(copy) (copy) The Adventures of a Rainforest Scientist
by Dana Scott
The Adventures of a Rainforest Scientist
Written and Published by: EL Education
Table of Contents
Author's Note______________________________ 3
"Bite At Night"______________________________ 4
Sources Page_______________________________ 7
The narrative in this book was inspired by a scenario in Kathryn Lasky’s The Most Beautiful Roof in the World in which Lasky briefly describes how rainforest scientist Meg Lowman was bitten by army ants one night in the rainforest in Cameroon. This is something that I have never experienced myself, so to make sure this narrative is as factually accurate as possible, I researched to learn about the rainforest on the internet and in texts like The Most Beautiful Roof in the World. I also included as many details from Kathryn Lasky’s description of the event as possible.
I wrote from the first person perspective to help you become Meg Lowman. Through her eyes, you can gain a deeper understanding of the fear, shock, and pain she may have felt during this experience. Through carefully chosen concrete and sensory language and dialogue, I aim to help you to feel what Meg felt. For example, details like “I felt a sharp, searing, bite-like pain on my right ankle” and “In a matter of milliseconds, my entire lower leg and foot felt as though it were on fire. It felt like a thousand burning hot needles were repeatedly being stabbed into my skin” help you understand exactly where she felt the pain and what the pain felt like. Dialogue such as “Yikes! For goodness sake woman, be more careful,” when Meg nearly falls down, shows her fear of falling over onto something “sinister” like the Gabon viper.
I hope that you enjoy reading this story as much I enjoyed writing it, and that the concrete and sensory language and dialogue that I have included help you to escape to the life of a scientist stumbling through the rainforest at night!
"Bite at Night"
I was having a dream about working on the inflatable raft in the afternoon heat. I was floating above the rainforest canopy, attached by my harness, and I was sampling leaves on the emergent layer. I was just reaching for another leaf when suddenly there was a loud bang. I woke up with a start and sat up suddenly, my heart pounding. It was pitch black as I looked around, and I couldn’t figure out where I was or what I was doing there. It took me a few moments to realize that I wasn’t on the inflatable raft after all. I was in my tent, it was the middle of the night, and a loud noise had woken me up. I could still hear the rustling of something moving around nearby. “Calm down, you silly thing,” I said to myself, “it’s only a creature foraging for a midnight snack!”
I lay back again and spent the next thirty minutes tossing and turning, trying to get back to sleep. Eventually, I determined that to go back to sleep, I needed first to visit the bathroom. The bathroom was in an outhouse a short walk from my tent. One thing I always worried about when walking around in Cameroon, particularly in the dark, was the Gabon viper, one of West Africa’s deadliest snakes. I knew that at least one of those venomous snakes slept under the platform of my tent, and I certainly didn’t want to run into one of them at night.
Quickly, I threw on some clothes and started walking toward the outhouse, listening intently for the sound of a snake slithering through foliage toward me. Clumsy from sleep, I caught my foot on something and nearly fell to my knees. I didn’t want to put my hands on the ground, for fear of touching something sinister. I managed to save myself without touching anything and muttered under my breath, “Yikes! For goodness sake, woman, be more careful.” I was wide awake now and chastised myself for not bringing my flashlight.
A few steps later, I could just make out the outline of the outhouse about 100 feet away, exposed by the rays of moonlight that were penetrating the gaps in the dense canopy. I relaxed a little to know I was nearly there.
Suddenly, I felt a sharp, searing, bite-like pain on my right ankle. “Ouch! What was that?” I gasped with surprise. I was reaching down to try to touch it when I felt it again, this time in a different spot further down my foot. In a matter of milliseconds, my entire lower leg and foot felt as though they were on fire. It felt like a thousand burning-hot needles were repeatedly being stabbed into my skin. Then it started on the other leg too. Very quickly, the pain was so intense that I couldn’t think about anything else. The pain consumed me. I forgot that it was the middle of the night and everyone else in the camp would be sleeping. I started to jump up and down, hopping from one foot to the other. “Oh my goodness, owwwwwwwwwwwwwww!” I screamed. “Owwwwwwwww, owwwwwwww, owwwwwwww!”
After the initial shock, I began to regain my senses and became aware of the noise of people in the camp waking up and calling out to one another, “Oh no! It sounds like she’s been bitten by the Gabon viper. This could be bad!” I heard the footsteps of people running toward me and saw lights flicking on and getting brighter as they approached. I caught glimpses of concerned faces in the flashlight beams.
Even though I was in a lot of pain, I realized that I needed to alleviate their concerns immediately. “Calm down, everyone,” I shouted. “It’s nothing to worry about. I stumbled into a battalion of army ants who are eating me alive. I was startled and it hurts, but I’m going to be all right.”
I heard the grunts of displeasure as they all understood that I had awakened them for no reason, and most people started to head back to their tents. Someone loaned me a flashlight so that I could safely make it to the outhouse and then back to my tent, where I located my first aid kit and nursed my wounds.