02 March 2016

Industrial core X-raying: the work

After the first day core scanning I was knackered. It is hard work! In itself, it’s not hard to scan cores. You shove them in, sort out some settings, and the machine does the rest. But we have more sections than we can use. So we have to make decisions there and then, based on the stratigraphy, the spatial distribution, where we already have samples, how good these samples are, etc etc etc which sections of what cores we want to scan. And then we want to sample whatever interesting stuff we find on the spot. So then you have to make sure you review all the scans, make notes of where you want to sample, and then do that. And every scans only takes ten minutes or so. You can pick a next section to scan, take it out of the big pile, put it in collars ready to go, and pack the previous one and put it on the “done” pile in the time it takes the scanner to scan the next, but the reviewing the scans and sampling won’t fit in that time. Generally, Tom is just loading and unloading the machine, while I do any sampling on a table near the container. But the continuous switching between thinking “which core section” to “how to work the machine” to “where to sample” and back to “which core section” is exhausting. And we have the machine for only five days; I am not keen to lose a minute of that time, so I want to arrive as early as we can and leave as late as we can, and take as few breaks as we can. But it does wear you out!

 Me finding a shell we saw on the X-ray

The first evening Tom went to the pub to watch football, and I volunteered to cook. I would cook for 3 people; that way I would have dinner and we wouldn’t have to cook the next day. Sounded spiffing! It took me a while, though, among other things because i wasn’t used to this kitchen. When I was done and had had dinner I was almost ripe for bed! 

The next day I did another morning run; I headed for the local reservoir this time. I had more time as this time we’d drive to GeoTEK. And I had time to run all the way around! It was beautiful! The sun wasn’t properly up yet, the moon was looming low above the water, the trees stood black and resigned in the water. The dawn chorus was loud here! I had a ball. And that night indeed we did not need to cook. It was nice! That was the night most of the blogging on this trip was done…

 Daventry reservoir in the early morning light

And the scans? We learned a lot. On some scans we found the cliché articulated shells you can’t possibly see otherwise and which make excellent dating samples. Sometimes there was nothing to see; that often meant I would take slab samples for analysis in Bangor. Sometimes we suddenly could see the structure of the sediment; sometimes that meant we then left the core, as it turned out to not be good for our purposes. But sometimes it worked the other way around too; at the end of the second day, we scanned a very unspectacular-looking piston core, but in the X-ray we saw an amazing contact between till and glaciomarine sediment. Perfect! Exactly what we need!

The control screen 

One of the shells we found thanks to the X-rays

The third day I ran along a hill that had a TV transmitter station on it. Nice too! And after that we did piston cores; so far we had done vibrocores, and these are smaller. We managed every single one! That was success! And we had been told we had to be out by 5PM. And I had made so much food we could eat it that day as well. Good work! So that evening we even had time for some planning. What would we do the next day, would I come back on Monday, how would we do the logistics? 

 TV mast and cattle

We ranked our remaining sections by priority. We'd see how well we'd do! And the next day I did a short run, made a big lunch as it would have to be dinner too, had breakfast, got Tom out of bed and packed my stuff. We wouldn't be back in our snug apartment. 

We got moving in our container. We made good progress! But it took its toll; at some point the cores to be sampled piled up, and so were the scans to be checked. When I had too much on my mind already, and Tom wanted to show me the latest scan, I realised it was time to do something else. Time to unload and reload my van! I had brought some sections back for Tom, and would take some of the sections he had brought to Bangor. for our PhD student Catriona. That was a nice brainless distraction. When that was doen I was fresh again and attacked the piles of work.

We scanned the entire first priotrity list. And some sections from the second priority too. Good work! In the end we decided I did not have to come back. Tom could do the rest on his own! I quickly checked the last scans. We then decided I would take the sections home that had anything interesting in them. I'd sample them in Bangor, and bring them to the project meeting on Tuesday. Sorted! 

I knew I had a 4 hour drive awaiting me so I was keen to leave. We gave the key back and that was it! Goodbye Daventry! It has been very useful!

The dream team is done!

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