Saturday, May 26, 2012


Week three included mainly the installation of the bond beam cages and formwork which has taken some time, in part because a critical team member Allister has departed and headed back to the states. Along with the construction of the bond beam, Jim and Julie have been testing a submersible solar powered pump that will pull water from the 10m deep well to two 2500L-holding tanks.  Jim and Ethan are also working on a remote cellular amplification internet system designed by E-magine.

Due to a string of bad weather and rainfall our schedule is beginning to get a bit tight.  Heavy rains and thunderstorms have made the dirt road virtually impassable and our materials are a week behind schedule for delivery.  We are able to keep busy regardless of the rain but are in need of material to complete the water tower. 

Prior to my arrival to the Pantanal this year, I have been on the receiving end of bird feces two times.  I have been crapped on three times in the three weeks that I have been here; on the shoulder, wrist, and head.  I am also putting forth that on one of these incidents I was targeted by one of the world’s most endangered birds, the Hyacinth Macaw.

Jim and I have also taken time to do some work on the school by organizing wiring for the solar panel system, adjusting doors, and hanging plumbing fixtures.  

Currently we have our bond beam cages in place and the form work installed.  We are waiting on a material delivery to stub out rebar for a concrete ceiling slab and then we can pour the bond beam in one shot, leaving the ceiling to be formed and poured afterward.

Our set up consists of scaffolding to build and pour the bond beam with extensions that allow for continued stirrup and cage fabrication.

Here we are testing a remote internet signal amplification system.  In the weeks to come I will post the variety of technologies that are functioning on the site.  Still working on a couple of them.

Milton (instrumental in keeping us generally happy) and Julie cooking.  Also shown here is Celso who is our neighbor to the north and some maxixe (like a cucumber) picked from the garden he is standing in. 

The evening before our drive to Pocone to pick up Mercedes: Julie, Chris, and Allie picked fresh limes from a near by tree.  Julie made caipirinha's with the limes, sugar, and cachaca.  During our drive up the Transpantaniera Highway we encountered an old fashioned cattle drive which is common along this route.


During week two we installed all of the column formwork that was fabricated by Chris and Allister, while Jim, Alli, and Julie continued to assemble the cages for the bond beam.  By weeks end we poured all of the concrete columns, removed the formwork, and have begun to install the cages for the bond beams.  We have also dug a big hole to house a 5000L tank that will hold filtered water prior to pumping it up to elevated tanks that will then gravity feed the water to the lodge and school.  The filtration system is intended to remove much of the iron that is heavy in the existing water.  Testing for potable water within this system will begin in a couple of weeks.  Otherwise, a team of engineers is working on sustainable bio sand filtration systems. 

In 2010 I blogged a detailed description of the form build.  What follows is a more comprehensive detailing of the cage build.  

Rebar comes in 12m lengths.  A #4 equivalent will be used for bond beams and a #3 equivalent will be used for columns.

I found this piece of aluminum angle that we use with a simple jig to fabricate the stirrups that make the cage that reinforce the concrete columns and bond beams. Notches are cut in at two points as a pass through when fabricating the stirrups.  Two notches are needed because two dimensionally different stirrups are being fabricated.  One size for the column and a different size for the bond beam so they and intersect easily.

Stirrup fabrication is a production process.

The knot that ties the stirrup to the leg is critical for square and integrity while erecting the cage.

Chris assembling cages for bond beams.  This is a typical procedure, one which we were introduced to in 2010 for the school build.

Cage type that will be used for columns and bond beams.  Some engineering was established prior to our departure which governs some of the sizing and spacing of the cage build.
Although there are jaguars, tapers, cayman, otters, and ant eaters to name a few, it is the birds that I most enjoy in the Pantanal.


Upon arrival to Cuiaba we were a pack of 13 people who are trying to make our way somewhat deep into the Pantanal Wetlands.  This proved to be a challenge.  The Combie (VW bus) broke down on multiple occasions, including one incident when Ethan and I repaired a rear strut with the removable housing on a multi tip screwdriver.  We repaired the strut twice on our way to the site.  The dirt road and its bridges are in poor condition which makes the trek that much more destructive.

This year I have arrived a month earlier than in 2010 and it is a bit wetter with much more mosquitoes. A dry summer has left the area with water sources that have larger amounts of iron in it, turning it a brownish color.  It has become clear that the lodge, school, and house, have had little upkeep over the summer and now are showing the signs of this environment leaving them somewhat beat down.   

It is clear during week one that the build team is roaring and ready to go and by weeks end it is clear that this crew is competent as well.  We moved fast through the excavation, cage build and the form build and stood our cages by weeks end.

As has historically been the case some site conditions and decisions have arisen that have led us to choose a different site and program for the prospective water tower.  We will be design building on the fly with some schematic engineering notes that Julie worked up prior to our arrival. We are currently working on one water tower that houses two supply tanks that will receive water through a filtration system that includes, a settling tank, gravel + sand + charcoal filters, and a holding tank.  Water will be supplied from a near by well that is pumped up via solar power and will gravity feed through the system in two stages. To my dismay but not surprise my design will not be built and we will in turn focus on a simple quick build and give some more attention to the school/research facility that we constructed in 2010.
Once we arrived at the site of construction we got right to work.  Digging footings, metal work, and building reinforcing cages for the concrete columns. 

The Transpanteniera (dirt road) that leads to the site has many bridges, this one under construction.  Unusual rains have left the road impassable at times slowing the process of material and people transport.
Food consists largely of rice and beans and with the help of Milton, the cook/keeper of the lodge, there are often additional elements to round off the panteniero cuisine.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Day two entailed replacing two of the tires on the "Combi" - VW Bus (top) that PCER had purchased in 2011, a quick interview with Channel 7 (mid) news, and the bio-sand filtration team (bot) headed down the Transpantaniera to the initial site where we had build the school in 2010.  The "BUILD Team" hit the town and finished gathering materials necessary to construct the concrete structural frame and accomplished other miscellaneous tasks necessary to get this ball rolling.  We will be headed to the site tomorrow.  A fairly efficient beginning to the summers mission.

Day 1 + Transit was not without adventure.  The top image is prior to our first attempt at landing in Cuiaba, Br and the lower image is our final descent on the second try.  Upon our initial descent into Cuiaba it was clear to Chris and I that we were attempting a landing into fields of farmland.  We were very low and literally, 5 seconds after Chris said to me "it looks like we are landing into nothing" the plane jerked upward and aborted.  At that point we flew in a direction that was not a circle and seemed as if we were attempting our final descent at a totally different location.  But we are all here safe with most of our luggage and operating in Pocone,Br for the time being.