My heat exhaustion came on suddenly. Waves of nausea rippled through my abdomen, the desert started spinning, and my eyesight blurred. After six hours in the searing sun with no shade and little breeze for respite, I needed to get out.
The first day of the field work with the RIS4E team was tough. The instruments struggled in the 105F heat, cutting out mid-measurement, boot soles melted, and phones stopped functioning. Deanne Rogers, a professor at Stony Brook University, who is one of the scientists on the trip and a veteran of geology field expeditions, said it was “the worst I’ve ever experienced.”
“You must drink water,” Jake Bleacher, the field trip team lead, instructed over and over again. And drink water I did. Unfortunately, I barely ate—I just didn’t feel hungry in the heat—and I’d passed on the Gatorade that would have replenished the salts oozing through my skin as I sweat copiously.
I stumbled over to Jake and Lora Bleacher, the education and outreach lead for RISE4E, and our contact for the trip, to let them know I wasn’t feeling well. They kicked into action, grabbing me a blue Gatorade to sip. Byron Wolfe, a scientist with a company that made one of the instruments, gave me an umbrella for shade—he and Deanne had been using it to keep the sun off their laptop. The spinning stopped. Ice water was used to soak my bandanna and was poured over my wrists. Two students from University of Texas El Paso, who were on the trip, walked me the kilometer—0.6 miles—back to the cars, where I slumped in the backseat of our Jeep with the air conditioning on full blast.
The symptoms abated, but an hour of bumpy off-road driving mixed in with the heat was just too much for my stomach. I ended the day vomiting in a parking lot 0.3 miles from our hotel.
“It was not an easy day, even for those of us who do this kind of work frequently,” said Jake in a meeting the following day. “My head is pounding now.”