“There is unrest in the forest, there is trouble with the trees“…I will mostly spare you one of the more ecologically correct, forest ecology rock tunes (the next two lines, however, “For the maples want more sunlight, and the oaks ignore their pleas,” written in 1978, seem incredibly prescient given that one of the first oak-to-maple succession papers was published in 1984. Of course, Rush is that awesome. Why they aren’t in the rock & roll hall of fame…). But, recent developments in the management of public forests in neighboring New Jersey push me to unexpectedly blog again. Oddly, there is a new bill being considered that is pitting forest ecologists against the Audubon Society. There is no unusual unrest in the forest–it is among the people.
The bill being considered would allow forest management, specifically logging, in some of New Jersey’s public forests. One of the main thrusts of this bill is that the older public forests in N.J. need management. I’ll state here that I have no problem with forestry, especially long-minded forestry that considers the entire ecosystem for generations (of trees, animals and people); I marked trees for logging for nearly a year. There are places where you could take most people and they would never know that the forest had been logged for more than 50 years. Of course, Leon Neel is an exceptional human and the forest he manages reflects his soul. (Don’t let “art” in the book title fool you. Neel is an exceptional naturalist with the patience of Job and a highly scientific mind).
What pushes me to write is one of the reasons being used to justify the cutting of trees. It is this, “Supporters of the estimated $2.7 million program say it would help the state nurse its 800,000 acres of land back to health by removing trees and allowing sunlight to feed new growth, creating new habitats and reducing the risk of fires.” The risk of fire is a bit of a red herring given overall forest composition and the recent trend to wetter conditions.
Another provocative passage supporting this bill comes from the N.J. Forestry Association in its spring 2011 newsletter:
“The New Jersey Forestry Association and other professional groups with practical experience need to keep showing that trees need to be managed and harvested to make the most of what nature has provided. A well managed forest will go on forever, while a forest left to its own devices will die and become useless to anyone, as are the pines in Atlantic County where they have lost their needles and are now rotting from the infiltration of pine bark beetles.”
It is true that conifers are highly susceptible to insects, especially in low-diversity ecosystems, and the loss of the pitch pine is a loss of economic output. But, it is unlikely that all the pitch pine are dead. If they are, how did this species survive for centuries in N.J. prior to the arrival of modern forest management?
The line preceding the above quote, beginning on page 3 of the newsletter, states, “Fortunately, there is a potential answer to the anger shown by the public toward the subject of forest management. The remedy is education. Many of the opponents were obviously educated in school and were probably well-meaning, although sometimes intemperate, but they evidenced no schooling in forest management or the overall state of our natural ecosystem.”
Sadly, this is a very true statement.
Education is the answer, but perhaps not in the direction the author implies. It is not the opposition’s lack of “schooling in forest management” that is the source of pushback to the bill. If I could bring Neel to the podium to speak on the issue of natural resource education, he might say something he once said to me, “Do you know what the problem is with forestry in schools these days? They don’t teach forestry!” By this, Mr. Neel meant that what dominates education in modern forestry schools is centered on economic timber production and that there is not enough emphasis on the ecology of ecosystems. He should have this insight. Neel obtained a BS in forestry from the University of Georgia in 1951. By the end of this two part post, ironically, I will show you that, while most of the scientific evidence that old trees and forests do not die of old age, the first publication I can find suggesting that old age is not the source of tree decline is an article published in the Journal of Forestry in 1927. The conflict here is partly a straying from what foresters learned and knew during the first half of the 20th century and partly what forest ecologists have learned during the most recent decades.
Sure. Why not? Why would trees be different than elephants, pandas, whales or humans for that matter. I mean, trees are charismatic megaflora. Why wouldn’t the laws of biology or the laws of life apply to them? For example, Jonny Flynn or Michael Jordan will not be able to replicate their athletic dunks when they are 80 (btw, did you see Michael’s first dunk over Tree Rollins?). Shoot, they will not be able to replicate these feats when they are half that age! So, why wouldn’t trees die simply of old age?
