Day 14. Rivers, Saint Raphael, and camera hunting.

It rained all last night and into the day today on the north coast of Haiti (fortunately the rain seems confined to the north coast as many people in PaP are sleeping without shelter). The people here seem to like the rain as it brings relief from the heat, growth to their crops, and swells the rivers. The rivers here appear to be one of the main centers of Haitian society, possibly only second to the church. Most Haitian homes do not have running water, so the people flock to the rivers. Everywhere we go, no matter how remote, it is an absolute guarantee that if you see a river you will see people in it doing everything that people do with water (see picture below). One can only imagine how unhealthy these waters have become, which is all the more frightening as you can always tell you are approaching a river because you will see people on the sides of the roads carrying jugs to bring water from the river to their homes. I have talked with several people from Habitat with Humanity who are down here with the sole purpose of putting in wells for potable drinking water. I have seen some of these wells, and they are always being used – just great to see.

Typical Haitian river scene where people wash themselves and their cloths (which are drying on the banks) and their vehicles. The also carry this water back to the their houses to drink (click on this figure to see it bigger).

The soaked dirt roads made for an interesting trip to Saint Raphael, which is up and over a mountain pass. But thanks to 4-wheel drive and great driving by Daniel, we arrived here with little trouble. The forests in these mountains may be secondary growth after being clear cut, but they are lush with plantain, orange, grapefruit, mango, and guava trees. Saint Raphael is a beautiful village in the mountains about 50 km south of the north coast, where we set up a GPS receiver on the roof of a priest’s house. The priests appear to be the most respected people in town, and they have always been helpful to our GPS work in Haiti.  It was nice to walk around the bustling market at the town square. As generally the only white people in these remote towns, we would have gotten enough stares (people always seem very curious about us) even without Daniel following us the whole way with the truck – our directions to stay put got lost in translation.

Macly setting up a GPS receiver on the roof of the priest's house across the street from the mission (in background).

View of peoples houses from the roof of the priest's house in Saint Raphael.

Both Sarah’s and my digital cameras succumbed to the rigors of field work over the past couple of days, and we need them to record the set-up at each GPS site (of course taking pictures for the blog is also nice to be able to do).  So we headed back into Cap-Haitien to look for a new one. Though Cap-Haitien is the  second largest city in Haiti, we only found 3 “camera” stores which had a combined total of 5 models– all over-priced (more than in the US). This may partially explain why we do not see Haitians with cameras. We bought the cheapest one.




  1. Bellzie Said:

    I have a question regarding a radio show talking about the historic of earthquakes in Haiti. Since the Richter scale was developped in the 1930s, how can scientist determine the magnitude of earthquakes prior to that period? They were talking about an 8.0 earthquake in Cap-Haitian. Also, can an earthquake last longer than 1 minute? The guest on the radio mentionned that one of the earthquake that hit Port-au-Prince in the 18 century was about 5 to 7 mins? Is that possible? And how can you come up with these types of data for previous events?

    • haitigps Said:

      Prior to the invention of seismographs about 100 years ago, the magnitude of earthquakes are estimated by felt reports: what did people feel where, what kind of damage occurred where. Seismologists use felt reports associated with recent earthquakes of known magnitude to calibrate this method, which is much less accurate than using modern techniques, especially for historic earthquakes the occurred more than 200 years ago. The 1842 earthquake in Cap-Haitien is in fact estimated to be of the order of a magnitude 8 based on these felt report. Such an earthquake would have lasted several minutes.

  2. Glen,
    Please send us an update on the asthma episode.

  3. Hey, thanks for running this blog, its really a good read for me at work 🙂 !

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