As the OSL is perched right next to the St. Anthony Falls, we occasionally get a fair amount of spray blowing in.
When it is hot out, this is great. But when it’s cold and windy, it can become tiresome . This past Friday fit into the latter category–we spent the whole day trying to figure out if it was finally raining, or if it was just misting in a downwards direction. But that was okay, because we did a few cool things to make up for (or perhaps in spite of) the weather.
Firstly, we did our first survey. They have some awesome, expensive equipment at the lab for doing all sorts of things. We were instructed in the use of a Total Station, which is basically a hyper-accurate level/compass/protractor/distance-measurer. First, you have to take it out of its waterproof, impact-resistant fluorescent orange case and mount it on a tripod. Or, in our case, a large metal column that has been stuck in the ground for precisely this purpose (which is supposed to be easier to use than a tripod, which has more potential to move).
Once you’ve screwed the Total Station in, you need to level it. This is a pain in the ass. There are three different (for lack of a better word, or perhaps indeed just because I like making it confusing for you) “levels” of levelling. First, you have a simple bubble level, with a circle you want the bubble to reside in. This is when you’re still adjusting the legs of the tripod. Next, you move on to another bubble-level, this one being parallel to the ground. You need to go around and check that the bubble sits in the middle while the rotating Total Station is in each of the six vertices of a hexagon. Finally, you begin the most frustrating process of them all. There is an internal level that you must once more check in 6 rotated states of the Total Station. In order to make adjustments, one twiddles the EXTREMELY sensitive dials that control the elevation of each of the three supports of the Total Station (not on the tripod, but part of the machine itself, made for these such adjustments). Of course, whenever you get one of the six perfect, the other five are completely off. Or, perhaps even worse, all of them are perfectly leveled except for the last stubborn point.
Eventually once you get that more or less sorted out, you get to do the actual surveying. This involves wielding what resembles a magic staff–it even has a crystal attached to the top! Okay, so it’s not a “crystal”, it’s an incredibly expensive prism. But it still feels vaguely… wand-like. Then, you stand in the stream (or wherever you’re surveying) and do your absolute best to hold another small little bubble in the center of a tiny wee circle, all while your friend is manning the Total Station, shooting lasers at you (to bounce off the prism, and thus record a precise measurement of the exact position of the bottom of the wand).
Neat system. Also, the optics have INCREDIBLE magnification. Afterwards we pointed it at the Stonearch Bridge (probably 800m away) and could see kids on a field trip spitting off the bridge. Pretty awesome.