Posts Tagged ‘geography’

From London to Jeju: a trip to South Korea

My name is Annabelle Wilkins and I’m a final-year PhD student here in the School of Geography. In September, I was invited to participate in the first academic conference to be held at North London Collegiate School on the island of Jeju, South Korea. Jeju is located off the southern coast of the mainland, around an hour’s flight from the capital, Seoul. The island is incredibly diverse, with volcanic peaks, idyllic beach resorts, hiking trails and a rapidly developing urban centre, and is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Views of the island from Sunrise Peak, at the top of one of its many volcanoes.

Views of the island from Sunrise Peak, at the top of one of its many volcanoes.

 

NLCS Jeju was established in 2011, and is one of a growing number of international schools on the island. The school offers a British curriculum including the IGCSE, A-Level and the International Baccalaureate. In addition to NLCS, the island has also supported schools affiliated with institutions in Canada and the US, all of which are located in the recently developed Global Education City. The majority of pupils at these schools are Korean students, many of whom are planning to study at some of the world’s leading universities.

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Contrasting architecture in Seoul, where visitors can stay in restored traditional houses looking out over the modern city.

 

I was one of seven visiting academics invited to take part in the conference, participating alongside a mathematician, a classicist, a composer and a poet. The theme of the conference was based around improving subject knowledge. We were encouraged to introduce the teachers to our research interests and to suggest ideas for how they might develop and enhance their lessons and teaching methods. Before the conference itself, I also spent two days working with Year 12 and 13 students who study Geography as part of the IB syllabus. I introduced them to geographies of home and my research on Vietnamese migrants in East London, as well as talking to them about globalisation, migration and identity.

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Presenting my research to Year 12 and 13 geography students in one of the school boarding houses.

 

During the three days of the conference, each academic gave a lecture about their research to an audience of teachers from different subjects. I gave talks to staff from Maths, Chemistry, Languages and PE departments, among others, which made for some fascinating question and discussion sessions as people contributed ideas from their own backgrounds. Once they discovered that the focus of my research is on home and migration, many teachers were keen to share their personal experiences of being an expatriate teacher living in South Korea, and the objects and practices that helped them to create a sense of home.

Statue of the Buddha at Sangbansan temple, Jeju.

Statue of the Buddha at Sangbansan temple, Jeju.

 

In addition to presenting my research, I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to meet the Geography teachers and share some ideas as to how they might be able to enhance their teaching on globalisation and migration. I introduced them to critical geographies of home and other research by academics here at QMUL, and they were keen to incorporate these perspectives into the syllabus. By the end of the three days, we were discussing how to devise projects about students’ bedrooms and their material culture, possible interviews with the school’s cleaners, who used to work on the land around the school building, and inter-generational interviews between students and older people on the island. I had a brilliant experience at NLCS and also had time for trips to some of the island’s amazing beaches, temples and museums.

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A woman diver selling her catch of seafood – women divers are famous within Jeju’s island heritage.

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Hyopjae, one of Jeju’s beautiful beaches.

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Sunset in Moseulpo, a fishing village close to the school on Jeju.

Sharing PhD experiences in Edinburgh

My name is Alexandra Boyle and I’m a PhD student here in the School of Geography.

This summer, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh. I went to present the initial results of my PhD research ‘Exploring the emotional and spatial dimensions of communication technology use among older adults in contemporary London’.

 

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Collected my conference pack for the 5th International and Interdisciplinary Conference on Emotional Geographies at the John McIntyre Conference Centre in Edinburgh.

Arthur's Seat, Edinburgh and the conference centre

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

Set against the stunning backdrop of Arthur’s Seat, the University of Edinburgh turned on a fantastic conference (and the weather!) for 3 days of interactive learning, socialising and networking and delicious food!

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Looking out over the historic city of Edinburgh.

