Day 12: Ladders

Today we picked up instruments in Mole St. Nicholas, Jean Rabel, and Port-de-Paix along the north coast and headed south to reoccupy our sites in Gros Morne, Gonaives, and Desdune, where now-resolved software issues prevented the recording of sufficient data last week. We are staying in Gonaives, a bustling, industrial, dusty town on the central west coast. No camping on the beach here. We had a nice chat with a platoon of UN soldiers from Argentina who have been in this town for ~6 months and seem homesick. Our conversation was limited by our inability to speak Spanish and their inability to speak English, but we communicated well enough.

We had a nice chat with some homesick UN soldiers from Argentina

Several people have asked us about why we install our GPS receivers on buildings, which are likely to move with respect to the surface, especially in an earthquake. While this is true, our pressing concern in Haiti is security. In general, we find that buildings are sufficiently sturdy to not add too much noise to our data. And while buildings near the Jan 12 epicenter that survived may have deformed, the amount the crust beneath them moved during the earthquake is usually large enough that the earthquake offset was probably much larger than any building deformation.

Most of the roofs we use were chosen because of safety for the GPS equipment, which is left unoccupied for several days. Putting a GPS station on police station roof generally brings a decent level of security, though in some places we hire security anyway. In this religious country, the roof of a priest’s house or mission is even more secure. But nothing adds to security like a roof that is difficult to access and requires a ladder. It has been amusing to see how fast our Haitian colleague Macly can locate a ladder in a town he has never even visited before. In Gros Morne Macly has found us 4 different ladders in 4 different visits, never taking more than 10 minutes to succeed. When we say that our Haitian GPS campaign cannot be accomplished without great cooperation from both our colleagues and each town’s inhabitant, the importance of securing a ladder is not to be underestimated.  Below is a photo expose of some of the ladders and other obstacles we must conquer to conduct a GPS campaign in Haiti.

Precarious ladder behind the Mission in Jean Rebel (see photo below).

Its not a ladder, but we just like this picture so much of school kids in front of the Mission in Jean Rabel

Using a fallen antenna in Mole St. Nicholas.

A ladder to get from the second floor to the roof at the police station in Port-de-Paix. The prisoners were in the yard below checking us out.

One of our favorites: A homemade ladder in the bed of our pickup. Note how the top of the ladder overlaps the lip of the roof by a couple of inches.

We had to use one ladder 3 times to scale the police station in Gonaives.

A night climb onto a mission in Fort Liberte.

Through to the roof in Saint Raphael.

Flexible ladder to the roof of the high school in Hinche.

We had to slip past barbed wire on the roof of the police station in Desdune.

Andy and Sarah



  1. Jim Said:

    I’ll try to remember to pack a couple of ladders in the campaign kits next time….:)

    • haitigps Said:

      Jim, that would be great. If you could somehow engineer a folding ladder that could cram into those fantastic kits we’d be in business…. but of course that would remove half the fun of fieldwork!

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