Friday, July 31, 2009

Blogging Batholiths, Part 2

I've finally gotten enough time to get the photos web-ready after returning from Batholiths.
(see Blogging Batholiths: Part 1 for a summary of the 1st 8 days of the adventure.) Day 9 starts off with our free day, in which we chose to hike up to the gorgeous falls in Hagensborg, BC.

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Day 9 (Friday July 17th)

The school sits in front of the trailhead to the falls.

A loooong boardwalk takes you to the woods behind the school.

Hiking to the falls, we found more splendid Batholiths up-close and personal.

Pnina Miller makes the steep ascent at the upper falls.

The view of Hagensborg from the Falls was spectactular...

and provided a great view of (surprise!) Batholiths!

Here I am, trying to get that perfect MySpace image...

Pnina gets a pic for Facebook...

Did I mention that the falls were spectacular?

More Facebook action...

Grad students Alex, Tim, Gray and Conrad also climbed up to the falls.

This tree near the school is the archetype for the word "Gnarly."

Later in the evening, Galen regales team members with tales of his difficulties with an "eco-saboteur." You can find Dr. Hole's letter to this self-appointed activist, along with links to several related news stories, here. Galen had to risk life and limb in order to repair the damage and make the shot happen - the only safe way to dispose of the explosives once they'd been set in the hole. In the end, even the sandhill cranes claimed to be in danger turned out to have left the island a month before.

The nightly meeting - all hands.

At 11 PM, several team members prepare to "feel" one of the seismic detonations. We definitely felt this one, at a distance of only a hundred or so meters. At greater distances, the rumbles are quite difficult to detect with the senses.

Day 10 (Saturday 18th)

Now that the shots are done, it's time to gather the instruments and collect some Data. Here is grad student Tim collecting a Texan/geophone station.

Some stations require three Texans for vertical, N/S, and E/W directions of motion. Others are vertical only.

Here I am, collecting stations. Pick-ax? Check. Safety vest? Check. Rain hat? Check. Compass? Check. GPS? Check. Clipboard and pen? Check.

At last, some rain. It's usually much rainier than was the case for our deployment.

Ron Clowes of UBC shows that even Principal Investigators (PI's) get their hands dirty on a project like this.

With the instruments back at the hangar, it's finally time to get some DATA. We batch process 45 Texan digitizers at a time.

Pnina scans returning digitizers into the computer. Every digitizer has a unique serial number, which is required to connect its data to the actual location for the station.

This is what it's all about - seismic data. These squiggles will eventually reveal what lies hidden beneath the Coast Mountains.

Day 11 (Sunday 19th)

On our way to drop off the hikers to pick up their stations, we stop at Grandma's in Anahim Lake for some gas and strong coffee.

The team awaits the arrival of local guide Archie.

Again with the mandatory mosquito spray.

Erin and Shelbie get last minute instructions from Prof. Hole.

The hikers leave. We'll find them several kilometers down the way.

On our way to the pickup point, we found several of the teams from the other field center at Puntzi Lake. Here, 'Panda' dresses to prevent mosquito bites.

Dr. Hole with team members Tiffany and Ari, from the Puntzi Lake center.

One of several heavy-duty vans used to retrieve the thousands of sensors and digitizers.

The mosquitoes are really big in British Columbia.
How big? Well, big enough to provide food for insects like this dragonfly.

Evidence of recent glaciation is everywhere.

Near the pickup point, "The Slide" is a massive scree pile.

6 PM: the hikers, backpacks full of Texans and geophones, make their triumphant return.

The lodge we stayed at, the Coast Mountain Lodge, is run by Holly and Fraser. They have a few bikes for guests to use, and I was able to get a little riding in every day.

Day 12 (Monday 20th)

Work beckons, so off I ride to the hangar...

... where the amphibious plane has returned with some of the boat team deployers.

With every instrument returned, the data must be downloaded, and then the batteries removed. Time for some grad student help!

The After Party is this evening. Time to use our car to round up some equipment, like a guitar, and a digital projector, which we obtained at the fishery. This stunning batholith is across the street from the fishery. There are dozens of them all up and down the Bella Coola valley.

