National Geographic Young Explorers Grantee Andrés Ruzo is back in the field doing research to create the first geothermal map of northern Peru. Follow along as his collaborator and wife Sofia reports from the field about their ensuing adventures.
Since my last blog post, we have been in three entirely different terrains—the Andes, the desert, and the beach. Almost two weeks ago, we had an incredible experience hiking the Inca trail with Andrés’ family. Below is a short video montage of the photos Andrés and I took of our journey to Machu Picchu, which we invite you to watch:
I am currently writing from the airplane that is taking us to Lima, away from our “home” for over a year. This time, we said goodbye to our dear family and friends, the parrots, peacock, and cats, and even our 3 foot-tall friend with the Star of David tattoo on his nose with much emotion. We have completed our well-logging portion of the project, and so our time in Northern Peru has drawn to a close.
We leave Northern Peru having successfully logged 37 wells, and amassed data from hundreds more. We also leave with many new friendships and strong connections to the oil & gas companies in Northern Peru, some of which are pictured below, as they happily obliged us when we asked them to help us proudly fly the Peruvian and National Geographic flags where we logged their wells.
The next step of the study entails Andrés painstakingly analyzing every well log and complementary data at his lab in Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, Texas. It is a miracle that we were able to salvage the thermometer after the damage it underwent. Andres’ engineering of layer upon layer of Teflon, duct tape, and fishing line held steady, and we were able to log 6 more wells with the repaired thermometer. What makes it even more of a miracle is what we had to endure yesterday. As luck would have it, we had the most difficult well and the easiest well, both on our last day.
Everything was going smoothly at the first well as we lowered the thermometer 400 meters. Then we started pulling up. The key word is “started,” because that’s where we had to stop. Andrés began to crank, and the line’s weight was beyond manageable. Andrés told me with dread in his face and voice that it was heavy crude oil. This was the last thing we needed, especially after taking care of the thermometer like it was our baby. I thought it was over, that we would have to cut the line and lose the equipment. But Andrés was determined to do everything possible so as not to lose “El Muerto.” What followed was the most physically challenging, tense, and dangerous operation we’ve had to do yet.
Rather than read of the harrowing experience, you will actually be able to see it all, quite literally down to the wire (teaser: Andrés having to grab the line like a mule and pull until his body was at a 45 degree angle). This is because last week, we were happy to welcome the talented film crew of Cranemaker Pictures to Peru. Peter Koutsogeorgas, a National Geographic Young Explorer grantee and filmmaker, and his brother and business partner Basil will now be with us for the next month to film our adventures.
Yesterday, they captured our entire ordeal on film, as well as stepped in when we needed a hand and helped us pull the line out of the well. We were able to log another well that day, as the thermometer was in perfect working condition. As good luck would have it this time, it was the cleanest and easiest well we’ve had all season. So the last day was truly both “the best of times…[and] the worst of times.”
We are on the eve of our departure to the Amazonian jungle, where we will spend nearly a month gathering more data for the geothermal study. We will be without modern amenities, including electricity and running water, which also means we won’t have Internet. I am therefore temporarily saying goodbye to our dear blog readers until August 8th, when we return to Lima. I am in the midst of packing my duffel bag, as we can only take what we ourselves can carry, which is proving to be a bit of a challenge with all the bug spray I bought. Our Peruvian family succeeded in instilling the fear of God in me regarding the mosquitoes; therefore, if you see me in future pictures looking like a beekeeper, covered from head to toe and armed with Permethrin spray, please don’t be surprised. Notwithstanding the discomfort of our winged attackers, it is going to be an absolutely incredible experience, and I really cannot wait to bring back the stories and pictures of our month in the heart of the Amazonian jungle. Until then, I am toasting the eve of our departure with a big mug of coffee and my computer, enjoying the last few moments before I press “Publish” and close my laptop for the next month.