I spent a part of yesterday afternoon out in one of the nearby salt marshes with one of our research techs and a couple of students. They were doing some preliminary survey work to identify locations for core samples to be taken next week.
Despite it being a mid-summer afternoon, the weather was actually quite pleasant with a breeze and no bugs. However, I was not entirely a happy camper. I kept having flash-backs to an unpleasant experience I had the last time I was out in the marsh.
A bit of explanation is in order. The surface of the salt marsh is partially submerged at high tide and exposed at low tide. Most of the “soil” is a thick, gooey mud. You wear mud boots, but you can easily sink up to your ankles or worse just trying to walk around. The last time I was out awhile back (ironically with a crew from this same lab), I discovered how bad it could be.
I was accompanying a team to a section of salt marsh near where a new development was going to be built. I was to take some pictures of the team’s activities. I drove there in my own car. When I arrived, the survey team was already a quarter of a mile out in the marsh. The property owner and his wife pulled up as I was putting on the rubber boots. They told me that the day before someone had sunk up to their waist in the mud. How prophetic!
As I started off into the marsh, the first hundred yards or so were difficult. My feet sunk past my ankles with each step. Then I came to a small stream. I should have remembered the warning. A few steps later, I was sunk up to my hips in muck. Visions of those old Tarzan movies with man-eating quicksand were running through my head (“Cheetah, throw me a vine!”).
“So how high does the tide get here?”
“Are there alligators in salt marshes?”
The more I tried to move forward, the tighter the muck held me. So I swallowed my pride and started yelling for help. Fortunately, the developer was still on the bank behind me and heard my calls. He still had a cell phone number for one our team members. He called them and told them one of their buddies was stuck in the mud.
About two hours later (Actually, it was probably more like 10 minutes.), Nick, from our team, appeared in front of me with a rope. With a little tension provided by the rope, I was able to extricate myself from the muck and slither on my belly through the soupy mud. Eventually, I was able to crawl up onto some slightly higher ground.
It was an educational experience. I learned, for instance, that you should never go trekking across a salt marsh alone. (Duh!) I also learned that a person’s clothing can hold an incredible amount of mud that works its way into everything and is very difficult to wipe off.
That explains why I’m not a real big fan of mucking around in salt marshes.