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 long day collecting 15 kilometers of seismic data

An update from Austen, a junior majoring in geophysics: 

Austen interpreting seismic chirp data real time in Kingston Harbor.

My day started at 6:30 this morning before the sun was ready to go. After our Day 2 issues with the GPS, we were finally ready to start collecting seismic data.

We headed out to meet Donald, the University of the West Indies boat captain, at the dock and set out for the southern end of Port Royal spit with all of our seismic gear on board. Upon arrival at the location, we set up the chirp system as we had the previous day, with a few modifications.

The first hour was spent surveying sand deposited by long-shore drift adjacent to the shipping channel along the southern edge of the Port Royal spit.  After completing several lines, the wind and seas picked up, and we had to pack up the system and head to more sheltered water in eastern Kingston Harbor. Once we arrived at the eastern side of the harbor, we set up the chirp system again and started surveying the eastern end of the Kingston harbor, where evidence of recent faulting exists.

Brett measuring beach slope angle change along Point Royal’s east coast.

I spent the next few hours analyzing the seismic data real time on our computers, searching for unconformities and tilted bedding in the subsurface. After a few lines were shot, I was able to notice what appeared to be a river basin that had once flowed through the region. I then asked Cliff to start marking GPS points to map out the bottom of the basin so that we could later shoot along the axis of the deepest part of the channel formation.

Around 2:15 we finished collecting seismic data at this site. We pulled in our gear, packed up our equipment and headed back to Morgan’s Harbor to clean the equipment and get ready for dinner and meetings. Following a fantastic jerk chicken wrap, we sat down and worked on downloading and updating our seismic data and prepared our nightly report. We then prepped for tomorrow’s seismic collection and processing.

Unloading seismic and coring gear at Port Royal Dock.

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