04 May 2008

What happens when you take 16 computer programmers to the field?

This was the question that somewhat concerned me prior to last week...

About six months ago, in a small mountain hotel in the French Maritime Alps, under the influence of a few glass of wine, I had offered my friend Petter, that I would take all his staff from the Norwegian Computer Centre to Utah for a field course. It seemed like a good idea at the time and since these guys write a lot of code and algorithms for working with geological data I figured they need to see some real rocks.

Petter has pointed out, quite correctly, that, in the intervening months he gave me several chance to back out, but truth be known, I was very happy to take them, they are a nice bunch and I am always keen to run trips out here. I was however very intrigued to see how they would get on, given that several of them don’t get outside much and exercise is something they do with their thumbs.

They arrived and I meet them in Salt Lake airport. Only one set of missing baggage, which by KLM’s normal standards is a major success. We spent the first morning in the Salt Lake valley and then drove to Price, doing all the usual stops. Lots of interest, especially in the fluvial stuff, so I was very encouraged.

Day 2 was in Woodside Canyon which is always one of my favorite stops. Spent the day trekking through shoreface and estuarine successions and they seemed to enjoy themselves. That evening things took a turn for the more bizaare when we headed to Green River and the famous Ray’s Tavern.

There was a storm coming in and huge dust clouds were gusting through the town. Under these sort of conditions Green River has a somewhat post-apocalyptic feel to it, like the set of a Mad Max movie. Some of our computer friends look a bit disheveled and it defiantly added to the feeling that the day of judgment was maybe just around the corner.

Then while in Rays the power went out and it took a while to persuade the staff there that they should bar-b-q some food for us, otherwise we would starve. Maybe seeing the hungry-norwegian/zombie look in some of the eyes persuaded them that this was a good plan. So they cooked us up some burgers and all was well

Next day at Bartlett, then Arches and finishing up at Dead Horse point, the weather wasn’t so great but the guys were in full swing and loving it. Increased the tempo even more with a trip to southern Canyonlands in 5 jeeps. None of the guys had ever done any driving like that before and although I had warned them, Elephant Hill blew them away. They quickly got the hang though and a great, if very cold day was had by all. The only downside was a total arsehole leading a ridiculous convoy of about 25 vehicles who took exception to us stopping to look at the geology and one busted wheel rim, thanks to Petter’s driving skills. As the guys pointed out, at least it was the boss that did the damage.

That evening meet up with Chris Edwards, an ex PhD student one mine who was running an Exxon trip. Had meet him in Price and we had shadowed each other to Moab. He was out in the Rio with his group and they were partying big time on the karaoke! I have seen the future of Exxon and its is questionable! Good night though.

Final day, and I had saved the best til last. Rafting trip down Westwater Cayon with my old friends from Crate. They did us proud. Good geology and the rapids were just the right size to be fun but not to scary. Everyone was very happy.

All in all that had a good trip and where a fun group to be with. And my stomach held up – which was a bonus!

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