Expedition Log: Sept. 1

0530: Canoes arrive and students and do a great job of loading the boats; 0800 ceremony begins with Pres. Pribbenow, Mayor Coleman, and River Troubadour Larry Long, who sent us off with song.  Enthusiastic crowd of friends, family, and supporters; we set off with a flotilla of 8 additional voyageur canoes and paddled down to South St. Paul with flags flying. 1200 Flotilla participants were shuttled back to Harriett Island and expedition paddled to River Mile (RM) 823 for our first camp on a nice, open sandy spot on River Right. Eagles, osprey, pelicans, and limestone cliffs, with some conversation about local geology; passed 6 “through-paddlers” (go the length of the river) in kayaks and canoes.  Spirits good despite lack of sleep and very hot conditions; swim in the river was delicious; students have jumped right in with camp duties, and are excited about the trip, but a little apprehensive about the coursework and how to keep up with their studies. Brief campfire until the mosquitoes drove us into our tents, where we slept the sleep of the extremely exhausted.  Rain at night but all stayed dry. LOCATION

Planning an expedition

July 29th, and the countdown clock now reads 34 days until the launch.  In my office there are solar panels, large batteries, a d-frame dip net, pelican cases full of electronic gear, and a large box of books that will be our trip library. My email inbox is full of contacts from researchers, local DNR officials, museum staff, river guides, students, faculty, and assorted others with ideas, arrangements, and logistical details for this three-and-a-half month journey.  This has been a different kind of preparation than for a regular semester to be sure.

This undertaking has only come to fruition with the help of a whole team of people at Augsburg, Wilderness Inquiry, and the network of folks along the river. It is a powerful reminder of the richness of the community of which I am a part, as well as the dense network of people connected to the river all along its length.  We have been setting up research, internship, and other work and study opportunities for the students on the trip, and I am amazed at the amount of activity and learning opportunities the students will have on the trip.  Today I’ve been emailing with Ann Bancroft about collaborating with an expedition she is co-leading this Fall that will consist of eight women from six continents going down the Ganges River.  The potential for linking these two expeditions is tremendous, and we’ll keep you posted!  Closer to home we’re lining up activities for visits everywhere from La Crosse, Wisconsin, to Dubuque, St. Louis, Memphis, Greenville, New Orleans, plus a bunch of places none of us have heard of.  So for instance, today I learned that it looks like we’ll be sleeping on an old dredge boat in Dubuque that is docked at the Mississippi River Museum there. My colleague Thorpe Halloran has been setting up all sorts of site visits and field research for us in Mississippi and Louisiana, and I can’t wait to check out those spots as well.

I’m playing around with a Go-Pro for the trip.  Here’s a little tour of my office in the midst of the preparation: