Saturday, November 26, 2011

Days are dwindling down

Only 2 days left in Darjeeling.  The instrument is up and running and stable!  It's so rewarding seeing the data coming in and finally feeling like all of the hard work over the past couple of years is paying off.  The only remaining things to do are to watch for any problems (so far so good) and to train the local technician on how to watch it while I'm away.  The power problems are still there but we have a solution in place for the next two months.  At that time, I'll be coming back to install my second detector and will hopefully have long-term supports on my power lines, etc.  Working in such a remote place is hard...It makes you really realize after living in the US, and in a city for that matter, that power doesn't grow on trees.  Without proper maintenance and infrastructure (and money), it can be quite unstable.  Oh and I also just found out that one of my spare gas cylinders is leaking out of it's valve.  The work never ends and it sometimes drives me crazy that small things (like the gas valve) cause such a big headache!  That said, I'm really proud of how far it's all come and thankful for all of the help and advice people have given me over the last year that allowed me to prepare in advance for many of the issues I've dealt with.  

Rays shining down on the Bose Institute.

Laura's work spot on a (finally) warm day. 
Mountains on a not so warm day.

Darjeeling at sunset.

Checking the inlet tube.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Getting up and running!

The last couple days were too busy to blog!  I've been trying to get the instrument up and running and of course, running into problems along the way.  I forgot while at MIT that I would be running this instrument at higher altitude (2000m), where the ambient air pressure is significantly lower.  This means that most parameters that I had set at MIT all have to be changed to match the ambient air pressure here.  Not fun!  Things are still feeling a bit too fragile at the moment and I am working hard to make sure there are reliable ways to turn things on.  Only 4 days left and am feeling the clock ticking!

Hard at work checking for any leaks that could have formed during shipment.
Sunset and the tower.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Mounting the inlet line

Today we mounted the inlet for the instrument onto a tower.  The tough part was that the tower and instrument were on two different buildings.  We had been thinking about the solution to this for quite awhile but it took some work to implement.  Our idea was to string a wire guy line across the building and securely clamp that down on either end.  Then we mounted the inlet to the guy wire and tied it down every few feet.  We then ran the line down the side of the building, through a hole drilled into the side and into the instrument room.  This was the most fun I've had so far.  We had to be really creative to figure out how to get this line across and it worked out really well in the end.  So there's an inlet!

Mounting the inlet onto the tower.  So scary.  

Clamping things down to the building.

Laura, clamping the inlet to the guy wire before it was hoisted across.

The newly assembled inlet line.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Instrument finally reaches Darjeeling

Much to my surprise, the equipment finally arrived at 10 pm on Saturday night.  The drivers insisted that we unload immediately but there was just no way we could haul 1000 lbs of equipment ourselves in the dark.  After convincing them to spend the night at Bose Institute, we were up at 7 am with a few extra sets of hands to cart everything up to the instrument room.  I have to admit I did not do much...In the blink of an eye, everything was there. I felt pretty nervous during this whole moving process, especially when I saw that my gas chromatograph (the core of my whole instrument) was removed off of the wooden pallet that it was strapped to and placed basically with no secure bottom inside the truck.  Fortunately, it looks ok......But it does seem, contrary to my belief, that everything has arrived intact, and nothing was lost in the process of being opened and closed by two different shipping companies and customs on both the US and Indian sides a total of three times.

The truck is here!  It was much smaller than I expected.  Don't know and don't want to know how it survived the steep slopes.
Moving equipment to the room.  Thanks to these guys for their help!

Laura and I spent the rest of the day starting to set everything up.  We have only made a dent in everything that we need to get done in the next few days.  Good news - it turns on!  (Side note: I was very worried that nothing would be compatible with the unstable power and that it traveled all this way only to not turn on.)  Bad news - we spent a couple of hours trying to get the regulators for our gas lines to stop leaking.  Still no success.  And it is the most tedious, painstaking process.   Hopefully we can figure it out today!  All in all though, seeing this room put together when my equipment was en route (read: no one had any idea where it was because the drivers had switched off their phones) only 24 hours before, makes for a satisfying way to end the day.

Working on assembling the inlet line to the GC.

Regulators, ugh. 

Laura spent a good while climbing this ladder and hanging all of the gas lines on the ceiling so that they would be out of the way.  I'm happy with how things progressed on the first day.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Greetings from Darjeeling, India!  For my research, I am measuring long-lived greenhouse gases in India.  Over the past year, I built an instrument to measure these gases continuously in a remote station environment.  The day has finally come to take my precious work out of the lab and install it at the Bose Institute in Darjeeling, India.  My good friend and fellow graduate student, Laura Meredith, has accompanied me all the way around the world to help me with the very daunting task of setting up a field station!

Laura and I have now been in India for a week now, getting adjusted and preparing the site for the arrival of the instrument (due anytime now!).  She often catches me staring out the window pensively, not starting at the gorgeous landscape before me, but wondering exactly which road my instrument is on, whether or not it's wearing a seatbelt and hoping (praying?) that it survives the millions of people, bumpy roads, hairpin turns and 7200 feet of elevation lying between its new home and Kolkata Airport.

Victoria Memorial, Kolkata India

Power Plant on the bank of the Ganges River, Kolkata India

In preparing for its arrival, we have had many things to do.  Getting gas cylinders up to the room, ensuring that the electrical connections are adequate and connected to the generator (to deal with the constant power outages), drilling holes for the inlet to the instrument, and things as simple as making sure we have a sturdy table to put it on!  Though I always knew I would have to consider these issues, I had definitely taken these basics for granted since I was so used to working in a lab at MIT where everything was just there.  My collaborators at Bose Institute have done a tremendous amount of work in helping me get everything I need and in getting through all of the unforeseen obstacles.

Moving in a table. (Bose Institute, Darjeeling)
Moving in gas cylinders.  Laura and I were...shocked.  We were not expecting this. (Bose Institute, Darjeeling)

Today is the first sunny day in Darjeeling!  Laura snapped this photo of the inlet tower with a view of Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background (third highest mountain in the world).

Met tower with instruments for wind speed and direction will also house the inlet for my instrument. Mt. Kanchenjunga in the background completes the pretty picture.
Mt. Kanchenjunga (8586 m)
Can you see the inlet/met tower hidden in the clouds?

Darjeeling, a hill station once developed for British citizens to escape the summer heat of  the then capital, Kolkata.
The instrument will be arriving tonight so the fun part begins!