29 November 2016

Saturday run

It's quite normal for me to go on a scamper in the weekend, but this week the weather was so nice it deserves a blogpost. I thought I'd go to Aberffraw, but this time run along the road to the shore, and then see how things felt. I had run in the dunes before but that wasn't an unadulterated success. These dunes have nasty grass!

I set off. I got a bit distracted by some gravelly country roads. The view from there on the countryside, the estuary of the river Ffraw, and the snowy mountains on the mainland was amazing. When I ran out of country roads I went on along the road to the coast. When I got there I realised I was very close to the very cute church Llangwyfan. I couldn't really not go and have a look! It was low tide. That matters; at high tide the church is on an island.

I decided to not immediately climb onto the bump that houses the church, but to walk around it. I was not alone! I heard canoodling sounds, and saw four legs dangle down from the sea wall. Then one set of legs suddenly grew a head, belonging to one of my students. Slightly weird! It got worse; he invited me to join the hug. I said I'd think about it... The exchange was all in good spirits, though.

I continued my way. I saw a small road go past the nearby race course. I knew about it, as my neighbour frequents it on his motorbikes, but I had never actually seen it. I knew that road wasn't connected to the one I came from by anything other than the main road, but well, what's a little running along the main road (which isn't all that main anyway) on a sunny day? So I did. Without trouble I got back to the village; I had done some 6 miles in the end. A nice little outing!

Nice views

Llangwyfan in the distance

Back in Aberffraw

28 November 2016

Even more dig

I struggle to imagine how this is still interesting to anybody other than me. But everyone who is tired of talk about digging can skip this and wait for me to write about other things.

This week we were actually with a fair number of people going to the digs. David came straight from a field trip, so I travelled with Paul (Rich wasn't coming). He volunteered his car: he had only got his license a few months ago, and bought his first car in September. This would be the first time it would be the main car coming from Anglesey! Exciting. His driving was fine, and we got safely to the parking lot where David, Phil, Simon and Briony were already waiting.

This night we would bring some more supplies in: some more scaff (that Phil had brought) for support, and some buckets for hauling as they wear out rather quickly. We took some more scaff from the manager's office (with Miles' blessing) and then we went in. There it got worse: Miles had wondered if we would need a 50 tonne jack for helping support things. These things are heavy! Some 34 kg to be precise. I had volunteered to bring it in, but only in an efficient way. That's where one of the buckets came in! We managed to get the beast into it, and I tied a rope to it, and started dragging it along the floor. That worked well! But then we came to the collapse.

People had suggested dangling it from a scaff bar and carrying it with two people, but I didn't fancy negotiating the collapse with a weigthed scaff bar on my shoulder. I bundled the whole thing into my bag. It fit! Briony took the original contents (mainly tea) and all together we made it across. I arrived on the other side rather sweaty. From there on things got easy; Simon grabbed the rope too and together we dragged the bucket to the pitch.

When we got there, David was already down, talking with Miles. A message came through; we didn't need the jack! Oh dear, all for nothing. Oh well. Bringing the thing down would not be too much faff but getting it back up would be. Maybe leave it for now! If we would chang our minds we could always get it after all.

We went into our dig. The first collapse you have to get through to get there had been made a lot wider. For me it doesn't matter too much! The passage to our squeeze was bigger too. Miles had also been wiggling some big slabs just behind the squeeze; they moved! So we started by sliding one out (I got my fingers underneath it twice - ouch) and me deciding the other one was way too big and needed blasting. So the drill came out! I also try to drill three other rocks; that wasn't an unadulterated success as two were in such an awkward position and orientation you couldn't get the drill to fit where you wanted it, which tends to lead to (too) short, and badly positioned, drillholes. But partial success is success too! Miles drilled another in a rock that had so far defied him. We decided to not wire all of them up; we only had a small detonator and that meant having to put the charges parallel, but then you can't tell if one doesn't go. There was one I wanted to be sure of as its placement wasn't ideal; that one would be done later. Another one was too far away to be wired up with the rest. We would have to come back for these!

