Leaving Botos

We had our final day at Lake Botos today. Many deployments with various levels of success in dive missions. Weather was fantastic this morning and finally the fog set back in.

2014-03-22 08.59.36The fog’s coming coincided with our time to pack up. The hike out is steep, but through a quiet, cool, and misty rain forest.

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2014-03-22 15.44.03Nick was lucky enough to get to carry the AUV back to our ride.

2014-03-22 15.29.53All in all another good day in CR. Our team is shown below (without Carlos who took the picture), packing up for the day.

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Another day at Botos Lake

It was another work day at Botos volcanic lake. An early departure got us deploying the AUV for several dive missions. After several minutes of ballasting, the AUV was off and running. A highlight of the day was seeing the sun. We finally saw all of Botos lake in its entirety, (without the clouds).

2014-03-21 16.08.26Nick and Emily spent a little too much time following the AUV around and making bad jokes…

2014-03-21 15.50.16Emily did some great work later launching and piloting our small ROV. The picture below shows her at the helm, using a joystick and video feedback to explore the area. Our host Carlos was very interested and was looking for CO2 sources at the lake’s bottom.

2014-03-21 11.12.52Here is her perfect landing at the beach.

2014-03-21 11.16.52The sun also afforded us some views of the main crater of Poas Volcano. Clearly it is still active.

2014-03-21 16.24.55After a long day of data collection. We walked back to our current residence (the national park’s ranger station). We caught the sunset and the stars. A great day.

First Data Processed

Yesterday proved to be successful for the students. Their hard work is paying off and the AUV missions all went well. See Nick programming the AUV in the picture below.

2014-03-20 13.52.24Akhil and Emily also pitched in. Emily is hiding from the rain while programming (under my blue jacket) in image below.

2014-03-20 09.55.32Despite some poor ballasting of the AUV (due to the addition of an extra video camera), the AUV gathered enough altimeter data to yield a bathymatry map.

firstbathIn this figure, the black line at the top illustrates the AUV path. The colored mesh displays the bathymetry of Botos Lake obtained by fusing altimeter measurements with an ad-hoc Kalman Filter.

Into the mist and amidst the kraken

Today was the first time we have deployed the IVER in a Volcanic lake! We started the day with a great breakfast courtesy of the rangers.  After getting a ride to the trailhead we grabbed all of our gear and headed to the lake. Once we got to the lake we were greeted with a wall of mist.

photo 3

photo 1

We quickly unpacked the IVER and started some basic surface missions to insure that the IVER was working correctly. Then we mounted a GoPro to the top of the IVER and sent it off on a mission designed to calculate the depth at various parts of the lake.

Akhil and Nick went out in the rowboat to follow the IVER, but it was too fast, so it quickly disappeared from their view. All they could see was water and fog, and all they could hear was the distant sound of the motor which they dubbed the “kraken”. After a few encounters with the “kraken” and a round about route, Nick and Akhil returned safely and soon after the Iver appeared as well. Here is some video taken from the AUV:


We then had to pack up all of the equitment and hike out.  Just as we got into the car to leave, all of the  fog went away, and we saw the sun for the first time. We decided to hike back up and look at the main crater for the first time.


Journey to the Poas Volcano

Yo everyone.

I’m supposed to write this blog about our journey from the Arenal Volcanic Lake to Poas. But before I give you a captivating account of our journey, I want you guys to see this.


That’s Emily hard at work with the Harry Potter audio book blasting through those ear phones. I would put up pictures of Emily ‘working’ on the hammock as well, but I’m confident that this is sufficiently embarrassing for Emily.

Now that I have gotten back (kind of, although not really) at Emily for uploading the picture of me stuck in the zip line, I can tell you about our journey to Poas.

A couple of weeks ago, I had posted about the biggest and most violent active volcano in Costa Roca. That was Poas. Therefore, while we were sad to leave the all the fun at Arenal, we were excited to visit and sample Lake Botos of the Poas Volcano.

The way up to Poas was beautiful. The following picture of a waterfall that we saw on our way does some justice to how nice the journey was:


After we got to Poas, we discovered that we are going to be spending the rest of our days here with rangers. They extended a super warm welcome to all of us as we entered their home with robotic torpedoes and broken Spanish.

And for all that wonderful hospitality (not to mention the wonderful Costa Rican food), we did not take long to turn their neat and clean home into our wretchedly messy lab:


We spent the rest of the night giving some final touches to our new pH and CO2 sensors. We also fixed some of the damages that our robot saw on its way from Claremont.

Its midnight here now, and we have to wake up at 6 am to go to Lake Botos. However, I doubt my ability to sleep well tonight as nervousness about using the sensors that we have been working so hard on builds up over night.

Signing off!

Adventure Day!!


Oh my goodness! Today was amazing! This time we did a tourist track adventure. I was able to convince the group to do “combo number 4” which was canopy and canyoneering. However, Don and Prof Clark pooped out on us and stayed behind. After an 8:30am breakfast, we meet at the reception area to take a bus over to the canopy. Canopy is better known as zip lining or in this case, zip lining through the rainforest.

We took a peak in the center’s poison frog garden (like a butterfly garden) and saw an amazing painted frog. We’ll have to ask Prof Clark’s son what species it is!

The poison frog we found in the frog garden. Look at those colors!

