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August 31, 2006

Last Days in the Field

Everything went remarkably smooth in the field. Kevan is the field master. Nice job, Kevan. Out of 11 sites, all 11 are upgraded with new equipment and are sending data back to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory. The data are used to better understand Kilauea’s plumbing system, and can also be used to warn of heightened or a change in activity.

Here are some shots from our last two days in the field.

[Kevan jackhammers, Maurice drills, I tinker.]

[Kevan hands the jackhammer off to Dan, with some instruction.]

[Park archeaologists survey a site nearby.]

[A break at the cliff's edge.]

[Unfortunate eel.]

[Volcanic garden.]

[Kevan and Maurice work on the WiFi antenna for transmitting the data back to the Observatory.]

[Hawaiian-style offroading.]

[Dan in front of a lava-draped pali, or cliff. In this case, a fault scarp.]

[The effects of volcanic gasses on hardware.]

[Group effort, last day in the field: Maurice, HVO volunteer Summer, Kevan, and Dan. Not picture: myself (taking picture) and Mike Poland, out of the frame to the left.]

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August 28, 2006

Back to Work

Week two of work has been a lot like week one. Monday was spent in-house prepping for the rest of the week, and Tuesday we were back in the field again. Kevan, Dan, and I went to upgrade a site at a geothermal plant.

This is what we found:

I know it’s hard to see, but there is a GPS antenna under the tarp. Generally, putting things over a GPS antenna is a bad thing, since GPS works by the antenna receiving signals from satellites. So we asked them to move the tarp. For the time being, though, it was nice to have a rain shelter and then, when the sun came out, shade.

After working on the site, we detoured to Lava Tree State Park, where I didn't actually take any pictures of lava trees.

The very impressive trees, according to Kevan, are evil. Evil? Why? He said they become waterlogged and lose their big branches. He said that every day, branches have to be cleared from the roads lined with these guys. (The trees are not native, by the way.) Shortly after he told us, we passed a sign that warned “Falling Branches”. And after walking through the park, we believed him.

That night, I went on a little drive and took a few photos.

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August 27, 2006

Naturalist Weekend

I had the weeked work-free, which is quite unusual in the field. In this case, though, I’ve been working with other 9-5ers, not a science group on a tight schedule, so they had a weekend and so did I.

It was nice to have the weekend to myself, besides some activites with Dan, but admittedly a little lonely. I had almost every evening to myself as well, and realized after a while that I was a little socially starved. I'm glad Dan was around.

And, just the same, it was a nice weekend.

I started it out by exploring a trail in the park housing neighborhood that I had been eyeing every time I drove by. During my walk, I realized that not only does the trail have a name (Earthquake Trail, I think), but it also passes by just a block from my duplex. Lovely.

Here are some of the things I saw on my leisurely walk, and on another little hike the following day:

When I got back from my walk on Saturday morning, Dan and I went to check out a hula performance on a hula platform near the visitor’s center. It wasn’t what I expected, and it was a little slow, but I suppose it was nice.

I know this picture isn’t going to mean much to you guys, but I’m putting it in anyway because this woman was hilarious. She was acting/dancing out a little story about a steamy night between gods.

After hula, we went snorkeling. We saw lots of fishies, lots of coral, and one sea turtle. It was it little tough getting out since it had clouded over and the water was more inviting than the breezy air, but we managed. We also managed to eat sushi in Hilo afterwards. Mmmm, sushi.

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August 26, 2006

Better Lava Viewing

On Friday night, Dan (Stanford student) and I went to check out the real thing. We drove around to the east side of the lava field, outside the Park, which offers easier access right now to the flows. We hiked in about 50 minutes over nondescript lava towards the steam plumes from ocean lava entries, taking GPS waypoints every 300 meters or so so we’d be able to find our way back to the car.

This was the good stuff.

[Dan on a really cool lava flow.]

[Framed by steam plumes, where lava enters the ocean...]

[Not the best shot, but see the glowing red in that crack by our feet?]

[My favorite shot. An overland flow before we reached the cliffs, steam plume in background.]

[Ocean entry.]

[And the overland flow again, on our way back.]

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August 25, 2006

Lava Viewing (Sort of)

On Thursday night, I decided to go and see the lava, the tourist way. Just out to the viewing area right at the end of Chain of Craters Road in the Park, from which right now you can only see the steam from lava entering the sea and, when the sun goes down, the glow of the molten rock.

