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Mexico: Modern Reefs Field School 2004

Ah, the infamous Mexican adventure of 2004! Now, I know we're all dying to hear about the 38 students and their drinking stories. But, my dear friends, let's remember that what happens in Mexico, stays in Mexico - or so we hope! Now, I'm sure each one of those students has their own wild tale to tell, but let's just say it involved a lot of tequila, questionable dance moves, and some unforgettable memories.

But let's not forget about the other travel stories we have from Arizona, Oklahoma, South Africa, Spain, Texas, and Utah. Oh, the adventures we've had!

Now, my dear friends, I must say that some of these stories are best left undocumented. We all know that what happens on those trips, well, it's better left to our own memories and laughter. I'm sure each one of us has a story or two that would make us blush if it were to be written down for all to see.

So, as we gather for our 90th reunion, let's raise a glass to the adventures we've had, the memories we've made, and the stories that will forever remain untold. Cheers to the wild times and the friendships that have stood the test of time. Here's to us, and all the shenanigans we've managed to survive. May our tales be whispered with laughter and shared only amongst the closest of friends.

Written by Dr. Bill Patterson and taken from the 85th Concentrates.

During my first year and a half at the University of Saskatchewan, I told a number of travel/fieldwork stories to geology majors. A group of students approached me about taking them into the field. I suggested Mexico because it is relatively inexpensive, nearby, and safe. As word spread the number of students interested increased. Ultimately, a total of 38 people went to Mexico’s Quitana Roo state on the eastern Yucatan Peninsula. We camped on the beach at X’pu-ha. While in Mexico, I offered a series of lectures on the wildlife, plants, marine life, and cave dwelling organisms. We took several snorkeling trips in the ocean and the freshwater cenotes (sinkholes). Students also had the opportunity to snorkel in the Dos Ojos cenotes and observe cave formation in action. We also visited X’caret where the students could snorkel through the 123,000 year-old Pleistocene reef that was deposited during a previous glacial lowstand (lowered sealevel by 100m). In addition to the marine and freshwater snorkeling, students were taken to an eco-preserve where they were introduced to jungle wildlife and cored a freshwater marl lake.

As a region important to ancient humans, we also explored three Mayan city states. Cobá is the most primeval, Tulum the simplest and only Mayan ruins on the shoreline, and Chitchen Itza (Chichén Itzá), dominated by the pyramid of Kukulcán. Chichen Itza was a large pre-Columbian city built by the Maya people of the Terminal Classic period. The archaeological site is located in Tinúm Municipality, Yucatán State, Mexico. Chichen Itza was a major focal point in the Northern Maya Lowlands from the Late Classic (c. AD 600–900) through the Terminal Classic (c. AD 800–900) and into the early portion of the Postclassic period (c. AD 900 –1200). The site exhibits a multitude of architectural styles, reminiscent of styles seen in central Mexico and of the Puuc and Chenes styles of the Northern Maya lowlands. The presence of central Mexican styles was once thought to have been representative of direct migration or even conquest from central Mexico, but most contemporary interpretations view the presence of these non-Maya styles more as the result of cultural diffusion. This is one of the most visited ruins in Mexico, with 2.6 million visitors in 2016.

Students were also treated to a re-enactment of a Maya Ballgame, which is a branch of the Mesoamerican Ballgame, is an athletic event that was played throughout the Maya civilization. The Maya civilization was spread out throughout much of Central America. One of the common links of the Mayan culture of Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize is the game played with a rubber ball, about which we have learned from several sources. Maya ballgame was played with big stone courts. The ball court itself was a focal point of Maya cities and symbolized the city’s wealth and power. The playing arena was in the shape of an I with high platforms on either side of the court allowing for large numbers of spectators. Portable stone court markers known as hacha usually depicting animals or skulls were placed around the arena. The game was played for 2 weeks. The goal of the game was to bump a rubber ball through a hoop on the side of the court. Players had to move the ball with their hips as touching the ball with your hands was forbidden.

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