Too wiped out yesterday to blog - fell straight into bed after a long day and slept solidly, but now I find myself awake at 5.30 am - so here goes:
Yesterday I left Los Angeles at dawn and drove across to Concepcion to pick up Fabien, a student who was replacing Gonzalo (will he ever actually make it into the field??) for the day. Our goal was Yani on the south side of the Arauco Peninsula and, if time permitted, Lebu. Some of you may remember Lebu from last year’s blog - this is the place where boats had been stranded due to the land uplifting in the earthquake. I was curious to see the situation now.
In my twilight years, when I am sitting by the hearth remembering Chile, I will mostly remember our site at Yani. This is a wonderful place in so many ways. The drive down from Concepcion becomes more stunning and spectacular the further south you go, with the final 12 km a winding off-road explosion of colour and topography, affording magnificent views down to the vast bay. The site itself is a seismic/GPS co-locate installed at the back of a farmstead populated, on this occasion, with dogs (goes without saying), chickens, geese, pigs (+ piglets) and oxen. I recognised several of the family members and also the dogs, who randomly circulated proceedings. One of the dogs in particular - who became known as “Chico”, though this was possibly not actually his real name - made his presence known, bedding down beneath a solar panel at intervals.
Unfortunately the data from the seismometer were only good since June, with 0% logged between March and June - possibly a result of cloud cover during those months. Once I had powered down, Fabien got to work on digging out the seismometer while I decommissioned the GPS sin problema. I then helped with the seismic site, as did the teenage girl from the farm (I suspect she took a shine to Fabien) and an older Chilean man with leathery skill and a twinkle in his eye. Between us we dug up and dismantled everything in a couple of hours. Unfortunately these couple of hours had been the hottest of the day. **Fieldwork tip: do not relegate tops that have shrunk in the wash to be fieldwork garments: you will get very sunburnt wrists.**
While packing up the truck the pigs decided to move in on things: big mommy pig plus a half dozen piglets with a variety of markings. Mommy pig, perhaps deciding I looked like a threat to her kiddies, harangued me somewhat in a surreal slow-motion chase round the side of the farm, supported by a few of her piglets. I didn’t know whether to be scared or not. Being chased by a pig is so off one’s normal radar that I really couldn’t make out how to feel. At any rate, as we drove off having said our fond and grateful goodbyes, I looked back to see Mommy feeding her piggies, and I figured she was an okay sort really.
I decided we would push on to Lebu, even though this would make our return rather late. The change from last year was remarkable. Most noticeably, the river was much wider. In the earthquake it had been shallowed and narrowed due to about two metres of uplift, but now the new shallows seemed mostly to have disappeared. We know from our GPS measurements and modelling that the coastline along the length of the 2010 rupture has been subsiding since the earthquake, but only on the order of a few tens of centimetres maximum. So I was puzzled as to whether the river had been re-widened artificially, with boats being so important to the livelihood of this community. After a late lunch in a delightful cafe by the river, Fabien asked the two ladies who had served us about the river and how it had changed. They related that besides a little natural variation of the river, the banks had indeed been “reshaped” by the men, in order to make the river a working thoroughfare once again. We drove up to the lookout as I had done last year with John and Raul, and this time there were no boats moored out to sea in forced exile from the harbour walls. All in all, it was very nice to see this town having bounced back.
The drive back was horrendous. I had entertained thoughts of visiting our penultimate GPS site at Coronel on the way to Concepcion, but having been hindered by logging trucks for much of the way home, and hitting solid Friday night traffic about 20 km south of town, we simply pushed on exhausted to the uni. Fabien was a real star today - very practical in the field, confident (and patient!) behind the wheel, and generally good company. Since he is keen to help out some more on this campaign, perhaps you will read more of him in future blogs.