Thursday, December 23, 2010

Ein Gedi, Israel- Dec 24, 2010

Hi All,

Before I get started:

It's been a long time since I've written on this and so I apologize for the subsequent missing information. Needless to say, field camp continued to get better and in the end was an absolutely awesome experience.

My project:

Now I'm on my next big trip and I'm in Israel working as a student assistant for the ICDP (International Continental Drilling Program). There are several scientists involved with the project (including my dad) and they are drilling sediment cores in the Dead Sea to recover a climate and earthquake record that goes back (at least 250,000 years, hopefully more).
Basically, there is a big drilling platform in the middle of the Dead Sea and there are two shifts. The day shift (5am-5pm) and the night shift (5pm-5am). You meet for your shift at 5, then take ~1 hour boat ride from the shore to the platform and relieve the previous shift. Then the drill team (an American drill company DOSEC) is in charge of running the machinery and the scientists take the drilled samples, record them and package them.
There is work done in the lab here too, but I'm not sure what it is exactly. Basically just working a little more with the cores, recording information and making observations.

My setting:

My dad picked me up from the airport last night in Tel Aviv. As I walked passed customs to where people were waiting, I saw him immediately in his green shirt, cappuccino in hand, and the biggest smile on his face. The smile didn't go anywhere for a few minutes, it was nice to see him so excited. I was just pretty tired, and I'm getting over a cold. I lost my voice for the past two days and it's slowly returning.

Then we drove from Tel Aviv, which is right on the Mediterranean Sea in the east of the country, all the way to the Dead Sea (western border) and then south along the coast to Ein Gedi. So we've covered some ground geologically. Basically, we cut a transect across some pretty cool stuff. So Tel Aviv is at coastal elevation and Jerusalem is in the mountains (~3000 ft+/-), then the Dead Sea is ~1500ft BELOW sea level. The mountains are caused by a transtensional fault. This means that there is a strike-slip fault (think San Andreas) and as these two blocks are sliding by each other, there is a bit of rotation causing tension (it's being stretched) which causes valleys to form and mountains to form basically as the consequence of valleys sinking (think Basin and Range, horst and graben type topography). Anyway, what you end up getting is a valley on one side, a mountain chain in the middle and a valley on the other, just like I described from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to the Dead Sea.
It was dark when I arrived so I only got a sense of shadows. It felt like Lake Mead meets Death Valley meets Mono Lake to me, except in Israel. Culturally there is a very different feel, but the land feels similar and the air too.

The place we are staying in Ein Gedi is a kibbutz that has a hotel/resort for tourists. There is a dining hall that has breakfast/lunch/dinner buffet style. There are two sections of rooms (as far as I can tell). One on the upper level by the lobby and outdoor bar, which are for more esteemed guests (as my dad said--guess where his room is). Then there is a lower group of rooms, probably 10 on either side facing a courtyard. The room has two beds, a tv, sink, fridge and bathroom. I'm sharing my room with an Israeli student who is really nice so far. She's been dealing with my overabundance of excitement.

Ein Gedi also has a botanical garden all over the kibbutz so it's rather beautiful and oasis-seeming. There are a lot of American tourists, but also Israeli, French, Swiss and some Muslim tourists (not sure where they're from).

My Flight:

It's worth addressing my flight a tiny bit. I flew Aerosvit, the Ukrainian airline. I wasn't sure what to expect. Upon arriving at the airport I learned quickly how cold the people are. The woman who checked me in was having nothing to do with my pleasant conversation, she only gave me an icy stare and two boarding passes. Then the flight attendants were similarly cold to the point of rude from an American perspective. But I sat next to Vladmir on the flight from JFK to Kiev and he removed my initial impression to a large extent. He sat next to me and introduced himself in a language I assume was Ukranian, I said "hi" and he smiled and asked excitedly, "Oh you speak English? Good, I can practice my English!" In my head I thought "For the next 9 hours....??? Wompersss." But it was really nice. He moved to New Jersey six years ago and has a son my age who is in Rutgers studying biochemistry. We did talk for much of the trip, then we watched My Super Exgirlfriend, which he thought was hilarious, and then I slept until breakfast. He was very nice and very generous.

Then in Kiev I had originally 2.5 hours between flights, but we left JFK an hour late and I was worried about the transfer. Turns out Kiev is pretty tiny and I still had time to sit around. It was so strange. There were, maybe, 10 gates in the terminal and they were going everywhere. There was Tel Aviv next to Budapest next to Beijing next to New York.

Flying over Kiev was also interesting. The sky had low clouds and just created a gray haze that made midday look like twilight. The ground was covered in snow and farms. It reminded me of parts of Germany that are all fields and little towns, but this was completely flat. Then we passed over Kiev and a city appeared, but made out of ugly, box shaped buildings, equi-spaced. There were two churches that had color and interesting architecture, but everything else looked like a power plant. The entire place, from the sky to the ground, was a shade of gray. I was thinking how important it is to have beautiful architecture in dreary places to at least give people a reason to go outside.


So the plan today is a bit up in the air but as of now sounds like it will be fairly epic. So originally I was going to start the night shift at 5pm, but the drillers requested 24 hours off to travel to Jerusalem and Bethlehem for Christmas Eve. It sounds like this will happen, so no night shift. Instead hopefully Jason and I will get to travel with them to Bethlehem after the day shift. It would be awesome to get to see Bethlehem on Christmas Eve into Christmas day. I mean, I know I've been rather scrooge-y this year about Christmas, but what a unique opportunity!
Then today during the day Jason and I will go for a hike in the nature reserve for the afternoon. Moti is going to show us a trail.
So if all those plans happen then it will be a great day! Even if half of them happen, it will be good. Photos will come soon.


  1. Emily what a place to spend the holiday's from a historical perspective. You really are getting your skymiles racked up these days but I see your making the best of them and educating yo'self. Best of luck and one of these days we will meet up. Peace and love, Jeremy

  2. baller. as usual.

  3. omg, i so totally laughed at the "9 hours of talking to him", haha.
    your trip sounds awesome so far!