The Land Untilled

We’ve officially entered week 4 of our Bahîa Drake sojourn, and things are coming together. I’m laughing at myself writing that number: 4 weeks. That’s ages longer than most folks spend here. We’ve seen tourists of all stripes come and go, usually on a 2-day tour. It feels really freeing, shrugging off the shackles placed on us by clock and calendar, and embracing an entirely different schedule. Lest I be judged too harshly, let me recall to my dear readers’ minds the etymology of sabbatical! Ultimately it derives from the Hebrew shabath, or, ‘he rested’. Now, the OED tells us that the first usage in a university-leave context dates from 1886, apparently from a list of Trustee’s policies from Wellesley College, but my favorite entry is has a slightly different context:

2a. sabbatical year n. the seventh year, prescribed by the Mosaic law to be observed as a ‘Sabbath’ in which the land was to remain untilled and all debtors and Israelitish slaves were to be released. Also allusively.

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In any case, it is time to get down to business. The kids are ensconced in their school, Oscar in primero and Ines in kinder. Oscar kicked and screamed about the uniforms, but after converting the pants into shorts he’s more-or-less accepted it. Joy’s broken out the virtual parchment, quill, and ink for her own projects. Of course, reading her prose always leaves me thinking I should leave this work to those with the talent, but one puts a brave face on it and moves on. The house is in good running order: we’ve got our routines and techniques down, and yes, today at least, the routine included a nap. C’mon! Boat work in the sun is tiring!

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Things are getting underway, though. The big, fun news is that my crowdfunding project seems to have wound up well! With well over $6000 pledged, I’m at 136% of my goal, which means the funds should be coming my way soon. And the funds will be going to pay for…

Boat-time! I’ve only managed to get out a few times so far, first due to the slow arrival of my permits, and then gastroenteritis raged through our house for a few days. But the permits are in, and the stomachs are stabilized!

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On our second day out, near a well-known fishing spot known as Paraíso, we hauled this little dead pargo into the boat. It was lovely, but you can see clear marks of predation near the caudal fin; perhaps killed by another, bigger pargo. Later that evening, Ines and I dissected it, and extracted one of its lenses (we bought another, fresh-caught, pargo from a fishing boat in the bay for dinner).

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That same day, we briefly (this was the kids’ very first snorkel experience) explored a nice snorkeling spot at Isla Caño. We were joined that day by Experiment.com founders Cindy Wu and Denny Luan. Such great fortune that they were in Costa Rica, and within striking distance of Drake. Anyway, they collected a nice little video of an enormous school of fish before we headed back to the mainland.

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And of course we saw humpbacks. There are relatively few jorobadas in the region at the moment, but the numbers appear to be growing as February winds down. The calves I saw were often resting at the surface, and it was beautiful to once again see mothers and calves swimming together. On the down side, the adults were not sharing their flukes with us. The flukes, of course, are used to identify and track individuals over time and across breeding/feeding zones. Still, here are some dorsal shots, not useful identifiers, but at least illustrative of the animals’ unique physical features.

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We’ll be out on the water frequently from now on. In my next post, I’ll introduce the study area, and explain what observations I’ll be making, and how I’ll be making them.

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One response to “The Land Untilled

  1. Love those cute blue socks! And the mom & calf picture! Oscar looks very distinguished in his uniform. This is a more exotic experience than Gryffindor. Love to all.

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