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.

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