Saturday, July 28, 2007

On the Road Week 1

Well, this week I started my summer job working for GSY-USA
installing portable magnetotelluric
Photos_for_blog_030stations throughout the Pacific Northwest
as part of the EarthScope Array
project. I was rented a very expensive U-Haul to get up to home base in Yakima,
Washington where I met up with my crew. Jennifer, Chris, Trey, &
Dimitri. It’s a sweet deal. I get paid
very well and I get $325 a week per diem that I can use (or save for a MacBook
Pro) as I wish. We also get to drive
around in two brand new rental trucks – a dodge ram and a Ford 150.

The first day I went with Chris and his nephew Dimitri to
the hills below Mt. Ranier Photos_for_blog_038
to install a portable MT array. It wasn’t very hard work and wePhotos_for_blog_031
were done in
under 4 hours. There were cows all
around us and cowboys out practicing how to rope them in the fields. Small pines grew out of the stumps of ancient
old growth trees that had been cut down years before. The drive back was long due to construction
on the mountain road every 5 miles.  I guess the biggest part of the job will be
the extensive driving all over the state to get to all of the sites.

Let me explain briefly what I am doing. Each array consists of 100m dipoles in the
North-South, East-West Direction which measure electrical currents within the
earth created by the interaction of the earth’s ionosphere with solar energy (solar
flares etc). Those charges in the
atmosphere induces an electric field within the earth. This is the electric field we measure and it
is altered by interactions with the moon on a daily basis and the sun on a
yearly basis. By looking at the electric
currents in the earth we can look deep into the structure of the earth down to
about 14km which is the crust/mantle boundary. Earthscope is setting up these stations every 70km across the nation
(over 1500). Along with MT studies
seismic stations are also set up along with heat flow measurements and
satellite ground movement measurements. Earthscope is the largest and broadest geological study in history and
it will provide us with amazing imagery of what lies beneath the United
States. I’m very excited to be a part of

On Wednesday Jen and I worked together to take down several
sites slightly east of Photos_for_blog_039
Yakima. It was
very easy and we were able to take down each site in about 2 hours. At one of the sites we saw a pack of male elk
with huge racks running off over the hill. I also found out thatPhotos_for_blog_041
short socks and boots with shorts on don’t work in
that kind of grass! On the way home we
passed by miles and miles of hops crops. Apparently, Yakima is one of the world’s largest producers of hops for
beer. Last year a fire in one of the
warehouses destroyed so much hops that it upset the world’s beer market! That afternoon I had some time to go for a
drive up to Yakima Canyon where I drove a very drunk couple back up the road to
their truck after they floated down the very cool looking river. I also saw some wakeboarding boats slicing
down the river… Very jealous. I had
bought a watermelon at fruitPhotos_for_blog_040
stand… dumb. How the hell was I going to eat a giant watermelon in one night? Well, I did, with some help from my
co-workers, but I definitely think I had watermelon poisoning the next morning
and I believe I pee’d about 10 times!  Check out what the prairie grass did to my socks! 

On Thursday Jen and I headed East with all our gear to
service a few stations. We Photos_for_blog_033
ended up off
roading pretty hard at one site through some puddles nearly 2 feet deep next
corn crops. We drove over grasses that
were higher than the front of the truck and couldn’t see anything a few
times. Then, after finishing the site,
we were flying through puddles and I almost ran over a duck! There were also large prairie fires raging in
the distance. We ended up picking up
professor from Yakima named Kevin who was sent by NSF to check to make sure we
were working correctly. He was a nice
guy and I heard we’ll see him again soon. We ended up staying at a skeevy motel in a small town with pretty crappy
wi-fi that didn’t work. I bought a 4
foot long beef stick at the gas station along with some campbells chunky soup
for dinner…. Always trying to save a buck.

Friday we headed out to pull out a few sites with amazing
views of farmland and Photos_for_blog_043
rolling hills. We got done early so we headed to Moses
Lake, WA and hit up the sand dunes by the lake for some swimming to cool
off. After relaxing on the beach for a
while and cooling off in the wonderful water we headed to check out the new
Photos_for_blog_044 movie. I thought it was pretty
good and well overdue after 20 years of being on tv.  Jen was still working on the giant zucchini
given to her by the nice
farmer we met the night before with Kevin working on a
site on his property.  We then decided to drive West towards our next
sites. Passing by George, WA wePhotos_for_blog_035
to see the huge natural amphitheatre over the Columbia River but were greeted
by a massive religious music festival and decided itPhotos_for_blog_046
wasn’t worth fighting with
the crowd. We stopped briefly for some
great pictures of the Columbia River and of Wild Horses Monument up on the hill
before continuing on to Ellensburg. We
ended up sharing a double room by necessity because every motel in 50 miles was

Saturday Photos_for_blog_036we serviced a couple more sites and stayed in Idaho
at a pretty nice Best Western near the boarder. The first had great views of Mt. Stewart (part of the
cascades) and the
second was out in grassland that stretched for miles. Somehow our truck ended up with a very small
tire leak that we eventually need to fix.

Sunday we drove out to several sites in Eastern Washington
and filled up the
Photos_for_blog_037back of the truck with a total of 4 transportable arrays now
and a ton of conduit tubing that
looks like it’s going to fly out the back on
every turn we take. Got a great picture
of red-tailed hawk today.

So far the job has been a blast with a lot driving but I
have a great time with Jen. She’s easy
to get along with and as long as we keep her fed she Photos_for_blog_034
always seems to be in a
great mood J. I call her Indiana Jen because of the funny
archeological type outfits she wears for fieldwork. She loves her job. Tonight we are heading towards Seattle. We’ll see what adventures next week brings!

No comments: