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Field trip continued...

During the 18 day trip the group explored in detail, 7 large landslides and countless rockfall hazard zones complete with a variety of engineered hazard mitigation measures. One of the landslides explored in detail was the site of the 1963 Vaiont Dam disaster, the most deadly dam-related catastrophe in European history (2000 fatalities). The tour included 10 dam sites, 1 nuclear waste storage research laboratory and an underground iron mine that has been operating for over 2000 years. The team investigated seven active alpine tunnel construction sites including a number of tunnel boring machines as well as over a hundred completed tunnels and an equivalent suite of bridges, all in challenging geological terrain. One visit included a full tour (inside and out) of the World’s largest tunnel boring machine to date – a 15.7m diameter (five stories high) monster machine at Sparvo, Italy, as it was being prepared to cut into the mountain to create a multilane highway tunnel. The Queen’s graduate students are the only academic group to visit the machine during assembly – a once in a career opportunity.

A full day was spent exploring the Carrara Marble Quarry in Italy – a massive operation that has been supplying marble to the world since Roman times and the source of the block from which Michelangelo’s David was carved. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was the site of a discussion on solid stability and foundation design while the sinking city of Venice provided the opportunity to explore one of Europe’s critical engineering challenges – saving the magnificent island city from the sea. Along the way the group crossed eighteen high alpine passes, visited four castle fortresses and explored the full extent of the Alps and the geology within. The trip culminated in a visit to the Herrenknecht Tunnel Boring Machine Factory where the team was able to observe dozens of complex tunnel machines in various stages of construction.

The trip will serve as a cornerstone for the student’s practical education as they complete their research here at Queen’s and move on to industry or institutional careers in the future. This trip could not have taken place without the assistance of the Queen's Geology Field Trip Fund and the assistance of the following organizations and individuals: NAGRA, Herrenknecht, AlpTransit, Consorzio d’Ingegneri ITC-ITECSA, Gonzen Mine, Consorzia Galleria Roveredo, KWO, Condotte, ETHZ, Nant de Drance Power Project. In addition there are dozens of individuals in Europe who worked with the group to coordinate and to supervise our numerous technical visits during the two weeks. For more information see the NEWS item on the department home page at www.geol.queensu.ca.
 or directly here at http://www.geol.queensu.ca/fieldschoolfiles/gradgeomechtrip2011/

By Mark Diederichs and Jean Hutchinson

FIGURE 1:  The Queen’s Geological Engineering students visiting the largest tunnel boring machine ever built (15.7m diameter) in Sparvo, Italy.
FIGURE 2: Queen’s graduate students exploring the Vaiont Dam (lower right) and landslide (mountain behind the dam), site of a 1963 catastrophe in north-eastern Italy.
FIGURE 3: Queen’s students under the Alps in a 10m tunnel (with tunnel boring machine) being constructed at Nant de Drance (Switzerland) for hydropower.


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