A Fond Farewell to Field Work
Just over two weeks ago I returned from what should be my very last stint of field work in graduate school. This time away rounded off my 7th month abroad collecting seismic data on land and at sea. To say this trip was stress-free and completely enjoyable would be lying but it would also be untrue to say that I didn't appreciate the opportunity to overcome unforeseen challenges and carry the burden of increased responsibility. Field work continuously demands that you be flexible, patient, and fearless and this expedition was no different.
I traveled to the Southern Highlands of Tanzania with another graduate student to demobilize the 38 seismic stations that have been quietly recording ground motion there for the last two years. Our efforts were tremendously aided by the extensive experience of our Tanzanian colleagues from the Geological Survey of Tanzania without whom this work could never have been completed.
After arriving in country we hit several road bumps right off the bat including cancelled domestic plane flights, car crashes, and late, late nights but it wouldn't be an adventure without the interesting parts! Despite these setbacks and more (who knew you'd need permission to remove an instrument that you own and personally installed!) we successfully recovered all instruments and got them safely back to our home base in Njombe.
Over the course of 2 days and with the aid of 3-5 extra helpers we organized, cleaned, and packed all of the gear (1+ miles of cables!!). Neither of us had ever cleaned or packed gear for customs but we dove in with all the zest we could manage. With sunscreen lathered on and pop-music blaring from my smart phone we stowed everything away in their appropriate boxes and hefted them onto the lorrey. From Njombe they would travel more than 16,000 km back to their home in Socorro, New Mexico.
Looking back on this trip it is nearly funny to realize that this was by far the most stressful field expedition while also being one of my shortest. While in country my dreams were continuously filled with irate customs officers discovering dirty items missed during our meticulous cleaning frenzy and disappointed advisors realizing my inability to maintain the organization necessary for such a large project. By the end of our time their I was counting down the hours, fantasizing of the minute that the airplane wheels would leave the ground and I could honestly say that I had done all I could to make this trip a success.
Ultimately, my final field adventure was successful in almost every aspect. We pulled and packed the gear, acquired the lsat months of data, and made heartfelt and congenial farewells to our colleagues both in Dodoma and Dar es Salaam. Perhaps with more time I can better appreciate our successes during this last expedition but for now I'm still coming down from the stress. The rose colored glasses are sitting on the horizon and I'll find my way to them soon I'm sure.
Until next time, Lala Salama.
P.S. Check out some of our GPS tracks from our adventure here