We waited for the resin to set while having tea with pork pie. Lovely! Then we went to see what the others were up to. They were doing well! They weren't sure how much longer they would want to stay. I went back to finalise the wiring (a bit of a faff; you often blow off the end of your blasting wire so then you need to strip it again) and then came back. They were pretty much ready to go! So when they were all out of their dig I set off our two charges, accompanied by Simon, and had a quick look at what the result was. One rock reduced to powder and one only cracked. Hm! Oh well. Time to get out. I switched off the generator and followed the others out. Another productive day!

26 November 2016

Welsh highs and lows

I've not missed a Welsh clas syet! Not recently, anyway. Not because of busy work. I think it's important and I like it so I make time for my Welsh classes. But I temporarily stopped climbing, and with that I accidentally reduced the practice I get. Eifion, the chairman of the climbing club, is the only person I know outside the Welsh learning community with whom I speak Welsh unless there is a particular reason not too. He single-handedly raises my level!

I was just contemplating this when my phone rang. It was an unknown number, so I didn't answer. A voicemail was left, though. I checked; it was Radio Cymru. The lady on the other side started rattling at me at top speed. It was clear to me there was something remarkable happening with an auction and Anne Frank, but I couldn't follow what. Then I asked her to slow down; that helped. it was a poem by Anne Frank that would be auctioned off! And the starting price was €30.000. What did I think of it? Would I be willing to talk about it on the radio the next day at 6PM? I hesitated; I knew nothing about the topic, and I wasn't sure yet if I would be available at that time. I said I would ask any other Dutchies if they were more keen.

Later I got another call. Had I found any Dutchies? Well, no. But the interview would now be at 7:55AM; I would be free then. I said I'd do it! I had some time to google the topic. I even tried a translation of the poem in question.

In Welsh class Elwyn helped me with the translation; I had been a bit clunky in places. But then I got a text from the radio people; they cancelled the interview. Bunch of weathervanes! Oh well.

It would have been fun to do this interview, but well, I got several phone calls in Welsh done over it, and I still find these scary. Phone calls tend to be the last thing you're comfortable with in a foreign language!

And I didn't get the interview, but I did end up with a nice poem in Welsh: find it below! And if anyone wants to pay €30.000 (or $148.000, as it went for) for this one: I promised Elwyn to split the profits!

Os nad ydych chi wedi gwneud ech gwaith yn dda,
Wedi colli amser gwerthfawr,
Ailgyddwch ynddi unwaith eto,
Yn well na chynt.
Os ydy pobl eraill wedi eich ceryddu chi
Ynghylch eich camwedd,
Gofalwch bod chi’n ei wella fo,
Hynny ydy ateb.

25 November 2016

More dig

Should I not be working? Well, yes. But there is more to life. When there was a Sunday party going to our dig I decided to join. It will rest my mind and I will be fresh as a fiddle the next day! And it is very exciting.

This time it would be David, Edwyn and me. I drove up with David, met Edwyn in the cafe, and off we were. We bumped into our fellow Thursdaynighter Briony, who was about to lead a group of tourists into the mine. Too bad she couldn't join us!

When we got in we first went into Dig 1. There might be stuff to do that takes three. If Miles would appear and raise the number to four, we could always split up! We did some more hauling out of rubble; there was enough to go by. David was at the coal face, but he came out at some point. I then took his place. It became clear to me where all that rubble came from! I just struggled to get to it; the rod we had was only just long enough, when combined with my short arms. After a short while I came out to report on that. By then David suggested a bit more shoring up needed to be done. That was a two person job; in other words, my cue for skedaddling to the other dig.

I went in. The blasting last time was partially successful; not all rocks we wanted to get rid of were as demolished as I had hoped. But progress was clearly made! I started to try to lug out the big rock that had escaped my tidying tendencies the previous time. A chunk had come off, but it was still big! Almost too big. But I summoned all my stubbornness and pulled it towards me, inch by inch. And when it was far enough from the far wall I crawled over and tried to kick it from the other side. It worked! I got it to the entrance, but no way I could get it over the step. I left it there. Then I went back for an almost equally big rock that now could come out from the side; we were not going that way, but getting rid of it made the space a bit bigger and it can do with that. That rock ended up in the queue behind the other one.

