Field Notes, Week 4: Olduvai Gorge

Week 4, Day 1

from: Andrea Chang

to: Mission Control

subject: Week 4 — Moving Out!

It’s day 28 in the distant past and we’ve had some very important developments over the last 24 hours. The most important news is that we’ve relocated our campsite and are now approximately 8 kilometers from the Tipler Dome, sleeping in a shallow cave whose entrance we’ll take turns guarding overnight. Obviously tromping across the region in daylight and leaving behind the Dome comes with some risks. But between the two of us, we’re probably equipped to handle just about anything besides acts of God. Evelyn and I are both armed with tasers, predator-repelling pheromones, mace, and fast-acting adhesive sedatives in case of close combat. We’ve got no idea if any of our hominin relatives are big into wrestling and sneak attacks, but we’ll be prepared if they are. Evelyn’s krav maga skills don’t hurt either, but she says she’d prefer if that were a last resort. Neither of us want to hurt any other sentient creature.

The reason for departing our quiet little haven in the valley where we landed is Mr. Upright himself. As Evelyn informed you in her last briefing, we sighted what appeared to be a controlled fire on day 23. Drone monitoring since then revealed a group of 17 hominins that we believe to be Homo erectus. Video footage from the drone shows them to be quite tall, with high foreheads, narrow pelvises, and little apparent sexual dimorphism. More or less what we’d expect from skeletal remains, but it’s hard to be sure without closer observation. In the back of our minds is the constant possibility that any hominin we run across could be a species that hasn’t yet appeared in the fossil record. A missing link! A ghost species!

Whatever the taxonomy of these two-leggers, we do know they’re using tools and they’re cooperating. After four days of surveillance we put together a basic picture of the group’s foraging strategies. We’ve seen them hunt small game and scavenge larger kills made by leopards and big cats, and they visit small lakes and rivers for water throughout the day. The video also suggested one big surprise—they appear to have traces of body paint on their arms and torsos. But this was only visible on three individuals, and it’s possible we were just seeing dust. The last time we got too close with the drone, one of the smaller individuals began tossing stones at it. We don’t want to disrupt their normal routine, or risk losing the chirocopter, so we decided to move closer and monitor the group ourselves.

The hike to this new campsite was worth the risk all on its own. Once we left the valley we’d landed in, we came to a short stretch of grassland followed by a surprisingly large patch of forested area. We kept in sight of a stream so we could easily replenish our water supplies, and eventually came to a lake that’s approximately one kilometer from one end to the other. Though we didn’t drag the sonar along with us, my guess is that the forest and the lake are supported by a fairly large aquifer. I’m including several botanical samples along with this update, as well as a list of tree and shrub species we identified around the lake. We also noticed a number of prints along the muddy edge of the water: cats, ungulates, small rodents, and, yes, what look to be hominins. Their feet were slightly smaller than either of ours, with longer toes, but they were undoubtedly the prints of bipedal individuals.  

Because we couldn’t carry all our food and research equipment and medical supplies and bedding, I’m planning on doing some foraging tomorrow. Evelyn and I will head back to the lake in the morning to survey the muddy lakebed for mollusks and try to catch some fish. Our cave is a safe distance from it, so we’re unlikely to be bothered by predators hanging out at the watering hole. Evelyn thinks we might also find some tubers and tiger nuts in the water. The starches might help temper the flavor of any mud-dwellers we catch. If we do manage to catch any. I was excited to put my experimental archaeology skills to use, but it turns out my stone-napping is a bit rusty. I managed to slice my fingers on the flakes, but finally turned out something that’s curved almost like a hook. Find a couple worms and we’ll be all set.

I expect we won’t be able to send back this report or any others for a day or two, until we make a trip back to the Dome, so fingers crossed we’ll have even more good news then. Maybe the drone can take a couple selfies of us with Mr. Upright!


