Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Labasa Install – 27 October

As soon as we arrived back in Suva, it was time to pack up for our trip the next morning to Labasa, a city in the northern part of Vanua Levu (the second largest island of Fiji). Compared to the Twin Otter, the plane we flew on to Vanua Levu was much larger – with something like 15 rows and 4 seats across. As soon as we arrived in Labasa, a relative of one of our colleagues in Suva brought us out to the place where we would install the station. The site is pretty far outside the city down a series of gravel and dirt roads, on land where kava is grown.

We had a large number of helpers – friends and family from the nearby village – so the installation went very quickly. Once again, our station has a great view of the surrounding hills. Because we had plenty of time at the end of the day, we were treated to another fantastic home-cooked meal at the family’s house and a couple of bowls of kava before we headed back into the city to our hotel.

Taveuni Install – 25 October

After a week of waiting for equipment, we finally installed our first seismometer at Taveuni, “the garden island” north of Viti Levu (the main island) and east of Vanua Levu (the second largest island). The flight we took to Taveuni was on a Twin Otter, which was the smallest plane I had ever been on. It was so small, we almost didn't get all of our equipment onto the plane. We flew at only about 6,000 feet and had a great view of the ocean and reef below us.

When we arrived at the island, we installed our temporary (broadband) station right next to a permanent (short period) station on government land. Having the station on government property next to an already installed station provides a little extra security for our equipment – the people who live there can keep an eye on the site. The only drawback to the installation was the large boulders of volcanic rock that we had to remove as we dug holes for the sensor and for the solar panel mounts. When we finished, we realized that the station we installed had a fantastic view of the ocean from the hill where we buried it.
Following the work, we were treated to a fantastic home-cooked meal: fish in coconut sauce, eggplant, taro and salad at the rest-house where we stayed. Later that night, we had a few bowls of kava with our very friendly host and some of his friends. From what I did see, the island is lush and very beautiful – lots of coconut and papaya trees. Unfortunately, we were not able to stay on Taveuni for very long – our flight was at 8 am the next morning.

The Components of a Seismic Station

Each of our stations require a seismometer which responds to vibrations in the Earth, a data-logger which turns the motion into a digital record and stores it onto a disk, a large battery to provide power to the equipment, and a solar panel to recharge the battery. If any of those components fail, then the station cannot continue to record data. So prior to traveling to the station sites, we test the equipment to make sure that it is working properly. In the field, the true challenge is doing everything quickly enough to finish before dark. Typically a temporary station like the ones we are building takes about 3 hours to complete – but frequently hang-ups occur (for instance - finicky equipment, rocky ground, broken tools, and bad weather are common problems we encounter).