The next rock up was slightly smaller so I managed to get that one out on my own. Then some more smaller rocks came out. I decided to clean out the far end of the dig as far as I could. Would help! That involved me working as a human bulldozer and shoving the lot to the entrance, and then throwing it over the edge. I then started to try to get rid of some rocks in the direction we were actually moving. Then I figured I was blocking my way out and cleaned everything out of the passage.

I then went back to the back of the dig, but after a while I saw light. Edwyn was visiting! He was looking for scaffolding, but I talked him into first helping me with the two large rocks. He thought it was madness. I argued that if I could single-handedly get them to the squeeze, then surely we could get them properly out with the two of us. And we managed it!

By then David had been waiting too long for his scaff and showed up too. They took the bar that was lying around and left. I spent a bit more time trying to get rid of pendant rubble, but after a while I had had enough. I was a bit battered after all the hard work! I went to go and have a look at what the men had done. And they had done some stirling shoring-up work! I was impressed. But it was time to go. Almost!

David wanted to try out some enormous drill bit Mick had customised to his drill, so we fired up the generator and he gave it a go. It was a bit jumpy but it worked! Good to know. Then we were done and started to pack up. Then a light appeared! Miles had come after all. We had given up on him by now. We reported back on the progress in both digs, and then we each went our way. I hoped Miles would formulate a clear plan of how to proceed! The dig was at a bit of a crossroads...

23 November 2016

Yet another night in the dig

Another Thursday night, another crew of three on the road. David was starting to worry if people were tired of our digs and pulling out. I struggle with concepts like that; most of the men are quite happy do do hard dirty work, and they have to pull out if we do something entirely different, because they have other responsibilities in their lives too. Anyway. It would be just the three of us! And again, Miles might or might not appear too. I foresaw trouble; David's dig needs three people to work optimally. We might be with four. Then what? I would feel morally obliged to be in both digs and that's not possible. We'd have to see.

We first picked up the key, and some cake, from Mick. We were also introduced to his new cat. It was good he was home; when we reached the parking lot I realized I had forgot my helmet. We had to go back and borrow one from Mick! Then we tried again.

In order to be ready for our dig I picked up two metal rods on the way to the pitch down; they could function as crowbars for removing big stuff in our dig. There's a big rock in there that won't budge without persuasion!

When we got to the pitch down we heard the generator: we had a Miles! That was confirmed immediately as he'd seen/heard us coming and was at the bottom of the pitch. We discussed for a bit what to do; we decided to all go into David's dig. He needed two buckets, and one of these was in the other dig, so I went there first. I took the liberty to also quickly remove the rocks I had thrown out the previous time. Miles showed up too; I figured he should have a look for himself. He still hadn't been in! And now he chanced it. He didn't seem entirely thrilled by the state the far end was in but well, we can work on that. Time to go and help the other chaps.

They were already working hard. They had some ingenious system with a bucket in the middle of a long rope; David could pull the empty bucket towards him, fill it, and then Paul could pull it the other way and empty it. Then he could reattach it. We brought the other bucket. As the original was only detachable on one side, and ours only attachable on one, it wasn't immediately clear how the system could be adapted to two buckets. David wasn't stopping to discuss; he kept filling buckets. Our improvised first attempt was met with derision. After some shouting to and fro I figured I'd rather be in the other dig. Miles wasn't feeling like his full potential was tapped into so we skedaddled to the other dig. David might need to work on his managing skills!

On the way to our own dig we came past Paul's bag; he had the cake. We first had some of that before we set to work. I started by attacking the big rock. I managed to lay it flat but it was SO big and heavy this still wouldn't do. We had to blow it up! So we changed to drilling holes and placing charges. Some more in-the-way rocks received one. Some smaller stuff got thrown out.

By the time all was ready Miles had to leave. That left me to set the charges, that were ready wired, off. First I had to warn the others. But David was still digging; I joined in. I don't know how well things went before I came, but I thought we were on a roll with the three of us. It works a treat! Just the number of four had been a bit unfortunate. It wouldn't be before 11PM that he was willing to come out. That meant not detonating until after that. Oh well! It did work. I will see next time how it had gone.

We walked back in the moonlight. It was stunning! A night that had started a bit iffy had ended well. On Sunday we would be back!