 

I stayed on site at the University of Edinburgh accommodation which made me particularly nostalgic for my days as an undergraduate at Arana College at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand (with Dunedin coincidentally founded by the Scottish in 1848 and the name ‘Dunedin’ the Gaelic translation of Edinburgh. The two cities remain sister cities to this day!).

Although I was inevitably nervous about presenting, the conference was a unique opportunity to present the findings of my research to a community of like-minded scholars. The conference allowed me to test out ideas in a support environment and gain critical feedback that will help me to refine my research. The conference also provided a platform to meet interesting PhD students from Taiwan, Singapore, the UK and the Netherlands and share amongst each other our PhD experiences.

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Dr Joyce Davidson presenting her plenary session

With a diverse calendar of events not only were there daily plenary sessions with preeminent scholars in the field, namely Professor Liz Bondi and Dr Joyce Davidson who were co-authors (along with Mick Smith) of the seminal book ‘Emotional Geographies’ which helped to establish emotional geographies as discipline, but also the opportunity to participate in field trips, a drinks reception and the conference dinner…and I managed to find time to squeeze in a trip to the top of Arthur’s Seat!

My penultimate year at QMUL Geography

From volunteering in North London to travelling in a helicopter in New Zealand, my penultimate year at Queen Mary has been exceptionally busy but nonetheless another great and exciting year.

I’ve travelled to the other side of the world, become the President of a volunteer group, achieved a Silver Green Impact Award, undertaken environmental audit training and even presented my dissertation project to prospective students. Just when I think there are no more things to be involved in, another springs up and at the end of my second year with the ‘what will I do next?’ question looming, this year has definitely provided me with countless options.

In March I travelled to New Zealand for a 10-day field trip around the South Island. The scenery was breathtaking and it was definitely a trip of a lifetime! We got to take a helicopter ride up to the Franz Josef Glacier which we walked across. We went on many walks through valleys, exploring the processes that shaped them and discussed how they might look in the future, which affirmed the knowledge we’d gained from lectures leading up to the trip. Skills developed on fieldtrips like this such as filling out field notebooks and documenting results outside of the lab have definitely prepared me for my dissertation.

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Tasman Proglacial Lake, New Zealand

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The obligatory task of measuring rocks for clast shape analysis (a must for any Geography student)

Since my first year I have been involved in the QMUL Canal Clean Up Volunteer group who are affiliated with Thames 21 who kindly provide equipment, training and most importantly extra pairs of hands on events! From simply volunteering at an event on campus got to know more about Thames 21, the work they do and the opportunities of leadership training. By undertaking the training, I am now the President of the group as well as an Event Support Team Member for Thames 21 outside of university. I recently helped lead an event in Edmonton, North London, where a buried river is being resurfaced to create a wetland. I’ve developed my team work skills, organisation capabilities and learnt to work to a schedule as on events you can be working with 20 or so people. These skills are going to be transferable into the workplace but primarily I really enjoy helping out and using what I learn at university to teach others the science and reasoning behind such projects like the one in Edmonton.

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All the volunteers getting ready for a canal clean up!

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The 2015 Green Impact Awards

In my first year, I also got involved with Green Impact which aims to make the university more sustainable and environmentally aware. Having achieved Bronze last year, my team has completed the Silver Award. Again, being organised, able to achieve on a deadline as well as working and communicating with a team are all skills I’ve gained from the experience here at QMUL, but still it’s being able to put what you study and understand into practice while working with like-minded people that I enjoy most about Green Impact. Through being a Green Impact Project Assistant, I was able to undertake an IEMA approved audit training. It was an insightful day where I got to see what other Green Impact Teams were doing as well as developing experience and skills that will set me in good stead after I graduate.

Now…to get ready for my final year… 🙂

Durham and beyond: geographers head North East!

Hi everyone! Below is a glimpse into my recent field trip to the North East as part of the first year of my BA Geography course – enjoy!

