Bryan Stuppy, LISW, LADAC, a leading psychologist in New Mexico, has asked me to join him on an Expeditionary Force to study the effects of primal living in a nomadic tribal environment. The ruse has been established. The ‘tribe’ thinks they are to study the effects of man-made flooding in the Grand Canyon. In reality the tribe itself is being studied. We will be traveling 277 miles in a primitive world.
The Stuppy & Clark Expeditionary Force will put rafts in the water on November 24, 2012. The three days prior to our launch will see canyon flooding as a result of heavy water release from the Glen Canyon Dam. The summer rafting season has come to a close and the National Park Service is cleansing the canyon with a manufactured flood. The tribe will in fact be observing the restorative qualities of the flood on the natural eco system of the Grand Canyon.
Strict rules are enforced by the National Park Service on the protection of the natural environment. Anything carried in must be carried out. But alas, this does not always happen. The flood from the Glen Canyon Dam serves two purposes. The flood mimics the natural flooding that occurred before dams were built and any trash left by errant human travelers will be washed away.
Expedition mentality has been studied by previous expeditions at a level of practical application. Everyone is being cautions to minimize poor judgement, to work as a team. Once launched the Expeditionary Force will be out of contact with civilized society. The analogy of walking on the moon is not lost on the travelers. We will be observing how well people can work as a team in extreme circumstances.
My original plan was to arrive in New Mexico on Monday, November 19. But I have been called to more immediate service. I will arrive at our staging headquarters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, on Thursday, November 15. A small group of us will be practicing search and rescue operations. Stuppy is generally viewed as the oldest and wisest of the tribe and saving him from himself is a priority.
Everyone on the trip understands the likelihood of going for an unplanned swim in heavy rapids. Specific measures have been taken to retrieve tribal members thrown from rafts by the angry river. The water release from the Dam will be from about 200 feet below the water surface. As such the water will be about 45 degrees and is expected to warm about 1 degree every twenty miles. If thrown into the water there is an estimated 5 to 7 minute window of opportunity for rescue.
In the tradition of the Native Americans who originally occupied these lands we will be using hand signals for communications. They say it is difficult to scream for help with a mouth full of water. Whistles will be carried by all for immediate call to action.
Entanglements are of concern while on the water. We are to avoid lo0se line and loops in or on the boat. No one will allowed to tie themselves in. All boat straps are to cared for by keeping them buckled and in good repair. The psychology of natural risk takers will be observed as we watch the morning preparation for putting in the river. There are two elements of risk taking psychology – risk for self and risk for others – each will be considered in later observations.
The end of the rafting day presents more opportunities for human study. Tired, worn, wind and sun beaten, the tribe will have to set up camp. Again, the camp set up has two psychological components – set up for self and set up for team. Operating in a primitive environment requires the absence of modesty. The team for this experiment was selected based on a cross section of young and old, male and female – studies in human modesty while operating in a primitive culture offer insight into long term changes in human psyche.
Boats will flip. People will be thrown into danger. Rapid response requires calm minds. Panic is the enemy of safety. Some of the tribe will be professional boatmen, and some will be innocent victims of a dangerous experiment in human survival. Both the professional and the innocent will be subjected to extreme conditions and behavior will be noted. Both rescuer and rescued will be observed. People will be labeled as either hero or sissy – it is the nature of an expeditionary force.
Hygiene is not just a matter of taking care of self. The health of individuals directly impacts the efforts of the Expeditionary Force. Anyone who complains of illness or injury risks being labeled a sissy and being left behind for the next flood – a necessary evil in primal living.
This chronicle of the upcoming expedition follows a rich American tradition of story telling. Early settlers wrote home to Europe and intentionally either minimized the danger or exaggerated their accomplishments. Whales chased giant salmon up Niagara Falls. Paul Bunyan could fell a tree with one swing of his ax. Be careful what you believe coming from the Stuppy & Clark Expeditionary Force.
We will be reporting on the actual trip at the end of December, 2012.