Friday, February 28, 2014

MUNArch Stone Tool Making Workshops 2014

Obsidian Biface
Beginning next week, MUNArch, the Memorial University of Newfoundland undergraduate archaeology society will be sponsoring three weeks of flintknapping and ground stone tool making workshops.  I'll be leading the workshops and the first sessions are on the evenings of Monday, March 3rd and Wednesday, March 5th.  The first workshops happen in less than a week, so if you are interested in attending, please contact MUNArch as soon as possible to reserve your space:

2013 MUNArch workshop
There are three different workshops offered and each is available on either a Monday or Wednesday evening, with a maximum capacity of 15 people in each session.  These are all introductory classes, so no experience is necessary.  If you have previous experience and some more advanced questions, please feel free to join us and I'll work with you as best I can.

Week 1: Ground Stone Ulus

Ground Slate Ulu
Learn to chip and grind ground stone ulus from flat slabs of slate.  Drill through the slate with a bow drill, prepare a wood handle and lash it into place.  This is the first time that this workshop has been offered through MUNArch in St. John's.
Monday, March 3rd or Wednesday, March 5th

Week 2: Introduction to Percussion Knapping

Biface made with percussion
Learn the basics of hard hammer and soft hammer percussion.  Strike a flake from an obsidian core and learn how to thin and shape the flake using stone and antler percussors.
Monday, March 10th or Wednesday, March 12th

Pressure flaked glass and
obsidian arrowheads

Week 3: Introduction to Pressure Flaking

Learn to use pressure to push small, controlled flakes off of your stone tools.  Pressure flaking is how you turn a flake into an arrowhead.
Monday, March 24th or Wednesday March 26th
(Note that this follows two weeks after the percussion workshop, I'll be out of town March 17 and 19th)

The costs for the sessions are as follows:
$50 for all three sessions (3)
$40 for two sessions (2)
$25 for one session (1)

The time for each event will be 6:00 pm, in QC 4028 in Queen's College on the MUN Campus (next to Bitters). Ages 16 and up. If you wish to attend any of these workshops, please email MUNArch at

Photo Credits:
1,2,4,5: Tim Rast
3: Phillip Cairns, courtesy of Labrador CURA

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Researching the Beothuk Harpoon

Beothuk Harpoon Head, Mary March Museum
In the workshop, I'm back to making sets of Beothuk and Intermediate period reproductions for various branches of the Provincial Museum and Provincial Historic Sites.  Some of these reproductions are familiar, for example, a Beothuk bow and arrow is going to the Mary March Provinicial Museum in Grand Falls-Windsor, but others will be new reconstructions based on fresh evidence.  One of the pieces that I'm especially excited to be working on is a Beothuk harpoon.  There are a handful of Beothuk harpoon heads and Shawnadithit, the last known Beothuk woman, left us a drawing and description of what she called "a-a-duth", the Beothuk sealing harpoon or seal-spear.

Beothuk Harpoon Head,
 Mary March Museum
My plan is to make a full-sized reproduction of the harpoon drawn by Shawnadithit with an iron bladed harpoon head, like those on display in the Mary March Provincial Museum.  During the last year of her life, Shawnadithit lived in St. John's under the care of William Eppes Cormack.  Cormack made notes on the Beothuk harpoon that appear to caption the drawing made by Shawnadithit and his knowledge of the implement seem to be based on conversations with her.  Likewise, James P. Howley's discussion of Beothuk harpoons is also provided as a caption to her drawing when it was published in his 1915 book, "The Beothucks or Red Indians." Howley's description is a combination of Cormack's writings and his own interpretation of Shawnadithit's drawing.  Both of the passages below can be found published in Howley 1915.

Shawnadithit's drawing: Sketch VIII, detail below

Manuscript of W.E. Cormack's, apparently written after his last expedition in search of the Red Indians.