Sunday 29th March 2015, Day 1:

Here comes a Queen Mary Geography cohort! A six-hour journey leads us to the North East. This evening, we have a lecture from economic geographer Dr Stuart Dawley, from the University of Newcastle. Dr Dawley provides us with a historical view on the North East’s development challenges. The opportunity to questions is taken and concludes the day.

The street of our student accommodation at St Chad's College, North Bailey

The street of our student accommodation at St Chad’s College, North Bailey

 

Monday 30th March 2015, Day 2: 

Economics and society. We experience stories of the North East at Beamish Open Air Museum, situated in years 1825 and 1913, by talking to actors and touring the area. Our class then splits into smaller groups and my group travels to Newcastle to explore science-led regeneration in Newcastle Science City and the Centre for Life.

Many groups from the community are brought together for science in Newcastle's Centre for Life

Many community groups are brought together for science in Newcastle’s Centre for Life

 

Tuesday 31st March 2015, Day 3:

Politics and austerity. My group attends a talk from Simon Magorian (Newcastle Unites) regarding austerity’s effects on racism in Newcastle. We then carry out street surveys, establishing local thoughts on Newcastle. Our class also gets to question Councillor Nick Forbes, leader of Newcastle City Council on city-wide political issues. Before returning to Durham, we visit to the magnificent Angel of The North.

The Angel of the North

The Angel of the North

Sculpture of swans taking flight at the Civic Centre, where offices of Newcastle City Council are located

Sculpture of swans taking flight at the Civic Centre, where offices of Newcastle City Council are located

 

Wednesday 1st April 2015, Day 4:

Health and austerity. We attend a lecture on regional health inequalities by Professor Clare Bambra, an academic at the University of Durham. After this, the class fragments into groups again and my group meet Elouise Robinson (Sunderland City Council). Elouise shares various health schemes introduced by the city. In the evening, we perform role-plays, testing our knowledge of health inequalities in the region!

One of the buildings on Durham University's campus where Professor Bambra's lecture was held

A building on the Durham University campus where Professor Bambra’s lecture was held

 

Thursday 2nd April 2015, Day 5:

Saying goodbye! We have breakfast and return our room keys; the end of the trip is here. I feel grateful for this extremely beneficial field trip and I recommend it to every first year human geographer. If you join QMUL Geography, I hope you thoroughly enjoy your academic experience in the North East!

The historic Durham Cathedral overlooks the River Wear, basking in the afternoon sun

The historic Durham Cathedral overlooks the River Wear, basking in the afternoon sun

 

Some more photos:

Beamish Open Air Museum-

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Newcastle City Centre-

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Smile! Geographer on camera to help BBC get behind drills, dentures and dentistry

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PhD student in the School of Geography Kristin Hussey

Most people tend to think of academics and postgraduate students as always buried in books in some dusty archive or whiling away behind a computer screen. I think you would be surprised at all of the different research activities we actually get up to. Not to say we don’t do those things; as a historical geographer, books, archives and museums are the reality of my day to day. But now more than ever it’s important to reach out and engage audiences with our research in new ways. Sometimes, this can mean actually getting in front of a camera and discussing your interests with a broadcast audience!

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Kristin talks about her previous research into dental surgery during WWI with prize-winning writer, historian and author of the BBC’s Eyewitness audiobooks, presenter Professor Joanna Bourke.

In the past I’d assumed you needed to be a lecturer before your opinion was sought out for on-camera interviews, but actually there seems to be a growing interest in history and historical research. I know I personally tune in to all sorts of shows along the lines of ‘Secret Killers of the Victorian Home’ to hear historians give me all the gruesome details. I’d never thought as a PhD student I’d have the opportunity to be on camera, so when I was asked to be interviewed by Professor Joanna Bourke for her one-hour special ‘Drills, Dentures and Dentistry: An Oral History’, I didn’t know where to begin!