22 November 2016

Teaching on the dancefloor

The BRITICE meeting was all about research. I did have a teaching experience, though. Not while presenting my results to my colleagues; on the dancefloor! A strange place to think about teaching? Not so!

When after the dinner in the Cuban restaurant we went downstairs to the bar. This bar had a big and prominent dancefloor. To my slight disappointment, there were several couples on it who could actually dance. That always makes me feel out of place! But one can just have a beer and watch the dancers in the company of one's equally wooden scientist mates, no problem. But then one of the dancers approached me and asked me to dance. I informed him I was shit at it. He said that was alright.

We got onto the dancefloor and he assumed a tight grip. Immediately, he started instructing. "Small steps... Ok, now one, two, three, back, and one, two, three forwards, and now sideways. Small steps!" I could do that. He later tried some more complicated stuff. Some went well, some didn't. He was very patient.

Later he also managed to get Louise onto the dancefloor. Louise is a much better dancer than me, and with her he could do quite some intricate moves. None of the other women were keen! Or rather, they were decidedly keen to not set a foot onto that wood floor. After a while, he was beckoning me again. More of my clumsy dancing? Well why not.

It was nice, but I was in proper nerd mode and I was mainly pondering the didactic aspects of this occurrence. The man clearly adapted his activities to the level of the audience, he was explicit in what he asked, he kept giving instructions, he didn't pick on mistakes but stayed patient. He kept the level of challenge at the right height. He just had some problems with student engagement; that happens to the best. They should give this man a PGCertHE! And me a 'just pass' grade... I suppose in this analogy I am a well-meaning, hard enough working, but rather dim student. One needs to cater for all, these included!

File:Casa de la Trova Santiago Cuba.jpg
 A real Cuban venue. Pic by JialiangGao (www.peace-on-earth.org)

21 November 2016

Last BRITICE meeting within my contract

The BRITICE-CHRONO project, on which I am employed, has its annual meeting in November. I got my first taste of this event after the first cruise; that was both a good opportunity to meet my cruise mates again, and to see the project in a wider scope. The project involves onshore and offshore work, and I am not involved in the onshore stuff. It helps to be kept in the loop though!

What was the project about, again? We try to establish the pattern of retreat of the ice sheet that covered most of Britain at the end of the last ice age. We know very well where it was on land, but not quite in what way it disintegrated. On the continental shelf we are often still a bit in the dark. A lot of work still to do! If we figure out if it melted away homogeneously or some regions quicker than others, and what happens if the ice sheets retreats onland, and what might have caused the retreat (general warming? Sea level rise? Maybe internal mechanics?) we know more about what the West Antarctic ice sheet might do.

In order to find out, we would focus on eight transects going from onshore to sometimes quite far offshore, which would have been major drainage passages. Four are done by me, and four by by Durham colleague Louise.

I didn't have much of an overview yet during the first meeting. The first cruise was done, but the results still in progress. Things were already coming together a lot more the second time around; both cruises had been completed and we knew what material we had to work with. We also had quite a lot of results already! It is always highly motivating to step back from what you are doing yourself, and see everything in a wider perspective.

This time would be rather significant for me. It is my last month; I only have some two weeks of employment left after the meeting! Whatever I don't have to show for myself then, I am not likely to ever have to show. It would be a bit of a goodbye to all the BRITICErs.

We drove up with four: James, Ed, Catriona and me. We were late! James had rented a vehicle that could not be delivered on time and was delivered to the wrong location. Tom was already talking about one of "my" transects when we finally rocked up! And the project administrator gestured to me where the leftover sandwiches were, as we had missed lunch.

All transects were presented by their transect leaders. Most of them had ice really far out onto the continental shelf, which started to retreat really early. Exciting! Some amazing papers will come out of that. I even had a chat with James; he is away very often and not always up to date with my latest findings. I think I convinced him I had found evidence of ice further out than he so far had hypothesized!

Before we knew it the day was over. Time to check into the hotel, and then get a drink. I had a chat with Lou, who I have known since 2009, and who is my closest BRITICE colleague. She has another postdoc job lined up! That's good. More ice-related stuff. Then it was time for dinner.

