The Bighorn Arch Seismic Experiment is a massive array of both passive and active seismometers. About 2500 seiemometers will be deployed across the area of the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming, and then some shots will be fired in late July, for an active source. Passive seismometers will also be monitoring the area for the duration of the project. The main purpose of the shot will be to image the subsurface underneath the mountains, to figure out how they were formed, to decide which of the four current hypotheses are correct. The four Hypotheses are that the mountains formed by: 1) Domino-like lithospheric fault blocks, much like the faults around a rift zone, 2) crustal detachment and buckling, where the lithosphere isn't involved, 3) Lithospheric Buckling, where the lithosphere is folded along with the overlying crust, and 4) pure shear thickening, where water may potentially be involved. All of these hypotheses have in common that the rmountains formed as a result of the laramide orogeny, whcih was part of the formation of the Rocky Mountains. My part in the project, is first surveying the sites where all of the Texan seismometers will go, which includes talking to the landowners and getting permission, putting together deployment packages for those who will be installing the seismometers, actually installing the Texans, then removing them, then working to process the data, which is what my AGU project will involve.
Well, In all of the excitement of Western Life, I seem to have forgotten about blogging!
We've been going strong for quite some time now. The active deployments went well. Two days of digging and burying Texans in the Hot Sun, followed by swimming in the refreshingly cool Shell Creek. It went really well. The first day we buried 60 and the second day 37, as my team had 97. We were lucky to have easy roads, mostly deploying on the highway. Remarkably, with about 32 people out deploying on this side, over the two days, we only managed to have one instance of vehicle failure, but it turned out ok after a little while.
That night, I got the awesome opportunity to witness some shots for active source with Cathy. We stayed 500 feet away from the actual explosions, but still got to feel the wave as it went through the ground. A late night, but a good and exciting one, as the third shot, which only a couple other students and I stayed for (it was 2 am at this point, so a bunch of people went back to bed), exploded upwards, shooting a geyser of gravel and mud about 100 feet into the air, and we had to dive behind the cars just to be safe. A couple pieces hit the cars, and the trail of fresh mudfall could be seen back to the hole. Luckily, despite the upward blast, the shot was still good overall, so we will be able to use it for our data, along with an experimental 18-inch diameter, 1000 pound hole, that they were pretty skeptical about. Good data is always a positive thing!
Also, I got to experience the feeling that I was in an action movie while driving back. If you're ever in a situation where you're driving around a quarry in the middle of the night, with no moon, huge piles of gravel on either side of you, and the only visible lights, the taillights of the cars in front of you, dimmed by the dust clouds kicked up by their tires, and happen to have just watched 2,000 pounds of explosives, you can make it 20 times more epic by playing this song in the background: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t9qqLrdOzDg
After a day of rest, we found that picking up the Texans is much easier, and got all 97 in one day, which was nice. My administrative work after this part involved scanning the deployment sheets, where I managed to conquer the Public Library system, which is almost as awesome as Public transportation. I've also found strange life skills such as haggling the fees for a sub-1 minute eye-test required for my long distance driver's license renewal. They were going to charge 32 dollars!!! I told them (truthfully) that it would have been 25 dollars next door, and they brought it down to that. From this, I also learned to check all the options to see which one is best first. And to just renew your driver's license in your home state when that's an option.
Our explorations continued with a day trip to Yellowstone National Park, which was really cool! I went there about 10 years ago, so it was nice to experience it again with a little bit more knowledge of what's actually going on, and with a couple other geology-minded friends. Got to see Old Faithful, the spectacular Prismatic Hot Springs, mud pots, the famous and picturesque Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and a bunch of cool wildlife, such as bison herds, almost a bear (it ran off into the woods, but left a traffic backup for a half mile), a scared-looking beaver that was probably rabid surrounded by tourons turned close-up photographers, and an elk, where I confused the ranger for the sake of fun. He looked very stressed out with his traffic management, so I decided to ask him if the elk was poisonous. It turns out that they aren't.
