Sunday, April 19, 2015

Back to Flores and Kelimutu volcano

Entering the stretch run of field work, we were joined by my lovely wife Maggie.  We began in central Flores in the town of Ende and visited four stations. Three were working in perfect order, and one was having multiple problems.  Three visits later, one severed GPS cable and a recharging of the battery, and some issues with a torrential downpour led to a successful stabilization of our station near Borong
Maggie in full supervisor mode.  Full immersion in mud
was required to restore this station.
This hard battle provided excellent context to take a short detour towards Kelimutu National Park.  Absolutely spectacular.  This volcanic center hosts three crater lakes of different colors, representing one of the well-known jewels of the Nusa Tenggara province. Starting from the adjacent village of Moni at 5am, we made it to the top of the park for a misty sunrise.  A bit later, the sun cracked through and the volcano was revealed in full glory. 

Nova and Maggie

The central crater lake

Central and lower lake

Monday, April 13, 2015

Alor Island and the edge of the volcanic gap

Our travel to Alor Island - the northeastern edge of our Indonesia array - brought us to visit stations on the extreme ends of the land mass.  This island is particularly interesting for our research because while the composition is clearly that of relatively young volcanic activity, there are no active volcanoes present.  This sudden (spatial) paucity in volcanism is attributed to the collision of Australia's northern margin with the young volcanic islands of Banda between Alor (west limit) and Damar Islands (east limit).  As we flew back from Alor on the way back to Kupang, a good overhead view of the easternmost active volcano was available, Gunung Sirung on Adonara Island:

View looking SW over Sirung - the edge of the volcanic gap!
Travel across Alor was remarkable.  The landscape is much more lush than during the dry season, including grasses on the rocky areas and floodplains, and dense vegetation in the high, wetter portions.  During the installation last year, we viewed sections of eucalyptus trees that were barren of leaves, displayed beautiful white trunks, and were underlain by black, rocky soil (see archive of posts for photo).  During this season, it looks much more inviting:

We were fortunate to drive to both ends of the island, find both stations to be performing in good health, and do it all in one day!  So, now we have serviced 14 stations with 8 remaining.  I am off today to go meet my lovely wife Maggie in Denpassar, and then back to the field tomorrow to cover four stations in west Flores Island.  It looks like we have a good plan to finish off the field work while also taking in a few tourist excursions.  Look for updates on these adventures in future posts...

In west Alor, a view over a well-known snorkeling spot was appealing.

Friday, April 10, 2015

East Flores and Lembata

After an afternoon arrival in Maumere, Flores Island, we reunited with our primary driver from last year's installation.  We set out to the east, serviced one station along the way, and took in the scenery of the volcanic arc.  The contrast between the outer arc islands of Timor and Sumba against the volcanic arc islands of Flores, Lembata, and Alor is a central theme of our geologic and geophysical investigation of this part of the Banda region.
After an overnight stay in Larantuka and multiple reconfigurations of our travel plans (due to elusive and/or faulty info on travel schedules) led us to arrive on Lembata Island on day two.  We managed to visit the station closest to Lewoleba (Lembata's capitol), making it three stations in 2.5 days.  The next morning, we made it to Baopukang - host to one of the most scenic stations in the array.

Nova taking notes of the station's
excellent performance.
Station BAOP after servicing and data collection that included a far bit of gardening.
The view westward across the Lembata Strait is especially enjoyable after finding
the equipment in good condition and not being on the edge of heat stroke!
Thunderclouds piling up over land masses are surreal at times. 
Satisfied after a solid run through strongly performing stations, we had an opportunity to visit a local fabric weaver.  The property was full of local orchids, small ponds, lots of whale bone artifacts (Lembata is one of a few places worldwide that still practices whale hunting), and naturally harvested pearls. Our driver, Julius, let a VERY vocal cockatoo our of its cage, provides this terrific photo:

Monday, April 6, 2015

Finished in Timor

All stations on Timor Island are now serviced and data all collected.  Nearly everybody felt the 27 February, 2015 Flores earthquake (see previous posts), so we put together a one-page display of data along with a map of stations and earthquake locations.  Nova has been presenting these results and been receiving great interest from locals, all while marveling at the phenomenon of earthquake wave propagation.  The graphic shows two earthquakes (Flores and 17 March, 2015 Molucca Sea event) that were recorded at five stations (one on Timor, four on Sumba).