  The view from my hotel room

We went to an adjacent Cuban restaurant. Soon the waiters started placing bowls of food on the table. There was sangria and wine too! And live music. This would have its consequences. I barely drink these days! But this was just the day to have a flashback. I rarely get to see all these people!

The food was great, the drink flowed freely, and our voices got increasingly croaked due to having to shout over the music. When we had all had enough we went down to the bar, where there was a dancefloor too. I ended up on it! But I didn't stay too late; there was another day coming up.

The next day started a bit hard; we had a rather long poster session, but only of posters on transects I wasn't working on. And I was hungover! Furthermore; my hotel room had been hot, with no windows you could open, and you couldn't open a window in the room we were having the meeting in either. I needed air! I sneaked out for five minutes. I felt better when the presentations began again. One about dates in general, one about problematic dates, and then it was time for a presentation by Catriona (about ice rafted debris) and me (on micropalaeontology). Mine went well, and Catriona's was very interesting! This stuff is coming together.

The meeting ended with a session by the modellers; they will have to take over now. We have pretty much all the dates and other information; now they have to see if they can produce an ice model that fits our results. And once they have that, they can let it loose on West Antarctica. That will still be a while, but it will be massively interesting!

 A pic I took during my short fresh air walk

19 November 2016

Half a PGCertHE done

One half is done! I think I forgot to mention I had uploaded the first part of my PGCertHE portfolio. But I had! In late September. It was already finished in June. And now it's been marked. I passed! I scored a B+. Not an A, but hey, I did the entire work on a research-only contract. I think I did quite well! Now I'll have to sort out the second part. There's still a fair amount of work to do: I have to evaluate my new assignment, and write up an observation and a workshop. I just hope the assignment went well! And when all that is done and uploaded it will (hopefully) get marked in April. Assuming I pass again I will then be qualified! Will be good.

18 November 2016

Autumnal rescue training

An email seemed to come out of nowhere: it mentioned rescue training the day before the upcoming big project meeting in Sheffield. That didn't sound ideal! But I had missed two training events in the short time I had been a team member, and it was time I showed my good intentions again. And it's just a good thing to do. That the day before I'd meet up with the PCG only complicated things, but you're not a good scientist if you can't work to deadlines. I had to just make sure I was ready! And by the Friday evening I had managed that.

We would do an exercise in Parc. I like Parc! We met in the car park, and there were informed of the scenario. A man had gone in the previous day, and not been seen since. He did not have SRT kit with him. We would have to find him and get him out! The controllers stuck their heads together and made a plan.

When they seemed to have worked out a strategy, a man called Bob asked for two volunteers for a long walk. A woman called Heather raised her hand, and so did I. We were tasked with checking the main passage; it's quite long. I like being on speed duty! Run down the endless passage, check out every rathole along the way; my kind of thing! And it was good I knew the way, as neither Bob nor Heather had ever been in Parc. And there were more like that; one chap was tasked with keeping tabs on who and what kit was where, but he had positioned himselof at a capped shaft you can't possibly get in. I showed them the actual entrance, and off we went. We looked into every hole in the floor we came across (there are many!) and shouted down every one of them. No answer! We moved fairly fast. No sign of a casualty.

Bob told me we had been instructed only to go up to the crawl. That was probably good; the casualty might be beyond, but by now maybe he had been found by the others, so it was good to touch base. We might be needed for stretcher carrying! And if the others didn't have him yet either we could just go back and continue where we had left off.

We went back. The casualty had been found! So we were put to work carrying kit in; we needed a stretcher, and enough ropes and metally bits to rig first a short shaft and then a tyrolean as the stretcher had to go over a weak spot in the false floor. We also had a field telephone and a heyphone in use. All together that's a lot of stuff!

Next thing up I helped getting the stretcher down that first pitch. By then the tyrolean was pretty much rigged. We got our casualty, Mark, across. Then it was just a matter of carrying him out! Not necessarily comfortable; there are several obstacles in the way, and a lot of thew way the floor is covered in water so you can't put the stretcher down to take a rest. But we did well! We even managed to get Mark over the fence at the entrance without him noticing. In no time he was out and free! I think the planners hadn't figured we'd manage so quick.

 Lowering the stretcher down a short pitch

Down he goes!