A good number of other undergraduate students are here, working throught the Keck Consortium, another geophysics related research project. They have been taking field trips all over the mountains, learning about the structure of the mountains so that their research will be more well-founded when they create their own projects later on. These trips have been fun to sneak onto on free days, to help develop my own knowledge base for research and just knowledge in general purposes. Other activities around camp include basketball games, volleyball, frisbee, slacklining, and the occasional campfire involving guitar. Dave, one of the Passcal employees who has been working with us has a great collection of geophysical parodies, such as "50 ways to lose your data," which he shared with us.
We just deployed the passive seismometers over the last two days. I got to see a ...horny toad? I'm not sure if that's their actual name or not, but I figure everyone knows them by that name, which was pretty cool. We almost put a texan on top of it. The passives will be switched out for ones with fresh batteries tomorrow and the next day, so that we can continue to monitor for earthquake activity with a network of Texans that covers the entire mountain range, which should be great for imaging purposes. I'm hoping for a huge (but non-destructive) earthquake in the next couple of days for some excellent data (and easier picking of course). Sounded like there was a nice 7.2 off the coast of Indonesia, but that was the day before we put this network in. Our broadbands and short periods should have some nice teleseisms though!
So pretty much all that's left is switching these guys out, collecting the data, and then one more active experiment, on a much smaller scale, as we've finally gotten permission to do some shots. We've had 20 so far, but it sounds like we're going to densify a couple more spots and do a really quick active deployment and removal. Once all this data is collected, we can clean up, and do another 1500 mile drive back to Texas. Which I'm looking forward to exactly as much as you'd expect. However, I am looking forward to getting back to Texas for the sake of getting to start looking at some data. I haven't really gotten to do that yet this summer, because the data I'm supposed to be researching won't actually exist until after this portion of the experiment is complete. I'll probably work on either active or passive imaging of one of the lines based on a set of data or two, and try to tell what it tells about that particular dimension of the crust underneath the line. I'll have to see what comes out of it, and what I'll be able to do. Then I get to go home! It's been a while.
Yesterday was a Wild West Themed Day off, where I read No Country For Old Men, in it's entirety (a real page-turner, that makes me slightly less excited about returning to Texas), then went to a rodeo in Cody. An interesting experience. Good times, though!
In case you were worried, it's taking at least three liters a day, but waterboy is staying hydrated!
Good luck to all!
Still in Texas...
The humidity is still present and oppressive, though a recent visitor from the Gulf, named Alex, cooled it down a little, while dumping an inch or two of rain on us. Unfortunately, I learned from this that Texans don't enjoy playing volleyball in the rain, and I got to do work while waiting for them to show up on the court, which they never did. But that's ok...I need to find new random people to play volleyball with that don't already know that I'm not very good at it yet. I'll show them! I also learned the hard way that outdoor pools here are about 90 degrees, and thus, not very refreshing.
The work for the time being, has still been creating deployment packages for both the active and passive parts of the experiment. 21 teams will be out deploying about 1800 Texan seismometers over a period of two days, waiting while we blow the mountains up using nuclear devices (which requires permits from the forest service, by the way (and might be a slight exaggeration)) as an active source experiment, then going out to pick up the remnants over the next two days, so we can collect the data. After this, over another two days, we will put out 800 stations for passive monitoring, when the earth decides to shake on its own, to see what that can tell us. It takes the will of three people experienced in the ways of the middle-of-nowhere roads and tiny towns of North-Central Wyoming to prepare these (some) greenhorns for the task: Our Grad student leader, Lindsay, another Grad student and my Partner, Feras, and your humble Narrator.
This involves a lot of office work in the fortunately air-conditioned rooms of the Geoscience building in Aggieland. Scanning field notebooks into the computer, then transferring the information into excel files. From here, we split it up and each worked on about seven of the packages, which included detailed directions, the points themselves (GPS location and Elevation), and maps, printscreened from Google Earth,and Paint-ed in with fancy arrows marking the routes. This process is much more difficult when the roads are barely visible on Google's mapping software, or Topo's occasionally outdated maps (a couple times we were driving with GPS tracking and the Topo Maps on, and found that the road we were driving on was going straight, while the map showed it winding...a kind of existential experience). Also, it was difficult where some of the teams, my own included, in the beginning didn't take good field notes on where we were going. This got much better through our surveying, as we could tell by how the amount of detail in the notebooks increased by the last pages.
