March 10, 1920
We have just finished breakfast on board, gotten all baggage ready, and having been directed how to get through the camp some three miles to the offices and the hotel, Luckenbill and I were just starting to hoof it, and had shaken hands with the captain, when the Embarkation Officer to whom I had spoken last night came swarming up the gangway with a cheery smile and good morning, adding: “I have orders for your transportation and quarters; transportation will be here at ten o’clock. Please have all your baggage ready”. This was better than a long walk through the hot sun, and we are now waiting for our transportation in a much more comfortable frame of mind.
Basra: Looking across the docks at Basra, from the deck of the SS “Torilla,” while we were waiting to go ashore. March 10, 1920. (N. 44590, P. 65821)
We have not had much sleep for a ship lying at dock is not a quiet place, and it was nearly morning before the confusion and noise of shouting natives finally ceased and we got a little rest. The night was very cold, just as in the Sudan, and I shivered all night, having packed away my blankets; but everything will be accessible for tonight. There was hoar frost on the ground this morning, but the sun is now blistering hot. Cotton khaki is very comfortable, and one feels dressed for the job. I am anxious to get off a wire to Baghdad asking for our letters. I was unable to reach the telegraph last night. We have a big job before us here: You know a good deal about it. We must arrange equipment for sleeping five men and sheltering them from the last rains of the season; we must collect complete canteen for feeding the party and cooking the food; we must select and buy supplies enough to last till we reach the next post; we must find a cook and a couple of camp servants; we must secure a sheikh with enough camels for our transportation, together with camel men and helpers. All this will take a week at least.
We then take the train for Nasariya, which you will find on the Philips map at the end of a branch railway running west from Bosra. The new railway from Bosra to Baghdad, which is not marked down on your map, pretty much follows the route of the Bosra-Nasariya line, but it passes right through ancient Ur of the Chaldees (modern Muquayyar, or Mugheir, or Mukayyar). This is our first site, and as we can use the railway to reach it, our first job must be to get our camels engaged and march them off for Ur, so that they will be there when we reach it. Ur is about six miles southwest of Nasariya, and our caravan journey will be from there to Baghdad. We shall zigzag from place to place, keeping near the Euphrates and the line of railway in order to use it as much as possible. The problem will be how to get our caravan forward to meet us when we have used the railway for a stretch. Now I must get the boys together and make ready for our first day in 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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