EPISODE 4 | FRAGMENTS OF EXTINCTION
The ecosystem awakening
Today, the element that never we perceived as more real and inevitable in our situation, it's arrived, announced by two Huaorani guides (Huampi and Timothy) which had sensed an hour before we can do and we don't know how and by what, maybe from under the foliage where you could not see the sky. We were in fact in a Saladero, an unspoilt area in south-east of the station, one of the hot spots of the forest where mammals and birds go for sourcing water and minerals, one of those places where there is always life. Huampi, the leader of the Huaorani communities border, Guijero, on the Rio Tiputini, had brought us there, at Saladero, the night before, sailing in fits and starts for 3 hours with motorized canoe between the logs of the dry bottom of the Tiputini. Arrived, canoe tied on the river, 30 minutes walk with all the technology to make the recordings at dusk, night and dawn; everything was fine except for the large reserve of energy (the car battery), which overturned by the porter, lost its charge in a few seconds. Everything was fine except when we arrived at Saladero there were no mammals or birds. We had been too clumsy and noisy with our backpacks and boots and having to be stationed in one of the steep roads into the saline, with our sweaty odors we had been probably 'mapped' for some time. We put the most challenging recording system inside the smallest Saladero to record at dawn, then we returned to the camp by the river, to the hammocks and mosquito nets ready for the night.
The next morning at 4:45, 3 of us left to the camp to set computers and most delicate parts and to be ready for the first light (about 5:30) that starts always the morning chorus of birds, in many areas of the Amazon, and that includes the impressive 'song' of the howler monkeys, the part of acoustic ecosystem that we perceive as 'dark' and ancestral. However, it was at 9.30 o'clock the arrival at Saladero of Karakara birds and Macao (the name in Huaorani), announced by Huampi from the night before, it has allowed one of the best recordings to date. Silently, from under one of the 337 species of endemic plants of Yasuní, Huampi had told us the birds would arrive at 9.30. This is the biggest surprise in the forest! The clock perception of the plot of the vital functions that often have an equally complex and orderly corresponding acoustic. The birds (at least 14 species) at the bottom and around the Saladero have occurred in waves and descents, acoustically impressive for 45 minutes as in a territorial ritual communication and sound contest, exciting in progress (I think consciously) the reverberation of the forest all around as when the voice of a man tests the acoustics of a church. The microphones and the computer, hidden 100 meters under our bivouac/university (together with Huampi, we had made the punctual audible recognition of all the species that passed in the acoustic space, with his great skill and innate passion to do so) we had finally taken one of the sound scenes of daily life in the animal world, absolutely off-limits to the ears of our species. We have been immediately aware.
Just at the end of this bio-acoustic event at Saladero they had beckoned us to withdraw as soon as possible all the instruments and that we should urgently move on walk to reach the canoe. After an hour, loaded the canoe and placed the plastic sheeting on all backpacks and Pelicase, the rain, no longer falling from 33 days, started its impressive progress, as the lightning storms are in the Amazon. We childishly happy to take rain on clothes, for at least four reasons: to wash with rainwater our salts of the two-day sweat; to be present at that moment for the end of one of the waves of drought, historical, due to climate change; to have done just in time the record sound of this event hidden in Saladero; to know that the rain would have awakened the 'hibernation' of the amphibians of the Yasuní - among the most biologically diverse in the world - that we could finally hear in the coming days.
In the evening, we return to the station after three and a half hours, ascending the river during an enormous thunderstorm which forced me Nika and Alex to empty the canoe constantly using everything we had, including boots used as a basin, while the Huaorani sailed up the river with very low visibility - we were exhausted by two days in the forest - I came out to record the dusk chorus, alone in the path next to the station. I could not stand the thought of not being able to resume the wake of the 139 species of frogs, or at least to make a comparative recording with the 'silence' of the previous period.
Well, as expected, since a few hours after the rain the ecosystem has reawakened. as the tools wake up in the first movement of a symphony written for listening to all living beings.
Rio Tiputini (0°42'14.22"S / 76°16'20.47"O), Ecuador, February 3, 2016
Photos by Alex D’Emilia