The spears were of two kinds, the one, their chief weapon, was twelve feet in length, pointed with bone or iron, whenever the latter material could be obtained, and was used in killing deer and other animals. The other was fourteen feet in length and was used chiefly, if not wholly, in killing seals, -- the head or point being easily separated from the shaft, -- the service of the latter being indeed mainly, to guide the point into the body of the animal, which being effected, the shaft was withdrawn, and a strong strip of deer skin, which was always kept fastened to the spear head was held by the Indian, who in this manner secured his prey. This method of taking the seals may be compared to that of taking the whales. The handle of the harpoon being chiefly to guide the point, to which the cord is attached, into the body of the animal and then hauling against it until the fish is exhausted. The Esquimaux adopt a similar plan the point of their harpoon or spear being somewhat different in form.
I believe the Beothucks derived the idea of this harpoon from the Eskimos, who are adepts in its use, are known to have possessed it a long time, and who moreover, depend more upon the seal and walrus for their livelihood than the former had any occasion to do. It is a most ingenious weapon, and while the general structure is the same, that of the Beothuck was slighter and more neatly constructed. It was called by them a-aduth.
-W.E. Cormack ca. 1828 

a-a-duth or Spear for Killing Seals 12 feet long (bone) (iron)
amina Deer Spear (iron)
Sketch VIII

This figure is followed by two full length spears, one for killing Seals the other for Deer. The first called "A-aduth," is represented as being 12 feet long (?). It consists of a long straight wooden handle, to which is affixed, at one end an iron point of a triangular shape set in a bone socket. This socket is not permanently attached to the handle but is kept in its place by a long string, one end of which passes through two holes bored through the bone and securely tied, while the other end is brought along the handle, passing over a notch at the further end, and thence back to about the middle of the handle where it would appear to have been grasped by the operator. The bone socket, where it meets the handle is forked and has a groove cut in it, into which the end of the handle is inserted, the string being then drawn tight, and firmly grasped by the hand tends to keep the point in its lace while striking the animal, But immediately the spear head enters its body, the string is released and the spear separated from the handle, which remains in the hand, while the ample coil of line shown, allows full play to the animal in diving. The spear head is tied in such a way that so soon as it penetrates the skin and flesh of the seal and a strain is put upon it by the exertions of the wounded animal, it turns crossways in the wound which prevents its being withdrawn. The whole contrivance is one of a most ingenious character, and I have little doubt the idea was borrowed from the Eskimo, who appear to have been the originators of this kind of weapon. It only differs from that of the latter people in being more slightly and delicately made, in having a triangular instead of a leafshaped iron point, and in the absence of the float or drag attached to the opposite end of the line. I would surmise from this that the Beothuck did not pursue the seals in his canoe, on the water, as the Eskimo does, but speared them on the ice, or in their blow holes. This seems the more probable from the fact that their frail birch bark canoes were ill adapted for the pursuit of the animal in its native element.

-James P. Howley 1915

Can you even
see this from
12 feet away?
There is some discrepancy in the accounts on the lengths of the deer spear and the harpoon; Howley and Shawnadithit's drawing say that the harpoon was 12 feet long, while Cormack suggests that 12 feet is the length of the deer spear and that the harpoon was actually 14 feet long.  Either way, that is a very long harpoon.  I intend to make the reproduction at least 12 feet long, although for the sake of transportation and storage, I will make the shaft in two parts that can be broken down and reassembled.  I'm looking forward to this, I have to admit I'm having a tough time visualizing the mechanics of a 12 foot harpoon, so this will be a learning experience for me, too.

Photo Credits: 
1-2: Tim Rast
3-4: Details of Shawnadithit's Sketch VIII from Howley 1915

Monday, February 24, 2014

Snowshoeing Father Troy's Trail Part II

Sunday was a perfect morning for snowshoeing.  We returned to Father Troy's Trail running between Flatrock and Torbay and did a section in the middle of the trail between Church Cove and Whale Cove.  The snow was ideal for snowshoeing, with a very thin ice glaze on top and dense wet snow underneath.  It was exactly the sort of snow that snowshoes let you stay on top of.   The trail was well marked and offered a variety of difficult, moderate, and easy options through the woods or along the coast.  The day provided a much needed break between busy weeks in the workshop. 

The cliffs at Church Cove

Little bridges - I love little bridges!

The view back towards Church Cove

The cliffs at Whale Cove

Torbay in the distance

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, February 21, 2014

Dorset Drums: A 1500 year old song?

Late Dorset drum reproductions from
the Canadian Arctic
I think that the Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum frames from Button Point may have the oldest pieces of written music in Canada etched into their frames.  I don't think there are any radiocarbon dates from Button Point, but stylistically the artifacts are Late Dorset, which began about 1500 years ago and lasted until the Dorset disappeared sometime between a thousand and five hundred years ago.  The Late Dorset time period is marked by a fluorescence of artwork, primarily carvings, that may have magical and religious significance.  Dorset art is often associated with shamanism, and the drums from Button Point are also believed to have been part of a shaman's tool kit.