This human perception is understandable. When you go into a true old-growth forest you will notice many dead trees on the forest floor. This is a classic characteristic of an old-growth forest. You might notice several rotten trees, too, including living trees with cubicle butt rot (look to your right and scan the image at the end of this post). To the untrained eye, it might not look pretty. Even to the trained eye it might not look pretty, especially when compared to neatly managed plantations of straight and tall conifers.
So, this human observation is relayed early and often in many classical forestry classrooms, making it feel legitimate (Confession, I attended two forestry schools. I heard this concept frequently). It is so deeply embedded in the fabric of forestry education that the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) espoused this belief as recently as 2001. An IPCC publication stated “Overmature forest stands take up carbon from the atmosphere at slower rates, but even as the growth increment of the trees approaches zero,….”….sigh….If folks read this post, I expect some pushback along the lines of, “We don’t really think that anymore…that is an old idea,” which I know is true. The idea is fading. It is overmature. Unfortunately, where the rubber hits the road, where forest management decisions are made, it is a concept very much still in play. This is where things are in New Jersey (and many other places, honestly. Not picking on N.J. here).
In part two of this post, I will lay out the evidence countering the perception that age matters in terms of tree and ecosystem productivity.
Oceanic plates are born at mid-ocean ridges, where hot mantle rocks are brought very close to the surface, partially melt, and then cool and crystallize. The newly formed rocks move outwards from the mid-ocean ridge, making way for the next batch of hot rock rising from below. Inch by inch, over millions of years, oceanic plates progress through a life cycle of birth at the mid-ocean ridge, cooling and aging in the open ocean basins, and destruction at a subduction zone, where they dive back into the mantle.
Because rocks contract inward as they cool, oceanic plates deepen considerably with age: from approximately 2500 meters depth at mid-ocean ridges to as much as 8000 meters depth in subduction-zone trenches. The NoMelt study region has matured to a middle-aged 70 million years (a plate age roughly equivalent to 40 human years), and sits at a seafloor depth of just over 5000 meters. That’s 3 miles of seawater, with the temperature at the bottom just above freezing – a very inhospitable environment to deploy our seafloor equipment.
Four days after departing Honolulu, we began deploying ocean-bottom seismometers (OBS) and seafloor MT instruments, over a grid spanning 360 miles by 250 miles. The instruments come in four flavors, designed for different types of measurements, but they have several components in common. First, they all deploy via “free fall” – they are hoisted over the side of the ship using a crane, and dropped into the water. They weigh several hundred pounds each and sink to the bottom within a few hours. Each contains a sensor such as a seismometer or a magnetometer, a low-power computer to record the data, and acoustic transceivers capable of receiving and replying to simple commands, such as “turn on” or “reply to this ping.” All are stocked with a battery supply capable of running the instrument for the duration of the experiment – up to a year for some instruments. All of these electronic components are housed in precisely engineered aluminum tubes and glass and titanium spheres designed to withstand the crushing pressures at 6000 meters below the sea surface.
Our deployment strategy poses some risks. We cannot ensure they land nicely in good spots on the seafloor. The combination of pressure and corrosion continuously wears on the instrument over a year-long deployment, and it can be difficult to withstand. If a problem occurs, then the instrument and any data it contains may be lost. And problems do occur – glass spheres implode, aluminum cases corrode and leak, instruments can float prematurely to the surface because they accidentally release from their anchors.
Tiny “upgrades” in instrument design can prove catastrophic. In one legendary case, a new disk drive was just heavy enough to make the anchorless instruments neutrally buoyant; instead of floating to the surface at the end of the experiment, they hovered 10 meters above the seafloor, never to be seen again. But there is no affordable alternative for deploying equipment on the seafloor in the open ocean, and over the last 15 years, the seafloor geophysics community (see www.obsip.org) has learned many lessons for minimizing the risk.
Working around the clock for four days, our team of technicians (from Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution), students, and PI’s deployed 61 OBS and nine MT instruments. Our time is tight, so we dropped them over the side and moved quickly to the next site, never knowing whether they reach a safe resting place on the bottom.
