Turkey’s Map Restrictions and an Encounter with the Military after the 1999 Gölcük Quake

goljukAndrew Finkel has described the way-out-of-date restrictions on detailed maps in Turkey:  NYT Latitude—Navigating Turkey.  His article reminds me of an encounter I had with a Turkish naval officer in 1999 just after the Gölcük earthquake. My colleague Eduard Reinhardt and I were mapping coastline change in areas adjacent to the epicenter.  One of those locations was a large military base, and we could see from satellite photos that the had been some subsidence on the base (meaning part of the land slipped under water).  We were there about 14 days after the quake, and the area was (of course) still in chaos.  While we didn’t know it at the time, the military base took some very significant damage from the quake, with heavy casualties (about 450 people were killed, and about 1/2 of those were officers).  The military was also spontaneously occupied with rescue and relief efforts in an area largely unreachable by other agencies.

To our surprise, we were able to talk our way onto the base to examine the coastline. We had an escort ( a well-educated English-speaking officer) and our instructions were “look at the coastline and the water–nothing else, take no photos, and don’t talk about anything else you might happen to see.”  We found that the P0001492coastline had indeed subsided, and Dr. Reinhardt waded out into the oil and debris filled water to take samples along a transect. My more pleasant job was to survey in the sample locations, which I did with a laser rangefinder.   That easy duty gave me time to chat with our military escort.  He asked how we knew there had been a coastline change, and I told him I would show him.  I suppose I was overconfident given our success in getting on the base, so I pulled out the laptop, pulled up the satellite image (taken a few days after the quake) and showed him how we could see sunken coastline on the base.  As soon as he realized what he was looking at, a look of horror crossed his face and he said in a quiet, serious voice “How did you get that? Put that away right now!” 1999 was, remember, pre-Google Earth, open source mapping, and easily available private sector satellite images (let’s just saying got it from a friend of a friend).   Not the smartest move I’ve ever made, but they didn’t throw me in jail.  In a way, I suppose, my freedom is another tribute to the excellent judgment and response of the military after a horrible event.

We published our survey here:  Rothaus, Richard M., Eduard Reinhardt, and Jay Noller. 2004. Regional Considerations of Coastline Change, Tsunami Damage and Recovery along the Southern Coast of the Bay of Izmit (The Kocaeli (Turkey) Earthquake of 17 August 1999). Natural Hazards 31 (1):233-252.

Looking for Palaeosols—Deep Coring in Moorhead, MN (videos)

I recently completed a project near Moorhead, MN that involved pulling deep soil cores to check for palaeosols.  Moorhead is situated on the ever-exciting Red River of the North.  As the Red River floods and changes course, sometimes she will drop several feet of mud and sediments, burying whatever was on the ground when the flood moved through.   When situations are just right, the mud can seal in an ancient ground-surface.   When a surface soil is buried underneath such sediments, it is called a palaeosol.

crookston palaeosolAs you can imagine, palaeosols are a bit of a holy grail for archaeologists.  crookston_pottIf we are lucky, we might find (for example) a 5000 year old campsite, looking much like it did when the flood hit.  In 2008 in Crookston, MN (on a tributary of the Red River) I found a palaeosol 2.8m below the current ground surface.  Ceramics and artifacts in that palaeosol dated it to the 1920s.  Interestingly, we found buried soils about the same age throughout Crookston, in some places as deep as 4m below the current ground surface.

Like all holy grails, palaeosols (especially ones thousands of years old) are rare and difficult to find.  What the Red River gives, the Red River takes away.  In other words, to deposit mud on one spot (perhaps creating a palaeosol), the Red has to scour sediment from another spot (perhaps erasing a palaeosol).  To compound difficulties, palaeosols can be quite difficult to identify.  I love looking for them on the Red River because they tend to be easy to see—a dark layer of soil bedded in pale grey and tan sediments.

The best way to find palaeosols (or document their absence) is without doubt a backhoe.  But backhoe trenches are frequently not an option.   As a reasonable substitute I often take deep soil cores evenly spaced on a transect.  The spacing depends on the local geomorphology. On a uniform plain, 50m spacing is pretty normal.  On winding river banks, 15m is better.   If I suspect palaeosols, 5m is called for.  The spacing of cores is always difficult; budgets and timelines rarely allow the close interval spacing I prefer.  The harsh reality of cores is that we miss most things. The goal for a compliance project is, however, to find any palaeosols with a sufficient horizontal distribution to contain substantial archaeological materials.  For most review agencies, that approach is considered a reasonable effort.

There are a variety of methods that can be used to pull cores.  When searching for palaeosols it is essential, in my opinion, to use a method that retrieve continuous cores in a liner.  The cores, after all, are only a tiny fragment of what lies below ground, and thus the best possible sample is needed.  I have created my own set-up, which mostly uses parts from a  JMC Environmentalist’s Sub-Soil Probe.  We have pulled cores more than 20 feet deep using this rig, and I can attest that the JMC probe is far tougher than you might imagine.   While my setup is not as substantial as a Geoprobe, it has its advantages, including lower purchase cost, lower maintenance costs, and super portability (and more exercise).  With an experienced crew, we move about 2/3rds as fast as a Geoprobe.   Driving the core is the easy part.  Getting it out is harder.  The method I am using relies on a Jin-pole, polypropylene rope, and a Prusik knot.   I learned this technique from Dr. Eduard Reinhardt, McMaster University.   [Before you rush out and build your own, be forewarned.  We are applying 200-500lbs of force (sometimes more) to extract the tube.  Figure in the angle on the Jin-pole, the pulley, and the winch, and you have more than enough power to make things go horribly, horribly wrong.]

Here is some video of the coring in Moorhead:

Driving the Core


Pulling the Core


View the Core


Oh, and what did we find in Moorhead? Nothing but Glacial Lake Agassiz. Good for news our client, a bit boring for the field crew.