We're just about done with the passive packets, now. These will only have ten teams installing about 800 instruments, but each team travels a little bit further, because they are all spaced at 1 kilometer, which takes out many of the 100 meter spacings that were there for the active experiment, and half of the 500 meter spacings. It was one of these packets that nearly drove me crazy a I tried to find a road on Google Earth, that involved going into 3D mode and looking for the road around every crag in this valley, which with vertical exaggeration looked an awful lot like the grand canyon, and tempted me to write something like: donkey required to reach this station in the packet. But yes, Google Earth is awesome, and I was able to show them where this road was supposed to exist, as well as an alternate route that they could take in case they couldn't find the donkey rental booth. I think Rob has an App for that on his phone.
After these directional/informational packets are created, we're putting them together along with the deployment sheets, which each have room fr 20 seismometers, general maps of the area, a few copies of the "one-pager" that gives a quick explanation of the BASE project and where they can get more info on it for those curious people wondering why we're digging holes next to the highway. Also, there are a bunch of land permits for the various counties that we'll be working in. And there's still the issue of trying to figure out how to upload the points onto the GPS, which we'll be experimenting with this afternoon.
This has been interesting, because it helps me to get a good look at what sort of planning goes into a seismic experiment of this magnitude (no pun intended). It has been interesting to be on this side, watching as shot locations need to be changed, landowners change their minds about letting us dig 1-foot deep holes in their property, and difficulty in placing certain points causes us to move them to different locations on the map. While I haven't been working with the scientific portion nearly as much as Nick has in this experiment,and am looking forward to trying to figure some of that out for learning purposes, I feel that this is going well. I have definitely accomplished the first goal of knowing what the project is about, and have explained it in less than 30 seconds in plain vernacular to a number of people that have asked. YES! Early Goal Accomplished.
Still a couple more to go.
We're heading out to Wyoming again this weekend, and I'm looking forward to it. The long field days will be a nice break from long computer days, and the 40-60 % relative humidity will be a welcome break from the 70-90% that is a life-force-draining daily reality here. I'll just come back after a month, and it will be ten degrees hotter. I'm also looking forward to being around a bunch of other people that are working on the same project. I've gotten to know my housemate well here, and he's pretty cool, but that's about it. More people around will be nice.
Today, completely unexpectedly, my advisor arranged a meeting with a former Hartwick College Graduate, who now works with Texas A and M. He graduated in 1971, so it was interesting to compare. We went and got lunch, then he took me on a tour of the facility he works at, which is a Geochemical and Environmental science Research Group (GERG), that has been doing a lot of research lately involving the Gulf Oil Spill, as well as other industrial pollutants in the oceans. It was neat to get to see all of the equipment, as well as some of the methods being used, and to hear about it from someone who graduated from the school I hope to graduate from next fall. They were grinding up fish that they had gotten as frozen samples, boiling them down, and using acid digestion to look for dioxins and PCBs within their tissues. I was offered a fish burger, but declined.
I think I've learned that I am one of the only people who walks to get places in College Station, besides on campus of course. This has involved walking to pick up a take-out pizza, and even walking to campus and back one day when the buses weren't running. Thank you Martin, for the Craig's list Bike ads, but I'm kind of enjoying it (and have also figured out when the buses run...weekdays). If only my name had been Ranger, I could tell people, and maybe create a TV show about Ranger, Texas Walker.
Oh yes! And the other day, I learned that the phrase "Don't Mess with Texas" was originally just found on the sides of the highway, as a deterrent against would be litterers. "Don't Mess with Texas, 1,000$ fine for littering." Just in case you wanted to know, that's where that one came from. Doesn't seem quite as tough anymore.
