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Fieldwork: A Geologist's Memoir of the Kalahari

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Christopher Scholz, an internationally recognized expert in the geological fields of seismology and tectonics, here offers a captivating memoir of a three-month-long field expedition to northern Botswana. Fieldwork tracks the adventures of a group of American scientists trying to gather critical data in some of the wildest and most inhospitable parts of Africa. Scholz Christopher Scholz, an internationally recognized expert in the geological fields of seismology and tectonics, here offers a captivating memoir of a three-month-long field expedition to northern Botswana. Fieldwork tracks the adventures of a group of American scientists trying to gather critical data in some of the wildest and most inhospitable parts of Africa. Scholz effectively captures the unique challenges and obstacles faced in this kind of scientific endeavor, including mysterious encounters with a primitive bushman tribe and unavoidable dealings with belligerent local officials and even near-fatal stampedes by rampaging elephants. It is through this absorbing tale that Scholz offers a paean to the long and unique traditions of geological fieldwork, and provides readers with an inside view of the trials and joys of scientific fieldwork. The goal of the Scholz expedition was to determine, by recording tiny natural earthquakes, if a previously unknown arm of the East African Rift system had propagated into the Kalahari Desert from the north. Fieldwork tracks the quest of the scientist for a solution to a specific geological problem from the motivations of the scientist, to the initial formulation of the problem, through to the data collection, and finally, the assembly of the critical evidence. Originally published in 1997. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


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Christopher Scholz, an internationally recognized expert in the geological fields of seismology and tectonics, here offers a captivating memoir of a three-month-long field expedition to northern Botswana. Fieldwork tracks the adventures of a group of American scientists trying to gather critical data in some of the wildest and most inhospitable parts of Africa. Scholz Christopher Scholz, an internationally recognized expert in the geological fields of seismology and tectonics, here offers a captivating memoir of a three-month-long field expedition to northern Botswana. Fieldwork tracks the adventures of a group of American scientists trying to gather critical data in some of the wildest and most inhospitable parts of Africa. Scholz effectively captures the unique challenges and obstacles faced in this kind of scientific endeavor, including mysterious encounters with a primitive bushman tribe and unavoidable dealings with belligerent local officials and even near-fatal stampedes by rampaging elephants. It is through this absorbing tale that Scholz offers a paean to the long and unique traditions of geological fieldwork, and provides readers with an inside view of the trials and joys of scientific fieldwork. The goal of the Scholz expedition was to determine, by recording tiny natural earthquakes, if a previously unknown arm of the East African Rift system had propagated into the Kalahari Desert from the north. Fieldwork tracks the quest of the scientist for a solution to a specific geological problem from the motivations of the scientist, to the initial formulation of the problem, through to the data collection, and finally, the assembly of the critical evidence. Originally published in 1997. The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

31 review for Fieldwork: A Geologist's Memoir of the Kalahari

  1. 5 out of 5

    Don

    I was fortunate enough to live in Botswana for 7 years during the 1980s, working as a geologist for the Botswana Geological Survey Department. In the course of my work I visited nearly all of the places that Scholz describes, including the elusive Shinamba Hills, and I met some of the same people that he did - and drank a good deal of beer with a few of them. So I can state with authority that this is a completely authentic account of scientific fieldwork in Botswana in 1974, only 9 years after I was fortunate enough to live in Botswana for 7 years during the 1980s, working as a geologist for the Botswana Geological Survey Department. In the course of my work I visited nearly all of the places that Scholz describes, including the elusive Shinamba Hills, and I met some of the same people that he did - and drank a good deal of beer with a few of them. So I can state with authority that this is a completely authentic account of scientific fieldwork in Botswana in 1974, only 9 years after Independence. A comparison between the mid 1970s and the 1980s shows how very rapid was the pace of development - especially in building houses, roads and so forth, and how the wildlife areas of Moremi and the Chobe National Park were quickly opened up to tourism; by 1981, one could drive into these areas as a tourist, assuming one was in a 4wd vehicle and self-sufficient in kit and supplies. And there were good small-scale topographic maps with which to guide oneself. The nature of the Kalahari wilderness - and its wildlife - remained exactly as described, and they have probably changed little to the present day. Aside from the animals and the countryside, Scholz describes standing on a fault scarp, overlooking the Ngami Basin at night, illuminated by starlight so bright that he thought it was moonlight. The characters that he meets, the good, the strange and the truly grotesque, are also completely authentic - although the post-Protectorate government rid itself fairly quickly of the (relatively rare) overt racists of the kind Scholz describes. But my own experience includes observing the quiet condescension of some expatriates, and of encountering certain whites who thought they could 'lord it' over the people that I worked with. The start of the book is a bit science-heavy, but it settles down quite quickly into a very accessible, readable story. I found the scientific bits a necessary explanation of how the project came about, and why Scholz took it on. They provide interesting insights into how some science projects are done, and how it came to be realised that the Okavango Delta lies within the southern tip of the Africa rift system (well done Colin Reeves!). And on the non-scientific, geo-political side of things, I never before realised that the 300 km Nata-Kasane highway, just inside the north-eastern border with Zimbabwe (parts of which were built to be wide enough to act as landing strips), was built at Henry Kissinger's instigation as a response to the conflicts in Angola and Zimbabwe. I noted only one factual error: on pages 80-81, the 'Toteng diabase' is composed of metamorphosed basic volcanic rock, not peridotite. So far as Scholz's work is concerned, this matters not one jot. This is a good read for someone who is visiting the north-west of Botswana, or who has a particular interest in the geology of that region.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Liralen

