Coring and Exploring the High Atlas

The team (Henk, Will and Ben) visited the High Atlas for a week in early June, to collect sediment cores and rock samples for the research project, and were joined in the field by Ali Rhoujjati (Marrakech University) and Abdel Eawague.

Our first port of call was to visit the Oukaïmeden plateau (where we have previously cored) to check out the vegetation. On our previous fieldtrip to Oukaïmeden, the plateau was covered in snow. This time however, snow was confined to the high peaks, revealing a picturesque alpine meadow, with a diverse array of flowers blooming across the landscape. Importantly, it was now possible to see how plant communities changed (within a relatively small area) dependent on the terrain, slope/aspect and proximity to water sources. Our upcoming paper will explore this further.

Vegetation on the Oukaïmeden plateau

Ben and Will can't get enough of this Atlas cedar plantation

The following day (Friday), we travelled to Tighedouine, east of Marrakech, and then onwards along mountain roads to a small village lying under the Yagour Pleateau (our main field site).

Loading up our equipment and a few supplies to get us to the next village

The team enjoying some rest before the big trek up to Yagour

On Saturday morning, we walked up to the Yagour plateau, and four and a half hours later, wasting no time, we were coring at Lake Yagour.

Setting off up the mountain (Ben is smiling now...)

Abdel showing us Berber rock carvings, some of the earliest examples of Berber culture in the High Atlas

Henk proudly showing off the coring location...

... And then getting right in the middle of it!

We found the ideal coring spot along the southern margin, and the top core sections were retrieved relatively easily(!).

However, one of the biggest challenges for coring in Morocco is the tough sediments, which make it difficult to use a standard Russian corer. Unfortunately, due to the terrain, remote location and access difficulty, it is often impractical to bring more "heavy duty" coring equipment, so we must improvise.

Ali Rhoujjati showing us how its done!

Don't try this at home - or show your lab manager!

The results were fantastic! Although, we did break the Russian corer retrieving the final core segment after hitting bedrock.

We were also accompanied by a local TV crew who showcase Berber culture in Morocco, where Will gave an interview explaining the importance of climate and environmental change, and how it may have influenced human settlement in the area.

Will interviewing on local Berber TV

After the successful coring trip, we settled for the night on Yagour plateau - possibly one of the coldest nights I can remember!

The "hotel" did not match the pictures in the brochure

The next day (Sunday) we set off to Adrar Meltsane to collect rock samples from the moraines for cosmogenic dating, in order to date the last glacial advances in the High Atlas.

Sampling moraines at Adrar Meltsane, south-east of Yagour plateau

Our other field guide enjoying the trip

That night we returned to the village, and the next morning we headed back to Tighedouine. Our plan for the day was to core another lake on another plateau north-east of Yagour. But first, we had to repair the Russian corer.

Fixing the Russian corer in Tighedouine

Only one way to travel to our next coring site.

Always wear your seatbelt

The final coring location bared a striking resemblance to Yagour, and the team successfully recovered a nice sediment core using our new and improved Russian corer.

Final coring location

After four exhausting days travelling and sampling on the High Atlas, we said our goodbyes to our Moroccan colleagues, and made our way back to Marrakech. After unloading what seemed like 100 bags from the taxi, tired and weary, ready for bed, Henk realised something was missing. Always check your luggage! We managed to leave Henk's bag, some equipment, and all of our rock samples in the taxi. Thankfully, a very apologetic taxi driver returned them the next morning.

Our final day was spent recovering in Marrakech, before our return to Manchester. Our trip would not have been possible without the assistance of Abdel Eawague, Ali Rhoujjati, and all of our Moroccan guides and field assistants. Many thanks to you all!

The sun sets on our High Atlas adventure

See more photos from our fieldtrip in our photo gallery, or check out our Instagram account.

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