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.

Our final day in Jamaica

The SMU group and Mr. Stewart (left), our fearless driver. The white rocks in the background show the headwall of Judgement Cliff, a massive landslide that occurred during the 1692 earthquake. The white cliff face is nearly a half-mile wide. When the slide occurred, it buried a plantation and all of its occupants. An update from Emma, a geology and mathematics major: Emma taking a break along the eastern shore of Port Royal, with Gun Cay and Lime Cay in the background. I woke up on our last day in Jamaica at 7 am to finish my final paper. I was in the sediment group, and we analyzed the sand on the beach to determine its [...]

2013-01-17T21:19:39+00:00 January 17th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

A full day of work: Assessing slope failure in Port Royal

An update from Ben, a second-year graduate student in Earth Sciences: Beep. Huh. Beep! What? BEEP! Fine! And thus the day began like any other day, with me waking up early, of course!  After my breakfast of a Jamaican delicacy, pancakes, we began our work for the day.  Unlike the past week, when we collected at least some field data each day, today was a full day of processing and analyzing the data we have gathered throughout our past surveys. Connor, Zach and Emma working up the final Port Royal angle of repose report. We have the sediment group – we shall call them the “dirt people” (it is not geologically correct but go with it) — who were cooking [...]

2013-01-16T20:16:06+00:00 January 16th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

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 [...]

2013-01-15T21:11:25+00:00 January 15th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

My Jamaican experience

Traveling through the jungles of Jamaica. An update from Joey, a senior geophysics major and math minor: Austen on the beach as others body surf. After several long days of hard work, we decided to play tourist for most of the day. We woke up this morning, packed up and checked out of our hotel in Kingston. We headed north over the Wagwater Fault and into the Jamaican jungle en route to Port Antonio on the Northeastern Coast. It was awesome. Around every corner a new surprise met us. As our bus driver played his CD of Bob Marley’s Best Hits, we traveled past bamboo forests, steep cliffs, giant boulders, palm trees, winding rivers, and small [...]

2013-01-15T20:55:07+00:00 January 12th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

Piecing together Kingston’s Tectonic Puzzle

An update from Cliff, a first-year master's student in Earth Sciences: Cliff collecting seismic data in northeast corner of Kingston Harbor. Today was the last day of fieldwork in the Kingston Harbor, and I got to spend it surrounded by blue ocean and lush green mountains.  At 8 a.m., our trusty driver, Mr. Stewart, arrived at our hotel, ready to haul us over to the UWI Marine Laboratory again. We loaded all of our seismic gear onto the boat and headed out for a long day of data collection in the harbor.  Today, we were focusing on mapping out what we believed to be a strike-slip fault running northeast-southwest through the harbor, along the southern edge of the city of [...]

2013-01-14T18:39:25+00:00 January 11th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

Coring in East Kingston Harbor and a visit to Giddy House

Our group at the University of the West Indies' marine campus building at Port Royal. An update from Gwen, an engineering and Spanish major: Gwen (left) and Emma on an anchor at Fort Charles Port Royal Museum. Today, I woke up and rolled out of my super-cushy new bed at 7 a.m. Bleh! The earliness of the morning was quickly ameliorated by the delicious Blue Mountain coffee that was served at breakfast in the hotel, along with fresh papaya and a salted fish dish. The 11 of us packed up the seismic chirp gear, the surveying gear, and the multiple strange long rods, kits, etc. into the bus. We then headed out to one of the [...]

2013-01-11T16:37:31+00:00 January 11th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

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 [...]

2013-01-10T21:37:00+00:00 January 10th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

Gathering data on land and at sea

An update from Connor, a junior geology major: Renee analyzing beach slope and angle of repose analysis near Port Royal. A graduate of the University of West Indies, Renee will start a research sabbatical next month as an exchange graduate student at SMU. Today was day one of data collection out of Morgan's Harbor. Three groups set out for the bay, the beach and the mangrove swamp to make measurements assessing tectonics, paleoseismology and slope stability. I spent much of the day working with the coring group. This entailed collecting data both on land and at sea. On land, we bushwhacked through the thorns to reach mangrove ponds. The coring group encountered many interesting locals while trying to [...]

2013-01-09T16:29:56+00:00 January 9th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|

Arrival in Jamaica

SMU students testing coring gear off the pier. (Photos by Joey F.) An update from Brett, a geophysics major: We flew into Kingston's airport and arrived at Morgan’s Harbour Hotel in Port Royal at about 3 p.m. After a long day of flying, it was great to finally get settled into the hotel and be in the Tropics. Cliff beside the seismic chirp system. After a debriefing by Professor Hornbach, we divided into specific groups based on our project goals and interests for the week. These groups include a group responsible for seismic imaging, a group responsible for sediment coring, and a group interested in slope stability surveying. One key goal for this study is to [...]

2013-06-27T19:05:12+00:00 January 8th, 2013|Earth Sciences in Jamaica|