Once again, I've found enough to write about, even if some of it is a bit redundant. Good luck to everyone!
I don't know if that worked, but had to try playing with a little bit of HTML...
While its been a while since my last post, not too much exciting has happened. The truck was pulled out of the mud, and I got to pay my ticket so that we're able to continue a decent working relationship with the Forest Service. It could have been much worse.
From that point, we moved to the next field station, a bustling metropolis of 5,000 people, quite large by our Wyoming standards, and spent two more days there, dropping down a large number of points across roads that were slightly more well maintained, and didn't go through actual wetlands, and I actually remained on these designated roads. One of the days involved a wild romp through the area around Tensleep, looking for the owner of a property that a bunch more of our stations were located on, to ask permission. His cabin, where I thought I was going to be car-jacked by horses, (four very large, very inquisitive animals...the four horses of the apocalypse perhaps), said that he lived in the town, but no one there seemed to know him, which seemed unusual for a town of about 500. Everyone knew someone else that owned the area, though, so we looked around for him instead, and had much better luck.
After the next day, a short day of point placement, we traveled back to the East side, where the remainder of our points would be surveyed. On the last day, my partner and I finally finished the points that we had been assigned on the first day, two weeks earlier, which had been incomplete because of a mix of technical difficulties, private property, weather, being on the wrong side of the mountains, and probably ozone depletion, too. We worked on this surveying, to finish it up, while Nick and the CU people, a very entertaining bunch, finished up servicing the short period seismometers in the area.
In case you're curious how the surveying worked, we would go out with a topcon antennae and a GMS. A Base station would be set up, which would record our data all day, as we surveyed each point on the list. From this point, the differential between our point and the Base staion GMS's point would be taken, and then these results would be sent to a seperate company as an OPUS project. The results that came back would be very accurate GPS points, that will help with our data collection and interpretation...every step is reducing the error by a bit. When we get the seismometers in those exact locations, we will now know exactly where they are.
We drove from Wyoming to Denver the next day. Long drive, but it was a nice drive acoss a lot of flat land. In Denver, Feras (my working partner I keep mentioning, the other intern, a grad student at Kaust, in Saudi Arabia, from Bahrain) and I got to spend the evening in Denver, which was pretty cool. We were pretty surprised when we walked downtown and found that it was the gay pride celebration day. Interesting sights, but it was entertaining, and the city was certainly very friendly that day.
we flew into Austin the next morning, and I learned that it is really hot here in Texas. Similar to New Mexico, with Temperatures in the 90s, but much more humid. It's pretty draining walking around, but there is a wonderful, artificial breeze of cool air when you walk into any building from Air conditioning, which is absolutely wonderful.
College Station is an interesting town. The best way I could describe it, is to call it a big, flat suburb of no particular city, with a college of 50,000 students right in the middle. There is an area of walking distance restaurants close to where I'm living at the moment, but beyond that, it is difficult to get anywhere not on campus without a car.
I'm beginning to miss field work...and mountains, or any sort of topographical relief at all.
Lab work here currently consists of creating deployment packages. Feras and I are putting them together with the help of our UT Austin Grad student, who is mostly in charge of this project, and it involves a lot of work with spreadsheets right now. We are putting all of our field notes into these spreadsheets for Easy Access, and looking at the data in a couple of different programs, including Google Earth, and National Geographic's Topo, to try to figure out what the most logical plans are for teams to place seismograms daily will be when we return to Wyoming. The first portion will be an active component, where we will install a total of about 1800 seismometers over two days (with the help of a large number of people...I think around 20 teams of two) which will then record some shots, (which seem extremely difficult to arrange with landowners, by the way), and then be taken out by the same people. After this, more seismometers will be placed along the lines or a passive monitoring period, where we will be able to further image the crust beneath the mountains. We're trying to figure out how to divide it up, and which points to use for which part of the experiment.
