Tuesday, October 7, 2008

For geologists, anything can be an adventure

It was raining at 7:50 am this morning in Houston.

That wouldn't have been a big deal, I guess, except that I'm at the Geological Society of America meeting, staying in a hotel that's a ten-minute walk from the convention center, and everyone else in the hotel was trying to get to the convention center at the same time.

Now, I'm a geologist. I'm not made of halite; I don't dissolve in water. And besides, for my PhD I had to walk uphill both ways through the snow rain for months, braving giant geologist-eating mosquitoes and reindeer that hid behind rocks and pretended to be bears. A little warm fall rain isn't going to stop me.

Except that I had my computer with me, and I didn't want to fry it. So I needed an alternate route.

I suppose I could have called a cab. But I'm a geologist. Cabs are for econ majors. And one of the other geologists mentioned that there was a tunnel system beneath Houston. So I (along with many other intrepid geologists) decided to check it out.

The tunnels connect buildings, and don't follow the streets in any obvious way. But there were maps, and it was fairly easy to see which end of the system was closest to the convention center. So off I went.

It all went pretty well until an intersection near the middle of the system, where there were three different routes that could possibly have worked. I followed some other geologists... and ended up out of the tunnel system. And the escalators that took me back down weren't working. After several tries (and some very nice help from Houstonians), I found the tunnel again. But by this time, I had lost my sense of direction, and took several wrong turns before I finally ended up at a mall about three blocks from the convention center. It took several tries to get out of the mall going in the correct direction (and it was still raining). But after half an hour of being lost underground, I'm finally here.

I wonder if I would have been better off if I had had my Brunton?


Jay Swan said...

Ha! Now you know why I carry a compass everywhere. :-)

kurt said...

A little Sylva compass would be a good idea to have in any unfamiliar city (they're light and you probably won't be measuring dip). Thanks for the tip - I'll put one in my travel kit today.

Working underground, the air flow can tell a geologist/miner a lot about direction because mines are designed that way for emergency evacuation purposes. That probably wouldn't help in your tunnels, though.

I like that you find adventure wherever you go. This is an admirable thing in my opinion! :-)

Elli said...

geesh, i just found a soil scientist with an umbrella who was nice enough to cover my poster on the walk between the light rail station and the convention center. i had no idea about the tunnels...