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  Field Notes From
Dawn of Humans

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View Field Notes
From Author

Michael Parfit

View Field Notes
From Photographer

Kenneth Garrett

In most cases these accounts are edited versions of a spoken interview. They have not been researched and may differ from the printed article.

Photographs by Kenneth Garrett

Looking for the First Americans

Field Notes From Photographer
Kenneth Garrett
Working with the top scientists in the field was exciting and rewarding. Dennis Stanford at the Smithsonian and Michael Collins at the University of Texas at Austin are on the cutting edge of research on the peopling of the Americas. Such people give you the ideas and the access because they can identify the newest and most important information. In this situation, I didn’t have to be there while people are moving tons of sand. The scientists directed me to show up at the right time and place during the moment of discovery. All I had to do was document it. We were in a wildlife reserve in northwest Alaska at a site called Mesa. I woke up one morning to what sounded like a driving rainstorm. I thought that was odd because we were in an Arctic desert. Then I discovered that the pounding I heard was mosquitoes. There were so many that a black swarm of them covered the outside of my tent. It was pretty miserable moving through that. Mesa is a big rock outcrop among a lot of tundra. Ancient people once sat on top of that rock, built campfires, and made stone tools while waiting for herds of caribou to pass through. It’s a dramatic location, so I wanted to get some aerial shots at sunset.
The pilot of the government helicopter we were using had to clock out at midnight, according to regulations. And, of course, the sun is out all night during the summer. We waited and waited through the night, but the sun was still too high. I decided to take the shots anyway, and they came out fine. But the sun was still up when we landed the helicopter at 12:20 in the morning. It was just setting on the horizon around 1 a.m. when I went to bed. Who would have thought that you need to fly aerials at 1 A.M. to get the best sunsets?

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