Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Out in the Field - Tagging along with the boys

Yesterday i went along with two of our technicians, Sam and Todd, they were out and about to fix some of our equipment out in the field.  Maintenance is an important job, as we have hundreds of stations all over New Zealand and we have to keep them up and running, weather, computers and animals can all cause issues.

Lack of a view
First stop was up Mt Climie which on a fine day allows you to look over the Hutt Valley over Wellington the the South Island. Yesterday, however, it was very cloudy and windy so not much of a view!

Mt Climie is a repeater site for all of our Wairarapa stations a major comms hub for all of our Wellington stations and an important backup link, so when something isn't working we have to get up there right away and get it fixed! It didn't take Sam long to get it back up and running though.

Lucky the equipment is in a nice cosy concrete tank.
Sam fixing the radio

Todd and i looked helpful

Next stop was Moutere Hill in Levin, this is one of our cGPS sites, its on top of a hill in a farmers paddock. The boys put in a new lightning arrestor, this protects our equipment against surges and lightning, this one had gotten wet so was shorting - not very helpful, they think it was due to condensation in the cabinet.

View towards Levin
Todd and Sam hard at work
Locals on the way out.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

GeoNet HQ : bells, whistles and flashing lights?

Now in exciting disaster movies when they show the experts and scientists, their offices look really exciting with flashing lights and all sorts of moving gadgets.

A few years ago i posted a wee video tour of our offices, we have had a few inquiries recently on what its like here at GeoNet HQ, so i thought i would make a brand new video.

So you can have a behind the scenes look at our offices,  unfortunately its not quite as exciting as the movies, unless there is a big event and then its all go!

So here it is:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

To the beach, for work, honest!!!

Last week i went to Castlepoint beach with technician Sam, this beach is one of my favorites and i have some great childhood memories here, i also spent my birthday here and blogged about the beach / holidays and tsunami risk in April.

On this day though we were here to fix the cGPS (continous GPS), so we turned away from the beach and went up onto Castlepoint Station farm.

After a bumpy ride we were up on top of a hill, with a great view, at the site. This site 'CAST' is a combined cGPS and seismic site, so we get earthquake information as well as ground deformation information.

We had stopped receiving data from the GPS part of this site, and our monitoring system 'Big Brother' told Sam it was due to a broken Net RS.

Old yellow RS and the new Grey R9
 So Sam had brought out a shiny new Net R9 (latest model) to replace it. The Net R9 is a GPS reciever, it gets the data from the GPS and then sends it back to us at GeoNet HQ.  

After swapping the instruments Sam discovered that the site was still not receiving data, so it was investigation time!

Sam investigating

He discovered that water had gotten into the conduit that takes the cable from the cGPS to the receiver, this had then caused a short and killed the Net RS, the water had also caused the lightning arrester to corrode and stop working.

Now usually when our team go and check on sites they take a box of spare bits! Unfortunately, due to unforseen events <read:memory lapse>, this box was still in the lab back at the office!  But being good kiwis we made do and got it back up and running!

So to start with Sam created a drain hole in the conduit and got to removing the water in there -  a really fun job as you can see in the pic below ... 
High-tec water removal method
While i cleaned the lightning arrester with a hairclip!

Sam then replaced the special waterproofing tape on all the joins and everything was back up and running.

This is only a temporary fix to get the data coming back in, so next time one of our technicians are in the area (we have a tsunami gauge out here too) they can replace the cables and pipes, for a more long term fix.
Lightning Arrester