Vertical channel recordings from two recent earthquakes.
The Flores event (top left) is shown on the scale of minutes (satu menit = one minute),
the Molucca event (bottom right) is on the scale of seconds (sepuluh ditek = ten seconds).
It is always informative to see the same earthquake recorded at different locations...
On the way to the south coast of Timor Island, near the village of Kolbano, we visited a station that was installed by Cooper and Nova last year.  It was running quite well, and the hosts were interested to see how our project was coming along.  This was Nova's first opportunity to show the graphic above.  
We headed to the northeast through Kefamenanu, and then on to one of the most remote stations in the array - Betun village.  The scenery is spectacular, especially this time of year when it is so lush and green.  Passing through the outskirts of Betun, large ficus(?) trees grow along the roadway with tendrils from above reaching back down to Earth.

We managed the data download and improved the health of the Betun station.  It was quite hot, enough to generate another massive sweatfest.  But hey, it had been over a week since I was last on the brink of heat stroke, so I was due to be tested.  Sparing further detail, we finished up and moved on to showing the data.  The whole village had assembled by this time, providing an excellent audience.

Nova delivers 'the goods'

Saturday, April 4, 2015

A different shade of Sumba

Last year, our installations on Sumba island took place during hot weather, including heroic efforts to dig holes (with much help from locals!), and a dry and brown landscape.  After learning more about the dynamic (yet uncertain) geological history of the island, we were especially eager to gather data and have a look at the results.

A successful data collection in SE Sumba, Melolo village.  Cooper and Nova
talkin shop while Rosie the Chiseler and the land owner look on.  Rosie's
daughter looks on, proud of her newly acquired fresh bottle of water.  
We left Melolo to wrap up the day along a narrow walking pathway that we took advantage of during our installation last year.  It clearly is used primarily for walking and motorbike thoroughfare, but we didn't mind powering through with Ule and the Sandlewood Hotel 4x4 (not misspelled):

Yeah, thats right. With a 'Fear Factor' window sticker, who could be afraid?
Two stations working well in west Sumba, one night at the Sandle Wood, then on to central and eastern Sumba.  We made it to central Sumba at Kambapari village, collected data from a well-functioning station, and presented some preliminary views of the data to the office staff.  We found the 27 February, 2015 event north of central Flores Island that was felt by all.  Nova effectively communicated our success as well as our thankfulness for their hosting of our equipment, and then we moved on to the final Sumba station.  So far, four stations in Indonesia had been visited, four working flawlessly. Time for a dose of reality.
We arrived in Waitabula, and on to the adjacent village of Loura to check on our station. It had been overgrown by grass, a large pile of rocks were dumped nearby, and a fence had been installed a few meters away.  This lack of maintenance was due to a change in the village leadership that occurred at the turning of the new year - a change that we discovered on the way to the station when we visited the old Camat to inform him that we were back.  Most likely, none of these causes for concern provided any problems.  But...the station was not performing well. Clear misbehavior of the seismometer sent us reeling into worry.  We tried to fix it by recentering, checking the power system, opening up the sensor vault and releveling - but could not achieve a suitable result.  Frustrating.  We know this is a critical location, Sumba is a key island to understand within our research goals.  After spending time thinking through options and reviewing data recorded by the station, we pulled the equipment and took it back to the hotel for overnight testing.  Cooper ran the station in his room overnight so that we could have a more careful look at its performance in the morning.  While it was not perfect, it was clear that the seismometer was working good enough to put it back into operation.  Not only did the background data look suitable, but a few earthquakes were clearly recorded overnight!  So, it was that much more obvious that we should put it back to work.  In the morning, we headed back to Loura to re-install:

Without proper protection to transport our delicate
instrument, Cooper became the 'seismometer whisperer'
We efficiently reinstalled the equipment and had time to go back to the hotel for lunch.  The only option for us to move on was for Cooper to stay in Waitabula to catch a morning flight back to Bali while Nova and I flew back to Kupang in the afternoon.  So we had one last meal together, sorted out final logistics, picked up some sweeet textiles specific to east Sumba, and went our separate ways.  The flight back to Kupang provided a spectacular view of the western Savu Sea, north Sumba Island, and Flores Island.  There is a local legend in Sumba that their island and Flores were connected by a land bridge that communicate culture between the two.  It is an understandable thought, even from our scientific view - the sea bathymetry is especially shallow between the closest points on each island, and there are peninsulas on each island that point toward one another.  These can nicely be seen in this north-looking photo taken on the flight back:

The northern horn of Sumba, pointing toward Flores Island.
A south-pointing peninsular jutting off Flores reaches back to Sumba.
A truly great view, our station NAPU is in the foreground, and a
terrific view of a growing thunderstorm over Flores can be seen.  What a landscape!

First station revisited in Indonesia

Upon Cooper and I arriving in Kupang, Indonesia, we reunited with Nova Roosmawati to make the tour through our 22 stations currently operating in the province of Nusa Tenggara Timur (NTT).  Last year, during our installation phase, it was hot and somewhat dry.  In March, the wet season has completed and it is green and lush, and the temperature is noticeably cooler.  Perhaps even more helpful is the fact that it is the down season for tourism, both within Indonesia and internationally.  It is a pleasure to be back in our field headquarters!
We first visited a station in Timor that is a four hour drive from Kupang (this time of year...), the small village of Lelogama. Last year's installation has a brutal and adventurous seven hour drive that included a near collapse of a bridge.  We learned that a truck had blocked the same bridge about a week ago when it reportedly partially sunk into a section of the span.  We received info that it was passable and arrived in Lelogama 3.5 hours later.  This was our first servicing and data collection of the equipment that is loaned to our project from the U.S.-based IRIS-PASSCAL instrumentation center.  We are happy to report that the station was working flawlessly!

The office sign at the Camat office, identifying
the 'county' (Kapubaten Kupang), the village group
(Kecamatan Amfoang), and the village (Lelogama).
We traversed the rough road to Lelogama in style, a beastly Toyota Hilux 4x4.  The scenery is beautiful, and the geology is spectacular.  Our trip started in the perched coral terraces in Kupang, travelled through a large section of the enigmatic Bobanaro Melange (this geologic unit deserves an entirely separate blog entry), and ended in volcanic and carbonate rocks that belong to the infamous Banda Terrane.

Our parking spot for lunch.  Tidak masala (no problem) traversing the roads!  

Timor Leste and the Crocodile

The multi-cultural composition of Timor Leste gives rise to many legends of natural phenomena.  Across the range of unique geographic regions of the country, admiration towards the ancient reptile is ubiquitous.  In fact, a common legend is that of The Crocodile Story (check out this link further for more Timor Leste history). The shape of the island is commonly described to resemble the crocodile.

Timor Island, half Indonesia (west) and half Timor Leste.  
Visits in March 2014 and 2015 provided opportunity to see
crocodile in the eastern part, between stations TL06 and TL08.

On our return trip from Los Palos - the easternmost station in the array - we saw a croc swimming upriver.  We had successfully reinstalled a repaired seismometer in Viqueque and collected data is Los Palos before heading back to Dili. Pulling aside on the bridge crossing a small river:

In middle of river, the head and part of back is exposed.