Week 4, Day 4

from: Evelyn Willoughby

to: Pia Schuster

subject: Late night musings


I’m writing this by moonlight, with the sky half-obscured by clouds. Excuse the sloppiness of handwriting and any orthographic mistakes. My eyes are more owlish without artificial illumination, and I don’t want to wake Andrea. I wouldn’t have thought it possible, but she’s an even lighter sleeper than you. Meanwhile I can (and have, if the trip across Mont Blanc counts) snore through an avalanche. I have no desire to deprive her of more sleep than this excursion already has; the tinge of exhaustion makes her more brash. At least she’s shown no irritability. During our training she said that was most likely to come if ever she were to get mildly dehydrated. Fortunately we’ve been well-supplied in water since arriving here.

As you may have guessed, I’m on watch at the edge of our cave shelter. So far the only visitors we’ve had are a handful of bats, three very large yellow and black spiders, their legs practically the length of my fingers, and two of the largest snakes I’ve ever seen—at least as long as I am tall. The arachnids, of course, were my undoing. I’ve placed my sleeping bag as far from their corner of the cave as possible without actually being outdoors. Each night I wrap myself so tightly in mosquito netting I feel as if I might suffocate. Andrea, on the other hand, has spent several hours sketching the spiders and observing their web formation and the hapless prey they feed on. Yet she positively started when I pointed out the first of the snakes before herding it back outside. You’d think I would be the one with ophidiophobia after that terrible bite, but I’m still more fascinated than repulsed. This seems a serious evolutionary failure on the part of my brain, but it certainly helps my ego to know that there is something that makes Andrea balk. Neither of the two snakes looked like the venomous species that we believe live in this area, so there was no real reason for concern.

The nadir of all my worried energy remains, as ever, the hominins living a kilometer or so from us. We’ve been in this cave three days and have already learned to time our explorations very precisely. First, we send out the Beetle to do a brief survey of the area. That’s what Andrea decided to nickname our tiny eBee single-wing autonomous drone, since it’s equipped with an infrared camera. I find it looks more similar to a swallow, or a hawk on the hunt, but she insists this nickname is appropriate since some beetles have infrared vision. I suppose it’s an improvement on her first suggestion of “Bed Bug,” chosen for the same reason. Frankly, it’s not an ability I want to think about those bloodsuckers using.

The Beetle is programmed to return when all heat signatures similar to our own have left the area. That’s when we head out. The hominins exploit the lake much more than we initially anticipated, so I’ve limited our foraging to thirty-minute-long intervals. It does making fishing a challenge, but Andrea has proven her skills by catching three small fish of a species we haven’t been able to identify. I’ve also collected a shirt-full of tiger nuts and we boiled those last night to go with the fish. After attempting to eat several, I can only say I understand how such plants might leave scratches on the enamel of teeth that last one million years. Thinking about eating them raw makes my jaw ache.

 Despite the Beetle’s best effort, it’s still impossible to determine where the hominins make camp at night. Andrea speculates it might be in a cave, where their heat signature is hidden. My hypothesis is that, like gorillas, they have no set dwelling and move from one location to the next with each passing night. We’re both eager to directly observe them hunting or scavenging a kill site, so we’ve spent several hours each day perched in the highest available trees to watch the action unfold. Plenty of lions, giant hyenas, jackals and leopards patrol the area, stalking herds of antelopes and the stray hog. But we have yet to spot a successful kill, and so the waiting continues.

A confession: I fell asleep in my tree for twenty minutes yesterday. Between the heat, the constant tension, the broken nights of sleep and the relative comfort of my seating, unconsciousness simply stole over me. I plan to start carrying caffeine lozenges in my bag. It would be just my luck to expend so much energy in keeping us out of harm’s way only to fall out of a tree and break my neck.

It’s nearly the end of my watch, and my eyes are aching. I’m off to wake Andrea up, then fall asleep and search for you in my dreams.

Dein ist mein ganzes Herz,


Field Notes, Week 3: Olduvai Gorge

Week 3, Day 4

from: Andrea Chang

to: Deborah and Michael Chang

subject: Smoke signals!

