Disturbances in Kamchatka
The Kamchatka Peninsula is a spectacular yet remote wilderness at the far eastern end of Russia. If you play Risk, it’s the country on the far right of the board. Cut off from the rest of Russia, Kamchatka is only accessible by sea or air. The province is famous for its snow covered mountains and smoking volcanoes and a fledgling tourist industry is building up to take advantage of the largely unspoilt natural beauty.
A popular destination for tourists and scientists is the Valley of the Geysers. Discovered in 1941 and left untouched until the 1970s, the valley is only really accessible by helicopter. The 6km long valley boasts 90 geysers and springs, some of which erupt every few minutes and others only twice a day.
In June 2007 there was a massive landslide with a size estimated at millions of cubic metres. The landslide blocked the river, burying some of the beautiful geysers and forming a lake that was in danger of flooding the rest. Luckily, the waters receded over the subsequent days and most of the geysers were saved. The image on the right shows many of the remaining geysers (all of which have wonderful names: Inconsistent, Velikan, Pearl, Bastion and so on).
To try and provide some warning of future landslides, the Kamchatka Regional Seismological Center (a branch of the Geophysical Survey, Russian Academy of Sciences), in conjunction with Guralp Systems’ distributor Vulcan SeismicSystems, deployed a number of CMG-6TD sensors in late 2008. The sensor locations are indicated by the red triangles in the following image (where you can also see the huge size of the landslide).
The instruments were buried in remote locations with only the GPS receiver showing above ground so it was hoped they wouldn’t be accidentally discovered.
One morning a bear, on the lookout for breakfast, decided a sensor might provide some nutrition. You can see from the trace the exact time and date when the bear chanced upon the instrument and his (or her) increasing efforts to gain some nutrition from the device.
Not knowing at the time what had happened, scientists travelled to the sensor to investigate. The pictures below show what they discovered. Despite only the GPS receiver being visible above ground, the bear had dug up the sensor and then chewed on the GPS receiver, cables and sensor connectors.
It’s testament to the robustness of the 6TD that only the cables needed replacing; the sensor was undamaged despite being a potential meal for the bear. With new cables, the sensor has been redeployed and continues to provide valuable data on the condition of the mountains surrounding this quite unique geyser valley, deep in the heart of Kamchatka.
The bear in question hasn’t been sighted since: perhaps the taste of copper wires doesn’t appeal anymore.