Category: Confederation History

Year 10 Day 142

Well, I have a new puzzle.

The ice cap at the North Pole is very definitely floating. It’s not smooth; in fact collisions of large, flat areas of ice have resulted in ice ridges tall enough to be called small hills. But when I try to perceive land under them, there is nothing but salt water. Deep salt water.

This doesn’t make sense. Water is much more efficient than air at carrying heat from the equator to the poles. Given an ocean at the poles that is open to equatorial water, warm water from the equator will quickly thaw any temporary winter ice. Certainly the polar ocean is open to the warm ocean to the east of the continent where I am living; I’ve flown over it. What is happening on this planet?


I went back and studied the few images I have of the planet from space. It’s hard to tell the difference between clouds, snow-covered land, and ice, but I cannot rule out the possibility of land almost surrounding the frozen ocean aside from the corridor I’ve followed. It’s relatively warm now in the north, and there are about another eight fivedays before the sun sets at the North Pole, so I suppose I had better spend that exploration time following the coastline from the northernmost land I’ve found to the east. At least I should find out whether the mountain range where I saw the aurora is part of an island or a peninsula.

Jarn’s Journal is the (fictional) journal of a human-like alien stranded in Africa 125,000 years ago. He is interacting with some of our ancestors, but also exploring the planet with the aid of levitation, telekinesis and the salvaged computer of his wrecked spaceship.

Year 10 Day 132

Patches and I are swimming every morning before it gets too terribly hot, but in the afternoons I’ve gone back to exploring. I’ve decided the ice cap (or whatever it is) at the North Pole should be my next priority, so I’ve been flying due north from the volcanic island near the edge of the ice. Today I spotted snow-covered land to the west of my flight path, though so far it does not appear to bend around to the north of me. Of course, between the clouds and everything being white it’s rather hard to be sure, but there are definitely mountains. Is there a glaciated continent at the pole, or is this merely another large island? Or is this a continent that does not reach the pole?

So far, it is merely glaciated mountains below me and to my left, but I am never out of sight of the ocean to my right. If the clouds clear I might be able to get high enough for a better view, but the top surface of a cloud deck is not very informative.

Day 123

A clear day at last, and I was able to get some altitude. I couldn’t get high enough to see any end to the ice sheet west of me, but the coast certainly appears to bend back to the west of the line northwards. I don’t know which is worse, the frustration or the cold — though of course the thought of the cold is welcome after the heat of the salt lake. Maybe I’d better just concentrate on making distance northward.

Year 10 Day 126

There are times when I wonder if I’m even as smart as some of the People.

When they are not here, I swim for exercise. Mostly I go to the salt lake, though it’s a little warm this time of year. Certainly not the lake by my home; it’s far too good a habitat for crocodiles. Yes, a warnoff would protect me, I think, though they don’t have much brain to affect! But I do not want to set a bad example for the children of the People, and I have implanted in Patches’ mind that she should never swim in or even drink from the lake.

So I’ve been taking Patches for long walks, and while I am keeping in as good condition as I can expect, my feet are killing me. I don’t think I have the genes to grow the kind of tough soles on my feet that they seem to take for granted.

This morning it finally occurred to me. Patches can swim; all mammals can. The crocodiles in the local lake make it unwise, but there is no reason at all I cannot take her with me to the salt lake and let her exercise by swimming with me. There are no predators in the salt lake, and as long as I implant in her mind that she should not drink the water she is swimming in, she should get plenty of exercise.

This morning I tried it.

I wore her out pretty quickly, and had to cut my own swim short. But there is a little fresh-water pool, too small for crocodiles even if the bottom weren’t visible, fairly near the shore of the lake and draining into it. We took a brief dip in that to wash the salt off both of us before teleporting home in time for lunch – a very small lunch, in Patches’ case. This schedule leaves my afternoons free for exploring. I think I may fly all the way north, and determine if the drift ice extends to the pole.

I should have looked at Patches when I felt how heavy she was on my feet.

She is only marginally self-aware, but she is most definitely capable of learning. And she has learned that if she looks at someone eating or preparing food, while drooling slightly and pretending to be starved, she will often be fed.

Especially by the children.

Especially if there is a surplus of food, as there was this year thanks to the ice.

