I left for camp on November 30th with the assistance of two “volunteers”, Momo and Szabolcs. I’m quite sure they only agreed to help because I may not have fully explained the work to be accomplished. 😉 We carried three jugs of water (20L each) plus two UV cameras and all of my food and supplies for 18+ days. You always pack more food and water than necessary to plan for emergencies and/or changes of plan. After several hours and roundtrips, we successfully moved all the equipment 600 meters from the truck to base camp. You’re probably thinking: “600 meters? That’s not very far!”. Ask those guys if it’s far. They spent the evening camping with me before departing the next morning for civilization. Lucky them, because I see no one for the next 16 days.
Over the next day, I setup base camp and situate the cameras in a slightly different location than before. I need to consider my movement around camp and avoid tripping hazards. It would be difficult to explain how an expensive piece of equipment broke because I fell on it… I kept imaging tripping over a UV camera and ending up at the bottom of the canyon that covers the northern side of my camp.
Over the coming days, I proceeded to collect data on the SO2 degassing regime. Unfortunately, due to the reduced activity, the amount of data isn’t as robust as anticipated. This is how field science works. We plan, collect supplies and execute an expedition to the best of our abilities. But, no matter how superb our best laid plans, the weather and the volcano always holds the joker. My weather karma held with only a few days of cloudy/wet weather but my volcano karma must be weak. What the local residents of Colima are thankful for (a quite volcano) drives us scientists a bit batty. Reduced activity, and therefore reduced monitoring signals, makes it significantly more difficult to decipher the signs potentially heralding the onset of another eruption phase.
On the 16th of December Szabolcs, Jamie and several Colima students arrived to help me carry the equipment back to the truck staging area. Unfortunately, this time we couldn’t leave any equipment. All five truck batteries, five tripods, five solar panels, three large waterproof containers, two UV cameras plus all of my personal equipment were carried down without too much grumbling and only one near mutiny. At least it was downhill..
I’ve now returned to Great Britain to recuperate and begin working on my copious amounts of data. I’ll also be working on final planning for our research group’s trip to Chile in January. Stayed tuned for updates on my data processing and of course Chile!
My preparations for a second round of fieldwork are finally finished. I’m being optimistic this period will be more successful than the last.
Geologically: volcanic activity is currently considerably reduced; Technically: complex and fancy new equipment difficult to master; Metrologically: a hurricane and unusually cloudy ‘dry’ season plus a family emergency have all conspired against me. Their combined efforts have reduced my in-field season from eight weeks to four and a half. One mustn’t be discouraged and forge onwards into the darkness. My weather karma needs to brew up an exceptional period of clear skies for the next 16-18 days.
Wisdom acquired during previous field experience means I’m bringing better supplies to isolate myself from the high altitude sunshine – base camp is at 2554 m (8379 ft). Simple things like extra tarps, an umbrella and bandannas are all essential. My main concern is stocking up on enough food. I refuse to again allow myself the miserable experience of eating tuna and tortillas for lunch and beans or pasta for dinner, every day. For 16 days.. If you’ve never done it, it gets old. Trust me. The plan now includes eggs, bacon, steaks, something sweet, fruit and of course ample Geologist ‘brain juice’.
Maybe I should explain the purpose of this self-imposed isolation. I’m measuring the cycles of sulfur dioxide (SO2) degassing from the summit lava dome and fumarole fields of Volcán de Colima, México (3850m asl) aka Volcán Fuego. Specifically, I’m deploying two EnviCAM 1 UV cameras and a FLYSPEC UV spectrometer. The data being collected is a part of my wider project examining the use of multiparameter monitoring on active volcanoes.
Stay tuned for my next update after returning mid-December from field work!