In a little over a week, we will return to recover 34 of the OBS (short-period instruments designed specifically to record the airgun shots from the Langseth) and two of the MT instruments. Only at that point will we truly learn if the deployment has been successful. We will not know the fate of the remaining 27 OBS and seven MT for another year.
There was a nice article in the NY Times on the Adirondack State Park whose title initially focused readers on how climate change could alter the park’s ecosystems. However, by the time you get to the end of the article, and luckily for us, you get to know Jerry Jenkins, one of the best naturalists I’ve ever met. It might be that only recently did this researcher become known outside the region and outside the legion of naturalists in the northeastern United States. For many reasons, I was thrilled to see this article. Primarily, the Adirondacks are my ecological home. It houses the forest that must have shaped my feelings for trees (while finalizing this post, I received a snail-mail from my mom with a clipping of the NYT article). Mostly, it is great to see Jenkins get his due.
The Adirondack State Park is one of the oldest and largest preserves in the lower 48 states; as the Clinton Administration was in its last throes, a larger preserve was created in the American Southwest. The Adirondacks have been a vacationland for the rich, famous, and otherwise since the 19th century. It was never, and I sincerely mean never, much of a home for those who wanted to make a living off of the land. This was especially true for locavores.
See, one of the best interpretations of the word “adirondack” or “adirondac” is “bark-eater.” Apparently, it was a cool nickname for first nation people living outside the Blue Line.
As you see in the N.Y. Times article, the region is also the place to study it all if you consider Nature at all. Jerry Jenkins is one of those people. You will not find his name name on a faculty roster at any college or university. But, what he says about our environment should be given the same weight as the words of any full professor. Like any good naturalist, he’s been out there for a long time. Not only has he been out there, he has been paying attention to what he sees. And better, he thinks about what he sees.
Jenkins was the first one I heard say that there has been no sugar maple regeneration in certain areas of the Adirondacks and that this is likely due to acid rain arising from the coal-fired power plants in the midwestern United States. When a person in the seminar audience asked why he thought that, he said that on sites with high pH (more basic soils), there was plenty of sugar maple regeneration. On sites with low pH (high acidity), there was no regeneration. He figured that the high pH sites buffered the calcium-loving sugar maple from the ravages of acid rain (acid rain leaches calcium from soils. High pH soils generally have more calcium). That care in observation and experimental design (comparing acidic sites to higher pH sites) is what all scientists strive to replicate in their research. I was lucky to talk to him at this meeting. His knowledge and logic were humbling.
Jenkins is not alone as a New England naturalist in terms of quality and intensity. I was reading a grad student’s poster on the damage and regeneration of old-growth forest in the western Adirondacks at this same meeting when Dr. Charlie Cogbill walked up. Like Jenkins, Cogbill is a “free-lance ecologist,” to borrow Cogbill’s term. As the student was explaining the project’s results, Charlie started nodding and said, “Yes, that is correct.” When the conversation proceeded, a question arose about a particular species. Cogbill reached into his backpack, pulled out a worn, spiral-bound notebook and pulled out his raw data from the SAME place where the student had conducted research. Not only did Cogbill have the same data, he has a ream of data from the same area from about a decade prior to that day. My mind marveled at that data set.
The natural history research that he and Jenkins conduct is of high value. It can aid in solving modern ecological issues and inform modern Earth-system models, which is what their massive data sets are doing. Natural history is not dead!
So, why are the Adirondacks such an attraction? It is hard to quantify, though I will give it a shot. The combination of water, mountains and intact forest is nearly unmatched. I’ve been fortunate to have visited and lived in many areas of the globe. Nothing seems to match the Adirondack region in the ratio of water to woods to mountains. Vermont is lovely, but it does not have the wetlands and waterways of the Adirondacks. As Jenkins notes in the Times article, it is this combination of ecosystems that makes it unique. From the boreal forests and wetland ecosystem that are home to the re-surging moose population to the oak and hickory forests like Virginian forests on warm, southern slopes in the southern Adirondacks, the Adirondack region has a wide variety of biota. I’ve even seen American chestnut saplings in the Adirondacks.
