had more stuff with them for whatever the weather was going to be¿so I think alpine biologists in general are used to putting up with weather.
EA: They¿re doing this in Austria
JS: It started in Austria and then they got it going through the EU throughout Europe. And now they have sites in south America and Africa and the middle east, and so on. So it¿s a program-- ¿ well the leader of it Georg Grabherr a professor at the University of Vienna, he said it¿s taken on a life of its own. He says that he really doesn thave to do much, people are just taking this project on their own. It¿s a fun group to be with ¿ a lot of dedicated people working in the same environments.
EA: What are you most interested in?
JS: Well, I¿m bringing something different to it than the normal group is. I¿m an ethnobotanist, so I study the uses of plants. And these this alpine environment in -- We¿re now in the Tibetan region of china and this high alpine area is one of the classic areas where Tibetan doctors collect medicinal plants. And so I¿m trying to bring the human dimension into this biological, ecological study. And say ok, if climate is changing this much, if these plants are threatened. What is going to be the effect on people you know what is the effect on Tibetans and their medicinal tradition. If some of these plants go extinct or if they¿re threatened by climate change.
EA: So you focus in particular that you know they use for medicinal purposes.
JS: Right. Were looking at the flora overall in general we¿re not looking particularly,
but we work with the Tibetan doctors and bring them with us and they tell us which plants that they use and what they¿re used for. So, so that¿s the difference in my project compared to what the rest of the world is doing.

EA: can you tell me, who do we have here?
JS: Well, we have the my two co-PIs one is from the shangrila alpine botanical garden he¿s the director of the garden he established it by himself Mr. Fun Jen Dong [?]
And we also have a member of the Chinese academy of science and the Sichuan Benot [?] tropical botanical garden Mr Hu Hua Bin [?], they are my co-PIs. And then we have various other Tibetan and Chinese assistants that are with us, to help us, they¿ve been trained to monitor plants and collect plants and then we have the Tibetan doctor with us
So he can tell us what the plants are used for. So we have quite a team. When you¿re work in china, you never work alone ¿ you work in large groups. [laugh] And its fun it¿s great.

EA: So you have the small plot right here and¿

JS: Yeah, well they¿re starting to set up a three by three meter plot right here which is --- an orange grid so it¿s ¿s three meters by three meters on each side.
And then they take the corner plots of each of those and look at it intensively with these finer divided meter by meter plots with the ten centimeter little tiny quadrants with in them. So at each, in each of the cardinal directions they¿ll set up one of these sets of plots.
EA: So all these guys need to know what they¿re looking at¿

JS: Oh absolutely. Fun Jen Dong[?] is the one he, he will take a look at each of the plots and he will make sure that everybody knows all the plants that are in each of these plots
But they¿ve all been trained to identify different plants. But he ¿ he always has the last say. He, he¿s the real alpine taxonimist in this area. So we depend on him to have the final say in what species are, but all- they¿re all actively participating.

EA: Do you know what altitude we¿re at?
JS: We should be at about 4,600 meters. I¿m not exactly¿ Hu Hua Bin[?] do you know exactly what elevation we¿re at?
HHB: 46..about 50.
JS: 46 50¿So, somewhere around 15,000 feet.
EA: I¿m going to let everybody breathe for a bit¿

Rustling, JS faint talking.

LdA: OK, stopping for a moment.

No Audio


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