March 8, 1920
We have just sighted the light at the mouth of the Shatt el-Arab, which is the name of the united stream by which the Tigris and Euphrates flow into the Persian Gulf. We shall cross the bar before midnight and lie inside the mouth of the river at anchor all night, and then proceed up the river some sixty miles by daylight to Bosra. We anchored off Bushire this morning and two crazy old Persian sail boats came out to get the mail bags.
Persian Gulf: Unloading the mail from the SS “Torilla” into a little sail-boat. Persian Gulf, some miles from Bushire. March 8, 1920. (N. 44580, P. 65814)
It is a little less than 200 miles from Bushire to Bosra, of which something over sixty miles is voyage up the river. The day has been dismal and squally, with a biting cold north wind. We have had to dive into our duffle bags and get out our sweaters, which the heat of India had lead us to suppose were going to be superfluous. I have closed our port hole and I sit with sweater on, as I write. I hope we may finish our work in Babylonia before the worst heat comes on, though it is pretty bad by May. We should have escaped it entirely if we had been able to return to the Mediterranean again by caravan; but now of course we must return through the Persian Gulf in the summer heat.
I am not sure whether I have told you that we succeeded with some difficulty in securing a supply of cholera serum in Cairo, and were all twice inoculated before leaving there. We have brought the serum with us, and have it now in cold storage on the ship. We shall ask an army surgeon to give us another shot in Bosra, although two are usually regarded as enough. There was not a single case of cholera in Bombay, and the British have kept things so clean in Mesopotamia that I do not think there is any serious risk from any of the usual tropical epidemics. All the men are feeling first rate, and I am very well myself.
It is now nearly four weeks since I had a home letter. I shall wire the American consul at Baghdad to forward all our mail to Bosra, as soon as we land there tomorrow, and in two days I hope very much to have my first news from home. At last I have more months of absence from home behind me than I have before me. I shall be at home again in six months from now (five months, I suppose, from the time you will be reading this letter), and in a few days it will be seven months since I left home. It seems a century. There are times when it is just as hard as it was at the beginning, but fortunately the responsibilities and the pressure of work keep my mind mercifully immersed in things which do not permit me to dwell on the long absence. Yet even in the busiest moments, in banks and consulates, on docks and boats, in custom houses and hotel lobbies, the thoughts of my home and my loved ones come over me like a dream and shut out all the busy present around me, and there is an ache under my vest that will not be quieted.
Luckenbill has come in and turned in, and I must do likewise. I will try to finish this in the morning, after we have had our first glimpse of Babylonia.
For the full story of my exciting trip you should come to the special exhibit “Pioneers to the Past: American Archaeologists in the Middle East, 1919-1920,” at the Oriental Institute!
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