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Sunderbans Revisited

At my age, birthdays are an occasion for commiseration rather than felicitations and yet it touched me that a birthday cake had been ordered for me by my fellow travellers during the second sampling expedition to the Sunderbans: the world’s largest  mangrove forest which spans the deltas of the Ganges in Bangladesh and the Hugli in West Bengal. It is in the latter region that we were taking undisturbed sediment samples.

Birthday in the Sunderbans

I’ve written briefly about last year’s exploits and you can find that blog archived for November 2010.

Access to the various habited and uninhabited islands in the Sunderbans is by boat and the primitive existence on board in a confined space with few basic facilities leads to getting to know your fellow passengers fairly intimately. As last year I was part of the team from Queen’s University Belfast (GAP) : http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/gap/

Uninhabited islands in the Sunderbans

Professor Julian Orford, larger than life and sometimes reputed to be a teeny bit gruff is in truth a pussycat, continually mindful and concerned about the wellbeing of those under his care. His love of Strauss’ Der Rosenkavalier surely gives him away?

Professor Keith Bennett, bird lover with a razor sharp mind and coring expert : why did they need me when they had Keith?

Dr Satish Kumar, fixer extraordinaire with an eye for the girls and an even better one for photography (his many pictures will be viewable soon) is an asset to any voyager in remote places.

Rory Flood, PhD student:  Irish, red headed, pale skinned going to translucent  at the sight of a little cockroach (well perhaps not so little) yet brave and tenacious with never a complaint even when afflicted by Kolkata tummy his standard answer to “how are you doing Rory” … “ah just grand” even as he leaned over the railing… Since October 2010 Rory has been working on his PhD project at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) regarding the late-Holocene and contemporary sedimentary provenance and processes of sedimentation in the Sundarbans.

Neelambari Phalkey, vivacious and courageous:  another QUB PhD student who will be spending quite some time living in a village in the Sunderbans.

Part of the team from the Institute of Environmental Studies and Wetland Management in Kolkata: http://www.ieswm.org/ : Senior Scientist Somenath Battacharryya and Ms. Kakoli Sen Sarma who worked so hard to procure permissions to carry out the work.

To you all a heartfelt thanks for your cooperation and generosity.

I’ve prepared a gallery of pictures viewable here: http://rdubois.zenfolio.com/p574705449 best viewed by clicking on the first image and then on slideshow on the upper right hand corner. A particular highlight for me was the visit to the village officially called L-Plot. More pictures will be added over the next few weeks; not least those of Satish. More pictures are also available on the QUB facebook site:

http://www.facebook.com/QUBGAP

A special thanks goes to Kakoli’s 8-year old daughter Riya for the beautiful picture she made for me.

Vincent van Walt

December 2011

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