The impetus for the creation of the Adirondacks is likely the result of many factors: preservation of watershed for downstream communities, preservation of forest from the onslaught of industrial-scaled logging during the late-1800s, preservation of wilderness. In fact, the Adirondacks are preserved in New York State’s constitution as “Forever Wild.” It would take a majority of New York citizens to vote for any change to the Adirondacks (somewhere in the neighborhood of a 3/4ths vote).
The clause was so effective that the Adirondacks contains the largest amount of old-growth forest in the northeastern United States. In fact, the late Barbara McMartin thought that if you considered areas of the park that were lightly picked at by coniferphiles as old-growth forest, areas where only a handful of spruce, pine and fir were logged before preservation, there could be significantly more old-growth forest than what is currently recognized. In today’s human-dominated landscape, perhaps we can overlook these small-scale intrusions.
Thus, given the significant disturbance in the late-1800s and subsequent preservation soon after, the Adirondacks might be one of the best natural laboratories for the study of “natural” ecosystems. Natural is in quotes because it is time for northern North Americans to recognize humans as a part of Nature. And, in local proximity of uncut ecosystems, people can compare how ecosystems recover after heavy logging over the course of 100 years. There are few places in the eastern United States where such large tracts of forest can be studied in the same way.
The Adirondack natural laboratory also seems like a factory for the production of Earth scientists. At one point during the end of my dissertation I was attending a workshop for students who were part of the Department of Energy’s Global Change Fellowship program. Through that program I met approximately four other students who grew up within 2-3 hours of the Adirondacks and spent a significant time in the park either at a family cabin or through hiking and camping. At around the same time I met another young Earth scientist at Lamont-Doherty whose parent’s cabin was less than a 15-minute drive from my folk’s cabin. It is likely that our connections to the Earth in the Adirondacks influenced our direction as we moved through school. Obviously there is value in natural areas beyond ecotourism and wilderness for their own sake.
OK, I love the place and have gone on far too long, much longer than planned.
What about the title of this post and the focus of this blog? While Adirondack Forest is loved for its piney, boreal and coniferous atmosphere, they are truly loved in autumn for the often spectacular show they give us. That colorful show comes from the graces of broadleaf species: orange to yellow sugar maple leaves, red to yellow red maple leaves, yellow birch leaves, yellow to purplish ash leaves, etc. See for yourself in the untouched picture below.
We nicknamed our project NoMelt because we seek to characterize a mature, pristine oceanic plate far from its volcanic origin at a Mid-Ocean Ridge, and away from areas of pronounced volcanism and melting that subsequently alter the structure of the plate. Our site in the central Pacific fits these scientific needs. However, one downside is that four days of transit are needed to reach this area from Honolulu. Research ships travel at 10 knots (a whopping 12 MPH) – who knew that ships were so slow? Our science party filled these days acclimating to life at sea – typically hunkered down in our bunks, sleeping-off the motion sickness and the drugs used to treat it. Many of us had envisioned calm waters in the tropical Pacific and hoped to avoid this initial bout of sea-sickness. But as we cleared the lee of the islands, 45-knot winds and 5-meter seas quickly disabused us of this fantasy. Two days out, the winds dropped and the seas subsided into a more comfortable roll, and we emerged to get to work.
We stepped directly into the bustle of a large oceanographic research vessel at sea. The R/V Langseth operates continuously for weeks at a time all over the globe. Our 34-day cruise requires a crew of 47, including 13 of us in the science party – sea-going temps who provide the scientific oversight and manpower necessary for this particular experiment. The permanent crew are talented and dedicated, with the full gamut of skills necessary to keep a large, complex vessel safe and operational in the open ocean: mechanical, electrical, navigational, computational. They keep the massive diesel-electric engines running smoothly, rewire cranes and rigs, repair and retool seismic airguns and streamers, and debug the network and internet services required to collect our data (and email home!). Because we are using loud sound sources in the water, the staff includes protected-species observers (PSO’s), who monitor for nearby whales, porpoises, and sea turtles that could be harmed if they venture too close to our airguns. Shipboard scientific operations continue 24 hours a day, and everyone has a role and a duty to make this possible.
Next up – seafloor deployments….
