Archive for January, 2010

Day 7: 3 teams and Haitian radio

The teams split today. It was a rambunctious morning with multiple television crews filming mostly Eric and the teams leaving – finally departing around 10am. We left our tents, tarps, and what we could spare with the inhabitents of the tent city that surrounded us.  It is only a token but the gesture was well received.  We (Andy and Sarah) headed north. We set up a GPS site in Desdunes (DESS) on a police station (picture below), Gros Morne (GROS) on top of a CARE building, and searched for hours in the dark on top of an old police building for a geodetic point in Gonaives (GONA). Most of these sites are installed on tops of buildings so it’s a task to find a ladder (“scale” in Creole), however, our colleague Macly never ceases to amaze us in his ability to acquire everything we need easily and hastily. In Gros Morne Macly tracked down the mayor playing soccer – he left the game temporarily to direct help for us – he also offered his backyard for us to camp in, but we were eager to get to Gonaives. Unfortunately we did not find GONA this evening. We will be back early in the morning to search again. The Haitian people we meet in these towns have been incredibly supportive of our work and we simply could not conduct this survey without them.  And Andy was on Haitian National Radio today. They tracked down Macly on his cell phone and told him to introduce me (Andy) and then he puts me on the phone and says I am live to all of Haiti.  Uhhh.  They don’t seem to have any specific questions – I am not sure they speak english and I certainly don’t speak Creole.  Macly tells me they just wanted me to ramble on about the earthquake and tsunamis and seismic hazards in Haiti.  So I do for about 4 minutes until the connection is cut.  I have no idea if someone understood or translated a single thing I said.

Sarah and Andy

GPS station DESS upon the roof of the Police Nationale d'Haiti in the small town of Desdunes.


Day 6, 2nd day in Port-au-Prince

Our first night in a tent city was very interesting.  A rooster in a far-off tent city would crow. This would evoke a respond from another rooster in another tent city and so on until our local fellow would add his voice.  This crowing would last a few minutes, then cease, then repeat itself again about 10 minutes later – all night long.  Dogs would then get in the act, though they seemed less organized.  And finally, prayer and song began around 4 am, before the sunrise. This city is alive through the night.

One of our colleagues Alcidor drove us around Port-au-Prince today to view the effects of the earthquake.   There is no way to properly describe the level of destruction and havoc that the earthquake has caused (see pictures below).  It will be months before this city and many of those that perished will be dug out.  Yet the city is alive and vibrant. They are coping and hopeful and getting on with their lives.  As the pictures also show, the markets and street vendors are as active as ever.  We saw no signs of any trouble, nor have heard of any during the day.  The night is different. Nobody goes out at night. Even from their tent cities, which are everywhere, the Haitian people are remarkably resilient and optimistic.  We also saw virtually no foreign presence other than an occasional US or UN personnel.  We saw no distribution centers and no food or supplies in trucks moving anywhere – though we could have missed them.  Our friends in the tent city that are here at the Bureau of Mines tell us that they have been given water and medical help, but no food, and are not aware of any distribution centers.  We have heard that food is stuck in the airport and seaside port, but the means to bring it in does not exist, though we cannot confirm this.

Upon returning to our base we spent the afternoon showing our Haitian colleagues who will join us in the field how to set up the GPS receivers. Then we set up our first receiver nearby and began recording data.  Tomorrow morning we split into 3 teams.  Sarah and Andy will head north, Estelle and Glen will head south and west, and Eric will stay around Port-au-Prince.  We plan on making measurements for approximately 2 weeks, covering the entire country.

Day 5: Port-au-Prince

We have hooked up with Eric and made it to Port-au-Prince.  We are staying for 2 days at the lab and equipment building of the Haitian Bureau of Mines, which in contrast to the destroyed headquarters, endured little damage. Several of the Haitian Bureau of Mines employees are eager to participate and will join us in the field for our GPS survey.  Tomorrow we plan to divide up all the gear for three teams (heading north, south, and one staying around PaP), train our colleagues, and begin the field work on Sunday.

Our location is surrounded by isolated areas of destruction (including a flattened police department). However, to our surprise people are incredibly resilient and resuming normal lives as best as they can. From the people we’ve spoken with there is still quite a bit of fear about the earthquake.  Many people who have lost their homes have set up a tent city on the grounds of the Bureau.  They have given us a very warm reception.

Haiti GPS Team

The crew met up at the border and started planning our strategy.

