Applied Physics in Service of Geodesy

Meanwhile, the geodesy team spent today making final field preparations in Anchorage. UNAVCO brought a helicopter up from the lower 48, because all of the helicopters in Alaska were already booked up for the season. But this meant they could do a bunch of deferred network repairs on the transit up and back. I knew the helicopter made it to Anchorage last night because this morning my data analysis system was bringing in about 10 months of data from the Network of the Americas (NOTA, formerly PBO) site AC09 at Kayak Island south of here. Today, UNAVCO engineers flew up to repair another site that was down (AC46 in Skwentna, in the Susitna valley north of Anchorage). UNAVCO’s Jim Normandeau will fly with the helicopter to Chignik tomorrow as it heads out to our field base, and stop to repair AC52 in Pilot Point on the central Alaska Peninsula.

Jim and I spent the day re-packing and weighing equipment for our upcoming work. We looked for ways to save weight and volume, so that everything would fit on the plane taking us out to Chignik tomorrow morning. Then we loaded it up in UNAVCO’s truck to take it to Lake Clark Air, the air service we will fly with. About 1750 pounds loaded and dropped off, and another 400 pounds will go with Jim and the pilot in the helicopter, and another batch of stuff, several hundred pounds, will be shipped out to Sand Point in the Shumagin Islands tomorrow. We had no need to go to the gym today after all that.

Which brings us to the title of the post. The biggest challenge were the four large Pelican cases packed with air cell batteries and other gear for the GPS sites we will set up to run over the winter and record postseismic motions. Each weighed 230-250 pounds, and we had to get them up into a truck bed that was close to 4 feet off the ground. Enter that staple of first-year college physics: the inclined plane. In this case, a heavy-duty ladder with a piece of plywood on top, we created a ramp that allowed us to slide the monsters up into the truck. At Lake Clark Air, their guy unloaded them with a forklift, which was even better! In the end, we were both thrilled that no middle-aged men were harmed in the process of lifting, loading and hauling all this gear.

Tomorrow we fly out to Chignik with all this gear, while the helicopter makes its separate way there. If the weather is good, we’ll start work tomorrow afternoon by setting out campaign GPS systems to survey earthquake displacements.

Jeff Freymueller, Michigan State University

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