In this video clip, I introduce the drums within the context of Dorset shamanism and demonstrate the sounds that the drums make when played:

The skeletal motif on an ivory bear
One of the most common design elements that appears in Dorset art is the incised representation of a skeleton, which archaeologists call the X-ray skeletal motif.  These skeletal motifs, sometimes reduced to an abstract representation of the spinal column, are found on naturalistic animal carvings, but also on abstract carvings and other objects.  One theory is that these carvings were religious or shamanistic in nature and some of the figures suggest that humans, most likely shamans, could even transform themselves into animals.  There are figures in Dorset art that seem to depict people transforming into animals and as a student the way the skeletal motif and this transformation was explained to me was that a shaman could enter a trance-like state, strip off their own skin down to their skeleton and then redress themselves in the skin of the animal that they want to change into.  We know by analogy with later Inuit groups and other shamanic cultures that rhythmic drumming and chanting can be used to induce a trance-like state.   Dorset drums could have filled a similar role.

The drums, a photo of the original artifact and a drawing of
the tick marks located around the edge of the frame.
On the back of the Button Point drums there are incised lines ornamenting the frame.  Some of these lines seem to represent the spinal columns seen in the x-ray skeletal motif.  The patterns of marks on each drum are different, and I don't know a lot about the design on the incomplete drum, but the more complete drum frame has a pattern of marks incised on it that I think could be interpreted musically.  There are 13 sets of tick marks incised into the drum frame.  They are spaced evenly around the circle like the numbers on a clock.  The pattern does not appear to be random, instead it appears to count up and down from the handle towards the top of the drum, where two sets of eight tick marks are carved with a central line running through them that suggests that they are also meant to represent spinal columns.

I used rabbit fur on the
willow drum stick to muffle
the clack of wood striking
The pattern appears to be a mirror image on the left side and right side of the drum.  You can see the pattern of tick marks in the diagram below, but I'll walk you through it, starting at the handle which is marked with three tick marks.  If you go clockwise or counterclockwise, the next mark is a single tick mark, then a gap and two tick marks, a gap and three tick marks, a gap and four tick marks (probably), a gap and six tick marks, a gap and eight tick marks (with a spinal column) and then the pattern counts down again, eight ticks with a spinal column, six ticks, four ticks (probably), three ticks, two ticks, one tick, and then you are back at the handle.  I say "probably" on each of the sets of four tick marks because there is damage on each side of the drum in that same spot, so I'm speculating a bit about what might have originally appeared there.  On one side you can see at least three tick marks just beside the damaged area and I think the best fit with the rest of the sequence would be four tick marks, because it continues the sequence of one, two, three, four if you count up from the handle by ones, as well as the sequence of eight, six, four if you count down from the spinal columns by twos.

The sequence of incised marks on one of the Button Point Dorset drums.  The shaded areas on either side are damaged areas of the artifact, so the presence and number of ticks in each of those positions is speculative.  Although on the left hand side, you can see that at least three tick marks were carved into the frame.

I really like the look of the drum with
the transparent skin, but it requires
more preparation to get a good
sound out of it because the skin
dries and stretches unevenly.
In the context of a drum, I'm very tempted to interpret that sequence of ascending and descending numbers musically and from the point of view of a Dorset shaman's drum, I'm very tempted to interpret the count as leading from a normal state of being to a trance-like state or transformation, as indicated by the spinal columns carved at the height of the sequence.  I've tried to illustrate the sorts of things that I'm thinking in the video clip below.  I'm not sure how you could begin to read a 1500 year old piece of music, but perhaps the tick marks represent a cycle of singing or chanting that should take place over a period of time, like the cycle of prayers indicated by the beads on a rosary.  Maybe the marks are literally marking out drum beats to play a specific song.  Perhaps the ticks are marking positions on the drum that should be played in a particular sequence.

In this clip I talk about the incised marks on the drum frame and try a couple different rhythms that I think the ticks could be illustrating:

I do think the marks are a piece of written music, but I don't know if we'll ever be able to say with certainty what it is saying.  Maybe you have an idea?  Does this sequence of numbers make sense to you musically, or do you think it is marking out something completely different?  Random is not an option.  Someone placed them there intentionally and put at least some thought into their meaning.