Working with my advisor has been interesting so far. It seems like she is probably one of the busiest people on campus, being the dean of the college of Geosciences, here. We meet for about half an hour once a day to go over logistics, and what we should be working on. It seems to be working well, but it's a different situation than I imagined.
in my spare time, which doesn't seem to be in any danger of being short, she has given us some seismic refraction data from a previous experiment to start working with. I'm looking forward to checking that out, and seeing what kind of data we can come up with. This one will apparently be much easier to interpret than the data we'll get from the Bighorns, but I figure that's a good place to start, with the vast underground vaults, chock full of experience that I have gained and stored in this field in the couple hours spent on it that week in New Mexico so long ago. Yeah, its a good place to start.
Oh yeah! And there was a magnitude 5.5 earthquake just north of Montreal, that I probably would have felt if I was home. Apparently there was some decent shaking on the higher floors of buildings in Albany. I guess that's what I get for studying Seismology halfway across the country.
Until next time, then, good luck to all, beat the heat, or lack thereof, and have a good time. Maybe learn a couple things too.
The first thing that comes to mind when thinking about the past week, is how every day has been so completely different from the one before. In my last post, I discussed equipment failures. This has been one of the only recurring themes of the trip.
The Bighorn Mountain Surveying continues, and the amount of points that we are able to do grows every day...depending on what happens. Here are a couple of synopsi, which is now a word.
Friday: We left Buffalo, early in the morning, for Iowa State University's field camp...a former Internment camp during World War 2. The drive went through the mountains, and had beautiful views and a couple of interesting geologic structures along the way, and nice signs that told which stratigraphic unit they were a part of, including their ages. After this trip through time, we went out to survey for the day. My partner and I were assigned to drive an extra 50 miles into the literal middle of nowhere, a locale I have visited on at least three seperate occasions this trip, onto a dirt road, with several barbed wire gates crossing it. I got good at operating these by the end of the day, but before getting good at it, learned that i had a knack for closing myself on the wrong side of them, the side that the car wasn't on. This trip went through fields of cows, and I also learned that car horns are a good way to get cows to move out of the, as you inch towards them. Well, only about half the time. We had dinner in a small town, that was pretty much a strip of dirt road, with 100 people, and 2 bars (one of which doubled as a restaurant), and that was about it.
Saturday: Day off! Two other people and I decided to celebrate this occasion by working, because there is nothing to do near Shell, Wyoming. It was a great decision, too. With three people, instead of just two, we were able to work extremely efficiently, with me sitting in the back of the pickup truck, wearing a poncho, and a yellow highway safety vest, which, I must say is a stunning combination. It was raining, but not very hard, so the puddle I was sitting in wasn't too big. I jumped in and out of the back of the truck 80 times in four hours, and the points were done very efficiently and well. Exciting and fun. Then a great dinner in the only large-ish town around, Greybull. When I got back to camp, Nick was there, so that was a nice couple hour encounter, before he moved to Buffalo the next day, long after we got up.
Sunday: Work again, but completely different. Points were along alternate 14, which took my partner and I up into the mountains, where several of our points were on snow. This was pretty cool...literally, it was 36 degrees out. I threw a couple of snowballs, and fell into the snow up to my knees. Just wish I had brought my skis for that part. One of the points involved me bringing East Coast Winter Driving skills, to go up a couple of hills on 4 wheel drive roads. From here, we went down a little lower on the mountain, and found that we were in a cloud, and visibility was about 20 feet. When the clouds cleared, we made it to the bottom, where we drove along dirt roads through a construction area, until we reached private land, and couldn't survey any more. Dinner was in the same restaurant in Greybull. We're getting to know the people there well, because they have really good food.
Monday: Today was full of equally new and exciting experiences, including getting my first driving ticket, from a forest ranger, no less. More on that later. We went off along the mountain road, surveying points every 100 meters. The plan for the day was for about 115 points, and our highest in a single day before that had been 80. It was going to be a long day.