I managed to get across to Rainbow–I think– that too much food would make her sick, but the rest of the People—well, I am not sure who has been feeding her (probably everyone) but she looks like a stuffed hide for target practice.

I caught on when I tried to teleport her to one of our favorite walks, near the waterfall. I had to balance her mass for the teleport, and there was close to twice as much as normal. I poked her sides, and found no ribs. Further, as a general rule I have trouble keeping up with her. Today she was panting and lagging before I was tired, and compared with the People I’m still a pretty sorry specimen.

“You,” I told her, “are going on a diet. And an exercise program.”

Which means I will have to do a good deal more walking than usual myself. I wonder how the foot-bags would work, of if I could find a cooler place to walk?

Year 10, Day 116

It’s strange. As the time of the gather approaches each year, I am afire with eagerness. Who has been born? Who has died, or been injured? What new pairings will be acknowledged? Will they enjoy the thank-gifts I have brought them? What can I do for them without interfering? Above all, I look forward to the relief they bring from aloneness.

When they leave, as the last did yesterday, I am just as relieved to see them gone for another year.

I think ice and snow, like the salt pebbles, will be expected from now on. I had intended only a little amusement for the children, but the People quickly found other uses for what was supposed to be only a toy.

So what shall I do while the People are following the game? Rest, I think, to start with, but I know I’ll get bored with that soon enough. Continue west from the volcanic island, to see if I really glimpsed a continent of ice? Turn east from the northern peninsula, to find if it’s a peninsula or an island? Map the interior of the northern continent, which so far I have seen only rarely in fall and winter? I’d have to be careful about that, as I do not wish to influence the northern hunters as I have the People.

Perhaps I should spend some time with Patches, who at the moment is very heavy on my feet.

Year 10 Day 40

I think I’ve made another job for myself.

I honestly thought the snow and ice would be a short-lived novelty for the children. The food storage caught me by surprise. The People do not normally store food, for several reasons. First, they can only carry so much when they travel. Second, on this hot continent food doesn’t keep very well, and they certainly cannot use ice for long-term storage. (Note to myself—do the northern hunters use ice to store food in winter?) Here they use drying, smoking and salt, though all are limited. But they are thinking more about the problem. Then came the slings.

I should note that almost all of the People are very good at throwing stones and hitting stationary targets. A few can throw spears and have them go into what they’re aiming at, though most spear work uses a thrusting technique. A very few have mastered throwing stones from a sling. There is, however, a problem in learning to use a sling, which is why most of the shamans discourage it. In the early stages of learning, a slung stone can go anywhere, even behind the slinger, and fast enough to pose a real danger.

A couple of days ago one of the children “borrowed” his father’s sling to throw snowballs. The father saw what he was doing, started towards his son, and (by accident, I suspect) got hit by a fairly sloppy snowball. He blinked in surprise, marched up to his son, and informed the youngster he was going to learn to use a sling properly.

With rocks, there is some danger in teaching the use of the sling. I would not want to be the teacher! But with rather sloppy, soft, snowballs as ammunition and a stuffed hide as a target, he proceeded to teach not only his son, but several other youngsters, how to use a sling properly. Today his class had expanded to include a number of adults, including Giraffe.

“I think,” Songbird said as she watched, “they’ll be expecting snow every year, now.

Photo Source

Photo Source

I think I may have underestimated Torch Flower.

When she approached me, I really thought she was trying again to seduce me, but her first question was, “Don’t you keep things cold to preserve them?”

“Yes,” I agreed. “Meat especially, but even plant foods keep better if they’re cold.”

“Couldn’t part of the ice and snow you brought us be used to keep things fresh for the feast?

I blinked in surprise. “I think it would come better from the shamans. They’re meeting already, aren’t they?”

Rain Cloud, Lion, Crane, and several other shamans were talking together when Torch Flower and I arrived. “Torch Flower has an idea,” I said, “and I think it’s a good one.” I looked at her.

She gulped and stammered, “Couldn’t part of the ice be reserved for keeping food cold? Especially the food for the feast? Jarn says it’ll keep longer that way.”

Rain Cloud looked thoughtful. “We could dig a pit for food,” he said doubtfully, “but how would we keep wild animals out?”

