A day in the life......

Steve Malone
June 22, 2014

After a late night the evening before with the PI's (Principle Investigators, other wise known as the PhDs, the bosses, or old farts) "strategizing" over and over again about what should next be done, it is an early morning departure.  Because one of the senior graduate students has his act together and makes realistic plans and gets the trucks loaded while the PIs continue strategizing, like a herd of cats, the field teams depart for their respective sites.  After a half hour drive one team realizes they don't have the maps for where they are going and must return to the motel to pick it up.  Another team has a flat tire on some very rough roads and must return on the spare to get it fixed.... a good thing since later in the day they have another flat (different tire) so really needed that spare.  Using a combination of written instructions, road maps, Forest Service maps, private timber company maps, a laptop computer with mapping software, a compass and a GPS the team finds its way to its assigned installation site (which has been investigated and permitted sometime in the last couple of years).  Now its time to really get to work.




Equipment is hauled from the truck several hundred meters to the actual site, in multiple trips.  Discussions, opinions and arguments issue between the 2 PIs in this team over exactly where the best place for the vault should be.  It must be away from tall trees, in ground that can be dug but as close to bed rock as the site provides.  In the meantime the hole is dug by hand by Alicia, who just graduated with a PhD and has forgotten that she should leave the digging to current grad students and participate in the PI discussions.




Part way down interesting geologic formations are discovered.  The two older PI's now start arguing over what they are.  The white unit provides some momentary pessimism amongst the digging crew as they had their first real encounter with hole-digging adversity courtesy of some pumice that a certain professor from Lamont/Cornell referred to as welded tuff, but they persevered and in the end dug a truly masterful hole.  The lead seismo-volcanologist (not geologist) says, "I think the white stuff is Yn, but what the heck do I know?"  At least he knows enough not to know.





In the meantime, at another site it is "Media Day". Despite reporters asking questions, pointing cameras and getting underfoot, progress is made.  Its hard to know if such reports help the public understand what is really going on but a very nice TV-story was produced by KGW-8 from Portland.





In the meantime, after the hole is discussed and dug it is time for a lesson in volcanology.  A famous volcano-geo-fiddling-seismologist builds a mini-St. Helens to demonstrate what happened in 1980.  After contemplating the master piece it is time to get on with installing the vault and sensor.






The actual sensor (seismometer) is very sensitive and must be handled with care even when its moving parts are "locked" for transport.  Once installed on the small concrete pier in the bottom of the hole and cables attached it can be unlocked.  At this point it is very vulnerable to damage if moved.  For more details on vault construction see the previous news article on a seismic test site installation.







In the meantime others are working on other parts of the station installation.  Many sites will be powered by solar panels.  Because of the elevation and winter weather these must be installed on a mast to get them above the likely snow depth, sometimes as much as 4 meters deep in late winter.  The mast consists of a wood post buried up to a meter with a sectional pipe bolted to it.






Once all of the heavy work is done its time to make all the connections and test the system.  A rats nest of wires and cables in the equipment box connects the various components.  The seismometer cable comes in through a PVC pipe and power cable is protected from animals with a wire mesh screen.  A seismometer control box allows for testing, unlocking and centering the seismometer even without a datalogger.  The datalogger gets timing information from a specialize GPS antenna.  A regular iPod with special software and cable is used to configure, initialize and test the data logger.  In one case the team forgot the iPod in the equipment box and had to drive all the way back to the site the next day to retrieve it.






Near the end, with only back filling and covering the vault and cleaning up left to do the site is a mess of tools, equipment boxes, shipping containers and water jugs.  Once all of this is hauled back to the truck the site should be relatively inconspicuous.






One of the installation teams poses with the subject of this experiment in the background.  From left to right we have the "C Team": Tim (Cornell), Kelley (UW), Geoff (Cornell), Seth (UW grad gone bad, now at CVO) at Lahar Viewpoint.





After a hard day in the field, teams find their way back to Kelso, unload their trucks, clean up and meet for dinner.  In some cases this may get out of hand with wild celebrations, including the lead PI, Ken donning fancy hats.... maybe lamp shades or on for the next day.



Photos and descriptions provided by Alicia, Seth, Geoff and Kelly.