Mountainside Helicopter Pickup in Vietnam

My “day job” as an archaeologist is working for the Joint Prisoner of War Missing in Action Command (JPAC). One of my favorite parts about our assignments are the places we get to go and often how we get there (it’s the journey, right?!)

Due to the inaccessible nature of many of the places we’re interested in, we often fly in and out of our sites (the other times we drive, hitch onto logging trucks, boats, hike for miles over mountains, whatever). One of these days I swear we’re gonna ride water buffalos.

Anyway, this clip is from the end of an operation where we were up on a mountainside in Vietnam. We’d been dropped off by helicopter early in the day in order to bring in a few older folks in who had memories of where things were during the war and could show us around as part of a survey.

They dropped us off on a minimal landing pad quite literally carved out of the side of the mountain. The pilots didn’t want to set down fully so they dumped us and told us to radio for pickup at the end of the day.

This is the Mi-17 helicopter coming back in to pick us up. The rotor wash (wind being pushed outward by the rotors) off these things is pretty powerful once they get close. I had to shield my face (proving an IQ of at least 65) but subjected the GoPro to it, keeping it rolling as we loaded up to head out.

You really come to appreciate great piloting in situations like this. They never let us down (too quickly) and always got us where we need to go – for that I am much obliged!

Tokelau Day of Archaeology 2011

We made this video for the 2011 Day of Archaeology, an event that saw many other archaeologists around the world take a bit of time to provide an insight into their working day. It was great fun to make – thanks to everyone who agreed to be included – even if uploading it from Nukunonu proved to be a bit of a challenge!

I was on Nukunonu as a part of the Tokelau Science Education Research Project (TSERP), and this video includes many members of the team both local and outsider.

Check out the bigger project’s impressive results at:

Coral-Lined Well on a Pacific Atoll

Short film from archaeological reconnaissance survey on one of the remote islets of Nukunonu, featuring a follow-up interview with Mr. Ioane Nui Tumua facilitated by Mr. Mika Perez back in town on the main islet.

The location featured is a fresh/brackish water source. As Mr. Tumua indicates, it was (relatively) recently rebuilt however its use as a source of drinking water is likely to be of considerable time depth. He also remarks of a connection between the well and another important event on an atoll – precipitation.

In modern times most drinking water on Nukunonu is still collected – primarily from the metal roofs of houses. In the past, however, scarcity was more marked. Subterranean lenses such as the one featured here, as well as carved basins in the trunks of coconut trees and containers such as coconut shells themselves – used to gather and hold rainwater – were also critical sources even if you had to get to them by boat.

This video goes with the Motu Akea Well entry on the Big Picture Portfolio.