By Claire

I’m sure you’ve all been wondering where I have been for the last five weeks. Hopefully you noticed I was gone, or at least noticed the lack of climate change posts on the blog over the last few weeks.

Just another day of fieldwork.

I have been on fieldwork in Indonesia. Oh fieldwork, the main reason to do a PhD at all. Well, it certainly isn’t for the money or the power!!

I spent five weeks in Indonesia collecting samples for paleoclimate analysis. Although I will not personally be working on these samples, since I have already started work on samples from a different site, I was sent along to gain experience and understanding of the collection process.

A deserted beach at Ujon Kulong.

We started out on the west coast of Java, along the Sunda Strait, to collect coral. When I told my husband this was what I was doing, he immediately pictured us all wandering along picturesque beaches with woven baskets, picking up little pieces of coral that had washed up on the beach. Let me tell you, it was nothing like that!

Drilling a large tsunami block.

We were in fact collecting coral cores from large coral blocks that had either been uplifted out of the ocean in situ, or washed ashore during a tsunami. The drill we used to collect these corals was basically a chainsaw motor attached to a drill barrel. It was very physically demanding work, which is why we were lucky to be accompanied by some local Indonesian colleagues, who took care of most of the hard work. My job was to take notes, field photos and to label the cores as they were extracted.

Drilling a tsunami block with Krakatoa in the background.

In amongst all of the work, we did get to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery. We were, after all, working on pristine beaches in the tropics!

Since we weren’t tourists, we got to see the real Indonesia. We stayed in small fishing villages and ate traditional Indonesian food traditionally! (That is, with your hands. I am not very good at eating rice with my fingers, it just seems to go everywhere!) The whole time we were away, we saw only a small handful of Westerners. That meant that we were a novelty for the locals, who had rarely seen white people before. We would walk through villages and people would come over and point at our white skin, and laugh at my red face from the heat. It was all done in good nature, so we didn’t mind.

Coral cores ready for packing and shipping. This was only about 1/4 of what we collected!

After two weeks of collecting coral cores, we had collected a total of 53m of coral! This had to be packed up and shipped back to Australia for study.

Drilling coral in Java was only the first half of our field trip. The second week was spent caving in Sumatra, but I’ll save that story for another post.

By the way, if you have been considering doing a PhD in paleoclimate, we have a lot of new coral material ready to be analysed! If you’re interested, or want more information, contact Nerilie Abram. She is absolutely lovely and would make a great PhD supervisor! Plus you would get to work at a world class university, with world class people, if I do say so myself.

Check out more photos from the trip in the photo gallery.