At the entrance, we had a small evaluation, and then people went in again, to de-rig all the ropes, have a look at the heyphone which had caused so me trouble, and take all the kit out again. Then we were done! David even considered popping into our dig afterwards, but we decided against. Probably for the best!

16 November 2016

Annual visit of PCG

There they were again! The PCG comes to North Wales every year, and the time had come again. And I had managed to get everything done that needed doing by Friday evening, so I could spend time with them on Saturday. On Friday I phoned Dave; he suggested we meet up near where they were staying at 9:30. I wan't sure where we'd go; I thought he had said Moel Fferna, but he also had said it was quite a drive south. Moel Fferna is east! But I didn't really care; I came for the people.

I got there at 9:30. Soon three cars appeared, and they started to eject people. Big Dave, Dave Jean, Dave P (do you see a pattern here?), Rich, Laura, the lot! Well, not the entire lot; I received disembodied greetings from Lionel and Rick. But it was lovely to see those who were there. We moved my stuff into their cars and off we went. We were going to Moel Fferna after all! Nice, I hadn't been there before. Dave followed his satnav along a wild goose chase to Bethesda. From there, things made sense. Soon we were close. We tried a very narrow, steep and slippery road to get to where we wanted to park up; that wasn't a success. We backed out and tried the other possible route. That just about worked! We parked up and more cars appeared. Oh dear! They turned out to be from NWCC, with which we have good relations. Several of them are even in the cave rescue team; I would see them the next day as well. We got changed and kitted. It took Dave a fair while. What else is new! I waited for him and we walked up. The previous year he had been the fittest I had ever seen him. But that was then, this was now! He struggled on the gently sloping path.

 Walking up past the old mill

I got to the pitch. Rich was rigging it. It looked unnecessarily complicated, but well, I shut up. People went down an electron ladder with a safety line attached. If you have a safety line you clearly have a rope; why the ladder? Oh well. We waited our turn and the NWCC waited with us. In the end we were all down!

We set off down the adit. It was a nice place! Soon it opened out. It was a very dark place! The rock was black and absorbed all light. It was nice though! We just scampered off in random directions. We saw chains, pumps, winches and whatnot. It was cool! We also hoped to see a certain bridge and actually managed to find it as well. It was rather spiffing! But we didn't have a lot of time; we would have a pub meal afterwards, and people wanted to get back to the hut before. It was about an hour's drive, and we would have to all get out on that electron ladder. And walk back to the cars! A lot of faff. So not long after the bridge we headed for the exit and climbed out. The NWCC were right behind us; we agreed they'd just come up on our kit. They had their own; we would just carry theirs down, and they would de-rig ours and bring that down. 

 Nice relics

 Difficult to see how big this is!

 "The cog"; another of the big sights of this place

The bridge (or mayby another bridge)

We went back down. It was a nice day! With nice autumn colours. We got changed, and exchanged kit with the NWCC. Then we had to get Dave down; the other car had managed to turn around and could just drive down, but Dave's car was too long and had to reverse a fair distance. He was afraid it would start tobogganing down the lane. But we got there!

We picked up my car and went to the pub. There the three who had not joined us as they had preferred to go into Cwmorthin instead. We had a nice dinner! But then it was time to say goodbye. I had a rescue day to get ready for, and a big fat meeting after that! I hope to still live here next year, and team up with them again!

14 November 2016

Explaining the project to the School of Ocean Sciences

On Friday noon we tend to have a lunch seminar. Everyone is invited, and for some students it is even part of a module. They have to pick a certain number of seminars from the series and write an abstract about them. This week it was my turn. The timing was perfect; the next working day would be the big last BRITICE-CHRONO meeting. This gave me a chance to combine the preparation for both events. And during the project meeting there are talks from all transects and all methods and all everything, so I only get some ten minutes. The lunch seminar is an hour, so you can say a lot more!

Before it all happened I received a lot of apologies. James would be teaching, Paul was abroad, Jaco was in a meeting with noone less than the Welsh first minister, and several more colleagues informed me they could not make it. Luckily, we had two fellow project people in the audience: PhD students Catriona and Ed. It's always good to keep your close colleagues informed! And I could still go back to basic, given that there would be a lot of marine biologists in the audience, and these don't normally work with ice sheets and foraminifera and suchlike. So it was a nice opportunity both ways!

