jueves, 9 de junio de 2016

Scientific discoveries

   The water was very cold. It wasn’t surprising at all as the lake was located very high into the mountains, far from any real source of heat. Besides, the area was often covered with a thick fog that didn’t really let the sunlight pass. The group camped on the edge of the lake and was careful enough to put everything near them. It wouldn’t be very nice if an animal decided to steal their food or if they lost things that were just in front of their noses. They would stay only one night and then continue their journey.

 Their destination was a high plateau, located on top of a flat mountain. Rumor has it that many species of plants and animals lived there and that most of them had never being registered by science. The five people in the group had the mission of arriving to that area, after climbing completely vertical walls, and do the most thorough job in identifying new species of animals and plants. They had to bring pictures, drawings and even samples if possible.

 The day they arrived at the lake was only the fourth day of their journey. They had already crossed through a deep humid valley where one of them had been bitten by a snake and had to be airlifted out of there. Where they started the mountain section of their trip, they often had problems falling to the ground and hurting their hands and knees. It was a very difficult job, especially for the ones in the group that had never really gone out in a mission like this.

 Two of the camper by the lake, one man and one woman, were teachers and real professionals in biology. They had already travelled to every corner of the world, they had categorized many species and each had discovered quite a few, so they were the visible heads of the expedition as experience was always most appreciated. The rest were four students and interns, five originally, that had decided to enter the ballot to get into the trip.

 The two professors interview several people for the trip. They were essentially looking for people just like them, people that didn’t mind having no food in a day and knew how to walk in a jungle, a forest or the mountains. They rejected many almost immediately. Most of them thought it was going to be a nice little trip with hotels and cars and video cameras and many other nice things. It wasn’t.

 They had only one cellphone that had to be used only for emergencies. Everyone could bring their laptop but, obviously, there wasn’t going to be any Wi-Fi or anything like that. The computers were just for keeping track of their discoveries and have a copy of the pictures they took every single day. It was a useless brick aside from that. No makeup, no artificial elements, nothing like that either.

 The guy that had been bitten by the snake was the one the professors had thought was really one of a kind. He was very brilliant and had actually collaborated with a couple of amazing scientists from other universities. He was very well versed in every single aspect of a mission and was looking forward to the one they were interviewing him for. He was even tested by showing him several pictures of different species and he had answered everything correctly.

 So it was more than a surprise, more like a disappointment, when he had stupidly left the tent to pee in an area that hadn’t been checked yet. According to what he said later, it seemed like he had urinated on the snake and that’s why the animal had reacted so violently, biting him in one of his thighs. He knew the venom of that particular species was not one that acted fast but it was venom all the same. The helicopter arrived soon as they were only a day away from their departure point.

 Secretly, the other four students and interns laughed at what had happened. They hadn’t like him at all when they had met him some days before the journey started. He seemed pretentious and so full of himself, telling them every single part of his experience with other scientists. It got boring very quickly and he probably knew right away that he was going to be talking only to the professors during the trip. But no one would never really know that as he had left so early, in such a particular way.

 By the lake, they decided to check the water with a special machine that was equipped with sonar. They wanted to know what kind of wildlife lived there and if it was possible for them to bathe there. They already smelled very strongly and they had to, at some time, have a bath to clean themselves up or else every animal in the jungle would know they were there.

  The sonar didn’t pick up anything big. So the professors decided to fish for a while, as the four students entered the water and swam just in front of them. The funny thing was that they couldn’t almost see each other. It was very difficult to move without hitting a rock or tripping on some formation no one had seen. In the water it was the same and it felt dangerous too, so they only were there for five minutes, enough time to feel refreshed.

 When they were done, as they dried their bodies on the shore, the professors announced they had capture two fish but none of them was a new species. They were some kind of anchovy related creature, very small and really smelly. They took pictures and returned the animals to the water. Sometimes discoveries took their time to happen.

 The next day they moved away from the lake in order to get to the plateau. As they had already lost some time because of the snake and the lake, they decided to walk two days in a row, without resting or at least only resting for a few hours. No more camping. They walked for three straight days. They descended the mountain on the other side and had arrived to the jungle again, were they discovered a couple of new insects and saw a couple of snakes that resembled the one that had bitten their partner.

 Finally, one afternoon, they arrived to a very tall wall made of rock and dirt. They tested the surface with their climbing gear and discovered that area was not well suited to climb to the top. Several rocks fell once they tried to climb onto the wall. So they had to walk along the wall until they finally camped to wait for sunlight. First thing the following morning, the professors found the perfect area to climb. It was going to be very difficult and they had to get everyone up there so the plan was complex.

 The experienced climbers had to go first. That meant the two professors and one of the students had to climb almost with no instruments or equipment, at least to a certain point. Then, they would help the others with ropes and all the climbing equipment they had carried from their base camp. None of the leaders were nervous about it. They simply began climbing. By midday, the three scientists had climbed at least fifty meters, which was very good. They installed everything there, on a special hard part of the mountain and kept going as the other three just started.

 As expected, nightfall arrived as they were still working on the mountain. Their fingers were numb and some had awful bruises that made it difficult for them to climb. The student that had joined the professors was the first one to arrive and he helped bring his two companions on top. When they were all there, they helped the remaining three. Two of them were bleeding a lot when they came up to the top.

 They decided to form camp not very far from the edge. The idea was to rest, cure their wounds and start real work on top of the plateau. They almost couldn’t sleep as they had arrived to the place they had wanted to visit for a long time. No other human had ever been there and it was certain that they were going to encounter very special creatures. They were about to enter scientific history.

 However, the night did not only bring the best wishes from them. It also brought heavy sleep, provided by a plant they had ignored, just by their camp. The plant released spores that made people extremely sleepy, almost putting them in a coma. This was used by a certain kind of spider, an undiscovered species, to kill all the campers with its powerful poison.

 The bodies wouldn’t take long to decompose. That’s how powerful the venom was. And all the machines and equipment would be destroyed by powerful gusts of wind and other animals, completely erasing any trace the scientists had ever been there.

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