LiDAR is a laser-based system for collecting what are essentially high-resolution DEMs of rock outcrops (it's actually designed for architecture and surveying work, but it works pretty well for us too). It's heavy and cumbersome, and we have to carry it around the desert. But we do get to look at some pretty fantastic geology too...
Safely back in
Despite having an enormous quantity of gear, the trip to
The next day we’re supposed to meet the Abanoub driver at 12 noon, but confusion sets in between Paul Woodman, Sayed and Abanoub. Eventually Gamal shows up at about 12:30, and we lash the spare tires to the roof of Gamal’s red Jeep so we can fit all the stuff inside. We crawl through the mid-afternoon
It’s hotter than the hubs of hell and I’m losing my voice, the air in
I get to eat some of the famous
Tuesday 23rd October
Today is a bit of a disaster. Instead of bringing batteries from
We get to
Wednesday 24th October
Today is OK, as it happens. A battery charger arrives from
This is an interesting area, and we do some logging of syn-rift sediments. The syn-rift onlaps the pre-rift here, and a couple of faults chop up the section. I find a fault that offsets a Quaternary gravel terrace, which excites me greatly as it suggests that faulting remained active until then. The section is almost like a slimmed down version of Wadi Nukhul, as we start with palaeosols and fluvial deposits and move up into tidally influenced marine sediments. It’s relatively easy to log, and we collect some palaeocurrents on Paul’s behalf.
A straightforward enough day, but I can’t help thinking that tomorrow is going to be testing. At least I get to speak to Jolan, who is in
Friday 26th October
I now think that this trip has a reasonable chance of success, thought that was not what I thought yesterday morning. Sayed charged the batteries for the LiDAR, and we set off for Wadi Wasit, north of Mike’s delta for some scanning. We get set up, do a panorama scan, collect the photos, and start a fine scan. About five minutes later, the LiDAR cuts out because the battery is flat. We try with the other battery, and that too cuts out halfway through a scan. Gamal insists that the fuses will blow if we try to attach both batteries in series, and he’s an electrician (although we normally run it from two batteries in series). Frankly I’m not sure what to do, and it’s hard to communicate exactly what we need to Gamal. Sayed has gone to Abu Zenima for bread, so we wait for him to come back. Paul and I discuss all kinds of possible solutions, including sending Frank out to Sharm el Sheikh with the batteries we normally use.
The solution is simple, as it turns out, but cumbersome. We can connect our motorcycle battery in parallel with the battery in Sayed’s Jeep. We need to set up right in front of the Jeep, but it will allow us to get a few stations in that are near tracks. This works handily, and in the end we get 4 stations done before we get home.
Today, we decide to go to Paul’s area again. Oliver has tonsils the size of golf balls, and decides to stay in
It’s another quite interesting area of Paul’s, with a thick section of mud containing large channel sandbodies close to the main fault. There are minor faults here too, and we map them in as we walk around the outcrop. We walk up one wadi and down another, and as we get back close to the road again I here voices. I look up and catch a flash of white (Galabier?) as it disappears behind a fallen block. Paul has heard something too, so we stick around for a while. Sure enough, a Bedouin appears around the side of the block, so we shout “
We do a bit more work, and walk out of the wadi (past the plantation) back to the Jeeps. I wouldn’t have done this myself, but when I had to deal with this sort of problem it was in
We log in the afternoon, and it’s clear that the wadi we’re in has had plantations in the past. There are three or four areas of furrowed ground with a few scraggy plants needing water, but the main activity is clearly in the next wadi. Even so, nobody bothers us for the rest of the day and we get back to
Tomorrow, LiDAR again…
Monday 29th October
We’re beginning to run out of ways in which the trip could get worse (although you never quite run out…). Oliver’s tonsillitis has failed to respond to antibiotics, so we’ve sent him back to
Once we get everything sorted about 11:30, we head out with LiDAR in tow. The plan is to drive to Abu Zenima for supplies, and then back to Mike’s delta to collect some data. We manage to get a couple of scan stations done, amidst constant battery problems, and we end up running the LiDAR from the Jeep battery for the second station.
Sayed’s son Bilal is coming to replace Ollie and help me with LiDAR gear, which is great, except that we have more battery problems and I’m not entirely sure that we’re going to get much more work done anyway. It’s preying on my mind now, and I want nothing more than to get home and forget all about this trip. Not much more I can do other than hope for a better few days ahead. Tomorrow is the halfway point of the trip, and I’m certain I haven’t done anywhere near half the work I need.
Tuesday 30th October
Maybe the trip will go OK…
Paul got a text from Ollie to say that he was safely checked in on last night’s KLM flight, so we assume he got back to Manchester in one piece. If so, I’ve actually managed to achieve something on this damned trip.