Everything that we understand about the rhythms of the Earth’s surface – the slow growth of mountain chains, the creeping expansion of the ocean basins, the abrupt upheaval of a major earthquake, the explosive eruption of a volcano – is viewed through the context of plate tectonics. This simple yet highly successful model for describing processes at Earth’s surface rests on two notions: (1) the outer shell of the Earth is broken up into nearly rigid blocks, or “plates”, ranging in thickness from a few 10’s to a few 100’s of kilometers; (2) nearly all the geologic activity such as faulting and volcanism happens in very narrow zones at the boundaries between these plates. As a result, Earth scientists generally focus on understanding faulting and volcanism at plate boundaries. But to understand what happens at the contacts between plates, we need to address an underlying question – what is a plate? Or more specifically, what critical processes allow the rock within the plate to behave very rigidly, in sharp contrast to the weak rock beneath the plate’s base, or along its margins?
On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, a team of scientists departed Honolulu for a remote portion of the central Pacific Ocean on the research vessel R/V Marcus G. Langseth in search of answers to this question. Our target is a swath of seafloor approximately 1200 miles southeast of Hawaii (see map). We chose this area because it contains some of the oldest oceanic crust on the planet and it has not been modified by other volcanic activity since it was formed 70 million years ago. We hope that the structure of this mature, pristine oceanic plate can illuminate the most basic aspects of plate formation and evolution.
After a four-day steam, we will arrive at our study area armed with a suite of geophysical tools to image the oceanic plate in this region with unprecedented precision and scope. We will toss 61 ocean-bottom seismographs (OBS) overboard in 5000-meter-deep water over a 600-km by 400 km area. OBS sink slowly to the seafloor and autonomously record sound waves from natural and man-made sources. Some of these sensors will remain on the bottom for over a year, recording the shaking from distant earthquakes. The remainder will record sound waves generated using large airguns towed in the water behind the ship and will be recovered at the end of this cruise. Simultaneously, we will record sound waves reflecting back from beneath the seafloor on an 6-km-long “streamer” containing hundreds of seismic sensors that we tow behind the ship. Finally, we will deploy a set of instruments designed to measure the electrical and magnetic fields at the seafloor. This combination of instruments will provide detailed information on the seismic wavespeed and electrical conductivity structure through the oceanic plate, which we will use to constrain the rock properties that control plate behavior. The experiment is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Seagoing research is an exciting but stressful business, and this cruise is no exception. In particular, the large water depths put tremendous pressure on seafloor instruments, increasing the risk of loss. In addition, the research activities are highly choreographed, and even modest difficulty with equipment or weather can compromise the experiment. But we are optimistic that this program will yield fundamental new insights on a core aspect of our paradigm for Earth processes. Over the next 30 days, I will provide regular updates on the project – both the day to day rhythms of life at sea, and the exciting science that will follow.
I will admit it, there was a time when I loved conifers. Like, I was truly fanatical about coniferous trees. The first time I felt that way was upon walking among the great eastern white pine trees in the Adirondack State Park as an undergraduate research assistant and student. My first exposure to some truly impressive pumpkin pine was in the grove of old trees at the Pack Forest. These trees, charismatically represented by the Grandmother Tree, are truly impressive if you are seeing old-growth forests in northeastern North America for the first time. Soon after, I was taken on a hike to see a few large eastern white pine at the ranger school on Cranberry Lake. I was enamored.
As my educational path careened southward, I was brought to the large and old loblolly pines in the Congaree National Park in South Carolina. It was just a few years post-Hurricane Hugo and about half of the dense, massive loblollies were blown over. But, there were, and are, patches in the upper Coastal Plain that can give you a sense of how tree-mendous this forest was preio to Hugo. While not ancient, these trees are old for their species (the oldest tree was confirmed alive just a few days ago, making it at least 246 years old!). Please, go see these trees before they topple, especially in the heat of the summer. The scent they emit in the southern heat is savory.
