As promised, here’s the first in a series of extracts from the Travel Log of Doctor Henrietta Gaberdine, noted explorer and entomologist:
The diary passed through the hands of several governments before its return to MInsAg (Ministry of Insectile Agriculture). Sealed under the Official Secrets Act for many years, it has only now been returned to Dr Gaberdine’s family, and released to us.
The research trip was undertaken in 1955, with funding from AAIA (American Association of Insect Agriculture), and in collaboration with the Polish government. After the death of Stalin, it was finally possible for the international scientific community to compare findings from the previous 15 years of mega-entomology.
The aim was to study the phenomena in the area of Checiny, Kielce, and to document not just the affected species, but also any methods and techniques that locals employed for both animal husbandry and pest control.
Dr Gaberdine, Dr Dander, and Dr Mickiewicz stayed in the town with local guides, exploring and documenting, as Dr Gaberdine illustrates in her account. Dr Dander & Dr Mickiewicz’s logs remain lost, as are the team’s samples.
“In the evening the sound of crickets and grasshoppers is deafening. Plugging the ears with cotton is vital to get any sleep. I collected a specimen today…my preliminary measurements indicate that the size difference is merely ¼ inch from specimens collected in the region 15 years ago!”
“I’m most interested to see the work of the silent Bernardine Sisters, who keep a walled convent in the centre of Checiny…to see how the nuns have adapted their gardening techniques to foil the…firebugs…their original ½ inch size has expanded to almost 3 inches”
“The nuns have cunningly adapted their sturdy sandals…attached to the wooden soles are thick conical wooden or metal spikes. The effect is not unlike a gothic golf shoe! but the spikes are at a rough length of 2-3 inches…the spikes work to puncture the carapace of the larger insects, leaving their regular counterparts free to roam the garden. The sisters…nominate a novice to clap rhythmically, and the rest of the order step in time to the beat, the risk of puncturing one’s …foot being very great”