This year, the Volcanofiles are bringing an instrument into the field that’s not on the typical list of field gear for volcanologists: a remote controlled helicopter. Well, a quadcopter to be exact. And we couldn’t be more excited. Aaron Curtis, PhD student at New Mexico Tech, will be joining us in the field at Villarrica, Chile and will be flying his copters around on the crater of the volcano. We hope to get some good glimpses of the lava lake via the on-board video camera.
Here’s a look at Aaron’s test flights of the quadcopters at Erebus volcano last field season:
These maps will be updated live throughout the duration of our trip! Watch this space and see below for location, photo, and info updates!
LIVE Map of the Expedition
SPOT Adventures Map w/Photos (not live)
Click on the map to go to our SPOT Adventures page.
Follow The Volcanofiles on our adventure through Chile and Costa Rica! Using a handy device known as a SPOT Connect, we will be able to send Tweets and Facebook updates as well as update the maps shown above.
The first map will be automatically updated, live, from our SPOT Connect in the field. It will track our location throughout the expedition as well as display any messages we sent through the device (geo-tagged, of course, so you can see where the messages were sent). The second map above also tracks our progress during the expedition and will also feature images that we upload. We will only be able to upload photos when we have access to internet, so it will be updated less frequently.
A big congratulations to the team who have just been shortlisted for an interview on a grant that would fund a second volcanological expedition to Chile (specifically, Villarrica) in early 2013. The interview is this Friday, so we will keep you posted as things progress!
Until then, we want to keep your interest piqued, so check out this amazing video of Villarrica’s SO2 plume as seen by an ultraviolet camera. Kelby has been parsing through tons and tons of data, but had a few minutes to put this little gem together just for you! Check it out below:
Wednesday February 8th was the day that the first group would summit Villarrica. The plan: Summit Team (Kayla, Kelby, and Tehnuka) would leave the house early and ascend to the top of the volcano carrying a filterpack, traversing DOAS, and sun photometer, along with our guide, Tomas. The Ground Team (Nial and Yves) would be stationed at Los Crateres gathering data with a UV camera, scanning DOAS, stationary DOAS, and HD video camera.
The summit to the crater is a 2-4 hour hike (depending on how fast you can go up a steep slope) and requires a ski lift followed by a long slog up a rocky slope, then about an hour hiking up the icy glaciers with crampons and ice axes. We began early in the morning, arriving at the bottom of the ski lift at about 8am packed down with gear, helmets, gas masks, and climbing equipment. The hike was much less strenuous than any of us anticipated, and it offerred an astouding view of the surrounding lowlands.
The summit team made it to the top in about 3 hours time and began setting up equipment. Due to park regulations, we could only remain at the rim until 3pm, so we had to work fast. Tehnuka got to work setting up her filter pack. This instrument collects particles and acid gasses direction from the plume. The H2S from Villarrica is quite strong, and sitting directly in the plume for a few hours requires the use of full face gas masks.
Kelby started by doing walking traverses with a DOAS beneath the volcanic plume. The night before, we rigged up what we call the DOAS helmet. We strapped a spectrometer to the back of Nial´s caving helmet, and kelby wore that atop his head while holding the laptop collecting the data and walking beneath the plume. It makes the rocky hike a bit exciting when you are not able to move your head — this meant stumbling over rocks (can´t look down) and blanking random passerbys asking what we were up to (can´t stop moving or look to the side to say hello).
Meanwhile, Kayla was moving around on the crater rim gathering sun photometer measurements. This instrument looks at the incoming light from the sun and how it is scatterred by the plume. By looking at the change in irradiance of sunlight in 5 different wavelengths, you can back out information on particle and aerosol size distribution within the plume.
The Ground Team stayed at the Los Crateres site all day and got what might just be some stunning data. The conditions from that site were good for several hours. Now, we have to combine all of our data to see how it matches up!
Monday was “Day One” on Villarrica – time to collect some good data! We woke up early to a nice view of the volcano from the observatory and split off into two groups: Kelby & Yves were the Los Crateres group and Tehnuka, Nial, & Kayla were the Glaciar Turbio group.
Since the Glaciar Turbio site was inaccessible the day before, Kayla acted as a Spanish interpreter and talked with one of the vertedero workers (see “Day 0” post) to sort out exactly where we were meant to be going. The route was to be down an unmarked trail through some stunning waterfalls. The worker pointed us in the right direction, but the trip ended up being somewhat of a bushwhacking adventure that Kelby might classify as a “boondoggle”.
The road leading to the trailhead quickly turned too rough for our low clearance Hyundai 5-door to handle, so we parked the car and began our hike down the road. By the time we reached our parking spot, we had already passed several junctions not marked on our map. Hopefully we were in the right place. The plume was straight overhead – a good place for it to be for our scans – and the sky was clear, so we decided to take some measurements even though we were quite far (5 km or so) from the volcano.
After a half hour of scans we walked along what appeared to be a logging road for a while until we decided that we should simply head towards the volcano. We knew where we wanted to end up, and we had our GPS and map in hand. No problem. We soon found ourselves at the edge of a steep cliff overlooking a gorgeous view of Villarrica towering over a gorge filled with large cascades. What a sight!