We eventually made it onto a dirt road, which went pretty well. This turned into a four wheel drive road, which was extremely bumpy, muddy and rocky, and even had one snowpack on it. It really made me curious as to who picked these points...they are just along the map on everything that resembles a road in some way shape or form. Our job is to go to them, and use a GMS to pick the point in the area where a Texan Seismometer will go, and put a survey flag there, so that the teams will be able to put them there. About 4 kilometers down this road (40 points at 100 meter stations), we ran into a dilemna. The road went through a stream. Checking the depth, I wasn't sure whether the stream was crossable, so we looked for an alternate route. Other tire tracks were going off the road, and across a short muddy area that wasn't as wide or as deep as the stream. It looked like a better option. NOTE: THIS IS APPARENTLY ILLEGAL IN NATIONAL FORESTS! DO NOT ATTEMPT.
So we made it across. It took a bit of extra weight in the back, and some tire movement, but we had crossed the river. We were able to go about 200 more meters before the road completely disappeared (but not on the map) into a beautiful example of a meandering stream, cut bank and all. We decided that this was it for the day, and it was time to turn around. We had successfully installed 135 points, which was far above and beyond the days expectations. We would go back. Unfortunately, fate was not yet done with us for the day.
It seemed simple enough. If you cross a stream once, you can cross it again. In the same place. Apparently not. We were stuck, and no matter how hard we tried, we could not get the truck to get across the stream, or to do anything, except sink. We tried putting everything besides mud underneath it...sticks, twigs, rocks, to give the tires some traction, but it just did not work. I discovered the limits of four wheel drive capabilities today. So after an hour, I decided to run back to the ranger Station that I had seen before. Luckily, as I am not altitude trained, only the very beginning of this trip was uphill, and the rest was downhill. It made the run back take half an hour instead of an hour. I found a volunteer firefighter at the bottom of the hill, since the rangers weren't there, who offerred to help. Him and a friend, both with big trucks, drove me back to my partner and the foundering Ford. Try as they might, they couldn't pull it out. It was buried too deep, and they couldn't get any traction on the muddy grass with their wheels. They told us we would need to call a tow truck.
It was a lot like the scene from The Empire Strikes Back, where Luke tries to get his X-Wing out of the swamp on Dagobah, and only makes it sink more, except that Yoda wasn't there.
When we got back to the station, we went to the forest officer who had a satellite phone, but ended up with a confrontation of sorts. He had to go out on his ATV to survey the scene. When he came back, he got my information, as I was the driver, heard our stories, and decided to give me a ticket for operation of a motor vehicle off of a road, but not the two tickets that he could have given for that, and resource damage, which was nice. Since it was 8:00 pm at this point, there were no nearby towtruck companies that would be able to pull us out, so we just had to go home. We got a ride from the ranger, which was somewhat awkward, the twenty miles back to our internment camp, where our un-contacted leader was waiting.
So that resulted in a change of plans for tomorrow. Instead of going out and getting more points in our lack of a car, I get to use tomorrow to get a towtruck, back into the mountains, and then wait for the ranger to come back to give me my ticket. Woohoo! Unless we can find yoda. That would work too. And would probably be less expensive.
Oddly enough, the whole situation was kind of surreal. The thing is, we just did what seemed right, not knowing that it was against the rules or anything like that. The ranger said it seemed like we used really poor judgement. In hindsight, I still think that based on personal experience, the idea seemed right, but that doesn't mean it was the best choice. It was a learning experience, and definitely added some things for me to think about before making decisions in the future.
I reccommend that if anyone is going into an area where they are unsure of the territory, or what type of land they'll be driving on, that you go talk to some locals, or someone who knows the land ahead of time, to get an idea of what you're up against, and if it's navigable. It could help a lot. Also, it's good to know the rules before going into an area. Ignorance may be bliss, but its not a good excuse.
On the plus side of today, I saw two bull moose.
So yes, Wyoming is radically different every day, and every morning when I wake up, I am unsure of what kind of territory I'll be in for the day. From cows in the middle of nowhere, to snow in the middle of the clouds, to the swamps of Dagobah, where unfortunately, there was only try. It's exciting. There are only four more planned days of surveying before I get to Texas for some project planning, but these plans tend to be subject to change. We'll see what happens. A Hawaiian word for how things have been going, is holo, which means a lot of things, one of which means to flow like a river, and can be used to say, "go with the flow." It's worked out well so far, so I hope everyone is able to do the same. It's not just a Water-Boy thing.
