29 February 2016

Industrial core X-raying: the run-up

X-raying the cores for the project seems to have bene a bit of an afterthought. When we realised, after the first cruise, it would be a very good idea we scrambled around looking for a place to do it. For my transects, we took core sections to the local hospital. That was great! But it was also a logistic challenge. We don’t have much space in our cold store so we pretty much had to go get every small batch from Edinburgh. A lot of hassle! And then the second cruise happened. And the same happened. Pretty much. Although the outcome was different: this time it was decided to cough up some money, and do things on a larger scale. We would gather all the cores we wanted to X-ray, load them into a big van, and drive to GeoTEK; a company that builds core scanners of all kinds, scans for those who pay for that, and let people who pay less scan stuff themselves. We were in the last category. And we was transect leader Tom, affiliated with Stirling University, and me.

The cores had to come from Edinburgh. GeoTEK is in Daventry (between Birmingham and Northampton). I come from Bangor. This would still be a logistical challenge! And I wasn’t certain about a week in that place; on the map, Daventry looked dull as dishwater. It seemed to be mainly famous for having enormous distribution centres because it was nicely central and near major motorways. Scenic!

When we would lug so much material around anyway, we would also do some core exchange; one of our PhD students wanted to do XRF on some cores, so when Tom would drive down from Edinburgh anyway, he could bring some for her. I could in the same movement deliver some of the cores we were done with, to make space for the new batch. 

I had loaded up the van, with all core sections we had, when I heard from the PhD student concerned that Tom would only bring core halves. And these, of course, weigh only half! So I had to unload half. He had told me his van was loaded to the max; I could not give him more than I would take off him. Oh dear. 

After that I could go. An uneventful trip followed. I got to our accommodation, received the keys, and waited for Tom. I was glad I had arranged this apartment; Tom had suggested a ghastly hotel. In a ghastly surrounding. Now we were in a cosy apartment in a nice street! The landlord stated all of Daventry was soulless, but I would come to disagree with him. 

 My big van in front of our apartment

Tom showed up, with fellow driver and ready meals. Not my favourite (the meals, that is; the fellow driver was a nice chap) but one can’t be too picky. We were all tired after a long drive. After dinner and some discussion on the upcoming work we went to bed. 

The next morning I wanted to go for a run before work. Tom had to first drop the other chap off at a railway station before going to GeoTEK so I figured I’d walk! But that meant leaving at 8AM, so I had to get up early to fit a run in before that. 

I got up and by 6.45 I was off. It was already almost light! I went south; I figured it was a rather quick way of getting out of town. I didn’t get very far before I had to turn back. But the little rural road I was on was nice! And the early morning can be quite beautiful on its own. 

 Daventry seen from hill at 7AM

When I got back Tom hadn’t even noticed I had been gone. Later we left pretty much at the same time. I walked along the sunny streets and found it without problem. I went to where visitors were supposed to go and rang the doorbell. A nice chap called Tony opened, but he said the people I came to work with weren’t there yet. He offered me a coffee. But after a while we found out the others were in the other building they had. I hadn’t even noticed they had two! I was introduced to Briony, one of the experts, and soon after to James, the other. Tom appeared too. It was time to get to learn how to work the machine! Almost. We first got a tour along other machines and details on Briony and James’s resum├ęs; only then was it time to work the machine. It was actually quite simple! It’s an elegant piece of machinery. And it yields great images. 

Our core sections (in boxes) in six piles

 The container on the right is "ours"

 Me at work

We would have to work hard at all hours we would be allowed to get as much done as we could. And the machine was mounted inside a container. Inside a big industrial building. If needs be the machine can be transported, container and all, and plonked on a ship or near a research institute or wherever you may need it. But it did mean we were closed off from the outside world That first day we had radiant weather but you couldn’t tell where we were. But we came to work! I would just have to get up early and run, so I’d get some fresh air. That way I would cope!

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