State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


A Home Away From Home

Lake Arvo. Credit: Meg Reitz.
Lago Arvo, on the Sila of the Crotone Basin, stands in lush contrast to the desert on the east coast. Credit: Meg Reitz.

After the memorable trip up Mount Etna, Nano went to the Southern Apennines, while my parents and I made the familiar trip (for me, anyway) across the Sila and into the Crotone Basin. I raved to my parents about the great beaches and wonderful swimming in the Ionian Sea; I reminisced about my time on top of the Sila hiking through pine forests and the Switzerland-like lakes up there; I told them stories about the wonderful old towns nestled high on the rocks all over Southern Calabria. But when we arrived at the agriturismo, all they were interested in doing was getting up early, hopping in the car, and driving to outcrops to help me collect data.
Over the course of two days, we hunted down Upper Messinian conglomerates to help me and Nano with our research of the Messinian Salinity Crisis. My parents became master rock identifiers as we counted ratios of chert to granite clasts within each conglomerate. This information helps to determine the “provenance” of the deposit, or what kind of rocks the river eroded.

Tiny, flat stones tell us which way the river once ran. Credit: Meg Reitz.
Flat pebbles tell us which way the river once ran. Credit: Meg Reitz.

They also learned how to tell what direction the river was flowing in– a tricky task. We looked for imbricated clasts. These are clusters of thin, flat clasts (not round ones) that are pushed by the current until their flat side is facing upstream. We measured the direction that the clasts were stacked to determine which way the river was flowing. With these two pieces of information (clast provenance and current direction) from a number of outcrops around the area, we are able to recreate the Crotone Basin’s drainage flow.

My parents were struck by the tranquility of my field area. We passed through a few small towns on our first day working, but the second day we drove 50 kilometers and saw only fields, cows, and goats. What I really wanted to show my parents was the attitude of the people.

My parents and I stayed in Santa Severina, a village perched on a hill. Credit: Meg Reitz.
My parents and I stayed in Santa Severina, a typical village nestled in high rocks. Credit: Meg Reitz.

The sense of family and community in Southern Italy is overwhelming. The workers at the bar we went to in the morning remembered me from last year and gave my parents special treatment while we were there. The farmers we passed stopped their tractors and asked us about ourselves.

A farmer named Pasquale spent two hours talking to us. Credit: Meg Reitz
A farmer named Pasquale offered us mulberries from his field and showed us the remnants of a landslide. Credit: Meg Reitz

If you are not careful, you can be trapped in an hour-long conversation. People are more important than work here.

San Nicola dell’Alto offers a stunning view of the Ionian Sea. Credit: Meg Reitz.
San Nicola dell’Alto offers views of the Ionian Sea. Credit: Meg Reitz.

For dinner on our last night together, I took my parents to Canciumati. The family was excited to meet my parents. Mario, the patriarch, told them that when I was in Italy, he considered me his daughter. They served us four huge courses and sent my parents home with two bottles of wine. They had adopted me and, now, my parents into their family. It’s a hospitality that is indescribable, and the heart and soul of this place.

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