Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Research Giveth and It Taketh Away

We’ve been doing some preliminary research here, sending teams of guys to various locations to take interviews and videotape and look for evidence of chimpanzees in the forests surrounding some nearby mines.

All of this is in preparation for our eventual trip to the forest and the mines, to take fecal samples from chimpanzees and miners both.

Cleve also had a final research trip he asked us to arrange, so during January we were really alone in the house as two guys were in Monga, 350km north of here near the Central African Republic border, and another two guys were at Likati -- a mine 75km from here to the North and East.

The two guys in Monga need a lot of hand-holding and detailed explanation, so I guess we weren’t too surprised when they took the money we gave them for five days in the forest and managed to spend it all on “3 days in the forest,” which I put in quotation marks because they only have data from two days because on the third day, they claim they “saw nothing.”

But, they did have wild chimp contact and documented a 38th orphan to be seen in the area.

Our two most reliable guys came back two days later, full of stories of evidence of elephants (!!) in the forests near Likati, which is SUCH a boon since, as I’ve mentioned before, elephants are a real unknown factor out here and everyone wants to know where they are, and no one can really answer with surety.

They had seen a LOT on their trip, lots of wonderful evidence, and I was so excited for their return in general that this turn of events did surprise me.

It was, for both of them, the first time using the video camera without someone else supervising. I turned on the video camera to examine the footage they’d gotten, only to see a blank screen. There was not even a timecode in the upper lefthand corner.

I panicked that the camera was broken. But I tried an old cassette Cleve had left, and it worked fine.

One of their tapes was previously recorded upon, so I checked to see if the old footage was still there, and it was.

So, I summoned into the house Responsible Researcher, and asked him to show me how he had used the camera.

He turned it on... and then held it out and put the eyepiece to his eye.

“When do you press record?” I asked (pretty sure of what had happened already now).

He looked at me blankly.

For 10 days in the forest, he had been holding the camera out, on Standby mode, “documenting” all of these amazing things that they had seen.

“D’oh” does not even suffice for situations like this, really.

I didn’t yell at him, or even either of them because, well, shit happens and my yelling isn’t going to change the past.

We did decide most likely to use this mine for my research once my final IRB approval comes in because it seems like a great hotspot, though it is a bit farther away and the motorcycle gas will be expensive.

And then, we can get new footage of elephant samples and what-not.

They took GPS points of everything, and recorded all of the interview responses in a notebook, and took histories on all of the chimpanzee orphans they encountered, so really, the only thing lost is the visual evidence.

It’s not frustration, really.

It’s just Congo.

1 comment:

Johnny said...

Wow, what a story!