Photo Credits:
1, 3-6: Tim Rast

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Dorset Drums Assembled

Button Point drum reproductions
The Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum reproductions are finished now, except for the drying and the drumsticks.  I'm starting to get hints of what they might sound like, but the skins are still a little too wet to know for sure and I need the right kind of drumstick to really unlock their sound.  The drums are small, but they look absolutely tiny in a lot of these pictures.  I suppose my hands are bigger than most Dorset people's would have been, but there must also be some weird perspective going on in some of these shots, because they don't seem quite this teeny-tiny in real life. Here's some more info about the real-life artifacts that these reproductions are based on.

The braided sinew cord that holds the
caribou rawhide drumskin in place
begins and ends at the handle, where
it is wrapped partway up the handle.
For the most part the frame is held together with friction and sinew cordage.  I decided to reinforce the joint between the handle and the hoop with a bit of hide glue.  I think that the original drums may have been designed for the handle to be removable for easier transport and storage, but I elected to permanently attach the handle with glue and by wrapping the lashing for the drum skin tightly around its base.  The main reason for this is that I'm concerned that the wedge shaped handle will split the wood of the frame if it is removed and re-inserted too often with too much pressure.  The original artifacts have splitting in the frame that starts from the hole for the handle and I want to permanently avoid that in these pieces, if possible.  The splitting in the original artifacts doesn't look like its enough to render the drums unplayable as the orientation of the wood grain necessary to bend the hoop means that the crack will propagate around the circumference of the drum rather than dive out towards the edge.  Still, I don't want to test that theory, because it took a long time to get to this point and I want the drums to work for many years to come.

The reproductions beside the printed pattern of the original drums.  The photo is on a 8 1/2" x 11" sheet of paper and shows two drums stacked on top of each other.  I reproduced the one in the middle.

Each drup hoop has three holes.  I'm not sure what these
two are for, but the far one (between the electrical tape and
clamp on the far side of the hoop) is for the handle to attach.
I wrapped the wood with electrical tape while I cut the holes
to minimize the risk of accidentally cracking through the
On both of the original Dorset drum artifacts there are holes in the frame opposite the drum handle.  The drum that I reproduced has two of them, one directly opposite the handle and one a few centimetres away.  At one time I was planning to use these holes to anchor the braided cord that lashes the drum skin in place, but I've decided to leave them open.  I've studied the photos of the holes more carefully and I can't see any indication that they might have had a cord or line running through them.  To me, they look more like the hole where the handle is inserted.  I made a few little wooden tabs to stick in the holes.  I have a couple theories about what those holes might be.  One idea is still that they serve as an anchor point for the line holding the skin in place, but instead of the line passing directly through the holes, it could have been attached to a small peg inserted into one of the holes.  In my reproductions, I've wrapped both ends of that line around the drum handle to better reinforce that joint, but as I've said, I suspect that the handle was actually designed to be removable.  Attaching the skin lashing to the opposite side of the drum would free up the handle, so that it could be removed for storage and or transport.  Or, perhaps the holes could be used to attach something that somehow changes the sound of the drum. Maybe a rattle or something that vibrates?  I don't know.  A third theory  (the one that I'm leaning towards at the moment) would be that something symbolic, perhaps a carving, could be attached to the drum.  Inuit drums were often part of the Shaman's toolkit and the Dorset drums have been interpreted similarly.  My hunch is based on other people's unpublished research, so that's all I'll say at the moment.  I might come back to it when their paper comes out.

Despite the size, they sound very
similar to large Inuit drums, but with
the volume turned way down.
I'll talk more about what the drums sound like in another blog post and hopefully have a short video clip, but my first impression is that they sound more like Inuit Drums that I was expecting.  The smaller size doesn't seem to affect the quality of the boom, but it does affect the volume.  Inuit drums are designed to be played by striking the frame with a drum stick.  The problem I'm having right now is that the "boom" from the drum is so quiet that the "clack" of the stick on the frame drowns it out.  I can get a good sound by tapping the frame with my fingertip, but so far, when I use a stick all I hear is the clack of stick on wood.  My plan is to wrap the stick in the softest fur I can find to muffle the sound of the stick/frame contact so that the low "boom" from the drum skin is audible.

Another view of those extra holes.  The drum on the floor
in the background has small pegs inserted into the holes.
If I can get that far, I'll be happy.  The archaeologist who I am making one of the drums for is a musician and a drummer.  I know what I'd like to be able to play on the drums, but maybe the more realistic goal is to get the instruments to the point where someone who actually knows how to play can start experimenting.  The results so far haven't been exactly what I was expecting.  I wasn't expecting the boom of the drum to sound as much like the much bigger Inuit drums as they do.  But they are just so small and delicate, that I don't think they could have been played as vigorously or loudly as the later Inuit drums.  You'd be able to hear them in a small skin tent, but I don't think the sound would carry outdoors.  Its a drum for small places and few people to hear.