In the show I’m actually discussing research I carried out in my previous position as Assistant Curator of the Hunterian Museum on dental surgery in the First World War. While my time period of interest has remained roughly the same, I’m now studying in the School of Geography at Queen Mary University of London to examine the influence of the empire and the development of British medicine in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Fortunately my supervisors have been very supportive of my continuing with any talks or appearances I’m offered on the subject of my previous work. It’s important to remember that your PhD is just one project in your broader career!

With no media experience at all, QMUL was absolutely fantastic at giving me some pointers on what to do on the day. Everything from how to dress to pattern of speaking can be very important. What I don’t think anyone prepared me for was how very hard filming can be. Hours upon hours under the hot lights becomes exhausting – especially when you don’t have a script and so you need to try and come up with an answer on the spot with the camera rolling! It doesn’t really matter how well you know your topic that can be tricky. Also, in order to get the interview from a variety of shots, you need to repeat yourself many times. I’m sure I gave wildly different answers in each take, so that’s definitely something to work on for the future. I was incredibly impressed by Joanna Bourke’s calm and professionalism doing this exhausting work.

Overall it was an interesting experience and I hope I’ll have another opportunity to give TV history a go as my PhD research progresses!

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The BBC programme was filmed at the Royal College of Surgeons here in London.

If you’d like to read more about my research, click through to my profile page on the School of Geography website.

Watch now on BBC iPlayer (Kristin at 44.30) or read more about BBC 4’s Drills, Dentures and Dentustry: An Oral History. It aired on BBC 4 on March 30th at 9pm, 2015.

Made in Dharavi – Geographers head to Mumbai

We travelled to Mumbai, India, as part of our final year here at QMUL Geography – and here’s a bit more about the project we undertook exploring the economy that underpins one of the world’s largest slums, Dharavi.

For our project in India, my group conducted research on Dharavi’s leather industry and how leather is a local and global commodity. Dharavi is widely known as the largest slum in Mumbai, but less people know about the economic activity that occurs there!

 

Leather sheets in a factory

Leather sheets in one of the many factories in Dharavi

 

For the first part of our project, a tour guide took us around Dharavi, where we had the chance to go to various factories and see the leather production process in action. Most of the leather production process occurs in Dharavi, excluding tanning, due to the fact it is very polluting. The factories create the raw materials through several stages, and then the raw material is used to make leather products such as belts, wallets and bags.

 

Leather sheets

Leather sheets

 

After our tour of the slum, we were driven ten minutes down the road to Megha’s office, owner of Dharavi Market. Her company sells leather products, amongst many other items such as clothes, jewellery and clay pots, made by craftsmen living in Dharavi. The website aims to promote the work of people living and working in the slum and demonstrate that Dharavi is full of economic activity. She told us that ‘the whole point is to make Dharavi more visible, provide a platform and I want to make it more mainstream where regular people…who have this perception of the slum being this notorious area… I want to change that attitude and mind-set’. Furthermore, she explained that she also wants to improve Dharavi in many ways through her website – ”It’s not just going to be returns in terms of more business but also social good, so improve the lifestyle, the whole final aim would be to improve the living conditions [of Dharavi]”.

 

Dharavi Market (http://www.dharavimarket.com)

Dharavi Market (http://www.dharavimarket.com)

 

The people that make the products upload photos of their products to an Android app. After approving the items, Megha sells it online to international buyers. She explained that ‘it’s nice for them to know that people around the world are buying from them’. If you’re in need of some new products, her website is www.dharavimarket.com. You can choose from a wide range of commodities, while benefitting people living in Dharavi. They have a Facebook page too so make sure to check it out!

 

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market

Megha Gupta, owner of Dharavi Market and our team

Spreading the Love for Geography

If you’re someone that has a real love for geography and an urge to enthuse other students, then the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Ambassador Scheme could be just the thing for you to get involved with!

Celebration Day 2014 (jazz hands)

Geography Ambassadors at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) headquarters in Kensington, London

 

Undergraduates, postgraduates and graduates can all apply to become an ambassador and once you have attended a training session you are free to go and spread the love for geography in classrooms and beyond. Throughout all of your visits there is amazing support provided to you and any resources that you need are sent to you though the post, including your I LOVE GEOGRAPHY pencils… that yes, it is true, both students and teachers go crazy for!

