Monday, June 30, 2008

My Cousin

In a departure from my usual blog postings, I'd like to share with you some much more interesting entries from my cousin, Dave Clair's, blog. He had a show on Bravo called "The It Factor" if anyone remembers from a few years ago and has been involved in a number of other projects. He's a producer who's currently working on a National Geographic special in the Congo. If I find his blog address I'll certainly post a link, but in the meantime, I thought that I'd just copy an e-mail that I received tonight since it's way more interesting than anything that I've done today.

Dear All -

Here are a few excerpts from my blog. There are a bunch of missing entries in this but you'll get the idea of what on earth Im doing.

SAt. JUNE 14

I'm leaving for the Congo in a week. Kind of overwhelmed. I've had to buy a lot of camping gear - of which I know very little. the fact of the matter is we shall be camping for a several days pretty much in the jungle. I've never really done rugged camping before. I live in LA-that says a lot right there about my rugged experinces. I did live in Brooklyn for a while but I dont even know if that will have adequatley prepared me for The Mighty Congo. Everyone raiese their eyebrows when I tell them Im going there. The first question is always How many shots do you have to get? (Answer: 6) the second question is Why?

Answer: A motlley crew of scientists and kayakers are embarking on a scientific espedition to explore and survey a scarcely known section of the world's mightiest river and in the process document the strange and sometimes monstrous fish that lurk in its dark waters. Why kayakers? Because they can take scientific instruments where only an ellite paddler can go: right through the wildest rapids, most powerful currents and bizarre water features (there's some weird physics involved) of this unique river. Why this river? Scientists have collected a diversity of species that they think is unique in the world. They think some kind of evolutionary mechanism, a species pump is operating in the river, creating a "Freak Fish Garden of Eden." I'm doing a National Geographic Explorer film about this journey.

I'll be leaving my Wetswood apartment for a month and camping with a group of scientists and kayakers. They've all done a lot of this stuff before. The scientists have been to this part of Africa two seasons running and the kayakers have been pretty much everywhere. I just bought my first tent and had to debate for a long time over whether to buy a leatherman or a big camping knife. I opted for the leatherman because buying something that seemed like it was mostly knife seemed like the wrong kind of choice metaphysically to prepare myself for this journey. I'm going in open-minded, not filled with fear.

Sun June 30th

Its Monday Night in Kinshasa, Independence Day. Today we recovered from a tough first run through the Congos mighty rapids. Well I didnt go. I had to make sure it was all being shot. But, it was exciting and beautiful. One old fisherman said "I'll see how tough these Americans are after they ride those rapids." Even though we were in a secluded part of the river a whole bunch of the local fishermen, mostly kids came and watched. When they saw Trip and his kayak crew riding the big waves they freaked out.. It was exciting-more exciting for them because they said afterwards that theyd never seen a boat out on those rapids. They thought it was impossible. And once the kayakers were out there in the middle of it they realized- and I realized how big the river really was: mountains of water. The kayakers were just dots that dipped and flitted over monster-waves.

When they reached the end of the rapids the kids all screamed in unison and ran down the beach to get Trip and the other kayak out. They picked up the guys in their kayaks and carried them out of the water ecstatically. John from the USGS was so moved he could hardly speak. For him it was like landing on the moon. "The highlight of his career " he said. He and Ned Gardiner had outfitted one of the kayaks with a sonar depth finder and GPS and were mapping the river bottom, speed of the water and the complexity of currents in the worlds most powerful rapids. When he downloaded the data tohis laptop after the first test pass through the rapids he could see below the surface into another wolrd. I guess the more you know about nature the more you wonder at it. He's from South Carolina hanging out with a bunch of mostly naked congolese kids having the time of his life. (Who knew science could be so much fun?)

It was a huge moment for everyone including me.

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