Black Powder!!

What an interesting (in the Chinese curse sense) afternoon in the lab!

I went in to the lab to deal with the shoulder gun shell that we found yesterday which had traces of black powder (which is pretty unstable when dry) around the primer hole.  In fact, they turned out to be mere traces, and it was easily cleaned and is now drying on a drying rack.

However, in retrieving it from the bucket with yesterday’s finds, I found not one, but two, other items which appeared to contain black powder, and significant amounts at that!  One was a shotgun shell head, which had not been fired.  Older shells had a paper casing, not the plastic most now have, and that can decay, so we often find the heads alone, filled with gravel.  There was a bit of gravel at the mouth of the head, but it had started to fall off in the Ziploc on the way in from the field, to reveal a full load of powder.  I was able to soak the shell remnant and get most of  the powder out.  The primer is still intact, though, so I have it in a bottle of water until we can get it properly disposed of, just to be on the extra safe side.

The other is, I think, some sort of fuse for a fairly large projectile.  It was collected as a cartridge casing, but it isn’t.  It seems to have had an end blown off, from the way the metal is deformed, but what is left turned out to be packed solidly with some dark substance, nature unknown.  Since it was already wet and hadn’t exploded or combusted, I put it into a bottle of water as well, pending disposal.

This just goes to show that when I told one of the students, who was wondering what she should major in when she got to college, that anthropology was great because almost anything you can think of can be related to one of the four fields of anthropology, I really wasn’t lying.  I wasn’t thinking of small arms ammunition and explosives when I said it, but there you go.

I also managed to find time to plot all the new transit data.  The STPs are falling in just the right place, with no gaps between last year and this year.  I also measured the amount of erosion since last year.  The bluff edge has receded up to 10 meters at some spots, which is almost exactly average for the ten years I have been mapping the Nuvuk. bluff.  In the late 1940s and early 1950s, the erosion at Nuvuk was measured at 4.7 meters per year.  The folks that did that got a paper in Arctic out of it.  Hmm, I wonder if that would work now?

All the foregoing took a good bit longer than planned, and there were a few things I had to take care of at home, like laundry, so the fieldwork update with pictures will have to wait until tomorrow.  Staying up all night when the whole week ahead looks cold is not an option.

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