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!

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