The problem? The Glaciar Turbio site was at the bottom of said cliff and up the river. Time to begin bushwhacking our way through some bamboo forest and down an arroyo leading to the river at the bottom of the gorge. With some time and effort, we made it. We had an absolutely incredible view of the amazing landscape. Down by the river, we set up the DOAS for more scans while we ate lunch.
This would be a good site to scan the plume for now, but we still were not at our intended Glaciar Turbio site. And we still hadn’t found the unmarked trail shown on our trekking map. We left the DOAS to scan away for a bit while we scouted out how to get further up river.
We quickly found that there was no way to get up river on the side we were currently on, and we hadn’t seen anywhere to cross – at all spots, the river was much too wide and fast. Heading back down river, we were quickly dead-ended again with no way to cross the river. Surely, the unmarked trail was on the far side of the river, but we had no way to get to it.
By mid-afternoon, we decided that it was time to start heading back, so we packed our gear and bushwhacked our way back to the logging road. We never made it to Glaciar Turbio in the end (our best guess one possible wrong turn on the way to the trail head), but we did get a bit of good data and saw an amazing place!
After hauling and stashing two car batteries and some tripods at the Los Crateres site, the hike up was much more enjoyable this time around. Kelby and Yves brought up the UV camera and two DOAS spectrometers with them to the site. With a nice view of the pume all day long, it looks like Los Crateres will be a permanent base camp for us.
Over the next few days, someone will be stationed at Los Crateres while another group either goes on more recon near Glaciar Turbio or up to the crater rim.
We have been working our butts off and getting what looks like some very good data here on Volcan Villarrica! We have several blog posts backed up waiting to be published (we wish they could be coming in live, but we have very limited access to internet!). Expect more detailed field reports tomorrow.
We have had two teams summit to the rim of Villarrica while ground teams were simultaneously collecting data from the Los Crateres base camp. The past few days have been great weather for the spectrometers, UV camera, video camera, filter packs, and sun photometer. We are a happy bunch!
On Monday, we will leave the Villarrica area and head south to Puyehue Cordon-Caulle, a currently erupting volcano that (as you may remember) halted some airline flights in the southern hemisphere last year, sending ash all the way around the Earth.
Sunday was “Day Zero” on Villarrica volcano. We decided that the best use of our time would be to split into two groups and scout out good sites for taking measurements of the volcanic plume with both UV spectrometers (DOAS) and the UV camera.
Three sites were chosen for recon: Los Crateres, a lookout point on the north side of the volcano; Glaciar Turbio, along an unmarked trail to the east; and Glaciar Pichillancahue, another lookout point to the southeast.
The Los Crateres team, Kelby, Kayla, & Yves, set off on a beautiful but challenging hike. Carrying with them two full-sized car batteries, a 12 kg UV camera and accessories, a DOAS scanner, tripods, computers, and other odds and ends was an incredible challenge and required two trips to the site and back. Needless to say, the group was knackered by the end of the day.
It turns out that Los Crateres is a perfect spot for simultaneous UV camera and DOAS measurements. The view of the volcano and it’s plume is ideal. The team have stashed the car batteries and tripods at the site (carrying those things up once was enough!) and will come back to measure regularly from this site. Kelby managed to get a few measurements with his UV camera, but most of the day was spent getting the gear up there.
Glaciar Turbio/Glaciar Pichillancahue
Nial and Tehnuka left the others at the main park entrance and drove around the volcano to the north, planning to find a route up the Rio Turbio that would get them to the Turbio glacier front, where they could set up a DOAS scan.
Unfortunately, the map led them astray, and they ended up driving down a dirt road (dodging cows) to what they thought was the park entrance, only to find a sign telling them it was closed on Sundays.
They picked out an alternative track to the east, which would take them to Glacier Pichillancahue, and returned to the main road (dodging the same cows). After only one more wrong turn, the two found their way up a gravel road – which turned into a four wheel drive track somewhat earlier than expected. Carrying their gear, including the car battery in Nial’s pack, they both made it to the park rangers’ office.
The route they had chosen was a two hour walk starting a few kilometres further down the 4WD track. However, the helpful ranger suggested a shorter walk up to a lookout point (‘it gains a lot of altitude fast’, he said in Spanish) that would give a view of Villarrica’s plume as well as nearby volcanoes Quetrupilllan and Llaima. The site would be several kilometres further from the crater than we’d hoped, but it was almost noon and Nial and Tehnuka were keen to set up the scan while there was still plenty of UV, so they took the ranger’s advice and started winding their way up the hill. It would be interesting to see what they could pick up at that distance, anyway.
The walk did gain altitude quite fast, but after an hour and a half – Tehnuka thought the ranger had said it was a thirty minute walk – the two decided that the view of the plume wouldn’t get any better, and began to set up the DOAS. At this stage they realised that they were missing the cable that connected the computer to the scanner, and – when they decided to try scanning manually (moving the telescope by hand) just to see what they could pick up – the software wouldn’t open. As they walked back, clouds began to build over the summit.
It was a pretty long walk carrying a lot of gear, and it was quite disappointing not to get any data, but we agreed that it was better to have things go wrong on a reconnaissance day than any other time. On the bright side, we had some amazing views!