USGS uses video mapping system to study Turkey earthquake

USGS uses video mapping system to study Turkey earthquake

USGS geologist Joel Robinson hooks up Red Hen's video mapping system to a Micron Pentium II PC. The PC uses MapInfo's MapX to extract geological readings.

A team of researchers gets a firsthand look at the destruction left in the powerful quake's wake

By Frank Tiboni

GCN Staff

The Geological Survey used a video mapping system from Red Hen Systems of Fort Collins, Colo., to survey the destruction caused by the huge earthquake that rocked Turkey in August.

The Earthquake Hazards Team from USGS' Western regional headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., used Red Hen's VMS 200 to document ground ruptures, landslides, sand blows, and damage to buildings and infrastructure, said Joel Robinson, a USGS geologist from the Menlo Park office.

'We sent a team over there because of the large impact the earthquake had on a lot of people,' Robinson said. 'The fault line in Turkey is similar to San Andreas in length, and we thought we could learning something from it.'

The Aug. 17 earthquake, centered in Izmit about 55 miles east-southeast of Istanbul and about 165 miles west-northwest of Ankara, Turkey's capital, registered 7.4 on the Richter scale. The quake is believed to have killed more than 15,000 people.

Three days after the earthquake, USGS decided to send over the team, which consisted of three geologists and one seismic engineer. Within five days, the team was on a flight to Turkey to film the devastation and to take readings, Robinson said.

'The main goal is to look at where the buildings were most destroyed, the destruction around and away from the fault, and where the fault might have taken place,' Robinson said. 'VMS 200 creates an historic record for us.'

VMS 200 consists of a Global Positioning System receiver from Motorola Inc. that connects to a video camera from Sony Corp. of America of Park Ridge, N.J. As the team films the field, the system tracks the exact location of the destruction and takes readings, which are recorded on the audio track of the videotape, Robinson said.

After 10 days in Turkey, the team returned with a case full of videotapes primarily focusing on where the earthquake caused ruptures in the Earth's surface and building collapses. At Menlo Park, geologists hooked up VMS to a Vetix XLI Pentium II PC from Micron Electronics Inc. of Nampa, Idaho, he said.

To extract the readings, the Micron XLI running Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 uses MapX from MapInfo Corp. of Troy, N.Y., to generate a map. As the videotape plays, MapX built from ActiveX controls reads off the latitude and longitude points, and places points to create a map of the survey area, said John McCarthy, MapInfo's public-sector sales manager.

MapX, a customizable application, is used in many products, the most prominent being Excel, McCarthy said.

Menlo Park has not finished processing the videotapes, so it does not yet have any details on the earthquake. The agency is also evaluating how VMS 200 performed, Robinson said.

It is not uncommon for USGS to send teams out of the country to study earthquakes.

Last year, the agency sent a team to Armenia to record the devastation of the earthquake there, he said.


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