I Love Geography Pencils to give out t0 the students

You can get in touch with teachers yourself or check  on the Facebook page where potential visits are added daily. Schools may ask for a wide range of visit topics for example:

  • I love geography sessions
  • Careers in geography
  • What is geography like at university?

…or maybe they would like you to come up with a fun entertaining geographical activity that will enthuse their students. Lets face it, we’ve all heard the phrase ‘isn’t geography just colouring in?’…as an RGS-IBG Ambassador it is your chance to erase that stereotype!

I got involved as an RGS-IBG Ambassador during my first year at Queen Mary University of London. I saw it as great opportunity as I hope to become a Secondary School Geography Teacher. However, even if you are not interested in becoming a teacher it doesn’t matter as along with the social aspect, this scheme provides you with lots more invaluable skills that would look great on any C.V.  My first session was a children’s lecture at the Royal Geographical Society at its headquarters in Kensington – just down the District Line from Queen Mary – it was a great way to kick start being an Ambassador. I got to meet fellow geographers from both QMUL and other universities and I received my Ambassador t-shirt!

Following on from this I attended three events at schools in London that I arranged myself. First up was a lunchtime session for a group of sixth formers who wanted to know what geography was like at university. Secondly I attended an Open Evening at Addey and Stanhope School to encourage students and their parents that taking geography as a GCSE option is a really great way to widen future horizons. The RGS-IBG Ambassador scheme provided me with loads of great resources to give to the school, the students and the parents. I later returned to Addey and Stanhope School and had the chance to do an after school session based entirely on my own ideas. So despite others opinions, I decided to take a laboratory  into the classroom and do soil analysis, even though my flat mates joked ‘so… your just going to talk to them about dirt?!’ it went down really well, the students loved it and I got amazing feedback. Soil analysis was something that I had been studying in my first year, I provided the equipment and soil samples with the help of the geography laboratory staff at QMUL, and in groups the students tested soil texture, soil pH and soil colour.

Testing the pH of the soil

Testing the pH of the soil

Concentrating on getting that pH value just right

Concentrating on getting that pH value just right

Analysing the soil texture

Analysing the soil texture

Not wanting to get their fingers dirty didn't last long!

Not wanting to get their fingers dirty didn’t last long!

Using the Munsell colour charts

Using the Munsell colour charts

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From the short talk that I gave the students even managed to make some university style notes

The students made some university style notes from the short talk that I gave

Becoming an RGS-IBG Ambassador is really simple, you can download the application form from the Geography Ambassador Scheme website and a training session is happening at QMUL on the 13th February 2015. The scheme is really flexible and allows you to do something different around all of your university studies. For me this scheme has provided me with so much confidence, I really enjoy every moment of it and I cannot wait to do another session and eventually become a geography  teacher! Whether in London or your home city, there are lots of students out there waiting for you to come to their school and spread the love for geography… so what are you waiting for?

RGS throwing

 

Room for an extra New Year’s resolution?

St Paul's Cathedral, London

Don’t let the Christmas spirit of giving fade throughout the year

Every year, before we know it, New Year’s day arrives and its time once again to make those promises to make a fresh start. We have just had Christmas when we opened our presents, in front of a warm fire and watched Christmas television slumped on the sofa full of the Christmas dinner that we shared with our families. Whatever your New Year’s resolution is, have you spared a thought this year for those who aren’t as privileged as ourselves?

I attended a series of lectures within the second year module Society, Culture and Space, with Professor Jon May, a human geography lecturer at QMUL who has undertaken considerable research concerning the geographies of homelessness. I realised and became extremely passionate about the immoral way that homeless people are treated. I believe that it is appalling that those with power are able to authorise the removal of a whole group of  people from places of investment and tourist attraction based solely on property ownership. At a time of hope and change I think now is the time that we need to think of those who don’t experience ‘fun’ at New Year and ask ourselves how can we use New Year’s resolutions to create a change for others and not just ourselves.