The zip lining was so cool. We went on the seven cable track. For the first line, Nick and Akhil were both pressing down with their back hand too much in the beginning which slowed them down a decent amount. Nick ended up having to pull himself in about 10 feet which isn’t that bad. However, Akhil stopped halfway. We were trying to shoot at him to have him pull himself in but he apparently couldn’t hear us. The guide ended up going out and towing him in to the dock. It was hilarious. 🙂

On our way up the mountain!
Akhil and Nick anxiously waiting to go down the first zip line.
Akhil stuck out in the middle of the cable.
Akhil getting towed back to land by the guide.

After that excitement, it was a much more smooth adventure. The views were amazing. Although, Nick claims we were going too fast to really enjoy them. My favorite line was the one where we just let go of the line and coasted through the forest. I just got to lean back and enjoy the ride. Akhil liked the fast ones because he didn’t have to worry about not making it to the end.  😀

Akhil successfully zipping in to land.
The view around one of the zip tracks.

After the zip lining, we scampered over to the canyoneering. Yet again the ambiguous name hides a really cool extreme adventure. Canyoneering is, in this case, rappelling down a water fall. Yup. That’s right. We headed into the forest and rappelled down two dry areas and two wet ones. The hike between the rappels was almost as much fun as the actual rappel. We had to climb over boulders and jump and wade through creeks. At one point they had us actually cannonball into a water hole that was at least seven feet deep!

Nick coming up from the water hole.
Emily landing after the second rappel.
Akhil making his way down the second rappel.

At the second rappel, I began it well and was actually jump rappelling. It was great. Until I missed the ground and tried to go for the wall but it had disappeared. There was a jut out in front of the wall near my feet. As you might have guessed, I face planted into the wall of the cliff. Sigh. I was fine though! I didn’t even drop my cable! I made it back down in one piece with only a little scrape on my leg. And boy, was it an adventure!

Nick heading down the second rappel.
Emily zipping down the last line.
Akhil after his successful second rappel.

Once we got back to the canyoneering starting point, we were given the option of jumping into a quick rinse off shower, handed a warm, dry towel, and herded up the stairs to food. They had a slideshow going of our photos already and served us a buffet of rice, beans, pineapple, and a few others that I don’t know what to call them but they were good!

They drove us back to the hotel where we worked on sensors until dinner. We ended up going into the “village” and got pizza of all things. Then we shopped around for a little bit. The boys bought a few souvenirs and I got myself a magnet for my collection. Finally, we came back for more sensor work of course. The Ph sensor is almost working and the CO2 sensor is good to go!

All in all, today was an awesome day! We zip lined through a rainforest, rappelled down a waterfall, and shopped in the village. I’m happy!

See ya next time!


The Most Beautiful Spot in Costa Rica


Today was such a great day! We went on a hike and found the most beautiful spot in Costa Rica.

The morning began bright and early at 7am. We had breakfast at the lodge and hopped into the car to head to the base of the volcano we would be hiking up. Just before jumping into the car we found our first lizard of the day! It was bright green and Prof Clark was able to grab it to get a better look.

This is where we initially found the lizard.
Can you find the lizard on the tree?
Can you find the lizard on the tree?
Prof Clark holding the lizard.

The hike was a two kilometer trek with a lake at the end. Unfortunately it was steeply uphill the entire way, but we all made it. Along the way, we found three lizards, one butterfly, one frog, and one giant spider. That we got pictures of that is. 🙂

Lizard number one found by Prof Clark on the way up.
Butterfly found by Emily and Nick on the way up.
Frog found by Nick on the way up.
Basilisk found by Prof Clark on the way down.
Big spider found by Don on the way down. Can you spot it?
Lizard found by Nick on the way down. Look closely.

After the two hour hike to the top, we stopped by the viewing area to take a look the volcano. It was stunning.

The view of the volcano from the top of the other volcano.

Next, we descended the last hundred meters to reach the Green Lake. It lived up to its name! It was definitely green and cold. We had all either brought or wore our suites so we went for a quick swim. Nick and Prof Clark actually swam across the entire lake. It was decently impressive, at least to me.

The Green Lake

It was all downhill from there! However, there were still some spectacular views.

The view from just outside of the forest looking out.
The view from just outside of the forest looking at the way up.

Luckily food was not far from the end of the trail. We ate lunch at the hotel where we got more than we thought we ordered. For example, Don thought he was just ordering a drink for himself when, apparently, he had ordered it for the whole table. Plantains, limes, and ice cream magically appeared, too! It was great and very much needed. We were able to hop in the hotel  pool before heading back to work on sensors.

Sensor work was the same as usual. We got the Ph sensor working by rewiring and fixing the soldering on the PCB. The CO2 sensor got its final connections epoxed after all other options were explored.

After some good quality sensor work, we skipped out to head to dinner and to follow Don to a free hot spring. The hot spring was a bit off the beaten track and under a cement bridge that was obviously not meant for tourist eyes. However, the water was beautiful! It was so warm and the current was so much fun. It almost pulled me down stream multiple times! It is so hard to describe just how beautiful this spot was. After the freezing cold Green Lake, the steaming hot spring was incredible.

Akhil and Prof Clark in the hot spring.
Nick and Prof Clark in the hot spring.
All of us in the hot spring falling over. 🙂

Today was incredible! There is no doubt. Akhil went on his first hike and we got to relax in the steaming hot spring. Can’t wait for another day!