Transition to Engineer

U.C. Berkeley Years (1976-82)

From Sept ’76 to May ’82 I was enrolled in graduate study of geological and geotechnical engineering at U.C. Berkeley.  This is a picture of Davis Hall, home to Berkeley’s civil engineering program, of which I was delighted to be a part.  My desk was at the extreme left end of the group of large arches, with a terrific view.

My graduate office looked out on this Berkeley landmark, the 309 feet high Sather Bell Tower, affectionately known as “The Campanile,”after it’s prototype structure in Venice.

Granola Boy: During my first year of grad school I was a teaching assistant, based in 480 Davis Hall. This photo shows me in typical Berkeley “garb” of that era: wire rim glasses, scraggly beard, super-size European style coffee mug, and lots of colorful posters adorning my office walls.

I had this paper plate attached to my desk while I was a teaching assistant at Berkeley.  We had about 95 graduate students in geotechnical and geological engineering, drawn from all over the world.  The students called me the “rock doctor,”and the name stuck.

On June 6, 1976 the Teton Dam near Rexburg, Idaho failed during its initial filling.  At 350 feet high, it was the highest dam to ever fail catastrophically,
and the damages reached $1 billion.  Berkeley Professor H. Bolton Seed was appointed to the Independent Panel to investigate the failure.

Professor Seed engaged me to study the construction records and the geologic conditions of the Teton Dam abutments, where the seepage failure had initiated.  This is what the dam looked like when I first saw it as a graduate student.  The Bureau of Reclamation had a series of exploratory excavations made to evaluate the foundation conditions and embankment quality.

This is the massive left abutment excavation, completed about 1-1/2 years after the failure.  Wind blown loess had been used as the basic fill material, with a sloping subdrain comprised of river cobbles and gravel, seen here as the prominent diagonal gray wedge.  There was no intermediate filter between the cobble subdrain and the loess.

This view shows the remnants of the right abutment, with most of the keyway notch eroded during the failure. The coarse open fractures in the rhyolite tuff were a shock to everyone associated with the forensic evaluations because no filter or barrier had been placed between the loess core and the open fissures, some of which were as much as 4 inches wide.

Detail of the right abutment, showing the zone where the failure was believed to have initiated, via hydraulic piping of fine-grained embankment material through the open fissures of the right abutment keyway, between elevations 5190 and 5230 feet.

During grad school I also measured creep of natural slopes and landslides as part of a research project funded by the U.S. Geological Survey.  One of the sites I monitored was along Colorado Route 133 across the Muddy Creek Landslide, upstream of Paonia Reservoir.  My creepmeter array consisted of LVDT’s attached to INVAR wires andconnected in series, from the toe of the landslide uphill to the highway.

In the summer of 1978 I led a research trip down the Colorado River through the the Grand Canyon, studying masive rock topples.  This view shows me rowing Joe Munroe’s Green River raft, one of the first rigs marketed specifically for whitewater rafting, around 1965.  It employed 16-inch diameter tubes, which meant a lot of bailing. I purchased it from Joe shortly after the '78 trip and used it for many years thereafter.

Each summer the geological engineering group at Berkeley took an extended field trip around some part of the United States to view geologic problems and situations.  I led our June 1979 trip, which included exploring the side canyons of Lake Powell, like Cathedral Canyon, shown here.  Partly because of my experiences at the Teton dam site, I beca,me increasingly fascinated by the impact of secondary joints on slope morphology. This became the subject of my PhD dissertation.

During our June '79 trip everyone got a chance to do some waterskiing on Lake Powell.  This view shows me whizzing along on our way back to Wahweep Marina. With 3,000 miles of shoreline and lots of slack water, you can't beat the water skiing on Lake Powell. In those days I was still running and lifting weights.

My working desk between 1977-81 at the west end of 434D Davis Hall at
U.C. Berkeley.  This photo was taken around February 1980.  Note the bottle
of Mylanta antacid on my desk, a staple portion of my regular diet during
the rigors of grad school.

This is a picture of the upper quarry at Lime Mountain Mine near Paso Robles, CA.  Between 1979-81 they kept me employed with a series of consultations that helped grubstake my graduate education.  By God's grace, I never took out a loan during 10 years of college.

I did all my own work at Lime Mountain, including the necessary surveying with this old K&E transit.  Mapping of the quarry faces had to be carried out while rappelling.  The mine pits got very warm during the summer, and I pot pretty sunburnt.

During the 1980-81 academic year we gathered graduate students, faculty and staff of the geotechnical engineering group at Berkeley on the steps of Davis Hall.  I am at extreme right in second row, wearing the yellow shirt.  I was writing my PhD dissertation at the time and working full time to support myself and my daughter.

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