On the way to the field in the morning, we get behind a truck full of bricks struggling up one of the inclines on the main road to Sharm. Naturally, the load isn’t secure, and bricks are periodically falling off the back and bouncing down the road, with Sayed having to lurch out of the way several times. Sayed flashes his lights and sounds his horn, but the truck driver refuses to stop. There’s nothing for us to do but get past, and avoid a brick through the windscreen. As we pass we see that the truck is leaking diesel all over the road as well. That’s
We get to the field area in one piece, and today goes OK. I get 4 huge stations done, but fighting batteries all the way. Basically, the batteries we have are not enough for a days work. We’re running them until the LiDAR cuts out, and then charging them from the Jeeps. This is keeping us going, but it’s time consuming. Especially when we’re working some distance from the Jeeps and we have to carry batteries there and back. But, four stations is OK, and they involved some carrying. If we can keep this up, it’ll get done, just about. The only problem is that Paul needs to work in is own area, so it will be me and Bilal. This is OK, it just means that I have to do all the setting up, which makes everything a little more time consuming again. But, it seems at least possible now, and for just about the first time I get back to
Wednesday 31st October
Maybe the trip will work out OK, but it seems as if nothing is going to be easy. What else could go wrong, you might wonder. Just off the top of my head, I could have battery problems that wipe out the entire morning. I could spill battery acid all over myself, and ruin a perfectly good pair of trousers. Bilal could fall and hurt his leg. Naturally enough, these things all happen. Eventually I get two scan stations done. Still, this is better than it sounds because they’re difficult ones, a long way from Jeep access and high up. I don’t have to do them again, and they bring me close to the top of the hill. Maybe another half dozen scan stations close to the road would see me right, or at least give us enough data to work with. But who knows if that many stations will be possible? Ideally I need to finish with scanning by Sunday so I can do some logs (that is, actually look at some geology).
Not for the first time I feel that I’m going to kiss the tarmac at
Friday 2nd November
I break the back of the trip today. I smash each individual vertebra with a mallet, and then I kneel on the fucker’s windpipe to be certain. It’s been a relatively trouble-free day, although we did have a run-in with a Bedouin and his bango plantation. Actually, the Bedouin seemed happy enough. He told Bilal and Gamal all about his plantation. Sayed dropped by to bring us water and bread from Abu Zenima, and the Bedouin told Sayed all about it too. The Bedouin is happy for us to wander all around his plantation, collecting data with a large instrument mounted on a surveyor’s tripod. There is one man looking after two large fields, and there must be little danger from the army or police.
Anyway, I get 7 stations today, to add to 5 yesterday, and even if I don’t get any more it will probably be enough to do something useful. Two friends of Paul’s from
Sunday 4th November
Today was the last day of LiDAR data collection, hamd'ullah. It went OK too, although I had some battery issues towards the end. Anyway, I think I’ve got the data I need. We finished scanning about 3pm, and I went to look at some faults for the last hour or so. It’s a totally different fault style to what you see at Wadi Nukhul. The faults here show ramp-flat geometry as they sole into mud horizons, whereas the Nukhul faults are generally very planar with little deviation between rock units.
Now I need some logs, so that’s what I’m mostly going to be doing for the next four days.
In the morning near Mike’s delta I see two Chinook-style army helicopters flying west over the area, and think no more of it. As ever, Paul has the best problems. The same helicopters were later to be seen circling over the Wadi Gharandal and Wadi Silfa areas, right where Paul was wanting to visit some outcrops. Possibly there’s going to be an army raid on the marijuana growers within the next day or so. The Bedouin have entirely disappeared from the area, and it’s probably not smart to be wandering around there just now. After being practically buzzed by the helicopters later in the afternoon, close to a known marijuana plantation, Paul decided to come back to
Monday 5th November
At last, I actually get to go and look at some of the geology of this area I’ve spent two weeks scanning. I go to an area just by Wadi Wasit where there are faults exposed, and sketch in the faults on a photopan. Then I put in a log. The logging here is not that interesting, as the sediments are all highly bioturbated and there’s nary a sedimentary structure to be seen. On the other hand, it’s good to actually get some idea of what I’ve been looking at. I also find a fish tooth in the very first unit of my log, which cheers me up a bit.
It’s not an easy area to work in. There’s a big cliff at the back, and then incised wadi systems in the front. Most of the rocks are poorly cemented, but there are laterally extensive hardgrounds that form waterfalls. To get around you have to climb across from one wadi to the next, often up soft scree banks. The area is eerily quiet, and all I hear most of the day is the buzzing of flies, and sometimes not even that. It’s hotter than the hubs of hell, and I eventually burn out about 3pm. I’ve been working quite close to cliff faces where there’s no breeze and no shade, and it’s just too much, even though I’ve drunk a good 4 litres of water. I have to go and sit in the shade and drink yet more water. I’m all in, so I decide to pack in for the day, and get back to
Thursday 8th November
Well folks, that’s that. I’m back in
I’ve been doing a bit of logging, and a bit of LiDAR in Paul’s area. The logging is not particularly exciting, and today I basically take a hike in the desert. I go up some of the hills in my area, and get an overview of the geology, as well as getting some great views of the desert. I spot a bango plantation from way up high, but there seems to be no-one around today.
On the way back to
If we avoid any more problems, I should be home in 45 hours or so.