Tuesday, June 4, 2013

The first days in North Portugal

The sky is crystal blue and my skin burns from the sun. In other words, a perfect day for field work. The students all have arrived, two BSc students from Holland, and 19 MSc students from the Algarve, where they got to know the hospitality of our Portuguese hosts and learned about hydrological system thinking from Henk, Richard and Yvonne.

Today, Joana, an MSc student from the Geosciências Dept. of the Aveiro University, also had her first meeting with the experienced VU student field crew and she looked happy. They all stay together with Sr. Afonse who has six apartments, and now a lot of instruments in his hallway...

Student field course house in Barra, just next to the beach...
Nearly the first thing we did was going to a tiny island in the Ria de Aveiro Estuary with the BSc students. The question is how small an island can be to have a freshwater lens floating on top of the seawater. Their goal is to measure the permeability of the island, its vegetation, topography and most important, find its "freshwater heart" using a VU University developed spiral auger sampler. The island is as tiny as we could find and only accessible during low water as we do not have an outboard this year for our boat. Here you see them in action...

VU University Earth Sciences BSc students Marijn and Valerie on a tiny island using Dutch and a spiral augers, respectively. Michel watches Marijn's performance.
If you don't want to get trapped on the island, you'll have to watch the tide, and the fishermen leaving the mudflats.

Returning home from the island (background), through the Ria de Aveiro mud, after having lost a shoe. Bringing geological knowledge about mudflats in estuaries in practice.
The next day, we went to introduce our MSc students into the delicacies of the geology of their study area. This includes measuring the resistivity of the Cretaceous C5 formation, which can transform in a lot of muddy clay too, as Bob and some others discovered while taking a short-curt walking along the in shore of the lake.

Geophysics by the lake
Just before lunch at Mario's Cafe-Bar Veneluso in Montouro we arrived at a sandy Cretaceous formation from which you could pump loads of water, that is if it would have been saturated. Here we looked at cross-bedding and a nice micaceous layer that gives you silver hands, and classified the layer as a fluvial deposit of arkosic sand because there were still feldspar grains visible next tot the quartz and weathered biotite grains. 

MSc students Hydrology VU Amsterdam 2013, in front of a Cretaceous sand formation, hmm, very interesting
Michel took the group picture above, as he had not shaven on this morning. Furthermore, people make mistakes. Making a mistake was what the baker did when he used the new yellow soap, instead of the regular butter, to prepare a croissant in the middle of the night. The second mistake was that Michel bought it and ate half of it, before deciding that the bitter taste of this morning's bread was not normal. The baker never physically felt the consequences of his error, but Michel experienced mild cramps while sitting next to me in the car, and probably will now hesitate ordering croissants with his morning coffee. Such hardships. More on our hydrology adventures tomorrow (installation day).

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