Back at the hangar, the grad students are making headway on the de-batterizing...

Meanwhile, outside the hangar, Phil washes off some filthy dirty geophones.

There is a large bear trap just up the road from the hangar.

The After Party at last. Holly and friends grilled some fresh salmon, and I rolled out a brand new parody song, "Ba Ba Ba, Ba Batholiths" (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Ba Ba Ba, Ba Barbara Anne")

Day 13 (Tuesday 21st)

Our last day in Hagensborg starts with another all hands meeting.

Time to gather up everything. It all must be returned to Socorro, NM.

Every attempt was made to retrieve all the human artifacts used for the seismic stations. Here are the survey stakes.

Packing the van for the 5-hour trip up the Hill to Puntzi Lake, and the shipping trailer.

The requisite Group Photo. Timers at the ready!

We say goodbye to an empty hangar, now an ex-field center.

One last run to Bella Coola and the harbor.

These splendid falls were just a few meters from the BC Hydro station in Bella Coola.

Half of the PASSCAL team: Bob, Pnina and I at the falls.

Did I mention that the Coast Mountains are strikingly beautiful?

Atop the Hill, we head into mosquito country. Here I am at Nimpo Lake, where I joined the Swat Team there.

Hours later, we arrive at Puntzi Lake. Here, a few of the grad students cool off in the lake, near Barney's lakeside resort.

That evening, University of Victoria PI George Spence leads the all hands meeting at Howdy's Lodge.

Day 14 (Wednesday 22nd)

For some, the day begins with Breakfast at Barney's.

Time to organize the many gigabytes of data collected. Here, the raw data sits in the trunk of our car.

At the Puntzi Lake field center, the crates are unloaded from the vans, and organized for the big trailer.

PIs George Spence and Ron Clowes monitor the loading.

Michelle shows how it's done.

A trailer-eye's view of the unloading.

One Texan was lost, and mysteriously turned up at its location again. Here, we download the last of thousands of such instruments.

This is the commemorative card signed by team members.

The owners of Barney's let us take out some kayaks and canoes. Here is my kayak.

On Puntzi Lake, my kayak adventure leads me to a cute family.

This "island" is just some reeds in the water.

The area is dotted with many unique home-made fence designs.

In the lodge, I discover that "Aie Caramba" is French for "Ay Caramba."

With the PIs tucked away analyzing the data, the grad students come out to play.

It's hard to reconcile dozens of scribbled sheets with reams of serial numbers and station IDs...

Evening is time for a couple of pale ales and some live music. Here, Amorita of UTEP strums some Dave Matthews licks on the guitar.

Finally, a summer sunset comes to the north country.

Day 15 (Thursday 23rd)

The last all hands meeting: PI Steve Harder at right.

The trailer is loaded - so it's time to start the many hours of driving back to Vancouver. The old Gold Rush houses are still named for the number of miles they are from Lillooet, B.C.

More Canadian Rockies action enroute to Vancouver.

In Vancouver, bikes are everywhere.

Vancouver Corner in downtown.

Beaches line much of the UBC Campus. Time for a relaxing sunset.

Day 16 (Friday 24th)

At UBC, a cab waits to take Shelbie to the airport for her return to Virginia Tech.

On the way to to take colleague Willie to the airport, we check out another beach near UBC.

A bald eagle graces the beach.

Here I am on the beach with Michael and Willie. The ships behind us are huge.

At the airport, we espy the as-yet-unlit welcoming sign for the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Back at UBC, we find more team members on their ways home. Here, Tina, Gaelle, Erin, and Tim pose for the camera.

At the Student Union building, we found Goddess of Democracy statue, dedicated in 1991. It marks the Tianenmen Square killings during student protests in June of 1989 in China. The caption reads "

On the other side of the SUB, we found the Bike Shop. Here's a model of a bicycle built for seven!

With bicycles rented, Michael and I head downtown. Barriers prevent cars from using streets marked as bike routes as through streets.

While we were taking data up north, a bike lane was installed in the Burrard Bridge. Mike and I try it out on our way to Stanley Island Park.