I like the pattern that is visible on the drum skin on the one in back.  For reference, the hoops are about 7 inches in diameter.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Monday, February 17, 2014

Continuing the Dorset Drums

This groove runs all the way
around the drum and will be
used to tie down the caribou
rawhide drum skin.
I continued to work on the Dorset Palaeoeskimo drum frames today.  I've cut the hoops to length, incised the groove to fasten the skin down, and finished the scarf joint to tie the hoop together.   There were two drums found at the Button Point site off the north end of Baffin Island and I'm using the more complete of the two for my model for these reproductions.   The incomplete drum is missing about a fifth of the hoop and the handle is partially broken.  It has a slightly lighter frame than the one I'm reproducing and the details of the scarf joint are less obvious.

The scarfed ends with the incised
grooves for tying the hoop closed
with sinew
The scarf joint that I'm using as the reference has about 5 cm of overlap and three very well defined lashing grooves.  Once I bent the split willow shoot to a complete 360 degree circle a little bit smaller than the intended drum diameter I cut the wood to the correct length, which in this case was about 24" or 61 cm as measured along the outside circumference.  I cut and shaped the top and bottom edges of the rim, to give it a peaked top edge and square bottom edge and then incised the groove around the entire outside of the hoop.  I carved the wedge shaped scarf area on each end and cut the three opposing lashing channels.

When they went into the pot they
were still pretty tight circles, but after
a few minutes of heat they expanded
At this point I boiled the drums again to cinch the hoop closed and ready them for the sinew lashing.  The wood became flexible again and the hoops started to expand in the water, which made matching up the scarf joint tricky.  I wound up wrapping the whole hoop around a pot lid again and using clothespins to temporarily hold it in place before lashing the hoop closed with wire and pinching the join tight with clamps.  The wood at the scarf joint is necessarily thinner than the rest of the drum frame so the wood wanted to bend more there than elsewhere, creating a bit of a sharp angle in the hoop.  The hoop became shaped more like a fat egg, with the little end at the joint, than the perfect circle that I was trying for.    That bugged me a little until I compared the reproduction to the photo of the original artifact and noticed that it has the same shape.  Evidently, the Dorset drum maker had the same problem that I had, which made me feel better.  The only thing better than intentionally making a matching reproduction is accidentally making a matching reproduction because you happen upon the same design and construction challenges as the original maker.

The photo on the left shows two drums stacked on top of each other.  The one in the middle, with the long handle pointing down and to the left is the one that I'm trying to match.  The scarf joint connecting the two ends of the hoop is in the 3 o'clock position and you can see how the drum hoop bends sharply at this point.  The reproduction on the right is oriented the same way, the clamps running out of the frame on the right are pinching the scarf joint together.  You can see how it also bent sharply where the thin ends of the wood overlap each other.
Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Friday, February 14, 2014

Bending the Dorset Drum Frames

A mostly bent frame and the
original drum patterns printed
underneath it.
I hope my dislike for bending wood comes across clearly in this blog.  I'm really bad at it.  You might have wondered why I've been so quiet about that Dorset drum project that I started a few weeks back.  Well, its because I've been having a terrible time making progress with bending the wood frame. When I talk about things going poorly in the workshop its usually after I've made some sort of forward progress and have a few learned lessons to report.  While things are actually going badly, I focus on other things. Like tropical fish or snowshoeing.  Mercifully, I've finally made some headway with the frames and I should be able to finish them up fairly quickly and get this blog back on track.

Heat and then slowly
bend over my knee
I was hoping that bending green willow shoots would be so easy that I wouldn't have to pay attention to things like wood grain and growth rings and the cross-section of the wood.  But I was wrong.  After a bunch of trial and error, I finally worked out a system for bending the small drum hoops that gives me a good match for the size, shape, cross-section, and diameter of the original Dorset artifacts.  I'm still not certain that the Dorset drums found at Button Point were willow, but the willow is creating a good match so far.

