The Mother of All Seismometers

Last week Richard and I traveled to Martinique for a meeting of a Caribbean seismic and tsunami monitoring group (the CARIBE-EWS WG1). The planning meeting was led by Jean-Marie Saurel of the Martinique Volcano Observatory (OVSM). After the meeting Jean-Marie invited us to visit the observatory. And what a site to behold! Perched high on a hill the observatory rises like a Castle with an un-obstructed 180 degree view of Montagne Pelée volcano.

The Castle:



And the view:

The view from OVSM

The view from OVSM

During our visit, Jean-Marie showed us the new graphical user interfaces the observatory has designed for SeisComP (the next release is going to be amazing). Afterwords, he led us through a short passageway that opened into an enormous Silo. To my surprise, this silo turned out to be an multi-story seismic vault designed to accommodate a massive 21 ton seismometer! The smile that set in once I had gotten my bearings and realized what I was looking at has not yet faded.

The Quervain-Piccard mechanical 3-component seismograph

The Quervain-Piccard mechanical 3-component seismograph

Named for its designers, Alfred de Quervain and Piccard, the Quervain-Piccard seismometer is mammoth. As my eyes and mind bounced around with excitement inside the cavernous space, Jean-Marie proceeded to give us a walking tour of the seismometer. My eyes bulged as they followed four springs almost as long as a grown man is tall, down to a stack of 220 plates each weighing in at 75-90 kg for a cumulative weight of 21 tons.

de Quervain, a Swiss geophysicist, pioneered this seismograph in the early 20th century when the first of Ford’s Model T were coming off the production line. The first of its kind, this 3-component seismograph used a force-feedback system to compensate mass movement.

Richard and I are working on the SeedLink plugin…

See more at What’s Inside the Quervain-Piccard Seismograph


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