Dear Mom and Dad,

We saw smoke today! And almost certainly not from lightning or brush fires, because it hasn’t stormed in three days. We’re one million years back in the past, and we’ve seen literal smoke signals, and that means we’re probably only about six kilometers from what might be fellow hominins! I’m sure you’re both thinking up worst-case scenarios already, or picturing something like the beginning of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but no need to worry just yet. Evelyn is fastidiously cautious in all her decisions. She kept me from sprinting in that direction. Not that I would’ve sprinted. Running that fast is noisy. I would’ve approached gingerly. But it’s a moot point, as we were nowhere near enough for any fire-making creatures to hear us.

The way it happened was like this: We’ve found a good dozen handaxes at this point, and a pile of manuports, which are unshaped stones that don’t match the local geology. They’re the raw material for toolmakers, and presumably get transported to the hearth area from some stone formation farther away. If the idea of hearths even exist yet. We’re still not sure if Homo erectus were nomadic hunter-gatherers who never stayed in one place longer than a week, or if they had more long-term home bases. Answering that question might point us in the direction of more discoveries about culture and social structures, things that are in Evelyn’s wheelhouse.

Anyway, we were hiking to a stand of trees where Batty (that’s what I’ve named our drone, seeing as he’s disguised to look like one) had spotted nocturnal heat signatures when we saw the smoke. The landscape is uneven here, full of inclines and divots, so it’s hard to make anything out unless you’re standing on a tall hill or up in a tree. I wanted to investigate immediately, but Evelyn thought it would be safer to send Batty first. She said there might be dozens of them, and they might take us as threats, and they’re undoubtedly better outdoors-people than we are, so they’d probably track us straight back to the shelter. It was the better idea, I know. But we’d forgotten Batty’s remote control device, so we couldn’t send him out until we got back, and then it was another couple of hours before he came back with his video data. The fire was out, and there were no more hominins on the ground. It looks like they did leave behind some animal bones and piles of feces, so we’ll head there tomorrow once Batty gives us the all-clear. Can you imagine sampling million-year-old stool that’s actually only a day old?! I’ve never been so excited about poop before! We’ll learn so much about their diets!

Seeing as we might be on the verge of making contact with our ancient cousins, I am definitely having some trouble calming down enough to sleep. We’ve seen an amazingly diverse array of animals that are extinct in the 21st century (Evelyn and I were playing Pleistocene Bingo and she just nudged me out yesterday when we saw a Kolpochoerus limnetes, which is this super ugly hog, with huge tusks curving up around its snout and bulgy bone flaring out beneath its eyes), but it still hasn’t entirely sunk in that we might see other living hominins. It’s like getting ready to make first contact with aliens. Here we are on this blue marble of a planet, just Evelyn and I out here, and yet we’re not alone. Creatures almost like us, who might be almost as intelligent and social as us, live all around. It’s thrilling and terrifying and surreal all at once.

Alright, I’m going to ask Evelyn if she’ll share her meditation recordings. Maybe that’ll calm me down a bit. Thanks for sending us back with dehydrated brownies! We just had the last ones today, to celebrate surviving more than 20 days in the past. I love and miss you both!



Week 3, Day 4

from: Evelyn Willoughby

to: Pia Schuster

subject: Change on the horizon

Pia, my love,

Andrea just requested the loan of my “meditation recording thingy” so she could try and calm herself after what was indeed a thrilling day. She tried writing a letter to her parents, she said, and that didn’t quite do the trick. She was “too wired up” to even attempt sleeping.

I gladly shared my pod-play device, though now I could use some meditation myself. If only I’d downloaded multiple copies of that app before we left. One for her pod as well. Far too late for that now. Internet service won’t exist for another .99 million years.

Pia, you can understand more than anyone how envious I am of her relationship with her parents. I wish I could send letters to mine, or know that they were looking after you while I’m away. I would’ve loved a batch of my mother’s honey cookies to take for the journey back. Please tell me, after you’ve read this letter and had your own approved by Mission Control to send back with the next resupply drop, if you think I ought to send them a note. If they’re even at the same address. I guard hope like a single red ember. Someday they might change their minds about me. About us.

