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Screening for salmon

July 27, 2014

Having been here a week now, those of us who’ve not been here before are beginning not to believe the horror stories about the horizontal rain, gale-force winds, bone freezing cold and biting insects. Today was another day of big blue skies with high diffuse clouds and endless sunshine. OK there were a few bugs on site for about an hour at the beginning of the day, but (on cue) the sea breeze picked up keeping them well at bay for the rest of the day. The site is beginning to come to life again – now fully opened up with new contexts, great new finds and screening of deposits beginning in earnest.

IMG_4214We trialled the new wet-screening frames today behind the village store where we have pressurised water linked to a long hose. Roy and Kisngalria modified some of our old on-site dry-screening frames, adding two lower drawers of finer mesh. – the smallest being 3mm. They also built some smaller frames (also with 3mm screens) that we could use for drying samples after wet-screening.

Screening protocols should ensure a systematic (and basic-quantitative) record of artefacts and ecofacts is made that can be compared across the site from all valid contexts. Screening is of course a time-consuming, process, with many logistical challenges and pitfalls in such a remote location. At Nunalleq there are huge logistical problems screening what is effectively organic peat – mesh becomes clogged very quickly with the wet waterlogged organic material that’s characteristic of all deposits from the site. Our morning trials today (where we started processing the sample backlog from last season) showed the large surface area of the new screening drawers (plus the high pressure hose) to be pretty efficient. Fine screening to 5 and 3mm revealed numerous fish bones and other small artefacts of wood, stone and ivory. Timing how long it took to process this rich organic material through the sieves, showed that samples of around 20 litres could be finished and transferred to the drying frames in around 20 mins, a good deal quicker than last year.

Trials of our new wet-screening system this morning show that we can efficiently process numerous sub-samples of these organic-rich sediments relatively efficiently. Whether they are bug and bear-proof – only the next few weeks will tell!

After work today, another great dinner was followed by the now obligatory trip to the Kanektuk river for an evening of salmon fishing. It’s the season for salmon runs and big fish can be seen leaping from the sandbar where we fish. A single pink salmon, plus another five large leopard trout, will provide a feast at dinner on our well-deserved day off tomorrow.


One Comment leave one →
  1. July 28, 2014 19:45

    Do not fear. I am sure the bad weather will arrive in time for me to enjoy 🙂


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