The audience wasn't big, as I had expected, but that's OK. It went well! I had a lot of questions at the end, mainly from people in the field of physical oceanography. It's always nice to get questions from people from other disciplines; they tend to be the people that ask the questions you don't see coming. More than a week ago I hadn't really been looking forward to this event but it was good! Now roll on the Sheffield meeting...

Three people in the dig

We were supposed to have been somewhere else. But nobody came with a satisfying suggestion as to where! So even though some people seemed to be getting tired of digging, we went yet again. But the "we" was a small group this time. Our engineers were too needed at work (until late), our roadie was roadying, our car restorer was recovering from a hernia op, our biologist was in the lab, etc etc. David, Paul and I drove up, and wondered if anybody else would show up. Probably not! That rarely happens. Miles had said he might pop down but only if he wasn't too tired. David asked me what I wanted to do; he suggested they would perhaps need three people in their dig, depending on what state they would find it in. I said I was keen to have a look at the Miles dig, but if they needed help I could just swap digs and help them.

It was indeed only us showing up. We walked up and got to the pitch down. I could hear the generator: that meant Miles was down there. Earlier than expected! I dropped my bag at the junction and went in to say hi. And there were two of them! Miles introduced me to his colleague Amanda, whom he had brought in for back-up, as his health was sub-optimal. I told them I had to go back and see what the other dig was like; I may be needed there. I would report back!

The others hadn't even got to their own dig so I slithered in. It looked like a two person job to me! It also looked damn good! This is exciting. I told David I was heading for the other dig, and off I went. By the time I got there Amanda was beyond the squeeze which wasn't a squeeze any longer. She was wiggling rocks loose; we proceeded together. It's amazing what four hands can do that two can't! We made amazing progress together. Whatever we got out was passed back to Miles who got rid of it. Sometimes that involved throwing small stuff in his general direction; sometimes it involved a concerted effort to get massive slabs out of the way. We were doing well!

After a while I suggested a tea break; the others had long run out of supplies (they had been in there since 11AM, while I had only rocked up somewhere between 6:30 and 7PM), but I had one flask with tea and another one with hot water. And I had sandwiches, apples, and even some chocolate. Enough for three! The others looked like they needed it. And I always enjoy a beverage. 

We went back; this time with me beyond the squeeze, Miles in the middle and Amanda getting rid of whatever we passed down. Progress was still good! It was amazing how much space there was. Where before I could only squeeze I could now sit, and even turn around. One rock really still needed blasting but at least like this, the hole-drilling is a lot easier.

We chucked a lot more out until Miles announced they would go home. It had been a long day for them! I said goodbye, and went to the others. They were making progress but were starting to feel the strain; their dig is a lot wetter (and thus colder) than ours. They were not quite done, though; I said I'd go back to the other dig and work on until they would be fed up. They would let me know by shutting down the generator; you can just hear its hum in the far end of the dig so I would notice. I set to work! Even on my own, progress was good. I chucked lots of stuff out. I also noticed a big rock at the end moved. It was so big I could only wiggle it, and not yet move it but I was sure that with more time, and probably a rod for leverage, I could. Good stuff! But then I heard the dig go silent. Time to go out!

I left all the rocks I had chucked into the passage outbye where they were; I still fit through. I would have to clear that out next time! If Miles wouldn't beat me to it. I'm fairly sure we will be back next week! With more excitement!

12 November 2016

Denouement postponed

The hotly anticipated (by me, anyway) deadline for my newfangled assignment was Friday the 11th. But then a spanner appeared in the works: the assignment involved the students also making a core description of a core that had been drilled during the fieldwork, and correlating the stratigraphy with the seismic profile they had produced there. One day before the deadline some students started complaining the seismic data wasn't available to them. Dear oh dear. They should have made sure they had it at the actual fieldwork in June; if they only now notice they don't it's a bit late. But we made it available online and extended the deadline. That means I won't know until a week later how the students have done. I'm keen to find out! The word on the street is that it all went well. James has been furtively inquiring how they got on with the MATLAB and the responses have been encouraging. So far good signs, but one more week of patience before I will know for sure!

 The core that was taken during the 2014 fieldwork