The Lusaka Leg

Operations base in Lusaka, Zambia

Flight planning at the operations base in Lusaka, Zambia

The final swamp survey of the campaign has just landed, so I thought this would be a good time for an update on our work here in Zambia. Since arriving on Wednesday we’ve conducted three flights over three different wetland areas, with each of them providing a rich, complex dataset for us all to get our teeth into when we get home. The Kafue river floodplain and the Bangweulu and Lukanga swamps all exhibited the telltale signs of strong methane emitters, with large concentrations enhancements observed during each flight. This large signal should make Rebecca’s life easier when determining source isotopic signatures (see “Meanwhile, back in the lab”), and we have started putting our heads together to determine the best ways of calculating how much methane each source area emits. While we won’t get into the nitty-gritty of the data analysis until we return, sitting together in the bar after a flight provides a great opportunity to foment some ideas.

The Bangweulu sortie was particularly special for me, as it was my first flight up in the jump seat as mission scientist 1. At first it seems like a daunting task, choosing where and at what height to fly in order to get the most out of the time available. However, with sage advice from veteran mission scientists beforehand, patience from the pilots, and help and encouragement from the rest of the team down the back, all went smoothly. Having surveyed the swamp, we flew back along a rift valley, hugging as close to the side wall as we could, looking for any sign of geological emissions. The data from this will need picking over in more detail before conclusions can be drawn, but from a scenery perspective this has to take top spot among flights I have ever been on. Looking up at the Muchinga Mountains from 1500 ft above the valley floor was a breathtaking sight for which I feel very privileged.

That leads me on to a topic that’s been covered many times in these blogs before, but now we’ve reached the end of the campaign I feel it bears repeating. These detachments are hard work, but the early starts and the weeks spent away from home don’t seem a hardship when you’re part of such a close team. As I write this we’re sitting out on the terrace with a Mosi in hand (other Zambia lagers are presumably available…) with impala wandering by, and I can reflect on friendships made and renewed. I’d completely echo Michelle’s earlier post – the rambling late night discussions, debates and arguments have been second to none, and I’ll certainly miss them when we leave. I’m looking forward to being home, but I’m looking forward to the next one too…

Farewell, and thanks for all the methane - Zwamps team

Farewell, and thanks for all the methane – Zwamps team