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January 27, 2008

Getting into the Groove

Looks like I'm going to have to do some serious summarizing for the rest of the trip, or I'll never get any more of this out. Where are we? We've driven to Digdiga, had our day with Crazy Abdu and the camels along the way, set up camp at the school, taught class and ate an ostrich egg, serviced the continuous GPS sites, some of the petrologists left for their camel trek around the volcano Dabbahu, and we've just started work by the helicopter. Which means the structural group is out in the field, and that we've seen the rift.

The days begin, for me, to have some routine. Here's the scheme:
MT and GPS work together to survey sites across the rift via helicopter. The idea is to co-locate (put in the same spot) our instruments so that we can share logistics—most importantly, guards, so we can hire one set instead of two. They have two sets of MT instrumentation and I use two of our three GPS sets, so that we always have two sets running in the field and each set records for two nights. This is how we do it:
Day 1 Install Set A at X
Day 2 Install Set B at Y
Day 3 Pull Set A from X, install at Z
Day 4 Pull Set B from Y, install at W
Day 5 Pull Set A from Z, install at V

Mostly, this works. There is one problem, however. GPS needs bedrock. MT needs sand. Just keep this in mind.

Also, in case I failed to mention it before, there are already GPS markers leading up to the rift from the west side (the side our camp is on) that were put in via camel trek two years ago as continuous GPS sites and subsequently vandalized, and the idea is to use these sites as part of the transect. The MT crew is picking new sites on the far side of the rift, where we have yet to go with GPS.

And by vandalized, I mean that all the metal was taken. In one case, the wires were even stripped to get at the metal inside. This is why we have the guards.

[At one site, DA10, even the stainless steel marker that was cemented into the ground was taken, and I had to set a rock in the hole and set the mount over what I thought would have been the mark's center.]

As much as I've thought of GPS as a pain in the butt at times, it is seeming beautifully low maintenance compared to MT. I take about 15 minutes to set up (if there's already a marker—45 minutes if there's not and I need to install one), and about 5 minutes to take down. The MT crew needs about three hours to set up and about an hour and a half to take down (they check data quality before doing so). So here's our schedule:
8:30 AM MT gets dropped off to take down.
10 or 11 AM I go out and get dropped off, half the MT and their equipment get shuttled to the new site. I break down the GPS and when the helicopter comes back for the rest of the MT group and gear, I hop on as well to get dropped at the new site.
The MT group finishes usually around 2 or 3. We call on the satellite phone for a pickup and Chris, the pilot, arrives shortly.

There are good and bad things about this schedule for me. It means I have my mornings to organize without a big rush to get out early, and it means we're back at a reasonable hour in the afternoon. It also means, however, that we miss lunch in camp, which sometimes affects me greatly. I didn't have a chance to get to the grocery store in Addis as planned, and am left with energy bars and biscuits, both of which for me are definitely a snack and not a meal. Not unless there's cheese and salami involved, which there wasn't. I don't think I have the worst blood-sugar issues ever, but suffice to say, some days were a little rough.

Posted by beth at January 27, 2008 11:32 PM

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