As well as studying my degree in BSc Geography, I am a Girl Guiding Leader at both a Rainbow and Brownie group.  During their Christmas sleepover the 296th St. Michael’s Brownie Pack in Birmingham decided to pack and decorate shoe boxes and doggy bags and give them to a local charity that provides shelter and festivities for those who are homeless or less fortunate. With help from the 1st Bartley Green Rainbows, warm accessories, toiletries, sweets and dog treats and accessories were donated, placed in shoe boxes and given as Christmas presents.

Streetlink is a website through which anyone can alert authorities in England to a rough sleeper in their area. It acts as the middle man passing on your information to those who can help. It is extremely simple and free to report a rough sleeper online and they keep in contact with you to ask for more information and keeping you informed about what they did to help the person you reported. Streetlink is a really easy way for you to make a homeless person a bit more comfortable this winter.

Make this your New Year’s resolution for 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR, lets make 2015 a good one!

 

Team Alps 2014: Luxurious (?) Alpine fieldwork

Hi all! My name is Cianna, and I am currently in the 2nd year of my PhD in Physical Geography, studying a specific type of glacial deposit in the European Alps. My research background includes hillslope and glacial geomorphology and sedimentology with research locations in the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Olympic Mountains in Washington, and the Southern Alps in New Zealand.

I clearly picked this vein of scientific research based on the places I know it can take me, and this summer, I had the wonderful opportunity to spend an entire month doing fieldwork in the Austrian Alps in between my first and second years. This was also an opportunity for four undergraduates, who are interested in Quaternary glacial dynamics and modern alpine river systems, in the summer before their third years to accomplish fieldwork for their dissertation projects

There is something to be gained from rugged, camping-based fieldwork, and I have had these experiences. But sometimes, it is nice to come back to a warm dining room at the end of a long day of digging with a four-course meal waiting. It is particularly nice to have this warm dining room (with Backgammon and tea) when an incredibly wet July has barred you from going outside for safety concerns.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.

Team Alps 2014 descends from the Schwarzensteinkees valley to the lower valleys (Waxeggkees in the background) and our accommodations (Berliner Hütte in the background). This is an example of a BEAUTIFUL alpine day, perfect for fieldwork.

 

 

The fieldwork group started as six, until my supervisor (Dr. Sven Lukas) left about 10 days in. Then, it was down to me doing my PhD fieldwork and monitoring four undergraduate students as they completed fieldwork for their dissertation projects. The undergraduates worked in pairs, while I was off to my study area (with interruptions from curious horses and attention-starved sheep). We would work from shortly after breakfast to shortly before dinner, when we would all meet up again to discuss the day’s progress, questions, and stories.

Curious Horses

A herd of horses spends summers in the Schwarzensteinkees valley, my primary study site. Some are curious and nosy, others keep to themselves. It is certainly nice to have some friendly faces around on long days!

 

Little Lamb

“Pay attention to meeee! I am so much more adorable than the rocks you are trying to measure!” A flock of sheep also spends the summer in the Schwarzenstienkees valley, and are quite needy for human attention.

The amenities provided by a popular Alpine hiking hut create quite cozy fieldwork. That is, until we were stuck inside for periods of days while stuck in a cloud of relentless downpour. We quickly tired of board games, cabin fever struck, and the drying room was a terrifying place of dampness and stink. As students, we seldom paid for a hot shower and instead learned the fine art of hut trough washes in the cold bathroom under near-icy water from the tap.

Foggy Day

An example of fieldwork in “The Cloud”. Sometimes, visibility was reduced to less than 5 meters! But, that’s still better than a relentless downpour…

 

Stay tuned for more about the scientific excitement (and the despair we overcame!)…

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