Good night, and good luck
i don't know why this posted three times...
Welcome to Wyoming! Where gas stations are full of men wearing not only cowboy hats, but chaps. Yes, I got here after the bumpiest plane ride (but with a view of the snow-capped bighorn mountains that was completely worth it) I have ever been on, on the smallest plane I have ever been on, into an Airport that is only twice the size of my house. After picking up a rental car, I had the freedom of driving across Wyoming, followed by the strange, but relaxing feeling of spending the night in a five-bedroom house by myself.
Work began today, as a first day often does…full of unforeseen complications. These began, when every utilities representative in the area, about 22, came strolling into the house for the question and answer period about what our work was about, and whether it would interfere with their pipelines and telephone lines. This also gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the project, as it was explained to them. Assured for the most part that our work wouldn’t destroy their livelihood (though they had quite a few questions about the explosions we would be creating underground), they decided that they didn’t need to follow us around for the day. I learned the source of the prevailing West-East winds across the state of Wyoming however from one of these fine gentlemen. “South Dakota Sucks, and Idaho Blows.” Now we know.
After this, a lengthy explanation of survey flag placement was given to us. The eight people, in teams of two, were each assigned to mark about fifty locations, so that it would be easier to install Texan seismometers there later. We set up a base-camp for the day of a GPS receiving device that looked a lot like a theodolite, then headed out on the road with neon-green safety vests, and yellow, upside-down-cereal-bowl-shaped antennaes on our cars. Had we been in Roswell, we would have gotten some interesting looks, no doubt.
The first stop was semi-chaotic. Getting out of the car was difficult, threading the antennae and survey device out the window, while trying, in a Houdini-like fashion to gracefully remove the four different power and connecting cords from around my legs, to get out of the SUV and actually be useful on the site. After this ordeal, my partner and I suddenly found that it wasn’t too difficult to get the data point taken, or to drive a neon-green flag into the ground where the Texan would be placed. We just had to follow the guidelines given to us at the beginning:
1. Don’t make the placement too conspicuous…passerbys will steal it.
2. Don’t put it in a drainage ditch, because it will get washed away.
3. Don’t put it on someone’s property. Apparently, past seismological equipment has been shot, and stabbed by various people in this type of experiment.
4. Don’t put the flag too close to the fence, because cows will eat it.
With the first location marked, it became much easier as we went on to the next two, including extricating myself from the car in a non-equipment-damaging way. I was also learning to operate the GPS in conjunction with the National Geographic mapping software, which made it much easier to know exactly where we were, and exactly where we needed to be.
Right before flag number four, or 5003 as it was named in the survey, an obstacle suddenly loomed out of the optimism of the morning. A gate stood between us, and our goal: posts 5003, 5004, 5005 and so on. I checked the map to see if there was an alternate route, and there was! And much needed gas was on the way. It could still work, with just the detour needing to be made. We shuffled back off to Buffalo, with hope for the day still.
More clouds appeared on the horizon of the day, as the power died. The power inverter, plugged into the car to power both the laptop and the surveying gear, was apparently useless, for no apparent reason (which I later learned was a blown fuse). We marched back to base camp to try to find a plan. Charging the batteries as much as we could we set off again, with the plan to survey whatever our batteries would allow. We would have made it, if the equipment didn’t have the problem of needing to sit still for ten minutes to regain its position after going under a bridge. The route taken just happened to have three bridges. We pushed on to the point, went through the mandatory 35 seconds, and were about to store the point, when the batteries died. We later learned that when the batteries died, the data was erased as well, bringing our grand total for the day to zero out of fifty points!
