12 September 2012


The problem with conferences is that networking is an important part of it. And that works best late in the evening, accompanied by a few glasses of beer. So while it takes quite an effort to listen to scientific lectures for a whole day, you are rarely in the best condition to do so. But one tries…

The venue was right next to the harbour. Do notice the probably quite accurate name of the boat in the foreground…

The Plymouth contingent participating in IGCP588, "preparing for coastal change", was lucky; we were all in the first session on sea level change. I was the last to speak. Roland had already shown my results, and their possible meaning. I was left to explain how we got to these results. That’s the most interesting part! The good thing of that was that I hadn’t spend that much time on making the presentation, and also wasn’t too excited by it; stupidly enough that lead to me finally not talking too fast. So Roland said it had been the best presentation he’d ever seen me give!

The venue: the art hall, which was owned by the university

After the sea level session there was a session on subsiding deltas. Keynote speaker was James Syvitski, who enchanted the whole room with an overview of what’s going on in the deltas of the world. They are extremely densely populated; think of Egypt! And as soon as people start living in deltas they start reining it in. And a reined in delta is a delta on the way out. Damming rivers stops the necessary sediment influx to keep the delta above sea level. Stopping channel migration has the same effect. Withdrawing water and/or oils lowers a delta further. It’s a scary tale! And more of these followed.

This clearly had not been an optimistic session. Time to cheer up: in the brewery! As this was clearly the best venue in town the organisers, who had been looking after us very well, had planned the conference dinner. And this was Germany; the dinner consisted of more meat and fish than I normally eat in a month, served with fried potatoes, and sauerkraut as the token vegetable. (But credit where credit is due: fruit and carrots were available at every coffee break!) And every table its own barrel of locally brewed beer. Blimey!

Klaus draws a tankard of beer from the barrel

Roland appreciated the food and the beer

It was a good night. I drank more than I normally drink in a week. And had a good time with the fellow congressfolk. Some were the usual suspects, of which I had seen many in Arundel two years before. New were the Antipodeans, which had showed up in large numbers. A good time was had by all. I got home at midnight!

The next day we started at 8.30. Early! The first session dealt with coastal dynamics. Spits rolled by, mangroves were eroded, lagoons were formed, and salt marshes accreted. And then it was lunchtime.

This photo may not paint an exciting picture of the conference… it’s not representative!

After lunch things got more menacing; there was a session on “land- and seascape modifying events”. In other words: storms and tsunamis. There was a talk on trying to inventorize and date tsunami deposits, in order to get a better idea of how often these events happen in a given region. There was also a talk on trying to see the difference between a storm- and a tsunami deposit through the microscope.

The last session dealt with coastal protection and impact assessment. This session contained the Germans, who now talked a bit more about the details of their Halligen project (see IGCP588 field days). It also had a policy maker; he explained things such as scientists are unlikely to think of. He mentioned for instance that if you build a house on stilts because it is situated in a flood-prone region, you should make the stilts so low that people are not tempted to insert walls between the stilts and use the ground floor as an extra room to their house…

I thought that with the conference held inside, we would have access to the expositions of the museum… by the time I found out that was not the case I had already taken this picture of a part of a modern art exhibition.

And with that rather practical session the conference had come to an end. It was time to say goodbye! But only to a certain extent; one of the Aussies, Craig Sloss, had his birthday, and he figured the way to celebrate that was (you guessed it!) by having a meaty meal and a keg of beer in the brewery. Most of the conference ended up right there…

After more drinking and less sleeping than I’m used to I almost fell asleep with my head in my plate of food. So much so I not only decided to go back to the hotel rather early; I was also so sleepy I walked away without paying. Luckily our hotel was only a stone’s throw away from the brewery, so that was quickly corrected. And then I could get to sleep…

It had only been a modest conference, with only two days of talks and less than 100 participants, but I learned a lot. I think I drank and ate more. And I met lots of lovely people! I hope to see them again at the next conference, whichever that may be!

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