Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Paisley Caves - notes from the field part 1

It's the end of the first week in Oregon as part of our NERC project at Paisley Caves. As usual fieldwork fills me full of ideas for blogging, with none of the time or internet access to post them. The weather has been hugely variable here. For the first few days it was below freezing at night time. I was in my tent in a super warm sleeping bag, with fleece jogging bottoms and beanie hat, and I was still not really that warm. Then after the second day the weather switched to baking hot, and by the end of the week we were all in t-shirts and covered in sunscreen.

The view of the landscape from the entrance to the Paisley Caves is amazing - a huge expanse of sagebrush desert with the occasional agricultural feature in the distance. Dirt tracks snake across the landscape, heading towards the town of Paisley on the left, and Summer Lake hotsprings on the right. I'm going to miss this view.


The day begins at 5.30, waking up in the tent to varying degrees of chill, getting dressed into cold clothes as quickly as possible and heading to the main tent where breakfast supplies are waiting in the cool box. The first thing I do is make coffee. Proper coffee, with filters and everything, using a nifty travel coffee maker that is on my essential camp items list. Breakfast is bread and peanut butter, cheese, cereal bars. We head to site for 8. The crew has cleared most of the sandbags away, exposing the section where we will take our samples. We do a lot of recording, drawing sections, taking photos. There is a team from Oregon State who are doing photogrammetry on all the sections, and two other researchers working on macrobotanical and geochemical sampling. The most difficult bit is coordinating with everyone, making sure that tasks are completed in order before we jump in and make big holes with micromorphology sampling! We finish around 4.30, time for a beer. Only the hoppiest of west coast IPAs for me. For those who want to, there are showers at the nearby Summerlake hot springs, and the rest of the evening is spent sitting around a campfire. Crackling juniper wood and cheery voices, a mix of american accents from Oregon, California, West Virginia, and my own northern English. I head to my sleeping bag around 9 or 10, wanting to stay longer but knowing I'll be useless in the morning if I do. It is so quiet at night time.

I'll be posting further updates over the next week, and you can also read a bit more about our project on the University of Oregon website here.


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