Friday, July 10, 2009

Reflections I: The Work

Australia Fourteen achieved almost all of my scientific goals. I felt charmed. The route through the basin fell into a fairly logical counterclockwise loop; I was able to follow this with little deviation, anxiety, or frustration. Past trips have felt more erratic. The many new tracks, largely from minerals exploration or existing mines, made access to my target sites almost too easy. I had anticipated driving on the archetypical abandoned outback road; a barely visible track covered by spinifex, brush, and trees, visible only from faint wheel tracks and the berm on each side of the road. I was also hoping for a serious washout or two: somewhere to actually put the Cruiser through its low range 4WD paces. This happened exactly once during the field season. I missed the adventure of such challenging slow driving, and to some degree the risk of getting bogged, just a little. I’m happy to trade this feeling for the excitement and joy of spending more time doing the work: hiking, looking at the rocks, seeing new and familiar places enjoying the flora and fauna, and making pictures. Nor is my persistent back injury from Aikido isn’t complaining about good roads.

In addition, Louis and I were able to find the impact layer at every target site. This was a challenge when the outcrop was new to me, or physically steep and rubbly. This was the only situation where I felt any consistent anxiety. Would we find the layer? Did I pick the wrong place to look? Am I too high in the section? Too low? Will the exposures, if I find them, be good enough for lateral measurement? Again, it was almost too easy. As I wrote in an early post though, this is the magic of the Hamersley Basin strata: consistent stratigraphy, good exposure.

Louis did very well. I made him start working independently on the second day in the field, and he consistently improved with practice and spontaneous quizzing. He continually asked me intelligent and curious questions about the geology and natural history of the Pilbara. Many made me think. I could answer maybe two-thirds of them. I also give him credit for putting up with me for a couple weeks. Getting out in the field is one of my sources of escape from society. If I could, I wouldn’t talk much if at all for the whole time.

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