I’d like to blame stress for this mood I’m in, but truthfully, I’ve never been more pleased with our work. In three weeks we’ve done a general survey, set up a small weather station to collect data, tagged and sampled so much organic material it could fill a community museum. I hope Mission Control is keeping everything under tight quarantine. The last thing our Earth needs is an invasive species time-jumping. I’ll never understand the urge to resurrect the mammoths. Don’t we have enough ecological conundrums on our hands without worrying about how a previously-extinct species would take to a strange new world?

Today we sighted a plume of smoke, the black ash rising into the sky like a beacon. Once again I had to prevent Andrea from shooting towards it, but this time I wanted to go charging forward nearly as much as she did. It was a struggle to stay cautious and composed. It was a thrilling sign of hominin life after our earlier encounter with death.

The only thing I can point to for this foul miasma of discontent are the anti-malarial tablets. I am grateful we have such medicines to take, of course. I’ve known far too many field researchers with horror stories about botflies and kissing bugs and ticks. But the pills always upset my stomach and disrupt my mind. I feel unmoored. As if I were tightrope walking between two worlds, the one I’m in and the one I left behind, and neither one is quite real. The only thing that feels real now is my memory of you, your body next to mine, your breath against my hair. “All that touches us, you and me,/ takes us, together, like the stroke of a bow,/ that draws one chord out of the two strings./ On what instrument are we strung?/ And what artist has us in their hand?”

A mad artist indeed, to separate two lovers by time itself.

Wishing you could explore this same land with me,

            Your Evie

Field Notes, Week 2: Olduvai Gorge

Week 2, Day 2

from: Andrea Chang

to: Jun Nakamura

subject: So there was this saber-tooth cat…

Dear Jun,

You’re the very first person I wanted to write to, the minute we got here. But first we had to make reports to Mission Control (the gist of it: we emptied our stomachs and part of our small intestines, but all our atoms seem stuck together). Since then we’ve been so busy every day measuring the area and collecting samples, I’ve barely had a moment to catch my breath, let alone write to my best friend.

I miss you. Why couldn’t you have pursued a degree in archaeology or geology or dendochronology, something useful instead of dumb computer science? Didn’t I tell you the Silicon Valley start-ups were all run by hipster vampires? Maybe if you’d picked something else you’d be here with me instead of stick-in-the-mud Evelyn. Actually, that’s being harsh on mud. At least it’s viscous. At least it budges.

I know I shouldn’t complain. She’s the one who survived a reality TV experience on some desert island (though she refuses to talk about, and I’m like—why even bother being on a show like that if you don’t harvest the experience for great stories?!). She’s spent more time in the field than me. She has a much harder job. She makes the executive decisions, protects us from natural disasters, keeps us (read: me) from getting chomped by some ferocious feline—which is a very real possibility if the carcass we found is anything to go by. Our first hominin happened to be a dead one, of course. This honestly did scare me, considering what almost happened when I was out there.

But I’m going to dangle you in suspense until I’m all done griping. Clearly all turned out well, since here I am writing to you.

As I was saying. She has every reason to play it safe. Death, disfigurement, and maiming could come from several dozen sources out here. But I swear she’s so cautious it borders on paranoia. I’ve been forbidden from going off on my own except to our latrines. She insists we get back to the shelter before the sun even touches the horizon, and then we spend the hours before going to sleep organizing samples to take to the Mystery Box in the morning. We’ve collected lots of rocks, water samples, and botanical samples—including this amazing orange flower that looks like Canarina eminii—and the bits we collected from the dead hominin. The chirocopter drone recently discovered some forested areas with heat signatures that might also be hominins. And I might’ve discovered a new species of arachnid! He’s cute, the size of my thumbnail with crimped legs and blue stripes. I searched our database and couldn’t find anything like him. Back to the 21st century he goes tomorrow, along with this letter. I hope they let me name him!