Collapsed house in Port-au-Prince

A collapsed school in PaP

The generosity of our hosts is breathtaking. After giving a lollipop to this little boy, his family, whose house was destroyed and is living in the tent city here, offer to share their food.

Day 5: Off to Jimani (the border) and beyond

We’re off! We have crammed every nook and cranny full of a white minivan taking us to Jimani with water, food, 3 complete GPS kits, our personal gear, and us. We plan to meet up with Eric and our Haitian colleagues around noon in Jimani and continue on to Port-au-Prince.

After today it is unclear how often we’ll have access to the internet. Fear not wonderful, supporting, loving family and friends! We’re okay and we’ll be in touch ASAP.

Sarah, Estelle, Andy, Glen

Day 4: Calais makes it to Haiti!

Eric is now safely in Port-au-Prince (PaP) with Haitian colleagues. The GPS equipment is temporarily being held at the airport.  Here in the DR we’ve made arrangements to travel to the border by car tomorrow morning. The plan is to meet some of our Haitian colleagues in Jimani (the border town) at noon and then continue-on to PaP. Today the goal is to ensure we have enough provisions for ~5 days.


Estelle and Andy working at breakfast.

Update (6:00 pm): Today was dedicated to finding provisions for at least our first 5 days in Haiti. After talking with several people who have just returned from Haiti, we have decided to take with us as much food and water as possible.  Santo Domingo has become a major staging area for people who are not connected with the major aid organizations, but are trying to get into Haiti to help.  As a result, the DR is providing free water for anyone  who can bring to those in need.

The Dominican Republic is providing free water to people who will be crossing the border and able to distribute to those in need. We took this picture at a distribution center in Santo Domingo.

Our group also had the privilege of being interviewed by the main television station in the DR. We spent an hour discussing seismic hazards in the region and explaining how our work will help people better understand the dangers associated with living in an earthquake prone area.


Alicia Ortega with SIN, the largest news network in the Dominican Republic interviewing the crew.

This from Eric:

I finally made it to Port au Prince on January 28 at 3:30 am flying jump seat on a 727 flown by Amerijet, with the GPS gear in cargo. This was made possible thanks to Purdue AvTech (Mike Suckow and Brent Bowen) who put us in contact with Aerosevice in Miami, then thanks to superb help from Steven Daun and Mike Visconti at Aeroservice. A big thank you as well to captain Jim, copilot Eric, and the flight engineer on the Amerijet 727 for a superb night flight into PAP. Abel Nazaire (Haiti Civil Protection) came to meet me, later joined by Dieuseul Anglade (Director of the Bureau of Mines and Energy) and Robert Momplaisir (Beta Engineering). After a breakfast at Roberte’s place (her family and neighbors are still camping in their yard) we cleared the GPS equipment out of customs (whole morning, as usual) then secured it at the Bureau of Mines. Their lab at Delmas 31 is still standing, their HQ further up in town totally destroyed.  Luckily everyone left at 4:30 and the earthquake occurred at 5, so no one was hurt. I then met Claude Prepetit, my main collaborator in Haiti. We discussed the latest scientific information about the earthquake, in particular the InSAR data (ALOS) and a preliminary slip model that I calculated before leaving. We then discussed the logistics of the field work with the BME colleagues, reserved for cars, and budgeted the expedition. I reached Voila (cell phone company) headquarters in Petionville at the end of the day and meet with Gerard Laborde, Bernard Fils-Aime.
Very warm welcome and interesting discussions. They give me a local (Voila) phone – thank you Voila! We are considering locating some of continuous GPS at their field facilities, which would also give us access to remote communication. The plan today is to pick up the rest of the GPS crew at the Haiti/DR border.

Day 3: update

Great news!

Eric will be arriving in Port-au-Prince in the wee hours of the morning accompanying the equipment. The plan for us is still debated, but we may begin the journey via car early tomorrow morning. Thanks so much to hotel manager Samuel Jose of Mercure Comercial Santo Domingo for helping us with the travel arrangements. Since we don’t want to travel at night, we’ll most likely stay over in Jimani (a city at the border of Haiti and DR).

From here on out we expect internet connections to be quite limited, but we’ll do our best to keep this blog up-to-date.


Further update (11:32 pm local time). Glen discussed the on-ground situation in PaP with the captain of the Fairfax County Search and Rescue who has just returned and is headed back to the US. The situation in the PaP area is difficult; we must bring in all our provisions (food & water) and ground transportation in the city is at a crawl. We’ll know more when we speak with Eric in the morning once he is on the ground and has hooked up with Haitian colleagues who are planning to meet him at the airport. But it looks that we will likely not head out in the morning, perhaps flying in on Friday (we think we have found a carrier who can take us), and perhaps after securing provisions here.  More in the morning.


