PTK Goes To The Rainforest: February 7, 1998

Having eaten and now relaxing around the camp, we can see why Camp 41 is considered the “luxury” accommodations of the INPA rainforest research camps. Besides the kitchen with gas stove and filtered water, there are gas-powered lamps, open-air living quarters with tin roofs and cement floors, and, supposedly, flush toilets and showers. Supposedly, because, during this trip the camp generator was not working, so the only running water we experienced was that in the small stream at the base of camp.

After dinner, the materos help us tenderfoots with the intricacies of hanging hammocks and most importantly, hanging mosquito netting around them. The evening is usually when the scientists write up the information they collect during the day. Having guests was a special occasion, however, and so the scientists graciously agreed to be interviewed and taped.

During these PTK field trips (I was also on location in Antarctica in 1997 for LFA2), everyone in the crew is called upon to be masters of all trades. When things need to be hauled, cables connected, or a quick shot with the camera is called for, then everyone available tries to pitch in. Tonight I get to be lighting assistant, while Brian videotapes interviews that Geoff conducts at the camp. A real lighting assistant might reconsider their career choice, if called upon to hold a spotlight perfectly still while debating whether the inch-long black ant crawling up their leg is poisonous and requires immediate attention or whether you just stand still for the sake of the shot! Obviously, it wasn’t poisonous, since I’m still here, but that ant sure looked menacing. The rainforest presents complications to television production just not found back in the United States.

Emilio Bruna pictured at left.

Weary, sticky and buggy, our intrepid crew is finally ready to call it a night, but the scientists laugh as they warn us that we probably won’t be sleeping too well tonight. The hammocks, they complain, are uncomfortable enough (some researchers bring tents and sleeping bags), but even if you can get comfortable, the frogs will keep you up. Apparently the frogs get into the plastic piping of the camp almost as if they know that their throaty bull-horn voices will be made even louder within this plastic echo chamber. But then at least, the scientists say, you don’t have to worry about the terrible racket of the howler monkeys waking you up at dawn—you won’t have slept, anyway!

Later as I go to bed, I do hear the strange songs of the forest, and even closer and louder, the strange sounds hammock-mates, snoring loudly. Finally I get to sleep and who knows, maybe I snored too.

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