There’s just so much more I want to do! How are we ever going to find any Homo erectus camps if we don’t go out there? I’m determined to uncover some proof that the Nutracker man (Paranthropus boisei, as he’s formally known) overlapped with Mr. Upright (i.e. Homo erectus). And if, God forbid, Evelyn says that’s too dangerous, I’d at least like to visit Mount Suswa to set up some insect traps and do a few wildlife surveys. I have a hypothesis that eruptions might have made things evolve more rapidly by isolating groups. You either adapt, or you die out.

Alright, I suppose I’ve stretched your patience long enough. Time for the cat story.

This was a week ago, right before Evelyn instituted the no-travel-alone rule. I’d hiked to a nearby freshwater stream to scope out the wildlife and was sitting in the shade with my sketch pad when a bush rustled nearby. I looked over my shoulder and there, just ten meters away, crouched a saber-tooth cat. At least that’s what I think it was. I thought I saw fangs, but they’re supposed to have disappeared from Africa half-a-million years ago. Anyway, you probably won’t be surprised that I didn’t have the presence of mind to really identify it. But it was huge and had striped brown fur and I’ve never felt so much like prey. My skin went very cold, and my heart jumped into turbo speed as we eyed each other. The lab techs developed this spray for us to wear that’s mostly odorless but is supposed to repulse carnivores, and maybe that’s why it didn’t attack right away. I also had my bear mace and ultra-high-voltage taser with me—I’m eager to be in the field, but I’m not stupid—and I pulled both out and shot a burst of mace at the cat. It wrinkled its nose, flattened its huge ears, growled and backed away.

I got lucky. I don’t want to trust my luck next time. Other good news: it didn’t seem to be hunting in a group. One, I could take. Maybe two. Not more. Clearly, if the poor dead hominin is any example. You can imagine just how horrified I was when we found it, and I saw in graphic detail what could’ve happened to me. But my excitement always overcomes my fear, and much faster than common sense suggests it should.

The moral of the story might be that Evelyn is right and I’m a grumpy badger. I didn’t tell her about the cat because the last thing I need is to give my expedition leader a heart attack. I promise I’ll do a better job listening to her and looking after myself, so you can yell at me for all the close calls when I get back.

Your friend thru time,


Week 2, Day 3

from: Evelyn Willoughby

to: Mission Control

subject: Week 2 Update

Ten days into the expedition we’re acclimating well to the Rift System environment. As suspected, there are adequate sources of freshwater near our camp, so we haven’t been overly reliant on the Dome’s recycling system. Our food supplies are holding strong; we discovered the cache left behind by the earlier Tipler Dome drop on our second day of reconnaissance. We are both in good health after recovering from the initial jump, and both have iron levels that are back to normal. We are both continuing to follow the prescribed regimen of anti-malarial, anti-fungal, and anti-bacterial medications.

The only immediate obstacle at this point is complacency. Andrea worries we won’t find anymore hominins before our eight weeks are over and we jump to the next location and time. It’s true that the drones have yet to positively identify any hominin encampments, and our ground-penetrating radar surveys haven’t turned up anything useful, but it’s still early into this first leg of our journey. I wanted to use the X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy machine so we can at least gain an idea of where the hominins might have been recently, but the device broke during our jump back. If the engineers send instructions on how to repair it with the next resupply drop, I’ll try to get it working.

I do wish a larger group could’ve traveled here. I understand the reasons for limiting our team to two, the increasing risk that comes with every additional person. But the obstacles that prove so difficult to such a small crew would easily be overcome by a group of five or six. Field exploration, for example. We’ve been hindered by the need to travel together for safety. It’s a necessary precaution, given what we saw of the hominin remains. But even with robotic assistance—the chirocopter and eBee drones—we can only get so far each day. I hesitate to move our campsite without a clear reason as to the advantages of doing so. The farther we are from the Tipler Dome, or as Andrea affectionately calls it, the “Mystery Box,” the more exposed we make ourselves to predators, and the more our presence might scare off other hominins. How are we to know whether they’ll see us as more successful hunters, as threats to themselves? There are so many things that might go wrong.