It was interesting, but kind of a hideous experience.

[Heading out.]

People were loud. That’s my main gripe. I’m glad they were able to have this experience, I just wish they would have done it a little more quietly. OH, and I saw someone I know from college. Matt Causselman (I’m sure I’m butchering the spelling of his last name). He recognized me, catching me completely off guard. Nutty. Did I mention before that I saw someone I know from Antarctica in the Galapagos? Just happened to run into him? Naked John, for anyone who might be reading this that knows him. Also nutty. Anyway.

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August 24, 2006

Every Day in a Helicopter is a Good Day

So said my friend Chris. And, I figure it’s mostly true, for most of us.

Thursday and Friday, Kevan and I did helicopter work. After we’d finished the last site on Friday, I said shoot, I need to pretend like I’m still working so you can get a picture of me. Aw, there’ll be other sites, he said. But not helicopter sites, I said. You can put your flight suit on at another site for a photo, he said. Mmmm, not. So I don’t have any shots of me in the flight suit.

Here’s Kevan, though:

[Finishing up the site.]

[Calling Asta on the satellite phone to confirm that she can "see" the site via her computer.]

[Our ride.]

One of the sites was a relocation of an older site that got overrun by lava. (The equipment had been pulled out before getting toasted.)

[Old antenna mast.]

[Newer site overview.]

[New life.]

The helicopter picked us up and dropped us off at a site (just a clearing) on the Escape Road, a limited access road in the park. The site happens to be amidst "lava trees".

These towers are created when a lava flow is thick in a region of trees, which burn where the lava contacts them. The flow then drains out, lowering the crust of the flow and leaving the lava which had cooled around the trees as towers.

And, I almost forgot. The absolute coolest thing about doing the helicopter sites was the fly-over of Pu’u O’o, the active eruptive vent. Thanks, pilot David, for doing it, and thanks Kevan for asking for it.

[Pu’u O’o from the ground, view from one of the GPS sites.]

[Flying over.]

[That lava was *splashing* in the vent.]

This is up there with one of the coolest things I've seen.

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August 23, 2006

Another Volcano

Another project, another volcano. In this case, Kilauea volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kilauea has be in its current eruption phase since 1983—many of you may have even been here to see it erupt. I was through here a little over three years ago, to give a talk and explore the volcano a bit. Now, I’m back to spend two weeks working with USGS staff at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) to upgrade 11 permanent GPS sites.

Asta, the project organizer, put me up in a duplex in Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park housing (the observatory is inside the Park), which is my own little house with a living room and TV and kitchen with all the amenities. My commute to work is a drive ¼ of the way around Kilauea’s caldera rim to HVO. I laugh every time this occurs to me.

I work with Kevan, field tech extraordinaire, and various other folks who come and go depending on their schedule. Most days look something like this:

[Kevan builds cables.]

[The Stanford crew--Emily and Dan--watch on as Kevan does his thing.]

[Old antenna cable wear.]

[New antenna setup.]

We’re changing out the GPS receiver and GPS antenna, the comms (radios that send the data back to HVO), and cables where necessary.



Dramatic, I know.

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August 20, 2006

On the Brink

Well, here we are, I haven't even posted anything about the Galapagos yet (I have an entry started, though), and I'm on the brink of leaving for another trip. As in, I head out of my apartment in a little over 8 hours to start on my way to Hawaii. I know, I know, rough gig. I will be working for two weeks on the island of Hawaii, aka the Big Island, with the Hawaiian Volcano Observetory to upgrade some GPS sites used to monitor motion of Kilauea volcano.

Many of you have probably already been to Kilauea. Even if you haven't been there, you've almost certainly seen it in pictures. Kilauea has been in near-constant eruption since 1984. It's a very, very cool place. I was there for a week several years ago. This time, I'll be working on the volcano a little longer--and, most importantly, staying on for a week afterwards to vacation. HooRAY! That will be fun, eh? I just spent a lot of money on snorkeling equipment (holy cow, that stuff can be expensive) so that I can have my very own gear. So I'm particularly excited about snorkeling.

I don't know that I'll be able to get online while there, but if I can, I'll try to post some stuff. Hopefully some nice photos, as well. I mean, there's got to be *something* to look at there, eh?

