Thursday, October 16, 2014

High quality installation on Savu Island

Amidst our planning for more lengthy trips to install groups of stations, we made a point to check off one of the journeys to a remote island in the far south of the array – Savu Island.  This location may prove to be especially important as it sits directly above the major transition in tectonic regimes that lie to the east and west.  At the time of planning, the small flight that travels there was out of commission, so we were forced to ride the ferry to get there.  This option was good for the safety of our equipment and only took about four hours in good conditions.  The limitation of traveling by ferry pressed us to try to finish the day we traveled there so we could catch the return ferry to following day rather than wait two more days to catch the next return ferry.   This made for a difficult beginning to our diplomacy efforts.

The dock in Seba city, Savu Island. Five minutes prior, the whole dock was bustling with people.

Our equipment waiting to be picked up by BMKG.  Nothing more enjoyable than sitting in the sun while guarding our precious booty.

The BMKG office in Kupang called ahead to the small field station in Savu to inform them of our arrival and request some help with transportation and other logistics.  We arrived in the Savu office to present our project and seek rapid progress.  This forceful approach was met with great resistance from the local directory, Pak Elliot Robe.  He has a lot of pride as an island local that has made his way into a high-level position at BMKG, and was not impressed with our insistences.  One major issue was that the Bupati office (highest level of regional government akin to county governor) closes at 3pm daily, and we had missed that time.  The Banda team reconvened and agreed to take a different strategy, essentially relaxing from our eagerness and dialing in to island time.  This proved to be the correct approach that set forth the following day and a half of great success.

Pak Daniel arranged for us to stay at his home and adjacent hotel accommodation – he needed to free up some space in the hotel as it was unusually busy due to flight cancellations.  After we talked further at the hotel and shared a few sips of the locally produced whisky (made from palm sugar), sopi, Pak Daniel further warmed up to us and decided to take us out to a potential station site.  We made the trip under his guidance and began to have a look at the interior of the island.  Geologically, this short 5 km inland trip was interesting – we rose from the coastal floodplain into dissected young sedimentary formation.  It is clear that these sediments were recently closer to sea level (the former coastal floodplain and alluvial deposits) and the ongoing rapid uplift of the region has lifted them to form the current topography.

The next morning we met the Bupati, Pak Marten Tome, in his office to acquire permission to move ahead.  He was smart and quick to understand our efforts, and appreciates our goals of research and collaboration with Indonesian institutions.  He pointed out that a dam that is under construction near our previously surveyed location might give us unwanted noise, a clear indication of his insightfulness.  This led to a recommendation to go further inland and higher up in topography to install.  We arrived at the install location under escort from Pak Elliot, the Kelurahan (regional office) staff, and the local village (Ranyale) leader.  The owner of the property greeted us and led us around their land to help us select a good install site. 
Installing went well, Cooper and I stayed to build the site while Nova and others returned to the Bupati office to obtain permission letters and bring back some food for lunch (bungkus, ‘take out’).  The location is quiet, away from any roads – essentially meeting all of our requirements for a good seismic station.  During the install, a young boy climbed high up into a coconut tree to pick us some treats.

Look closely, this kid can climb.

It is worth the effort, these young coconuts are very refreshing on a hot day. Nova agrees.

Wrapping up the install. BMKG Savu staff member Pak Jerry working on fence as locals look on.  The owner's house in background, along with the coconut tree shown in other photo.
By this time, we had been informed that the airplane back to Kupang was back in operation, and Pak Daniel arranged for us to fly back the next morning.  We were back at the hotel before sunset and had a great night of discussion and imbibing.  Other residents at the hotel were professors and students of science from Java that were making their annual rounds of teacher training efforts.  The group leader, Pak Karimoto, is especially charismatic, providing us with excellent anecdotes of Indonesian culture in and around NTT.  We enjoyed more sopi and went to a local restaurant for some spectacular grilled fish and chicken (ikan bakar dan ayam bakar).  Pak Elliot even showed us how to wash our hands when we were done!  He was in full parental mode at this point, by then we had forged a close relationship that will be fun to further explore as the project moves along.

The way back to Kupang was achieved by flying in a small 12 seat prop plane.  These small flights are often piloted by relatively inexperienced pilots who are “earning their wings.”  The flight went smoothly until the approach to Kupang.  Traffic at the airport forced us to buy some time by circling around – this took place is a moderately strong cross wind that provided some turbulence…nothing too far out of the ordinary.  The remainder of the day was spent preparing a shipment of 4 stations to Sumba Island, and some preliminary preparation for a shipment to Flores Island – more on that later.

Receiving the safety lecture before boarding. 

In transit while leaving Savu Island.

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