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Monday, April 28, 2008

The Seeker

I've looked under chairs
I've looked under tables
I've tried to find the key
to 50 million fables
they call me the seeker
I been searching low and high
I won't get to get what I'm after
'till the day I die. . . .

- P. Townshend

About a month ago, on Saturday, I had the opportunity to accompany one of UWEC's Geology professors, Doctor Grote, and her group of assistants on a project to find an old, abandoned iron mine entrance. This involved a trip to a site near Baraboo, Wisconsin, which is about 2 1/2 hours east of here. She sent out an e-mail to all the undergrads with geology majors asking for volunteers, giving a brief description of what was planned. I was interested because I'd like to get involved with some of the "hands-on" aspects of my chosen major as soon as possible. That, and I'd been through the area in question before and wanted to return - it's very interesting, geologically, and also very scenic. Plus, I thought that it would be fun. I contacted her and was told that I could come along with and help out any way I could. This is the story of that day.

We left Oak Lair (not its real name) in the morning in two vehicles stuffed with high-tech gear. It was snowing when we left but quickly cleared as we proceeded eastward. A few hours later we arrived at our destination without incident. We met the landowner for a preliminary information-sharing meeting. He had some old maps and some other reference sources. The maps were used to get a good "ballpark" area for what we were looking for. Then, we broke out the equipment and assembled the necessary machinery for the next phase.

What we did, for the most part, was use a ground-penetrating radar device to find the long-buried mine entrance. The GPR has the ability to "look through" the surface features and find the interface between the soil layers and the actual bedrock. Basically, what we were looking for was a bedrock/soil anomaly that would indicate the mine entrance. If multiple runs with the detector showed the anomaly in one specific area, and that area coincided with the map, we probably had what we were looking for. All that would be left would be to dig to remove the topsoil and uncover the entrance. That part would be left to some other group, at some other time.

The actual survey was done by first laying out some tape measures and then making a dry run to get a good idea of what the average topsoil layer depth was. Once that was done, we shifted our focus to the "ballpark" area found on the map. We made several runs with the GPR, sometimes switching jobs between the assistants and once taking a short break for lunch. After a few hours our electronic investigation was finished.

At the end, according to Dr. Grote, we think we found what we were looking for. There was a consistent anomaly in one area of our survey. This also jibed with the old map for the location of the mine entrance. We passed our knowledge on to the landowner, and the rest is up to him.

About the time we were finishing our search, the local geology club arrived, and we had an impromptu meeting with them. Doctor Grote explained how and what we were doing, as well as our success. Everybody pretty much hung out together for awhile, while our group from UWEC began disassembling the GPR and other equipment for our return trip. The landowner then took us all up to another area to show us what is thought to be an air/equipment/access shaft for the mine, currently filled with groundwater.

All-in-all, I had a great time, and I learned a lot. Plus, yes, it was fun. :) I really enjoyed the day; and, for all of my readers out there, I took a few photos of the event. They're captioned below. Enjoy! I did.

Shane, Brian, and Roseanne at the area in question. The anomalous spot was just to the left of Roseanne's feet in the photo.

The air/equipment/access shaft of the mine. The green stuff is algal growth on the groundwater now filling the shaft.

These next three photos are Dr. Grote, Roseanne, Brian, and Shane operating the GPR system on-site. High-tech work!

The local geology club that came to visit. Nice people!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff: greetings from your friends up in Maine. Just checking out the blog and seeing if you and Dr. Syverson are making plans for the return trip next summer. After this summer the weather has to be better. We found some interesting strata in some gravel pits (boulders the size of a small house in sandy matrix)but not much in elusive cross striations. Hope classes are fun for you this semester, just remember it beats working. Hope to see you next summer. PS nice blog! Lynn Caron

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