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August 16, 2006

Ice Nostalgia

Last night, I made the long drive to south Denver to meet up with the lovely Ms. Lisa Gacioch and then the dashing (I had to be fair) Mr. David Weimer for an evening of general silliness. David was my first friend down in McMurdo, and I hadn't seen him since leaving the ice two winters ago. Lisa I see more frequently, as she lives in Denver, but still not frequently enough.

We ate salmon that Dave had caught in Alaska with Mikee, another ice friend, and drank rum and cokes--my favorite McMurdo drink (save Baileys and hot chocolate, on Sunday mornings)--and screwdrivers and reminisced and listened to Dave's stories of travelling with his girlfriend, Sarah, by dogsled across northern Alaska this past winter. (Yes, I did say winter. Yikes. Dave's crazy. Sarah must be, too.)

It made me nostalgic for ice times, and also made me want to go back down. I'm ready to do it again. I'm okay not, but I wouldn't mind.

So in honor of that, here are a few poorly scanned slides from my first season down in Antarctica that I just now had put on CD. In fact, I just picked them up today.

[Our acclimatization camp at Fang Ridge.]

[Steamy Mt. Erebus and our smooth ride.]


A shout-out to Matt and Tad, who are still down in McMurdo finishing up the winter. Tad, I can't wait to see Matt Damon running around Mactown trying out each bathroom... (see comments, "Eight Below," but only if you know Tad or have read "Big Dead Place"...)

Also, when I first posted this entry I'm not sure why I didn't post this also-newly-aquired shot of Sal (another Ice friend), Lisa, and I, reunited poolside in Boulder two summers ago.

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August 13, 2006

Hot Items on Ebay

And I mean HOT. Some of our GPS equipment has recently appeared on Ebay, as well as has GPS equipment from another user in town. My boss happenend to find a receiver we've been missing for almost three years on Ebay last week, and on Friday I had lunch with some work folks and a fellow who does some contract work for us told us the following story:

Said man buys used GPS equipment sometimes for his business, and found a screaming deal on Ebay. He purchased the equipment using PayPal, which means the payment went through immediately, and then headed into Denver (the operation selling the equipment happened to be local) to pick up his goods. He brought them home, noting that serial numbers had been removed, and did a little sleuthing. It doesn't take much. He connected to the equipment with his computer and checked the serial numbers internally, and immediately recognized the gear as equipment which had been stolen from a client of his about a year ago. He took the equipment back to the outlet in Denver, got his money back, and headed back the next day with the sheriff and the rightful owners. They were able to recover three of their four items (not all, unfortunately, because of slightly sloppy record-keeping).

Let this be a lesson to you.

Let this be the following several lessons to you, actually:

1) Be wary of used items you buy from an unlisenced source. Most fancy items like GPS equipment, cameras, and computers have serial numbers. If the serial number has been removed, be suspicious. If it does have a serial number, register your item when you get it, and you might find that it's already been registered--another guy I work with said he bought a projector off Ebay, and discovered the item had been stolen when he tried to register it online. The company he had bought it from then bought him a brand new projector. Just keep in mind that you might be obtaining something that somebody else is missing.

2) Keep good records. If you don't have a record of having an item, you can't reclaim the item.

3) Don't steal. Stealing is bad. Reselling things that have been stolen is also bad, so don't do that either. Buying things that you know are stolen is also bad. Don't do bad things.

Also, to note: UNAVCO property is actually government property, and stealing government property is, I believe, a federal offense. So not only is it bad, but getting caught means you're in deep doo-doo. Don't steal from UNAVCO. Whoever posted our receiver on Ebay not only left our UNAVCO sticker on it, but left it visible in the picture. Bad, and stupid too.

Ebay can be great, but is a venue which facilitates easy, unregulated buying and selling. So be careful. In general. Look both ways when crossing the street. And when buying used GPS gear off the internet.

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August 9, 2006

Back on the Blog

I'm in trouble. According to my parents, it's been a really, really, really long time since I've posted anything on the blog. I could research things for myself to see that--Wow, yeah, it's been since April, which yes, is a long time. Holy cow. I've often *intended* to post entries on the blog, but I guess intending and doing are different things. So I'm told.

I've cut my hair, had some visitors, gone to the Galapagos, and gone home to celebrate my mom and my birthdays. I *haven't* checking my puddingbowl e-mail account, so if you've e-mailed me there and thought I was ignoring you, I'm sorry.

Oh, yeah, and I turned 30. More on all that to follow. ....Maybe.

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