I bend it to 180 degrees or so in one
session, soak the wood in snow or
water and then finish bending it to
270 degrees.
The best results came from very straight and fairly thick shoots, an inch or more in diameter at the base.  I split them down the middle and planed the centre of the shoots flat.  I removed just enough thickness from the inside of the shoots to remove the pith canal.  On the outside of the shoots, I removed the bark and tried to flatten the wood somewhat.  The trick with the outside of the shoot is to treat it like you are making a bow and avoid violating growth rings.  As you bend the wood the tension grows on the outside of the bend and the lamination between growth rings will want to crack and come apart.

If you look at the cross section through the original drum hoops, they are shaped kind of like a tall skinny salt box house - with a flat bottom and a peak on top. But like a saltbox, the peak has a long edge and a short edge.  The long edge is a long bevel inside the edge of the drum frame on the "top", where the skin is stretched.   I'm not sure whether the hoop was shaped to this cross section before or after bending, but right now my hunch is that it was a bit of both.  I'm finding it easier to bend thicker wood if I carve a long bevel on the top and bottom of the inside face.  I think I'll end up bending it with a top and bottom bevel and then planing off the bottom bevel to create the square edge on the bottom of the drum.   The inner bevels also seem to help avoid some of the compression folds or pinches that want to form on the inside of the curve as you bend the wood.  There are a couple compression folds in the original artifacts, so I'm not too worried about a few showing up in the reproductions, but I don't want them to become so acute that they harm the integrity of the drum.  These instruments are meant to be played.

The heat gun is clamped in a vice.
Its a little simpler and less prone to
scorching than an open flame or
To actually bend the wood, I'm using a combination of dry heat and steam-bending and boiling.  I suspect that if I had a pot big enough to boil the whole stick then I could just boil the wood and bend it around some sort of jig or frame in one go.  But I don't, so I'm using dry heat from a heat gun to incrementally bend the wood to at least 270 degrees, at which point the hoop will fit into a pot that I can boil on the stove and finish bending with boiling.  I found that it was safer to only apply heat from the heat gun to the inside of the bend as I went along.  The heat gun is strong enough to heat all the way through the wood to the outside surface, but if I applied the heat directly to the outside of the bend this outside surface would dry out and become prone to cracks and delamination.  Its a bit of an ordeal, but the occasional scorching from the dry heat is helping antique and harden the wood as I go, so I don't mind as long as its working. I had lots of trouble with this, but I have a system going now that seems to work.

The fish shaped hoop is done with
dry heat for now.  I'll boil it and clamp
it like the one clothes-pinned to the
pot lid.
I had tried boiling sections of the wood outside, but it is so cold here now that the part of the stick outside the pot would freeze and want to crack while I was bending the part inside the pot.   The willow also stays very flexible when only wet heat is used and wants to straighten itself out again, which makes clamping vital.  On the other hand, using dry heat the wood stays bent a little better as the moisture in the green wood is driven out and the new shape is locked into the wood. So far these frames seem to be holding up.  I have them bent a little smaller than they need to be to allow for some springback when the clamps come off.  The next steps will be working on the scarf joint to connect both ends of the hoop to each other and the groove that runs around the outside circumference of the hoop for the lashing to hold the skin on.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Tropical Fish Photos from Cuba

Its cold in St. John's this week.  Being on the water we can expect lots of snow throughout the winter, but it doesn't often get terribly cold.  Minus 40 doesn't really happen here, but this week feels very cold.  There is ice bumping around in the harbour.  I thought that I was pre-heating my shed today, but I only had the fan on, not the heat so when I tried to get some outside work done this afternoon, it was a very chilly experience.  I didn't get any Elfshot work completed enough to photograph and blog about, so here are some pictures of nice warm tropical fish that I took in Cuba over Christmas.

I don't know the names of most of these fish, so I just made them up. This is the Grandfather Camel Fish.

Most of the fish hung out around the grass or coral at the bottom, but these guys picked the floating grass near the surface.  A lot of the time you could see them with little green sprigs in their pointy mouths.

These ones reminded me of giant goldfish.  They were pretty big, with bodies bigger than a banana.  They liked to hide out under rocks or in shadows, so they were pretty difficult to photograph.

I saw one Lion Fish on the last day of the trip.  It was pretty cool looking, but unfortunately he's in the wrong ocean.  Sometime in the last decade or so they were introduced to the Atlantic and Caribbean seas and there is a lot of concern about their spread and their impact on local fish and coral reef ecosystems.  Most of the fish darted around and kept on the move, but this guy just floated there like he owned the place.

Photo Credits: Tim Rast
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