Saturday, March 15, 2014

Timor Leste's first seismic station

It has finally happened.  We wound are way up the steep incline south of Dili towards the village of Dare to install the first seismic station of the Banda Arc project, as well as Timor Leste's first seismic station.  The original site at the local church didn't work out, and it was our good fortune that this is the case.  That site may have worked, but it was fairly close to the road and there was not many options for where to place the station.  Eugenio and Armando made numerous trips over the past few days to scout out our eventual location that is hosted by a private land owner.

Four of us packed up the IPG Land Rover this morning in preparation for the day.  We set out around 9am and met up with Eugenio at the site.  The property is a complex of buildings ran by a family that has developed a self-sustainable education program aimed at liberating people from the despair of poverty.  The complex hosts hand-operated agricultural training facilities and a nursery that generates income. There are countless flora I've never seen in person: coffee, clove trees, cinnamon, durian, chinese ginger to name a few.  As we climbed 600+ meters to get to the site, I found the climate different than in Dili - it is cooler and wetter.  And it provides a spectacular view of the city.
The crew touching up the fence.  Dili is down below, and Atauro Island is visible across the Wetar Straight in the distance.  We took over a plot of corn that just finished growing.
The installation went more smoothly than almost any first install I've been a part of.  Typically, worker are to eager to get going and rush into mistakes.  This crew let me demonstrate the beginning of construction of the various components, and did well to take it from there.  We put the sensor vault in the ground, constructed the solar panel mounts, then finally built the electronics box.  The last step of constructing the fence required a little improvisation, but it came together nicely.  I was confident with the equipment as I had spent the prior day inspecting their state of health.  But I am always sceptical that it will work until it is all verified in place.  We sealed up the sensor vault and configure the data digitizer.  Once the sensor was online we could show the sensitivity to the instrument.  It never gets old to tell somebody to come look at the computer screen, only to have them see their own footsteps!  Especially non-scientists.

The crew (photo taken by Mr. Alex): Armando, Leland, Bela, Eugenio, Mr. Jaoquin (onsite helper)

It was a promising day, and the next 3-4 days will consist of the installation of three stations in Baucau, Los Palos, and Viqueque.  Stay tuned for updates.

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