Earth Sciences in Jamaica

During J Term 2013, nine students are traveling to Jamaica as part of a multidisciplinary Earth Sciences course to conduct geophysical research on earthquake risks on the Caribbean island. Jamaica’s capital city of Kingston rests precariously along the western edge of the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden Fault, which activated in the catastrophic 2010 earthquake in nearby Haiti. During their trip, the students will collect and analyze geophysical data on land and at sea, and will present their findings to Jamaica’s Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management. Taught by SMU Earth Sciences Associate Professor Matt Hornbach and Lyndon Brown of the University of the West Indies, the course is funded in part by the Society of Exploration Geophysicists’ Geoscientists Without Borders program and The Institute for the Study of Earth and Man in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

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A day of collecting seismic data

An update from Zach, a graduate student in geophysics:

“Cheen”, our first mate for the Port Morant shallow water survey on Day 7.

After a morning cup of coffee with fresh fruit at 7, we got the seismic chirp gear loaded into the car and sent off to Port Morant with Ben, Joey, Dr. Hornbach and Lyndon.  I then returned to the dining room for breakfast with the rest of the group.  The highlight of the morning was trying out the traditional Jamaican dish of Ackee and Fish.

While most of the group remained at the hotel for the day to process data collected earlier in the week, Conner, Gwen, Bret and I headed to the port to meet the boat and collect seismic data.  The port is roughly 1 x 2 miles in size, with beautiful blue-green water. The east side of the port has steep tree-covered cliffs, and the rest has low 10-foot rock outcrops.  To the north and west, the green John Crow Mountains dominate the landscape.

The after-dinner presentation: Cliff presented preliminary interpretations and results from the seismic survey completed on Day 5.

Our boat is a 20-foot fishing boat with long bamboo poles on both sides for fishing nets.  Today there were no nets; only our makeshift chirp system artfully set up by Joey and Ben prior to our arrival.  Making our slow tracks back and forth, we collected data over most of the port during the day. During our survey we viewed the data in real time and made some interpretations about what we were seeing and what it might mean in context with the geologic history of the area.

After collecting data until we were out of power (5 hours), we headed back to the hotel to clean the equipment, transfer and back-up data, and shower and dinner.  Dinner didn’t disappoint, with bowls full of roasted chicken, rice and beans, and vegetables.  It was all topped off with an amazing juice concoction of fresh local fruits and ginger.

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