Day 3: 2nd day in Santo Domingo

Today was spent working the phones and computers to continue to work out the logistics of getting us and our equipment to Port-au-Prince.  Plans remain pretty fluid right now, but it looks likely (fingers crossed) that Eric and the equipment will make it in from Miami tomorrow.  We are now looking at a getting the rest of us on a cargo plane from a small airport north of Santo Domingo for ourselves.  Our hotel manager is also making some phone calls to hook us up with a car and driver – this is no expedition!  We also spent the day testing equipment and buying maps. We are anxious to get going.  We were contacted today by Habitat for Humanity to see if we might be able to help coordinate discussions between their Haitian operation and our geoscience community regarding seismic hazards and future building plans in Haiti. We are, of course, eager to help initiate such discussions.


We captured this picture of children of Santo Domingo while testing our satellite phones.

Day 2: Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

Sarah, Estelle, Paul, Rich, and Andy in front of the oldest cathedral in the west hemisphere (so we are told). Supposedly Christopher Colombus is buried here.

Andy, Sarah, and Estelle arrived in Santo Domingo today. Glen comes in tonight. The taxi ride from the airport to the downtown hotel was a hoot. It would appear that in this city of 200,000, they have no traffic lights and no stop signs. There aren’t even any yield signs. This does not deter the crossing of 4 lane highways in the least. All the drivers seem to know how to avoid other moving cars within an inch without missing a beat.

Eric remains stuck in Miami as the cargo carriers did not have room for our GPS equipment today. We also have temporarily lost contact with our Haitian colleagues. These are big problems. We have 3 GPS sets with us here in Santo Domingo now complete with 3 batteries thanks to the fabulous efforts of Estelle and Sarah in the marketplace without a translator! In theory, we could start making measurements as soon as we make it to Port-au-Prince. We were very tempted to cross the border anyway and head for the Port-au-Prince airport – which we are told is safe – but without contact with our Haitian colleagues to meet us, we have decided it is too risky. This is especially unfortunate as we had a really good ride all set up. We will wait here in Santo Domingo at least until we can re-establish contact with our Haitian colleagues.

We met up with 2 more of our US colleagues for dinner and to pow-wow on logistics, Paul Mann from the U. of Texas and Rich Koehler from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources in Fairbanks. They are trying to work out logistics to fly a helicopter along the fault to see if they can find any surface rupture. So far no one has found any surface ruptures, but there are no geologists currently on the ground in Haiti (though Roger Bilham has taken several helicopter rides in to look at the fault: We were at least able to hook up Rich with our ride, so he’ll head in tomorrow. In the mean time we saw some of the historical sights in the Dominican Republic on the way to dinner (picture above). Let’s see what tomorrow brings.


Day 1: In Miami

Frank, Eric, Andy, and Sarah in one of numerous the flight simulators at AeroServices.

After heading off in the wrong direction for a snowstorm in Minneapolis we are now in warm Miami. Thankfully we weren’t delayed. We were at Aeroservices today, a company helping us with the shipping of our equipment. Today is about checking the equipment and continuing trying to work out logistics. We had a nice dinner with our colleague Falk Amelung from U. of Miami and Estelle and talked about our deployment plans.  Tomorrow we fly to the Dominican Republic where we plan on meeting up with Glen and several other colleagues. We (Sarah, Andy, Estelle, and Glen) plan on crossing the border to Haiti and making our way to Port-au-Prince on Wednesday.

Sarah & Andy

Welcome to NSF Geophysicists in Haiti Blog

We are Eric Calais, Purdue professor and project leader; Andy Freed, Purdue professor; D. Sarah Stamps, Purdue NSF graduate fellow; Glen Mattioli, U. of Arkansas professor; and Estelle Chaussard, U. of Miami PhD graduate student. We are conducting a GPS survey of Haiti to measure ground deformation following the Jan 12 earthquake. These measurements will help us understand important characteristics of how the fault slipped and to track how the crust is continuing to deform after the earthquake. This research will help us understand how seismic hazards are evolving on several active faults in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. We will blog whenever we can find an internet connection in Haiti to describe our experiences – stay tuned…..

Sarah and Andy

D. Sarah Stamps and Andy Freed in a flight simulator at Aeroservice - the generous company based out of Miami that is assisting in providing transportation of our GPS equipment and our noble leader Eric Calais directly to Port-au-Prince.