Okavango Journal #6

I have some bad news about a rock.

Earlier in the year, Steve heard from a Ba’Yei elder — Comet, that many years ago, local fishermen would often stop at a large island in the Delta and sharpen their knives on a rock.

Steve was immediately intrigued. A rock! In the Delta!

If you’re wondering why this was intriguing, consider that the Okavango is a piece of flooded desert. It’s sandy. And every year hundreds of thousands of tonnes of new sand are washed into the Delta from the river systems that feed it. Everywhere you look there is the fine sand of the Kalahari. Sand, sand, sand.

But no rocks. So if there were a rock there as our Ba’Yei source had said, it would be interesting to say the least. It would mean a geological feature that wasn’t previously known to science, perhaps a remnant of previous age. Or maybe a meteorite?

Keen to answer this question, we sent a small team of three boats out today to the island, guided by Comet and Water. We paddled upstream for an hour and a half, and squeezed by two angry hippos to make ground. On foot, we spent an hour combing the island for any signs of strange geology.

Alas, no rock.

Maybe sixty years have passed since Comet remembered the fishermen with their knives, so there’s no doubt that the island has changed a lot. Once frequently visited, it’s very likely we were the first people to step on the island for years, if not decades.

Our best guess is that the rock was, like so many other things in the Delta, covered in sand.

#Okavango16 is a National Geographic expedition to survey the biodiversity of the Okavango Delta. You can find out more about the project and our open science efforts by following us on Twitter or Instagram.

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