Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Establishing connections in Kupang

After arriving in Kupang we established many important connections for the project.  First, I was invited to meet the dean and professors in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the Universitas Nusa Cendana.  They were pleased to have us visit and invited us to install one of the stations on campus (our first station in Indonesia is sited !!).

Our BMKG colleagues from the Kupang office showed us their magnetic observatory and the BATI seismic station outside of town.  BATI is a CTBTO seismic station that is installed in a Japanese bunker from WWII.  The sensor is about 30 meters inside of a hill on a 3 meter platform.

WWII bunker entrance to the BATI station
Trillium sensor inside the vault.
Entrance to the station

Communication of the seismic data.
After visiting the BMKG Kupang office to make final plans for our deployment in NTT then we got to meet Governor Frans Lebu Raya of NTT (East Nusa Tenggara). He was very kind to invite us to his residence for tea.
In the governor's palace in Kupang. From left: Prof. Satria Bijaksana (ITB), me, Gov. Raya, Pak. Sugeng (BMKG-Jakarata), Pak Sudaryano (BMKG), and Pak Tyastama (BMKG).

Monday, September 15, 2014

BMKG visit during Molucca Sea earthquake

Nova and I visited BMKG in Jakarta on September 10th to formally establish our collaboration with them on the Banda arc project. We had a tour of their earthquake and tsunami warning center ... which is awesome.  But the best part was the M6.3 earthquake in the Molucca Sea that happened while we were there! Alarms went off, phones ringing, "earthquake, earthquake", lights flashing, analysts quickly picking waveforms to update the location and focal mechanism, watching the seismic waves arrive from all across Indonesia in real time!!! IT WAS AWESOME!!!!! And no tsunami or damage!
Earthquake and tsunami warning center ... kinda like NASA!

Wear during an earthquake!  (No one did though).

Waveforms appearing in realtime as they travel across the archipelago.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Adventures traveling in and around Jakarta

Banda Arc project PI Dr. Meghan Miller and colleague Nova Roosmawati have been establishing the project by finalizing visas, travel permits, immigration paperwork, and much, much more.  Over the past few weeks, they have visited RISTEK (Research Permitting Agency), Immigration, Police, our host institution ITB (Institut Teknologi Bandung), and Kupang (our future field base).  A recent trip to acquire topographic maps of the field area provide a small snapshot of the experience so far: 

1) It took 2 hours to get the Badan Informasi Geospasial agency (BIG) by car, about 60 km outside Jakarta

2) We took the commuter train back to central Jakarta which was awesome! It has a "women only car" that is pink, and even though it is 92 deg F and 92% humidity outside if smells nice.  Plus, it is filled with laughing, cheerful women.

Meghan and Nova - riding with style

3) We got off the train at the wrong stop so we took a bajaj to our hotel.  So much fun! The whole trip was chaos but we now have 214 paper 1:25,000 scale topo maps for the project.  P.S. There is warning to not eat stinky durian fruit on the train!!

Among various warnings of what not to do on train, eating durian is one of them (far right)
Stay posted as the install of 22 seismic stations in the Indonesian portion of the Banda project unravels!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The final install: Atauro Island

My last day for field work in Timor Leste gave rise to the installation of the 8th and final station.  Compass Charter arranged for us to leave Dili at 7:30 in the morning, and return from Atauro Island at 3:00 in the afternoon.  We were all worn down from the prior week of furious paced driving and field work, but there was a sense of jubilation as we began the day.  Most of the crew had never been across the Wetar Strait to visit Atauro Island, providing an extra element of excitement.  We loaded up the gear on the boat and headed north towards the village of Beloi.

About 3/4 of the way to Atauro, we were floating above 3 km of water at this point.

The ride was absolutely fun.  The water was calm, and the low angle lighting of the morning gave an etherial feeling to the start of the day.  As we approached the island, the volcanic nature of the Atauro was apparent, as well as the fact that the island is actively uplifting - there are wave-cut terraces along the south coast that form a stair step pattern that appear to be marching uphill in succession.  The boat nested adjacent to the beach in Beloi Village, right along the stretch of beach where Barry's Place is located.  We unloaded the gear and set out to continue forward with our on-the-fly logistical planning.

The boat crew, an Aussie tourist, the seismo crew, and the gear - all sprawled out on the inviting shore of Beloi.
As much as we wanted to simply jam the seismometer into the sand and spend the rest of the day lounging on the beach, we managed to track down Beloi's town administrator and some motorbike/boxcart transportation.

Rolling in style down the road.  Armando and Marcel are protecting the gear...and doing so with great style and finesse.  This was the most enjoyable ride of the entire field season - a perfect contrast to the rigors of driving across Timor's brutal roads!
We made it to the Administrator building and were convinced the site would be secure enough to leave the equipment.  It is also about as far from the coast as we could manage, a good thing for the quality of the record.  The installation took at least three hours due to the intensely hot overhead midday sun roasting us all like fried bananas and the fact that I did not bring a cable that allows for use of a laptop and therefore, a faster program configuration.  Nonetheless, we persevered - with the aid of Marcel climbing a nearby coconut tree and delivering some nectar of the gods - and established the final seismic station.