    So when you're having a hard time finding interesting (non-technical) nonfiction about a particular country, you end up reading about cancer wards and voluntourism and, oh yes, geological fieldwork. Scholz did his fieldwork in Botswana in 1974 and wrote about it some twenty years later. He adopts that foolish-outsider tone for much of itmany of the adventures, as presented in the book, relate to the little he knew about the country. It is, mind you, a really interesting glimpse...Gaborone today So when you're having a hard time finding interesting (non-technical) nonfiction about a particular country, you end up reading about cancer wards and voluntourism and, oh yes, geological fieldwork. Scholz did his fieldwork in Botswana in 1974 and wrote about it some twenty years later. He adopts that foolish-outsider tone for much of it—many of the adventures, as presented in the book, relate to the little he knew about the country. It is, mind you, a really interesting glimpse...Gaborone today has a population of more than 200,000, but then it was 'a few blocks of modern two- or three-story buildings surrounded by what looked like a field of brown beehives...rondavels, circular mud and wattle huts with thatched roofs, enclosed in mud-walled compounds' (31). Their fieldwork was done in the actual wilderness, not in a city, so that's about all we see of it, but that (plus other mentions of the isolation they saw) makes for a great reminder of just how much Botswana has changed since then. (Haven't been there, but it's on my short list of places that make me burn with curiosity.) My thoughts on Scholz's retelling of his research are twofold: at first I thought I'd like the book well enough but find it to be too science-heavy. Then, once I realised that he'd loaded most of the science into the front and moved on to cultural and elephant-based adventures, I wished for more science. (Why yes, I am impossible to please.) Still, some interesting observations—for example, of the social offerings: These "colonials" were no more than middle-class provincial Englishmen and women on civil service contracts, putting on airs and sporting a few servants. If my descriptions seem like caricatures, it's because they acted out parts and recited lines that might have been written by Somerset Maugham on a bad day (50–51). I also loved Scholz's description of how he first got interested in earthquakes—his father explained them away as being caused by rocks falling in giant caves in the earth. It wasn't till much later that I found out that my father hadn't actually made up the theory about rocks falling in caves, he was just a little out of date. That had been the idea espoused by Lucretius in De Rerum Natura in the first century B.C. (136). Still looking for something involving contemporary Botswana city life, though.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    I very much enjoyed this book. While there is a lot of technical detail I tended to skip over, the focus is really on the country and the landscapes of Botswana in the seventies. Fascinating account. Unpretentious and funny. What an adventure! Makes me want to be a field researcher.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tillman

    Christopher Scholz, a geophysicist at Lamont-Doherty, went to Botswana in 1974 to lay out a seismic net to map microearthquakes. He encountered the typical obstacles of fieldwork in remote areas - poor maps, poor roads, lost luggage, obtuse bureaucrats - and site-specific challenges, such as charging elephants and hostile Bushmen. With perseverance, good humor, ingenuity - and lots of beer - he got the job done. "Teddy & I were sitting about 20 yards apart. We had been like that for more than Christopher Scholz, a geophysicist at Lamont-Doherty, went to Botswana in 1974 to lay out a seismic net to map microearthquakes. He encountered the typical obstacles of fieldwork in remote areas - poor maps, poor roads, lost luggage, obtuse bureaucrats - and site-specific challenges, such as charging elephants and hostile Bushmen. With perseverance, good humor, ingenuity - and lots of beer - he got the job done. "Teddy & I were sitting about 20 yards apart. We had been like that for more than an hour, hunched up against the trunks of a couple of mopani trees as we waited for the herd of elephants to leave the grove we were in... By the time we had noticed them we had lost any chance of retreating back to the Land Rover... Climbing a tree was no refuge in this situation. That offers protection from Cape buffalo, but not from elephant, which can reach the upper branches of trees with their trunks... "One thing I can say about you, Scholz, " said Teddy. "You sure can pick the places to go to study earthquakes." Anyone who's spent much time doing fieldwork - or wants to confirm how wisely they picked office/lab work instead - will enjoy Scholz's stories. His genial style reminds me of tales (and lies) traded by old hands in a bar in Butte or Battle Mountain. Highly recommended.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nikola Toshkov

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

  7. 5 out of 5

    Azad Rahaman

  8. 5 out of 5

    Wendelle

  9. 4 out of 5

    Bruce Luyendyk

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jmswtsn

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anna

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ann

  14. 5 out of 5

    Steve Clarke

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gabriel Davis

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gene

  17. 5 out of 5

    Marcy

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ivor Armistead

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ishan

  20. 5 out of 5

    BookDB

  21. 4 out of 5

    M. Febryan

  22. 4 out of 5

    Julia

  23. 4 out of 5

    Angela Bowman

  24. 4 out of 5

    Rachael Netz

  25. 5 out of 5

    Zach Vandenberg

  26. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

  27. 5 out of 5

    John Dorval

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thales Yan

  29. 5 out of 5

    Nigel Wright

  30. 4 out of 5

    Diego

  31. 4 out of 5

    gamergamergamer

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