California Academy of Sciences
Sao Tome
Slowly the water drained ... and we dried out. Photo by Joel Ledford.

Dispatch Number Five - May 5, 2001

Text by Fabio Penny, Computer Services

Tuesday, 05.01.01, May Day Holiday
São Tomé home base

The rains continue. We watch the floodplain created in our driveway expand and rise. It has reached the tire rims of the Land Cruiser. Tomio, Doug and Bob have finished packing. As tradition follows, most clothes are left behind for people we have met, in order to make space for the specimens. Prepared specimens are carefully placed between cheesecloth within sealed plastic containers. Doug is attempting to transport a civet study skin, the first in the Academy collection, and he had to make sure that it was well salted and dried. Tomio's fishes travel easily inside a large plastic drum, tightly sealed.

Their baggage and specimens reached the airport authorities on Tuesday morning at 0600 without difficulty. Charles had also been able to leave without a hitch last Friday. The rest of us hope for similar good fortune along with the São Toméan permit, necessary letters, species lists, and plenty of Dobras we are carrying. The help of Teresa D'Espiney and our faithful friend, local television, have been essential in facilitating our travel logistics. The "scientificos", as we are known, have been a major hit with the local viewing audience. The expanded coverage about our adventures, teaching and community involvement has helped to strengthen relations and keep us out of trouble.

To date only Joel's luggage and scientific equipment remain somewhere in transit. While waiting for the delayed plane, the departing trio Tomio, Douglas and Bob, slept in comfort that evening, while the rest of the team headed back to our base across town.

Wednesday, 05.02.01, 0730 hours
We heard great news from Charles today. In his email he mentioned that he had a chance to look at the trap door spiders from Principé. They are what he had hoped for: Moggridgea occidua Simon, in the family Migidae. These spiders had not been seen for 100 years. The type (and previously, only) specimen was collected by Dr. R. Gesturo sur L. Fea on Principé in 1900. These spiders are very cryptic. They live on tree trunks and make nests of silk camouflaged with bark, lichen and moss - and place a "trap door" at the upper end.

Thursday, 05.03.01, 0500 hours
São Tomé home base
We are all awakened by roaring thunder and massive lightning strikes. The rain continues to come down in sheets and our driveway is beginning to look like an ocean. We all are sweating profusely, as the island is without electricity. This doesn't look like a good day in the making … perhaps we can salvage some of it if it clears up.

1200 hours
Still no word on Sarah's arrival time from Lisbon. The weather has remained a burden, and we have been unable to do much of any collecting since the last group departed. We are all anxious to get out and do something, but we must wait for our team to be whole before making any major decisions.

1545 hours
The electricity is still out and we are increasingly restless. Ricka has left to explore the area directly behind our compound in search of more caecillians and day geckos. Although it appears at first to be a small stream littered with bottles and cans, it eventually opens onto a very pleasant area filled with activity. Children are swimming, pigs and chickens are meandering about, and there are lots of skinks. The heavy rains reduce the chances of finding anything, but upcoming trips to the roadless southwest sector, of the island and a return trip to Bom Sucesso, should prove more valuable.

Sao Tome stream Sao Tome
The muddy banks of a gushing stream after a heavy rain. Photo by Fabio Penny. The small stream behind our bedrooms opens to an area complete with trails and a swimming lagoon. Photo by Fabio Penny

1830 hours
We have confirmed, via email, that Sarah is stuck in Lisbon due to lack of proper boarding pass. Glad that she is safe, we can continue collecting until her arrival next Tuesday. Tonight we are heading to the northwest coast, past Lagoa Azul, to check out some cliff faces. Last night, we were successful in acquiring 12 Buthidae - ten adults and 2 juveniles from a location south of L. Azul. We are wanting to photograph, not just videotape, the baby scorpions, but the conditions are currently not optimal to do this safely. We will try for tomorrow. Joel will transport these specimens back to the Academy at the end of May for further analysis - including some molecular work.



Academy Main | General Information | Events Calendar | Aquarium | Natural History Museum | Planetarium
Exhibits | Research & Collections | Education | Publications | Membership | Support | Volunteer | Employment
Site Map | Search | Contact Us

© Copyright 2001 California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences Gulf of Guinea Islands Biodiversity Project