“Dig the pit in the harder ice under the snow,” one of the younger shamans suggested. “Pile snow and rocks over the foodstuffs,” said another. I could almost see them considering this new idea of storing food, even for a short period.

Crane got to her feet. “Let’s go and find where the children aren’t.”

Year 10 Day 33

SnowMost of the People have arrived, but the valley where I put the ice is not a place where they normally go. They have discovered the outflow stream, and there is a good deal of conversation about both its purity and its coldness, but so far they have not discovered its source. Until today.

Songbird, Giraffe and their children were with the group that came in last night, and I could not deny myself the pleasure of seeing how WildDog and Swallow reacted to snow. Quite a number of the others joined us as we followed the cold stream uphill, and more than a few enjoyed the novelty of walking in the cool water. I knew what was coming, so I kept my feet dry.

Only Songbird recognized the white coldness when it came in sight. “It’s snow! But how did it get here?” The rest of the People just looked confused. Hardly surprising, since she’d used the word I’d taught her for snow, which was a nonsense syllable to most of them.

“Is that what you’ve been talking about?” Giraffe asked her. “How did it get here?

“I brought it. This is what covers the ground in winter far to the north, and the tops of the mountains when they are white. It covers the ground in winter in my homeland too, and children play in it. It will melt soon, since it is so hot here, but it will give cool breezes and cool water for a while, and it will be something new for the children. Look.” And I gathered a handful of the damp snow into a ball, and then began to roll it along the snow surface.

WildDog’s eyes widened almost as fast as the growing ball. He seized a double handful of snow himself, patted it into a ball, and began to copy my rolling it. Soon others joined him, squealing with delight and surprise at the coldness of the snow.

Some of the more serious adults grumbled that the children should be doing something useful like looking for food, but most seemed to find the snow as fascinating as did the children. Torch Flower, to my surprise, looked as if she were thinking for once.

Year 10 Day 31

Next time I have a bright idea I’m going to figure out the energy required before I decide to go with it.

It takes energy to control energy. Not as much—an exchange teleport, where I’m swapping two things of equal mass, doesn’t take anything like the actual potential energies involved. But it does take something. Quite a lot, when I’m exchanging that much mass over that much distance. Rainbow has been astounded at the amount I’ve had to eat.

The place I had in mind as my ice field seemed even better on a second look. It was once a pond, but the water cut through a ridge of gravel and cinders to drain to the lake. The drainage channel is conveniently located, and can easily be bridged by a couple of palm trunks. I had to abandon the tabular iceberg idea because of the salt near the base of the drift ice, but a chunk of land ice from the island, upwind of the volcano (which is still erupting) seemed a reasonable substitute.

What I had not calculated in advance was the sheer mass of ice it would take to replace the mass of silt I removed from the former pond bed.

I wound up doing exchange teleports of partial ice masses and silt over two days, with frequent breaks to eat. About half of the People had arrived by the time I added the top layer of snow and staggered back to my home to demand more food from Rainbow.

Year 10 Day 29

Am I letting the People depend too much on me?

Salt is a necessity; not having to gather it themselves is a luxury, but I don’t give them so much they cannot find it for themselves. The same is true for obsidian and fine chert. Perfumes and sweets are greeted with delight by all ages, but they are recognized as special. Aside from the occasional fermentation of some fruit, they certainly do not become habituated to these treats.

Perhaps I could bring them something special that would have no shadow of possibility that they could consider it a normal part of life? But what? The furred skins are of interest to few in this hot climate, even for decoration. The shamans would no doubt appreciate the results of the tanning methods Songbird has managed to copy from the northern hunters, and I plan to encourage her to share this now knowledge with other women, but I doubt that many would willingly wear the hot, heavy cloaks that result from tanning a leopard or lion skin with the hair on.

Then it occurred to me. Ice! Songbird is unique in having seen snow. How would the children of the People react if I managed to teleport one of the large, tabular pieces of drift ice into a local depression that drained to the lake? The runoff would be quite pure, and if I chose an area with a gravel drainage channel, it would supply drinking water as well as a new experience for the children.

And I think I know just where to put it.

Jarn is a human-like alien who was stranded in Africa roughly 125,000 years ago. He has been exploring the north polar regions, but it is time for the nomadic people to return to the lake for their annual gather. His journal to date is on my author site.


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