The Mississippi River Project
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Mississippi River Project: Day 6

Today was really interesting. Two things happened: one good and one not so good. Bad news first so we end on a high note.

We were deployed coming around a large island probably about 5 miles south of Wickliffe, KY when all of a sudden a massive debris field hammered us. We didn’t see it coming because it came around the corner upstream and before we knew it, things were in a bit of a panic. We’re talking hundreds of limbs and trees. Debris could snap the streamer or rip the energy source or Chirp from its security cable. A cable can only handle so much when a massive 2 ft. diameter waterlogged tree hits it at 12 mph. We could get the Chirp up, but not the streamer and gun. A large debris pile wrapped itself up with the energy source. If it goes, that’s it…we stop. The cable from the support winch took the weight first. It was groaning. We quickly released the tension on that cable placing the load on the main winch that is much larger. The cable snapped tight…and held. Soon after that a 30-foot-long tree, about 1 ft in diameter, rolled under the streamer. As it moved along the line the streamer rose out of the water. The tree amassed more debris as it move down the streamer. At the end, POP!

We had rigged Dolly (the streamer tail buoy) with bungee cords and linked it to the streamer with two plastic cable ties…for this one purpose. The weight against Dolly by the debris popped the cable ties releasing tension on the streamer cable and sending Dolly adrift down the river. Shortly thereafter the debris waned. We were able to retrieve Dolly and pull in the energy source and streamer. So where did this mass of debris come from…it was as if someone opened up the gate. Well our best guess is that a barge docked against the shoreline up river had a bunch of debris caught on its bow. When the barge was moved for transport, we received its joy.

So the good note. We found faulting and lots of it. You know the drinking water aquifer in Memphis? It is protected by an overlying clay layer called the Upper Claiborne that is about 40 to 120 ft below the ground surface in Shelby County. That same unit comes up closer to the ground surface north of Hickman, KY. The Chirp proved its worth. The Upper Claiborne in this area is riddled with faults. It was amazing to see!!!

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Last Updated: 1/23/12