You’ll see from the samples that despite some disagreements over how to explore the region, we’ve been highly productive. I remain optimistic about our chances of observing Homo erectus in its native environment, perhaps by encountering a scavenging group. In the coming days, we’ll set the drone to keep an eye out for any grazers taken down by local carnivores. My hope is that in visiting the kill site after the largest feeders have eaten their full, we may observe scavengers in action, including our hominin relatives.

I’ve attached our field log from the week below this note. Please advise if any samples fail to come through.

Field leader Evelyn Willoughby

Field Notes, Week 1: Olduvai Gorge

Week 1, Day 1

from: Andrea Chang

to: Mission Control

subject: Arrival and survival

Greetings from the Pleistocene! We’ve successfully arrived near Olduvai Gorge, exactly 1 million years before present (BP). The crazy thing is, it doesn’t look so much different from when I visited Tanzania for field school. Dusty red valleys and hills. Scrubby brush and stands of trees and mountains on the horizon. Enough old rocks to give the geologists work for weeks—though they’re a million years younger than they were for me yesterday. I thought the air at least would smell different. Cleaner. It’s not like I expected a herd of Pelorovis buffalo to go rumbling by, or that we’d land in the middle of some Homo erectus structures. But I did think something in me would feel unsettled by the jump back. Something in my psyche, that is. My physical body is absolutely feeling it. Maybe I’ve got time lag and my brain won’t judder into synch with the world till tomorrow.

The ride in the Tipler Dome felt pretty much like what it was: forcing a body through many millennia, against its will, and only barely keeping the cells from spinning off into individual identity crises because this is clearly not within the bounds of nature. I think a few of you know how the avian flu feels? Even without firsthand experience of that particular bug, I can say this was worse. My bones still feel like Play-Doh that’s been squished through an extruder to make spaghetti. My skin went hot, then so cold it was like I’d been doused in nitrogen. Meanwhile my stomach slingshotted around the planet in low Earth orbit even though I couldn’t really sense movement, so to speak. The combination of three-day fast and monthlong iron-removal diet seems to have saved us from internal bleeding; neither of us are exhibiting any symptoms. Though at this point I almost wish I’d just died and gotten it over with. I took my iron pill and drank the anti-nausea shake, but that’s about all I can stomach right now.

Evelyn is still walking circles around the campsite trying to get her head screwed back on. I’d join her if I could stand on two feet without falling over. Writing is about as far as I can get.

Since that was the longest jump back in time, I’m hoping it’s the worst of the symptoms. I’ll make note for the next jump forward to record whether the nausea goes away more rapidly, or if it even comes at all.

Unfortunately at this point there’s no way of knowing if we landed on the best day or week or year or century to make our observations. No sign of life yet except the trees and a few flying bugs. I’ll set traps tomorrow and try to locate the closest watering hole. There should be a perennial freshwater lake within of a few kilometers of here. Till then, it’s songs around the campfire and rehydrated rice and beans. Just as soon as the both of us relocate our stomachs.

Until next time,


Week 1, Day 5

from: Evelyn Willoughby

to: Pia Schuster

subject: Our first week

My love,

The sky weighs heavily on us this evening. Darkness has never felt so dangerous. I’m reminded of our dear Rilke, of course. “The first word that you ever spoke was: light. Thus time began. For long you said no more. Man was your second, and a frightening word, (the sound of it still shrouds us in its night).”

Man may be why we’ve come here, but he’s also the only creature keeping me awake with nerves. Herbivores could stomp through our campsite, hunters like the giant short-faced hyena may sniff their way to us in search of a midnight meal, venomous serpents and poisonous arachnids could creep into our enclosure—yet none of those frighten me as much as our first encounter with the Upright Man.