On the bright side, we continued our safari for the future days, while we were out on a nice drive, and found a back way into the gated area. It had an interesting, spring-loaded, barbed-wire gate contraption that looked dangerous, but seemed passable. If I don’t write anything else, it’s because I went in there to try to find new points, and was taken captive by some madman. Please tell my family.
We got back to find out that my advisor’s team had also had trouble, and was only able to log one point for the day. Another team came in with 25 points…so far the winners.
It was a test-run today. It seems that there is definitely a learning curve for the first day, and that that is perfectly acceptable. I plan on taking this information, and the new fuse I just bought, into the field tomorrow with renewed optimism. I was getting the hang of it…it just didn’t work out with the equipment. It’s interesting, and somewhat stressful so far, but I’m definitely learning a lot.
So I wish everyone the best of luck as your internships begin for the summer. The first day may not be what the rest of the summer will be like, so don’t judge it by that. I don’t know this for sure yet, as it’s still the first day, but I’m about to eat some dinner, so it’s getting better.
And yes, you can expect books as blog posts from me…As a kid, besides a Paleontologist and an Astronaut, I also wanted to be a writer. You can let me know if this seems more realistic or not.
As the end of the orientation week looms, and thoughts turn to the rest of the summer, a number of things are going through my mind.
To start off, I don't officially have housing for the period of time when I'll be in Texas yet...entirely my fault. Reading through the plans for the Bighorn Array Seismic Experiment once again, though, I feel that after this week, I have a much better understanding of the basics, seismologically speaking, of what the project will be doing, and can give a better description than, "I'll be walking around the field in Wyoming, measuring how much the ground moves when things blow up." Now, I can say that again, but can add that it will be used in order to help create a better picture of the subsurface structure of the Bighorn Mountains, which can lead to better understanding about how these mountains, and many other mountains like this all over the world, in similar tectonic situations, were formed.
The first thing that I would like to accomplish this summer, is to be able to develop my own understanding of what some parts of the project involve. For instance, the terminology thrown around the most in the paper that I don't understand, is "basement-involved foreland arches." While I can have a picture in my head of what this means, I definitely don't know enough about it to be able to explain it to anyone else. My mentor has recommended that a first third of the internship should have a goal o being able to explain the basics of the BASE project to both Geoscientists, and non-geoscientists, and I believe that my own understanding of Basement involved foreland arches is a vital component of this. I would like to learn, and I think that is a great place to start.
Another, important goal for this summer, is that i would like to make sure I take some time to evaluate my work. No, I m not going to edit and revise this blog post. However, I have noticed that i have a trend to research, or write papers with as little effort as possible, such as a ten page, ten source, ten hour research paper that I wrote at the end of this semester. While that paper went very well, I feel that I would actually be more satisfied with work that I spent more time trying to understand, and really got to know what I was talking about. I think this goal would be helpful, as it involves more time for me to spend evaluating my own work, and myself as I go. I feel that this would be benefiucial for both my own experience, my learning, and grad school potential.
Overall, my main reason for this summer is to learn. There is not a seismology class offerred at my school, but I feel that being a geology major involves as many types of geology as possible. Having experience in seismology, both field and lab methods, as well as the background and basic information is an important part of this to me. I feel that the field is a great way to learn the science, as well as what types of careers are available in this field.
I am looking forward to this valuable experience, and plan to make the most of it possible.
From humble, relatively stressful beginnings, this week has already gotten off to a good start. There are plenty of itneresting people from a variety of fields that it is interesting to integrate together. I would like to continue learning what they all have to offer within the group. The presentations that have happened so far have been informative, and I am looking forward to seeing what else will be offered.
New Mexico is...Hot. It's been officially established. There has been heavy consumption of water this week, but I'm not sure if its enough. I'm not acclimated to the altitude yet either, but it hasn't interfered with sleeping yet, which is nice. The landscape is very different than anything else I've seen so far, and beautiful in an alien sort of way. I'm still not sure exactly why there is a Giant "M" on the mountain, but it's different, and looks somewhat like a supervillian's headquarters.
I'm looking foraward to the trip to the Magdalenas mountains this week to get a higher view of the area, and see what's around.