July 23, 2019
In May 2019, I got a great opportunity from Konecky Lab and WashU to conduct paleoclimate research at Lake Sibinacocha of Peru (~4,900 m. asl.), one of the world’s most vulnerable places to climate change. This region plays an important role as a major source of fresh water in glaciers, lakes, and rivers that ultimately feed the Amazon basin for Andean communities. My Ph.D. research aims to investigate how this watershed has responded to climatic and environmental changes in the past in order to understand and predict current and future changes due to anthropogenic warming. Here is more like a photo book recording my journey there. Enjoy!
Here is the lake from Google Earth. ~6 mi long. 1-2 mi wide. We stayed in Cusco for 4 days before going to that lake to acclimatize because oxygen level is very low up there.
On the departure day, we drove 5 hours to the closest spot that a car can reach. We also had to hike for 3 hours before we arrived at the lake. The oxygen level was very low here. I felt very tired as I walked. We had horses carrying our heavy belongings. ………And we arrived! Very pretty!
The next day, we were assembling our boat in order to ride to the opposite shore. An hour later, we were ready to cross the lake. The motor was supposed to have 25 horsepowers but because of low oxygen, it worked as if it had 2.5 horsepower.
And the night time came, it was soooooo colddd. I couldn’t really breathe, and I also got a migraine. That was the most physically challenging environment I’ve been to. Look at other people’s faces. So happy (jk). We were trying to survive there.
We went to our field site on the next day. Our team is consisted of archaeologists (from WashU, Peru, and Utah), film crews, and paleoclimatologists (me and my advisor).
Although it was cold af here.. (six layers of clothes)
we accomplished all our works!
Some locals still live here which is very interesting because oxygen is low here. It’s also very cold that no crop could survive. I guess they are here because they can feed their alpacas with grasses here. This photo is Sarah (WashU prof. in archaeology) got surprised by tons of alpacas.
There were times that I wanted to evacuate from here because my body felt like dying all the time. I also felt a bit isolated since everybody spoke in Spanish most of the time. I also did not prepare well for this temperature. However, I overcame this. It was my advisor who one night came into my tent and talked with me privately. She asked if I was doing fine. She was really concerned about me. She encouraged me that I could overcome this and I would felt better as I slowly acclimatized to this environment. And yes, I survived 12 days at this place. This really changed my perspective of her as my Ph.D. advisor. I felt so lucky that I had her as my advisor and my friend.
Goodbye Sibinacocha. Not forever, but a definitely big break haha. (The end)