Mexico Week 5 – Volcanologists Vs Jungle!

Every month, samples need to be collected from four of the springs found on the flanks of the volcano. This week, the month was up and it was time to head into the field to collected the samples. We also planned to make the most of our trip by collecting data on the gases being released by the volcano.

We arrived at the ranch and unpacked our camping kit. We left a couple of members of our team to collect thermal and gas data from our base at the ranch, while the remaining three of us trekked into the jungle to find the first two springs.

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We drove the truck to the edge of the forest, swung on our rucksacks and began to battle our way through the dense vegetation. The deeper we ventured, the more we found ourselves fighting trees, vines and spiky plants. The GPS locations for the springs were logged, but trying to connect to satellites and follow a bearing in a straight line through the forest was all but impossible. We chased any running water to its source, and double check for any sign of emerging water. Eventually we came across the orange algae in a swampy area, which indicated we were on the right track. While tramping through some long grass, we very almost walked over a small, dark coloured snake, sat hidden in a rare sunny patch. We located the spring under a tree, carefully collected water samples and took several reading from different probes.

The spring was surrounded by black flies, which seemed intent of stealing as much of our blood as they could. They left little purple bruises all over arms and hands! It seemed that everything in the jungle – both fauna and flora – was out to get you! The second spring of the day was much easier to find, and we quickly gathered our samples and data. Getting out of the jungle was another question; it was all too easy to get turned around, falsely recognising trees and streams. Eventually we fell out of the thick, green maze and onto the path to the truck.

With only a couple of hours until sunset, we raced to finish the last spring of the day. Driving to the edge of a small barranca, then walking as fast as we could with our remaining energy, followed the water to it’s source. We took our readings and raced back to the truck, with the sun edging closer to the horizon. We arrived back at camp with just as darkness was falling, much to the relief of our colleagues, who had started to worry about our whereabouts.

We ate our dinner and played a few rounds of ‘Uno’ in one of the ranch houses, before heading back to our equipment. Thermal data had to be collected through the night so we agreed on hour shifts. The beautiful clear night made it easier to get up despite the cold – I will never get bored of the sight of the Milky Way above the volcano!

Spring number 4 was the task of day two. We packed up and headed for another ranch. The team began setting up the camera equipment while two of us headed for the last spring. It didn’t take us long to find number 4, and with all the pH, temperature and other readings completed, we finished our tasks for trip. The clouds decided to draw our trip to an end. With no sight of the volcano, we could not collect anymore data. We headed back to Colima for a well-earned shower and beer.

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