The 8th station in Timor Leste.  Beloi district Admin., Eugenio, Ol' sweaty L, Marcel, Bela, and Armando posing in front of station.  The watchgoat off to the right just walked out of view.
We had about an hour an a half to relax on the beach and have some lunch before catching the boat back to Dili.  We had lunch at Barry's, then we strolled out to the beach to swim, rest in the shade, and pick up some local fish.  Armando had the best looking haul of freshly caught beasties:

A few beauties destined for Armando's barbecue back in Dili.
The ride back was just as pleasant as the morning's, but had the added sense of accomplishment.  I probably had a bit of a high from heat stroke as well.  Talk about cheap thrills.  Even better, we saw a few different species of marine wildlife along the way.  Flying drift fish jumped out of the boat's wake and cruised above the water surface for 10's of meters.  Tony, the charter captain, spotted a group of dolphins and doubled back so we could watch:


A truly excellent moment.  Looking back on Atauro, the light was diffuse and the water was smooth. A perfect end to a productive field campaign.

Leaving the new and improved Atauro Island, seismometer and all.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The balance between good and evil

It was a mixed experience completing the install in the town of Same.  The travel was brutal, but the destination was excellent.  Heading south from Dili, the road to Same traverses a set of high topographic ridges and emerges in the lush southern side of Timor Leste.  We set out midday on Sunday to be ready to work on Monday morning.  The road condition is beyond disrepair, yet busses, trucks, 4WD cars, and motorcycles use the thoroughfare like any other road.  The 100+ km stretch winds high up into the misty tops of the interior mountains, and there is rarely piece of road that allows for a vehicle to go above 3rd gear.  The total trip was over five hours, and played out more like a full-body workout than a road trip.  We had a full crew packed into the IPG Land Cruiser, with little room to spare.  If I didn't fully brace myself for each massive pothole or section of completely broken road, I would be thrown around the car like a rag doll.  My arms and shoulders are tired from clutching to the edge of the seat and window of the car.  Worst of all, the precious seismometer was being subject to all of this violence, and I worried that it would be damaged.  We arrived in Same around 6 pm after passing through a short-lived downpour.
The setting of the town is spectacular.  Steep topography rises along the northern margin - the same topography we descended to arrive in town.  The clouds sweep up the rise and gather along the high points of the surrounding mountains.  The slopes are covered in lush vegetation - trees suited to specific elevation ranges along with dense undergrowth.  Delicate pine-like trees provide shade for wild coffee plants.  Sunset time came along, and did not disappoint.  The interplay of the mountain horizon, massive thunderclouds, and rich hues of colored sky provided excellent reward for a hard-travelled day.
In the morning, we visited the local District Administrator and once again were given the go ahead to install on their grounds.  The road into town that passed in from of the Admin complex was recently repaved, providing a strong contrast to the aforementioned treachery.  The station went in smoothly, and it appears that the sensor survived the ride to its temporary home. 

The station in Same.  This photo just missed the formation of lenticular clouds in the mountains above.
The return trip home was a bit more comfortable because we had gained some space in the car.  We encountered a group trying to clear the road of a massive downed branch.  Marcel, Armando, and Eugenio jumped out to help cut the branch in half - with a machete.  Good ol' Timorese ingenuity.  The road was quickly cleared and we passed through, but not before I was able to snap a few photos, including some shots of coffee plants.  Along the way, the crew reaped the usual bounty of local produce.  
The crew picking up goods at produce stands.  Coffee plants are growing behind the stands, with large shade trees above.  Marcel is strutting through the road like a boss.
A close up of the coffee plant.

About an hour out from arriving in Dili, we found out there was a problem with our plan to get to Atauro Island.  It turns out we needed to deliver a letter to the Maritime Police three days in advance, which was not done.  Once we made it back to IPG, I managed to track down a charter boat company who will help us out...Compass Charter to the rescue!  The last install will feel somewhat ceremonial, I am really looking forward to it - both to arrive at our final goal and to be that much closer to going home.  Stay tuned for the last few posts of this journey, the next few days should be interesting!





Saturday, March 22, 2014

Observing local earthquakes

With a day off in Dili, I had a chance to look over the data recorded overnight in Maliana and Oecussi.  It is always valuable to look at data while in the field, as it gives a chance to make any adjustments.  Also, with the upcoming presentation I will give to IPG, I will be able to show examples of the record that we will be creating.  I looked up local earthquakes from the USGS real-time webpage and found a few good candidates.
A catalog of earthquakes that occurred between 19-21 March in the region.  The event depicted by the light blue dot was recorded in Maliana, Timor Leste.

Because the two records I looked at were from the nights of 19 and 20 March, I had about 12 hours of data to look at from each station.  Maliana recorded data on the night of 19 March, and we were lucky to have a magnitude 5.2 earthquake occur off to the east in the eastern Banda Sea.  The record from our station clearly recorded this event:

The record for the entire event.  The P wave arrived in Maliana around 7 minutes after the earthquake occurred.

A zoom into the P wave arrival.  The middle trace is the vertical component - it shows the P arrival well.

A zoom into the S wave arrival.  The top and bottom traces are the E-W and N-S components, respectively. 

An encouraging sign indeed, especially in light of my concern that this station lies on the perimeter of a large sedimentary basin.  The record from the Oecussi station also revealed a few verified events, but displayed a lot of noise from motorcycles passing by on a nearby road.  I won't be surprised if we relocate the station in the future, but the record will make it clear if this is necessary.  For now, it is time to finish up the installation - on to Same and Atauro!

Friday, March 21, 2014

A priceless moment, roadside purchase

One of the enjoyable things about traveling in Timor Leste, is that all locally grown/caught goods are sold everywhere along the roadsides.  When returning to Dili, the crew is always looking to bring home fruits, veggies, and fish for their families.  I snapped this photo during one of these purchases.

Putting on the hard sell.
I am happy that the old man who showed up to sell his collection did not get any business.  I ate a few of these at Eugenio's house the next day.  They were barbequed/smoked until they were reduced to 1 cm wide morsels of salty, oily goodness.