My next stop was over the course of two years in the great longleaf pine ecosystem of the Deep South. The tree that is the foundation species of this highly diverse system is beyond charismatic. It is long-lived, has a phenomenal tap root that can look like another whole tree below ground, and long needles arranged like a basketball at the end of its twig. It is a glorious tree and ecosystem that deserves our attention and careful restoration across most of the Coastal Plain.
Not long after I finally landed in the Tree Ring Laboratory of Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory for the first time, I was whisked away to the other side of the world to far, western Mongolia. Toward the end of that first, epic trip (think serious water illness; an outbreak of Black Plague; breaking out of the city quarantine at dawn; sharing a room with dead marmots, carriers of Black Plague; an overbooked plane back to the capital because of the plague; being wrongly held up at the border on the way home and missing our return flight….), we found what is still the oldest tree that I have personally cored: a 752-year-old Siberian larch in the Altai Mountains.
The next year I was on an expedition to the northernmost trees on Earth, the larch on the Taymir Peninsula. The scraggly small trees that were 400-600 years old were just lovely from so many perspectives…
Jeez, I’ve gone off-track here. I admit it. I still have the fever for conifer trees.
The point of all this preamble and this blog, however, is to point out that, yes, conifers are cool trees and while I will mostly ignore them on this blog, I dig them. However, I contend that the research field on the study of most broadleaf tree species is ripe, especially from a dendronchronological perspective. And, for this reason, but perhaps more for the fabulous diversity of leaf shape, bark texture, flower arrangement, autumn leaf color and overall funkiness of broadleaf species, I have moved on to adore broadleaf species.
Scientifically, we generally know much more about conifers than broadleaf species. Why this might be, I am not certain. I would think that conifers are the most studied type of tree for many reasons. Here are three:
1) They are highly valuable forestry species; foresters have been studying their natural history or life-history traits for centuries.
2) They live in extreme environments; forest ecologists and dendrochronologists trying to understand long-term climatic and ecological change focus on trees and forests in environments that are perceived to be the most sensitive to environmental change.
3) They live longer than hardwood trees; so, for many of the same reasons in #2 above, conifers are generally targeted by tree-ring scientists.
The goal of this blog, therefore, is at least twofold. First, it will be a champion for the wonderful, overlooked broadleaf species and their associated forests in the eastern United States and abroad. Of course, overlooked might be too strong of a word. For example, Liriondendron tulipifera (tuliptree, yellow-poplar, tulip-poplar) was an early species described by foresters as they began to scientifically study eastern forests. However, as will be demonstrated, our general knowledge of broadleaf species, including tuliptree, is much more limited than many coniferous species.
Second, as natural history is much less of a focus in modern ecological research, despite its necessity for long-term biological conservation, this blog will serve as an outlet for the natural history of broadleaf species learned through dendrochronology. While conducting paleoclimatological and paleoecological research through the examination of old-growth trees and forests, we often learn much about the natural history of individual species. However, this particular type of information rarely makes it into the scientific literature, as it is rarely the focus of our work (you would be so lucky to sit at a bar sometime with a handful of experienced dendrochronologists — the depth of their natural history knowledge is great). Because natural history appears to be dying out at American universities, the uncertainty around simple questions like, ”How long can a tuliptree live?” and “How long might the shade-intolerant tuliptree persist in shade?” is high. This blog will serve as one place to answer some of these questions.
This blog will also serve up some of my favorite images of broadleaf species and forests. To close off the first post, here are some delightful images of the appropriately-named bigleaf Magnolia.
By Kirsty Tinto & Mike Wolovick – As little as a few decades ago you could ask a scientist what it was like to monitor the changing ice in Antarctica and the response might have been “Like watching paint dry” – seemingly no change, with no big surprises and not too exciting. Well times have changed! The Ice Bridge Mission is deep into its third Antarctic season collecting data on the condition of the continental scale ice sheet and the floating sea ice that surrounds it, and has noted some exciting results!
On a recent survey flight, which was designed to be fairly routine flying back and forth across the main trunk of Pine Island Glacier, a large crack was spotted in the floating ice tongue in the front of the glacier – a crack large enough to bury a building 16 stories high! This means more changes are coming in the future of this active ice stream!
