Archaeology Back in the Day

1949 to be precise.  I have been reading old field journals written by Charles Lucier in hopes of untangling prior work done near a site where I am working. The archaeology is fascinating of course, but the notes on life and Alaskan fieldwork back in the day are really fun to read.  Part of that is Lucier’s writing style, which comes through even in his field notes:

Teller, AK ca. 1900 (Photo by E.A. Hegg via Wikimedia Commons)

Teller, AK ca. 1900 (Photo by E.A. Hegg via Wikimedia Commons)

“June 12 Day spent waiting for Wien plane to take [us] to {the site} One passes over, apparently headed for Wales, but doesn’t return—most disgusting.”

Describing salvaging parts for camp set up…“We bring home [segments of] stove pipe, set [the] stove up and start [a] fire.  The immediate result is a roaring chimney fire.  The oily soot in [the] used stove pipe ignites.  I climb up on the roof and pour water down the stove pipe while H. runs off after more water.  The temp.[erature] has dropped below freezing and i nearly fall off the roof, made icy by the fire fighting efforts.  The shack is wet and terribly cold.  We go to bed [I lay my rainsuit and outer clothes under me.] and keep almost warm throughout the night.”

The “H.” noted above is Helge Larsen, a well known Danish archaeologist.  Notes in brackets were added by Lucier when he was transcribing his notebooks years later.  Italics are mine.  Things were different then…Lucier describes landing at Point Spencer in a controlled stall, between barricades set up on the runway to deter Soviet pilots.  Yikes!  Apparently he made it through the entire 1949 field season, which included work all over the Seward Peninsula, without rain pants.

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