This morning, only our fifth day since arriving, we came across the chewed carcass of some hominin approximately 4 kilometers from our campsite. Its skull was covered in puncture wounds, its ribs torn open and organs devoured. Flies had obscured its features, but they scattered as soon as we approached. In the poor creature’s hand was a teardrop-shaped tool—a handaxe—and I found traces of fiber around its neck. Could it be decorative? A necklace? Or simply the wind having blown some debris onto it after death? Its remains were too torn apart for positive identification. I suspect it’s a Homo erectus, but its teeth are on the large side and its body on the small side, leading Andrea to suggest it might be Paranthropus boisei. A body is so much different than bones. The muscle, the skin, the hair—this was a real being. Not just an ancient skeleton.

We took a blood sample and will return to the remains for further study once it’s a less popular source of food. Several small hyenas were circling the area as we made our observations.  

The dead hominin isn’t particularly surprising: a clear example of predation by a large cat, with subsequent scavenging by other carnivores. No, what frightened me more than I expected was the leopard lying just beyond the hominin, stab wounds in its sides. Andrea believes it may have been a young adolescent hunting with its mother, as leopards usually hunt individually. The animal hasn’t been butchered in any way, though perhaps it will be. Something with tools killed that cat. Something that might’ve been fighting alongside the other hominin. Something that survived and escaped. If they can kill fanged, clawed wild animals, certainly they’d have no trouble killing us.

I’m trying to avoid apocalyptic thoughts and focus on more immediate challenges, such as reigning in Andrea’s impetuous impulses. Just yesterday she ventured to a nearby lake on her own. Without awaiting the results of the aerial survey from our chirocopter, disguised overnight in a cloud of bats. We planned on using the drone’s data to look for heat signatures around the area.

When Andrea returned, she reported that she’d found a small lake. Her cheeks were flushed. Excitement, and likely dehydration. The temperature hovers around 30 degrees C, and she’d forgotten to bring a water filter along with her Camelback pouch. When I expressed my concern at her departure and the need to coordinate our schedules, she merely pointed out that her radio had remained attached to her hip the entire time. “And you can always find me with that transponder thingy,” she added, referring to the bio-tracks they installed in our wrists.

We analyzed the chirocopter data together. There wasn’t much to see at that point. The drone picked up heat signatures for small mammals and what we guessed to be a pride of lions. But nothing at all humanoid. Even today, after we found the carcass, the drone hasn’t identified anything else in a 20km radius that might be a hominin. Perhaps the group to which our dead specimen belonged was traveling quickly through the area.

Even after our discovery today, Andrea still argues she should be allowed to undertake individual outings. She says we’ll cover more ground that way. I managed to argue her down. You know how dangerous excitement can be when out in the field. I remember that yellow-bellied sea snake bite, and everything else that went wrong on that damned survival reality TV show.

Part of my discomfort in ordering her around is that she already thinks me matronly. We both know I don’t have a single maternal bone in my body, but 41 may appear dowdy to a 30-year-old. For now, she sleeps, and seems unconcerned by the enormity of our undertaking.

Home for the moment is a spacious tent erected in the shelter of a shallow rocky depression. One couldn’t call it a cave; there isn’t a full roof above us. But its three walls do lessen the feeling of exposure. The grayish green fabric doesn’t entirely blend with the red rock of the gorge, but nearby trees provide some cover. The Tipler Dome remains in its landing spot, its chameleon skin working almost perfectly to help it blend into the landscape. The engineers and physicists agreed on little, but one of the things they did both conclude was that it should be nearly indestructible.

It’s nearing midnight, if wristwatches can still be trusted after a jump backward in time. I long to sleep, but in this wilderness before our species evolved, I find myself lonelier than I have ever been. To think that you won’t even be born for another one million years is more than my mind can fathom. Instead I’ll look at the moon. Even if the light from the stars has changed between us, the moon is our constant anchor. Watching it, I’m with you.

Gute nacht, mein schatz,


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