Status of EarthScope’s Transportable Array in Alaska

Monday, 15 December 2014
Katrin Hafner, Robert W Busby and Max Enders, IRIS Consortium, Washington, DC, United States
The EarthScope’s Transportable Array has completed its first year of operations in Alaska. The proposed station grid uses 85 km spacing & consists of ~290 locations in Alaska and Western Canada. About 60 of the grid locations will be at existing seismic stations operated by the AEC, AVO & ATWC and are being upgraded with shallow borehole installations or higher quality sensors as appropriate. About 10 new stations will be collocated with PBO GPS stations.

At the end of July 2014, 90% of the site reconnaissance has been completed, & 25 sites have been permitted with private landowners or the State of Alaska. 11 new TA stations have been installed, & 7 existing stations (AK network code) have been upgraded. Data from these stations is flowing to the Array Network Facility (ANF) and being archived at the IRIS DMC.

As the Transportable Array has moved to Alaska, IRIS has experimented with different portable drills and drilling techniques to create shallow holes (1-5 m deep, 15-20 cm in diameter) in permafrost and rock outcrops for seismometer installation. The goal of these new methods is to maintain or enhance a station’s noise performance while minimizing its footprint & the equipment, materials, and overall expense required for its construction. Motivating this approach are recent developments in posthole broadband seismometer design & the unique conditions for operating in Alaska, where most areas are only accessible by small plane or helicopter, & permafrost underlies much of the region.

IRIS contracted with a drilling specialist to create a prototype Transportable Drill (less than 1300 lbs with tooling) that is capable of augering to 5 m in unconsolidated materials and permafrost, downhole hammering to 2.5 m in bedrock with a steel casing following the bit and diamond coring in solid rock to 2 m. This drill has been successfully deployed by helicopter to create a hole 2.7 m deep and 15 cm diameter in bedrock. The auger mode was used successfully to install a station in permafrost in Barrow, Alaska, & the hammer mode was used in unconsolidated materials at various locations in central and eastern Alaska. A second drill with more emphasis on downhole hammering will be developed in the Fall 2014. This would allow the same drill/tooling to be deployed and used in a variety of geologic conditions anticipated to be encountered at the reconned sites.