Sunday, 23 August 2015

It's good to be back! - 11th August

Following on from last year's fieldwork,, this blog is all about the follow up work this year.

So after 6 months of preparation, funding applications and training in field techniques such as soil gas sampling and geophysics, along with finding 2 field assists. The time is here and I am finally back in "my caldera", Menengai, for 5 weeks of intense fieldwork and catching up with some great friends.
Pic of me training with geophysics

My two field assist, Mairi and Beth are first year undergraduates from the University of Glasgow and were successful in their applications to the Royal Geographical Society for an award as part of the Fieldwork Apprenticeship Scheme.

Mairi, Beth and myself setting a new fashion trend!

After 20 hours of travelling we arrived at our accommodation, Maili Saba Camp just north of Nakuru. I was quite happy that we had arrived in the dark, as Beth and Mairi would get a fab surprise in the morning, their first glimpse of the caldera, a view I will never get tired of!

On arriving at Maili Saba, we were greeted by old friends and some new, singing "Jambo Kenya" with drums, dancing and changing some of the words to include our names.

So the first thing we needed to do before entering the caldera was to visit the GDC offices in Nakuru to collect our security passes. This was arranged very quickly by Geoffrey Mbia and off we went, heading for the gate 2 on the west side of the caldera.

Today was a day that allowed me to get re-acquainted with "my caldera", the beautiful and mysterious Menengai caldera. And it gave the girls their first taster of what to expect with regards to the complex road networks, the heat, the dust and the very friendly GDC team, as well as the contractors from the likes of Cluff Geothermal and Target Directional Drillers. So much has changed! There are new well pads, new roads, huge steam pipes to connect the production wells to the sub-station and piles are in place ready for the electricity pylons.

The girls really enjoyed the first day. They said after everything I had told them it was great to see it all. Some things started to make sense. They were a little in awe of the size of the caldera and were amazed that I had said we would cover the entire area in five weeks. They were excited to start seeing geology they had not yet seen, and excited to start learning. The reality of everything occurred at our very first stop,MW-01, when it was time to put on the hard hats and high visibility jackets ready to go on to the well pad. MW-01 is currently under venting conditions of two out of five directional wells. It is holding at a vent energy of approximately 35MW and has been doing so since December 2014.

MW-01 venting at 35MW from two directional wells

This well is adjacent to MW-21 that is also under venting conditions of both directional wells and is currently holding at a vent energy for 15-20MW.

I was really excited that some of the wells were venting, as the girls would get to see it and despite the huge mufflers, hear the jet engine like noise they produce that we can hear 7km away at our accommodation.

The next stop was the steam fields, where last year my small team cooked boiled eggs for breakfast. I wanted show Beth and Mairi this location, because last year I found the place fascinating and we would be completing a detailed survey later in the trip. I wanted to get some ideas from them also.

I took the girls over to see the Predator rig, owned by Cluff Geothermal, I hope I can arrange for them to go on the rig at some point during our 5 weeks.

Cluff Geothermal's Rig

There were many smaller sites I took them too. I had spent so long talking about the features, I had to show them. So we first went to the south of the caldera where last year evidence of syn-collapse and post- collapse eruptions occurring at the same time could be seen, supporting a piecemeal collapse mechanism discussed in literature. This was followed to a visit to the highest point in the caldera, where post-collapse resurgence has occurred and is the source of the young lavas. From this point it is possible to view the caldera in 360°, so with some maps in hand, I was able to explain some key features and areas of the caldera.

Heading out of the caldera, I was able to show them the 'cross-bedding' structures in the tuffs and the clay quarry, where it is now possible to see the relationship between the clay and the lavas.
Though this was not a particularly long or busy day, after 20 hours of travelling, this was plenty for Beth and Mairi to think about. And despite how much has changed, I remember so much, so well.
Tomorrow the real work begins.

It has taken two weeks of waiting to get internet speed fast enough to load this, so I hope to load more, at a much more regular interval from here on in.

Lala Salama from Kenya.

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