Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Monday, June 22, 2009

Things I have been doing

One of the more interesting things we've done lately was an oil prospect project. We had to go out and look at some sandstones that were deposited in rivers and decide which way the rivers had been flowing, and use that to project where this body of sand would go as it dipped into the ground. We looked at maps to determine whether the sand body might form a "trap" for oil underground... whether it might fold in a way that would allow oil to enter and not leave. We also had to look at factors like whether there was a source rock for oil in the area, and a pathway for it to migrate into the sand. Each team had to decide whether (and where) to drill for the oil that may or may not be in the sand, and give a presentation to some "oil executives" (who were oil industry workers who had come out to teach us).

First, though, a moment:

I took this picture of the beautiful Cloverly Formation. A fellow student was kind enough to duck so he wouldn't be in the picture, and I was just too stupid to see that I still had him in the frame when I snapped the shot. So, here is a student with his butt in the air, with the Cloverly.

This is an interesting picture too. My camera didn't focus right when I took it and the landscape looks oddly toylike. But it is huge.

Our oil project instructors hike down from the sandstone, with dog.

A view from another sandstone outcrop. Our team looked at the data and decided it would be a good idea to drill for oil. We carefully chose the spot to drill. Then it was time to wait. For the sake of fairness, the instructors did not tell us in which order the eight teams would give their presentations, so no one had extra time to work on theirs. Instead, we stood around outside the mess hall for three hours waiting to be called in. Other teams came out talking about all the questions the "executives" had asked them. When we were finally called in we gave our spiel, they asked us one question, told us they were very impressed, and that was that.

After all the teams had gone they called us all back in and told us about the drilling that had actually been done in the area. They showed us a map with the well locations that were drilled in real life and those the eight teams wanted to drill; our team's hole was almost on top of the most "successful" well drilled by real prospectors. I say "successful" because it actually found the sand body we were trying to find... however, there was no oil in it. No one knows why. Anyway our team did a very good job, though I can't say it was all due to skill rather than luck, and we were told we would become oil executives.

This has been a very busy week. Besides the oil project which kept us busy from dawn till dusk for three days, I have had KP duty this week, which meant an extra hour and a half of setting up meals and washing dishes every day. However, I did find time to hike back up to Exercise Hill one evening for some sunset pictures.

One of our mapping projects took us to a place where they were actually pumping actual oil, so I got my picture with a pump:

And below, yet another landscape picture.

What is going on here is that all the rocks are tilting into the earth... they are dipping, I don't know, 45 degrees to the right here. Why it looks so funny is that there is a layer of rock that is mostly bentonite, and drainage gullies have cut into it very easily, forming these rounded lumps of all approximately the same size. (They are big, like, I don't know, 30 feet tall.)

We have been very lucky here with the people who have come to field camp. Of the 24 students, everyone is very nice, no one is a jerk, a whiner or slacker or anything like that. Everyone helps out around camp and things. They still drive me insane on a regular basis with their youthful exuberance, but it is nice that everyone gets along and has fun. Here, a video of one of the students driving one of the vans up a steep slope to our last mapping area:

Here is the area we were mapping, on aerial photo and in real life. See any similarities? (You wouldn't, really, unless you were there.)

We had another wind storm last night...

These porta potties are bad news. These ones crushed by the tree were the same ones that got blown over in a wind storm earlier this summer, if you recall. I am afraid to go near them now. The unit on the left was completely crushed... if anyone had been inside they would have been killed.

As if sensing this, a flock of turkey vultures started circling overhead as soon as we came out to look at the porta-potties. Eerie.

Today was our day off, and most of us worked on our final projects. These are not due for another week and a half, but it is a large project... basically a term paper with some attendant graphical aids we must create... and tomorrow we are leaving on an eight-day camping trip where we will not have our computers. However, the weather was very nice, so some of us took the afternoon off to go up into the mountains and look around. Travel with us via video as we drive up through Shell Creek Canyon:

The forest service roads were bumpy.

After an hour and a half of travel, we reached our destination: a small mountain lake.

For some reason, my roommate chose to wear her bedroom slippers to the mountains. Here she is trying to cross a soggy meadow.

Four of us pose by the lake...

Our road back out of the mountains...

We saw a sign for a bar in the middle of the mountains, so of course we stopped. The proprietors were very welcoming and there was an artist-in-residence who showed us her jewelry. On the left are a bunch of cell phones nailed to a post. This is also some kind of Art, I feel. There is no cell phone service here.

Also on the way back we stopped to find a geocache. Inside the cache were many toys. It is customary to take one and leave something of yours behind.

Our fifth member of the party had gone fly fishing while we were posing by the lake, and actually managed to catch some fish. I say actually because he has been trying since we got to Wyoming, but the streams have been too swollen with rainwater. Anyway, check out the size of these babies:

When I say babies, I mean babies. He did eat them though.

It was a very nice day and we have only one more mapping project. We are going to the Wind River Mountains for a few days to map, and then to the Tetons and Yellowstone for three days of glorious, homework-free tourism. After that we will have a couple days to finish our final projects, clean the camp, and get ready to head home. So you will not hear from me in the next week, but I hope to make a post before I get back on the plane.

1 comment:

Mom said...

So much to comment on.

Does the oil project instructor always carry his dog?

Congrats to your team! Hard to picture you as an Oil Excutive.

Beautiful pictures of Exercise Hill sunset.

No jerks, whiners or slackers? Can I quit my job and come?