EarthScope’s Plate Boundary Observatory; a Northern California Installation
Half the work was just getting this drill rig and our trailer and truck full of stuff out to the site. It took over 2 hours of slow driving up narrow bumpy gravel logging trails (the rig was on the back of a bigger truck).
The driller, Mike (on the right), and his assistant (we just called him old-timer, usually-- that cowboy hat is actually a shaped hard-hat ; ). Mike is hired by PBO for places like this where there is a lot of soil/clay/sediment above the bedrock, and we can’t use hand drills. He drills down almost 40ft for each of the 5 holes the steel pipe goes in that the GPS antenna stands on (behind them).
There I am. As each hole is drilled we put foam-wrapped PVC pipe into them to keep the dirt from collapsing back in. My co-worker on the right, Jackson, is almost done with the wiring of the solar panels above the GPS computer/modem equipment box (called the enclosure).
When you put the steel pipe down the drilled holes you have to hold each one in place as you connect the next one. About the worst mistake you could make is accidentally dropping them down the hole before they are secured (they are almost impossible to get back). Thankfully, I haven’t done this.
The steel pipe is cemented in and welded to form the tripod, and the antenna is covered by the plastic dome. Since I haven’t learned to weld well enough yet (I might get some practice next week) I dug the trench the cable runs through to connect the antenna to the electronics enclosure. The grass will grow back, but we had to uproot it to lessen the fire danger from welding sparks.
I did do a bunch of wiring for the solar panels, though… • Past me is the trailer we brought everything in, and beyond the redwood covered mountains is the fog from the ocean off of the Mendocino shore.
You can see how the solar panels swing out and are locked into a south-facing 45 degree angle to catch the sun at our latitude.
The batteries store the electricity for nights and very cloudy days. The yellow box is the GPS computer system, and the black box is a modem that works with cell phone towers in the distance (we even hook our computers up to set it up, and can get internet access in the middle of the woods!). This way scientists can get the data as it’s measured.
The site looks pretty good when it’s time to leave, too--already sending data out for scientists all over the world.