Having walked across the bridge weeks earlier, when pedestrians and bikes shared a sidewalk, I find the new arrangement much safer for both riders and walkers.

Most of Stanley Park is off-limits to cars. Bikes and pedestrians are everywhere. Here is a blue heron at the park's Lost Lagoon.

An informative poster notes that "Behaviour is adaptive." Shades of unbridled evolution!

Michael Johnson poses on front of the Stanley Park totem poles. These are copies of totems seized by Christian groups trying to suppress expressions of First Nations religious practices in the 19th century.

One of many statues lining the Park.

Part of the seawall, at low tide.

At English Bay, we find a statue of Inukshuk; this is the icon for the 2010 Olympics. An Inukshuk is a pile of rocks intended to act for or represent a person.

On the way back to UBC, we enjoy the city's numerous bike lanes.

After returning the rented bikes, we washed and gassed the car, and returned it too.

After dozens of kilometers on the bikes, we opted for a bus ride from the rental car location back to the university.

Day 17 (Saturday 25th)

Finally, it's our turn to get back home. Mike and I wait for our taxi at the UBC dorm.

At the airport, we fill out our customs cards.

One last bear confrontation.

Next stop, Phoenix. And then Albuquerque!

A last look at the Pacific before heading back to the desert.

Back in Albuquerque, the familiar batholiths of the Sandias beckon. Having met their juvenile cousins in Bella Coola, I appreciate their great age all the more.

Galen's Photos (courtesy Galen Kaip of UTEP)

Galen on the boat.

Seals in the harbour.

A bear up close!

Orcas in the bay.

A foxy fox!

Galen, Audrey and Erin find more falls.

Erin and Phil pass judgment on project saboteurs.

Mike's Photos (Courtesy Mike Johnson of IRIS/PASSCAL)

While Mike, George and Willie spent most of their time at the Puntzi Lake field center, they came over in George's small plane to check out the Bella Coola center.

George at the controls.

A plane's-eye view of the Bella Coola airport/hangar.

George files right over some cool Canadian Rockies glaciers.

The incredibly beautiful Hunlen Falls of Tweedsmuir Park were too remote for us to take off several days to hike there, but George's plane was able to fly right over it.

Here's how the Puntzi Lake team spent some of their spare time.

Mike, Michelle and Megan hangin' at Howdy's Lodge on the shore of Puntzi Lake.

PI Kate Miller (UTEP) joins the grad students for some quality Texan preparation.

Phil's Photos (Courtesy Phil Hammer of UBC)

Several sensors were deployed on cliff sides accessible only by boat. Here, Audrey and Todd get another station set up.

Phil took this photo of the cargo vans driving down the Hill at Heckman Pass, the road so infamous it has its own poem:
"Before you drive the Hill,
Be sure to finish your Will."

Never mind Facebook. This stunning photo belongs in Life Magazine!


  1. Update: a piece about the failed attempt to sabotage the project, “Eco-warrior trashes seismic experiment” by Rex Dalton, appears in the 23 July 2009 issue of Nature.

  2. August 6th Update - Fires have come to the region.
    "There’s a town on the central coast of British Columbia called Bella Coola, B.C. that could probably use a little attention right now. There’s only one road into the valley, Highway 20, and it has been closed at Tatla Lake, Alexis Creek and at the very top of Heckman pass making it so that no one in the valley can get in or out, and no food supplies can get in by road. The cause of the closures is the forest fires that were spurred recently in a huge lightening storm in pine beetle tree kill area. What was once a group of small forest fires, merged into a bunch of very large ones. Also, inside the valley there are two forest fires raging on the mountains very close to homes. A majority of the town is on evacuation alert. However, there is talk of also shutting down the ferry route due to the fires, and flights in and out of Bella Coola run on a scheduled service by Pacific Coastal out of Vancouver, and seats cost about $350 each way. The valley is receiving no outside help, not getting groceries and is on evacuation alert with nowhere to evacuate to. I thought this might deserve some coverage, as there are a lot of people with homes in danger who aren’t in Bella Coola right now, and probably have no clue what is going on. (Submitted by Trish Sissons)"
    Sissons Image