Sunday, February 7, 2010

VAPoR field testing - Done

Naniloa has nice rooms, but after being on the mountain for a week we got so spoiled with the quietness that the tiled floors in the corridors were a horror. What a noise.

View from Mauna Kea from Naniloa.

View of Mauna Kea from Hilo, with the beautiful telescopes on top.

We decided to go to the farmers' market in "down town" Hilo and get some fruit and rice to eat for breakfast, and we had breakfast in the park, while watching the surfers. It was nice and we were both glad not to eat restaurant food, but something fresh (especially me of course).

After watching the surfers for a bit we realized that we still had 1.5 hours left to do some more exploring and headed out to the Keana Cove. This was more a less a hole in the ground that stretched out in two directions, but without any lighting or anything. We alked around a bit and decided that we'd done enough exploring already and that hiking around in an unlit cave would probably not be a very good idea.

Next stop were the Rainbow Falls. Nice falls but not as impressive as expected. But at least we still got to see something of the island before heading out.

Getting home was more of a challenge than getting here, especially for Danny. He flew with United, who had canceled the Chicago-Dulles leg of the trip, but still let him fly out to Chicago. There he decided to fly to Newark and rent a car to get back home int ime for the superbowl. Delta had decided to put me on a completely different route altogether, so instead of leaving directly on Sunday, I got to stay in Honolulu with David. Lucky me, since I had decided earlier that I didn't have enough days to stay over and now I still got to see him for a whole day!

A evening hike on the beach, a very good Thai dinner, and a morning hike to the ridge of one the volcanoes.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

VAPoR field testing - Day 8

Pack-up day today, so the last hike down to the dust bowl. Finally, I saw one of the native protected nene-birds!

The weather was great, crisp and only a slight breeze, ideal packing conditions. We started off right away and with a 15 minute interruption for the morning meeting we were done around 9 AM. That went a lot quicker than anticipated.

After saying goodbye to everybody we worked with and thanking the PISCES, Norcat, and NASA folks for their great support, Jim drove VAPoR and us back up to the visitor where the Mauna Kea Support Services van was waiting for us already. MKSS did a great job in receiving our boxes and driving them up the mountain when we arrived and now they're taking care of getting it back down to Hilo for the shippers to pick up. That was of great help!

Around 12.30 we we're done with loading the van, showering (even 4 hours on the field site is enough to fill everything with dust again), and packing our own luggage, which was about 3 hours earlier than anticipated. Time to explore the island.

This time we went right on Saddle Road and took the through-route to Kona. Very pretty, but definitely not the main road, but a good way to quit a bit of the interior of the island. In Kona we had a great fish (ono, or in Jack's words: "Oh no") and chips lunch (didn't know that fish and chips actually could be that good) at the patio of Quinn's. I took the opportunity to buy Kona coffee beans directly from a grower who happened to be in the bar. In any other country I probably would have thought it it be a bit sketchy, but it still seems to be a good deal.

We drove back taking the "regular" road (you can't really call it a high or freeway), along the coast. It's an interesting route from Kona back to Hilo, the Kona side is really dry and volcanic and at some point you cross the boundary between leeward and windward site and it turns from meadows and dry patching into rain forest.

The second part of the drive led us over about 20 small streams and waterfalls. Very pretty.

Back in the Naniloa hotel we met up with Kris and a few others to go for dinner and we ended the night on the patio of the hotel, discussing the field testing over a bottle of scotch. Good ending of a successful week of field testing! We even made it into the Hawaiian Tribune-Herald with the field campaign.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

VAPoR field testing - Day 7

Today is our last day of testing VAPoR and analyzing samples, so we made ourselves quite a vigorous program. Which of course started off with the daily hike to the field site and the daily morning picture of the clouds below us.

Everything was still up and running when we got to the site and the PISCES people had already filled up our generator, so we could get started right away. On today's list: (1) a 4-meter deep sample from he same bore hole as the two samples analyzes yesterday, (2) a sample of the sintered surface material, (3) a control of the unsintered surface material next to it, and (4) a high temperature (1200 °C) test of the oven without sample that functions both as blank and as oven test.

The sintered sample came in chunks too big for our sample holder, so Danny ground it up a little (and this way justified the shipping of at least one of the tow pestles and mortars we brought along).

We are collecting a bunch of data: of course the mass spectra of the evolved gases (that's what the whole instrument is about: Volatile Analysis by Pyrolysis of Regolith),

and the temperature data of the ramping profile.

But also every 100 °C the voltage and current drawn by the oven and the internal pressure in the system.

We got a few nice results, (e.g. sintering of soil up to 900 °C does indeed remove all the volatiles - proving obvious hypotheses can be very satisfying), and more analysis is (as usual) underway (I'm spending too much time to keep you guys up to date).

The plants in the portapotty after 3 days, they still smell great though!

Also today was media day, so we had at least 30% more people running around on site taking pictures and interviewing people (not us though). Quite funny to watch them watching us.

After a successful day we shot down the system and cleaned and temporarily packed most of it. Tomorrow we're packing up and leaving the site again. Back to real life.

The daily evening hike back with Jorge, Jack and Glenn, resulted in some more cloud pics and two very pretty dead trees. Now some more data analysis and then off to bed.

Jorge and Jack taking a picture of Glenn in front of Mauna Kea.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

VAPoR field testing - Day 6

It was Danny's turn yesterday night to check on the equipment, so I finally got my 8 hours of sleep again. Did not notice anything shaking around me, so either I slept really well, or the volcano was quiet again. Jorge and I took the high route into the side, so instead of Mauna Loa I "woke up" with Kohala this morning.

Goodmorning Kohala

The setup was nice and warm and happily pumping so time to test out the RGA and get back to work. The new control unit worked right away, which was a great relief so time to get data.

It works!

First sample of the day.

The first sample we ran was a depth sample from the same site we analyzed a surface sample from on the first day. After that we analyzed the gas we collected yesterday. This gave clear nice results right away (very surprisingly SO2 and H2S - the rotten egg smell, at least our noses didn't lie).

Analyzing Sulphur Bank sample

After this we ran two more samples from the site were Danny sampled on the second day. On surface and one 2-m deep sample. Data are being analyzed right now, hopefully we see some nice differences.

An average heating run takes about 40 minutes (20 °C/min to 800 °C). The cool down and sample exchange time another 1.5 hour. So per day we can run 3-4 samples. During the heating we're constantly monitoring oven temperature, voltage and current, as well as the pressure in the system. When the new sample is inserted we have to pump the system down, which gives us some time to have lunch, look around at other tests, or dust off our equipment. I'm not sure how long we're going to maintain that last habit though, since it really doesn't make a difference. It's so windy and dusty that we have dust devils even in the tent (I should have brought my other experiment along).

The sample prep table after 6 days...

Dust (about half an hour after we wiped it clean for sample prep)

Hiked back "home" with Lutz over the high road again.

Around 8 PM Honeybees Kris and Jack and I went back to the site to refill my generator. After we were done we turned off the carlights and had the most beautiful view of the night sky and the Milky Way I've ever had. Everything was dark except for the stars. Very very very beautiful.

Now finishing up the data analysis and then off to bed.