Pine Island Glacier has been under intense focus as one of the fastest moving, and rapidly thinning glaciers in Antarctica. The planned survey was a grid back and forth across the main trunk of Pine Island Glacier. The pilots refer to this kind of survey as “mowing the lawn”. This type of data collection is essential for putting together a more complete ‘picture’ of the glacier surface, depth, and its underlying surface, and its ‘grounding line’. The ‘grounding line’, shown here as the white line running through the image of the survey plan, is the front edge of where the glacier is frozen all the way to the bottom surface beneath it. The glacier extends beyond the grounding line but as a ‘floating tongue’ of ice.
Glacial tongues can be many meters thick, but because they rest on water they are susceptible to warming from the water below. It is not unexpected for sections of the tongues of glaciers to break off – in fact for this glacier scientists expect to see it occur about twice a decade (the last notable occurrence was in 2007). It is, however, impressive to see it actually developing, and to realize the scale of the crack as it begins – at least 50 meters deep, and up to 250 meters wide! Yes this is much better than watching paint dry!
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory has been a partner in this NASA led project collecting airborne gravity. The Ice Bridge Mission is designed to fill the gap between two satellite missions, IceSat I and IceSat II, collecting data on ice thickness in both polar regions. IceSat II is intended to be in orbit in another 4 to 5 years.
Mstorec2 ras repaired with all four CPUs running and was back up at about 12:30PM
Mstorec2 has to come down immediately to replace a failed CPU. Sorry for the short notice.
Users on the "new" mail server will need to use Ingo (similar to the CUIT systems) to either forward your mail, OR to set up a vacation message.
As we headed north to our target areas, we have used any extra time to collect some seismics. We got some near Aricha, then again under the Jamuna Bridge. Today we collected data near Bogra, where the transect of wells that we drilled last spring is located. All three pieces of data show reflectors, including a strong one we think is the bottom of the river valley from glacial times when sea level was 120m (393 ft) lower. It seems to shallow as we go north, which fits with our interpretation.
Having to exchange pilots for every stretch of the river made estimating how far we can go each day more confusing. No, we can’t go that far, then perhaps if we hurry. How fast we can go depends on the ever-changing currents. Each pilot only really knows his own stretch of the river. We make multiple contingency plans. We had to change pilots at a little stop just south of Bogra. That cost enough time, we couldn’t make it to our next stop at Bahadurabad Ghat. Option one was we shoot seismics and then return to this place. While shooting, the pilot agreed that we could then go on to some village on the way. If we stop shooting now, we can make it to Islampur only a little south of our target.
A pattern developed of the crew being overly conservative, correctly not wanting to get stuck in the middle of the river at night, but gradually they work hard to get us what we need and plans change. We initially wanted to start continuous shooting from Bogra north, but even we could tell we could not come close to reaching Bahadurabad if we did that. We got a few critical kilometers and steamed north without shooting to the village where we spent the night. Now, they have become more open to sailing and stopping wherever we are at the end of the day, just in time for our continuous profile. Problem solved.
Last night, Dhiman joined the ship and this morning Rafael and I left to return home. The little village is connected by one of the worst roads in Bangladesh. I will miss when the ship crosses the Dauki Fault during the final continuous shooting upstream on the Brahmaputra to the border. The ship will also collect data going downstream, but the speed over the ground will be very fast, perhaps limiting the quality. However, Volkhard and Tilmann are confident as the speed through the water will not be too high. They do not give up.
Overall the cruise has been a mixture of disappointing data in the east combined with the now very good data coming in in the west. And there is a good chance that tomorrow will bring triumphant images of where the Dauki Fault goes west of the Shillong Plateau. We have cemented our ties to the Bremen group, who have worked offshore for many years, but never entered Bangladesh before. Several joint efforts have developed. Mr. Islam, our guide, has been great. Getting to know the Bangladeshis from Dhaka University, the Geologic Survey and the crew has been harder due to language and my status. Last night we bonded more as we waited together for Dhiman’s very late arrival. I am not so good at languages, nor as exuberant as Tommy. Still, two weeks on an 85 ft. boat brings everyone together.