Both of these maps were made with the GMT program using bathymetry extracted from the GMRT MapTool. The land topography in the second map is high resolution (30 m pixel) data obtained from the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission.
Archives for May 2015
Once the good news had settled in, Ninfa, Paul, Matt and I started a seemingly endless chain of emails and conference calls to work out all the details for the onshore field work. We needed to set up logistical arrangements for working out of a field camp on a remote Aleutian island. Our field camp will be at Bering Pacific Ranch at the abandoned WWII military base Fort Glenn, located on the eastern flank of Umnak island. Our tasks were to get a helicopter, about 50 barrels of helicopter fuel, all the seismometers and magnetotelluric instruments, and food and cooking supplies for about 160 person-days delivered by the start of field operations around June 20th.
How do we do that?
Well, the small city of Dutch Harbor, conveniently located about 100 km away on neighboring Unalaska Island, is a major fishing and shipping port. So we made arrangements to get things shipped from the lower 48 up to Dutch Harbor and then have it all consolidated and taken over on a small ship that can land on the beach near Fort Glenn. Then two ranch hands will transport it from the beach to the camp. Easy, right?
We divided up the various planning tasks among our team members. Paul worked on finding us a good deal on a helicopter, fuel and pilot, Matt contacted the Bering Pacific Ranch about staying there, Ninfa arranged for the seismic gear rental from PASSCAL and I looked into finding a ship to transport the gear from Dutch Harbor to Fort Glenn, among the many planning tasks we all took on.
Organizing the food and cooking supplies turned out to be a more demanding task than it initially sounded. We have 9 people coming to the field camp for various lengths of time, amounting to about 160 person-days (an useful unit of measurement when planning how much food to bring). At Bering Pacific Ranch we will be staying in what they refer to as the camp, which is a spartan bunk house with a kitchen trailer and bath and shower trailer attached. So while we will be in a super isolated remote location, we won’t exactly be roughing it – that should be the case as long as the hot water, oven, stove and refrigerator are working as the ranch has promised. That means that we can plan to cook somewhat normal meals.
After numerous Costco and Trader Joe’s runs, as well as seemingly endless deliveries of supplies from Amazon Prime, we filled up fourteen 27 gallon tote boxes of food and cooking supplies, as well as several more totes with the Scripps land MT instrumentation and field supplies. In addition to the Zonge Zen data loggers, induction coil magnetometers, electric dipole wires and electrodes, we had to pack things like survival gear so that we could survive in the field for a couple of days should the helicopter not be able to pick us up from a field station due to weather or mechanical problems. After everything was packed, we palletized the gear, shrink wrapped it and loaded it on a flat bed truck that drove it up to Seattle. From there it was loaded onto the Coastal Navigator, which ferried it on to Dutch Harbor, arriving on May 23.
That was just the stuff coming from Scripps. The USGS shipped a bunch of gear from Anchorage, 12 seismometers were shipped from PASSCAL in New Mexico, and 1525 pounds of batteries to power the seismometers for a year were shipped from the manufacturer CEGASA. All this stuff was received and held by Aleutian Expeditors. This past week it was loaded onto the Island Packer and ferried over to a makeshift dock at the beach near Fort Glenn. Then some of the ranch hands took it on a truck over to the ranch. Now it is all awaiting our arrival by air in a couple of weeks. We would have preferred to ship everything over to the island at the same time that the science team arrives in mid-June, but the Island Packer and ranch hands were only available this week so we had to rush the delivery.
Our team put in a lot of work coordinating all the various pieces of the shipment to the island, so it’s a big relief to have it completed successfully. The last pieces of supplies for the land field work are Paul’s land MT gear and fresh and frozen food we will get in Dutch Harbor, all of which will be flown over with the first science team arriving at Fort Glenn.
By comparison, preparing for the marine part of the project was relatively straightforward since we’ve done that many times before, and Jacques, Jake and Chris in the Scripps Marine EM Lab took care of most of that work. We’ve been assigned ship time on two ships, the RV Thompson for the deployment cruise and the RV Sikuliaq for the recovery cruise. The ships’ crews take care of all the ship logistics, so all we needed to do is get our marine MT gear and the science team to Dutch Harbor in time to load it on the ship. Actually, we lucked out and the RV Thompson was in port in San Diego for a few days in early May, so we loaded our three 20′ containers of marine MT gear onboard, saving the cost of having to ship it up to Dutch Harbor. However that savings was entirely offset by having to buy three new shipping containers and to pay for their storage in Dutch between the cruises, but at least we now have 100% certainty that the marine MT gear will arrive in Dutch Harbor with the RV Thompson. We did have to ship the concrete anchors separately, and those went up to Dutch with the food totes and land MT gear.
Here’s the 2015 field schedule:
Marine MT deployment cruise: June 18-21 on the RV Thompson
Land MT survey and seismometer installation: June 20- July 11th, working from a field camp at Fort Glenn.
Marine MT recovery cruise: July 9-14 on the RV Sikuliaq
Both of the cruises will be based out of Dutch Harbor on Unalaska Island.
In the summer of 2016, Ninfa and Matt will return to recover the year-long seismometer recordings.
It all sounded so easy when we were writing the proposal. Sure, we can deploy 54 seafloor magnetotelluric (MT) instruments around a remote Aleutian island, no problem, Scripps has done lots of marine MT deployments before. Add on a 3D array of onshore magnetotelluric and seismic stations covering the flanks and caldera of a volcano that erupted without almost no warning back in 2008? Sure, that won’t be too hard either since we will have a helicopter transporting the field team and science equipment, and we can base our field camp at a remote cattle ranch used by previous field teams working on Okmok. So we worked up our budgets, with the University of Wisconsin covering most of the costs of the onshore field work, Scripps mostly covering the marine MT budget, and our unfunded collaborators at the USGS advising us that the field plan and budget were viable based on their extensive previous field experience.
Proposal writing and planning is super fun – it’s when we get to dream how to study things that we find scientifically compelling. But the cold brutal truth is that the majority of the proposals submitted to the National Science Foundation (NSF) aren’t funded due to the limited amount of research funding available and the intense competition among our scientific peers. This is a reality that may be getting even more grim due to current congressional actions to further reduce funding for NSF’s Geoscience directorate. When we were writing this one, I was on a bad losing streak where 12 of my previous proposal submissions in a row had been declined funding (the overall funding rate is said to be about 20-30% of all proposal submissions). So while it’s super easy to get excited when writing a proposal to go study something awesome like a caldera volcano, one tempers that with knowledge that the project is simply unlikely to be funded. It becomes a game of trying to manage your time – how much time do you spend planning the project, researching the science motivation and background material and writing the proposal text so it’s the best it can possibly be, while also not spending too much time knowing the outcome is likely to be nothing more than an exercise in dreaming? Well actually, researching the background material is a great way to expand your scientific knowledge regardless of the proposal’s chance of success, so it is more useful than just being an exercise in dreaming. And of course many of the declined proposals are recycled from year to year, like a phoenix rising from the ashes of the previous review cycle, ideally with the quality of the scientific motivation and research plan substantially improving with each revised submission. Anyway, once this proposal was submitted in time for the July 2014 GeoPRISMs submission deadline, I pretty much stopped thinking about the project.
Fast forward to early January of this year when we get an email from the NSF program manager stating “Your proposal did well in the competition for GeoPRISMS funds and I plan to fund it at this time”.
Seriously, this was good news.
Then comes the word that everything is going to happen this summer…starting in mid-June. Whoa, its now the end of January and we’re supposed get everything in place for two cruises and three weeks of land field work in just a few months. Time to get moving!