Water Closet for August 29, 2014
Juanita, an Inca girl, is permanently cold yet warm in appearance. Mountaineers Johan Reinhard and Miguel Zarate found her near the top of Peruvian mountain Ampato, a god to her sacrificers. Ampato is one of many gods in the Andes; a 4000 mile long range topped by volcanic peaks, deities to the Incas and probably those who preceded them.1 Is it any wonder that before scientific geology folks thought the great mountains that rose above them were gods? [pullquote]”Modern day mountaineers with high tech gear are in awe of the Incas who preceded them into the thin, dehydrating air by five centuries to build ceremonial platforms and even buildings at elevations up to 22,000-feet”[/pullquote]Many in the Andes still do. The range captured water from the Pacific, magically turned it to ice, and then stored it as snow, much of which became glacial ice. Rain and melt water flowed down off the gods’ shoulders to worshipers’ fields and terraces in the valleys. Now and then when angry, as gods can be, they exploded sending ash and boulders over great distances.
The dust left in the air provided truly spiritual sunrises and sunsets as did Washington’s Mount St. Helen’s eruption 34 years ago. Avalanches from god induced earthquakes buried whole valley villages and blocked roads and rivers. From the Andes, runoff flowed to the east producing networks of rivers and rainforests such as the Amazon Basin. Yet just to the west between the Pacific Ocean and the continent-long mountain range are some of the driest deserts on the planet. So, again, we are reminded that much of everything has to do with water.
This has been especially so for Juanita and other mummies found at year round frozen elevations even near the equator. While the details of the sacrificial ceremonies are still unclear, those carefully chosen as presents to the gods were laboriously led up the slopes of the recipients and buried in shallow graves on or near their tops. Some found half a millennium later had quickly frozen as the heat of life left them. The continuous cold since allow people, many descendants, to study their very elaborate ceremonial clothing, and even more intimately their facial features and flesh. Juanita soon after her introduction to the world in 1995 was dubbed “The Ice Maiden” by an excited press. Since discovery she has been seen as beautiful as well as mysterious by many millions viewing her in photos and videos, and through the windows of her freezer kept at near a constant 0 F temperature, 90 % relative humidity. Thanks to the government of Peru, the National Geographic Society, other institutions, finders Johan Reinhard and Miquel Zarate, and specialists in many fields, she and several other mummies found remain well preserved. The microorganisms that would quickly decompose their flesh and organic clothing in the presence of liquid water are nearly helpless confronted with below freezing ice. Reinhard and Zarate rushed her in a block of frozen soil down rough slopes into the tropical air of the valley at great risk to themselves. She was quickly put in a freezer before melting occurred.
High altitude archeologist Reinhard in The Ice Maiden2 wrote about his many findings in the Andes. Since he includes all of the many talented people involved and the details of their day-to-day research we readers learn much about Andean archeology and the wondrous Inca Empire that stretched from one end of a continent to another and rose and fell in less than two centuries. His book was loaned to us by photographer Pamela Hartman, international traveler and friend of the Stream Team, who recently returned from a tour of Machu Picchu in the center of the Inca holy land.
Throughout 350 readable pages water in its three states is frequently mentioned. Reinhard’s, climbing colleagues’, and vulnerable mummies’ minute by minute survival depended on water as vapor, liquid, solid, or combinations thereof. Modern day mountaineers with high tech gear are in awe of the Incas who preceded them into the thin, dehydrating air by five centuries to build ceremonial platforms and even buildings at elevations up to 22,000-feet. Maybe the peaks, also gods, allowed access to those bearing such valuable gifts. Modern climbers fear their lightning and sudden winds. What did the chosen children think on their last climbs? Bags of coca leaves were found with them. Their finders and descendants 500 years later also chew coca leaves.
1 From the number of well-built structures and many miles of roads one might think the Inca Empire had been around a long time. The mighty Incas as an empire started in the early 14th century and were subdued by the Spanish in 1533. The people who survived Spanish cruelties and diseases lived on but their government became Spanish and Catholic. The people worshiped God and gods in a hybrid religion. Many in the Andes still speak Quechua the Incan language.
2 Reinhard, Johan. The Ice Maiden: Inca Mummies. Mountain Gods, and the Sacred Sites of the Andes (National Geographic, Washington) 2005.) Reinhard a longtime experienced mountaineer of the Himalayas, the Andes and almost any place there are high mountains goes into great detail, some might say too much. Those very good at their profession like the late Robin Williams, very fondly remembered this month, tell us over and over in interviews that details are important to their craft. Reinhard seems to prove the point in this book which we think will encourage the young to go into the field of archeology properly prepared by studying science, history, and languages. Reinhard, no shrinking violet, has clearly spent a lifetime studying all three to the benefit of us all. Those who criticize his disturbing Native American graves are usually quickly silenced when he describes the damage done by looters even at high altitudes. Some grave robbers use dynamite as a tool to blast through frozen soils. Meticulously careful Reinhart and helpers do little harm. Holes are filled back in. Relics found with the dead go to museums.
WATER RESOURCE AND CONSERVATION INFORMATION
FOR MIDDLETON, BOXFORD AND TOPSFIELD
|Precipitation Data* for Month of:||May||June||July||Aug|
|30 Year Normal (1981 – 2010) Inches||4.06||3.95||3.89||3.37|
|2013 – 14 Central Watershed Actual||2.77||2.03||7.26||3.0 as of 8/26**|
Ipswich R. Flow Rate(S. Middleton USGS Gage) in Cubic Feet/ Second (CFS):
For Aug 26, 2014 Normal . . . 5.3 CFS Current Rate . . . 4.5 CFS
*Danvers Water Filtration Plant, Lake Street, Middleton is the source for actual precipitation data thru July. Normalsdata is from the National Climatic Data Center.
**Updated Aug precipitation data is from MST gage.