David Davies: underground explosions in the Fens

David Davies tells story of seismology project in the Fens involving underground explosions, in the mid 1960s.

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When I started to get involved in 1965, I suppose it was, we resurrected equipment that had last been used in the 1930s and we used to go out with the students and with this record – rather basic recording equipment and a few geophones as they were called, which we stuck in the ground and with some explosives and augers to drill holes with. And we’d walk, it was very good exercise for the students and for me drilling, you drill a row of holes 100 metres apart and these geophones would be a further 100 metres apart. And you’d drill a hole to a depth of about a metre or two and put some explosive – a little bit explosive down with a detonator and then switch on the recording camera and fire and that was – students loved this because there was – because you could see the ground would go – just rise up slightly and then you see these instruments jiggle away like that. And we did quite a lot of work in East Anglia because it was flat and easy to work with and we did in – in the Fen Country quite a lot of our fieldwork was done. And we – and one day we were working near Warboys in the – in the – in Huntingdonshire and I’d got permission from a farmer, you always had to ask the farmer whether you could work on his land and usually they were quite amused by it. And at the last minute there was a problem and we had to move the instruments off his land and onto the verge by the side of the road. And so we moved the whole lot, the explosives and down – long long straight road as they are in the Fens, we fired the line and all that. But as we were doing it a chap came up, and asked us what we were doing and we said we were – where we were from, we were from Cambridge and we’re doing these – these – testing, looking at the underground structure and we fired and went back. And a few days later I was having dinner in college and the senior tutor said to me, he said, ‘There’s some funny goings on, must have been our boat club or something, did some very odd things, they went out to the – they seemed to go out to somewhere in the Fens and destroyed some water mains,’ oh my goodness me [laughs]. And he had immediately assumed because it was the sort of time when boat clubs did wild things that they’d gone out and done – and I had to sort of admit that it – we had seemed to have just hit the water main all the way along this road [laughs]. Normally we were so careful about it, we changed at the last minute and our rotten luck that we hit the water main all the way down and the water board had to replace the water main [both laugh]. Anyway there was that kind of sort of, I don’t know, fun, it was fun until things went wrong, fresh open air fun of seismology on the small scale.

  • Interviewee David Davies
  • Duration 00:03:00
  • Copyright British Library Board
  • Interviewer Paul Merchant
  • Date of interview 12/29/2011
  • Shelfmark C1379/60
  • Keywords

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