A long and risky trip!
Utrecht, May 27th. Good news! After months of preparations, packing, and bureaucratic efforts our instrumentation has touched down on Brazilian shores. While our measurements at the Brazilian Amazon Tall Tower Observatory (ATTO) won’t start for another two months, we cannot be certain that the instrumentation will reach there in time as it is not uncommon for import procedures to take months on end… Additionally, when customs finally release it, the bumpy and watery 7 hour trip from Manaus to ATTO could easily render one of our analyzers unusable.
In the last months we have been working intensively to test our instruments to get them ready for the harsh tropical rainforest conditions. Calibrations, weather proofing, and temperature control were the focus. We went as far as doing tests in the tropical greenhouse in the Botanic gardens of Utrecht University to see how the instruments would do. While we are happy with the results, we would have continued testing if it wasn’t for the looming obstacle of shipment. The horror stories of customs issues, theft and damaged equipment are widespread in the ATTO community and made us do our utmost to adhere to all rules and start this process early.
Piece by piece
“I thought I signed up for science… How ignorant I was… Who is ever going to read this?… why do they care?… why do I care?!” Just some thoughts crossing our mind while preparing painstakingly detailed documents on the contents of the shipment to Brazil. For every bag with a nut and a bolt we needed to measure the weight, make pictures, and find its unique (and often obscure) customs tariff number for the customs documents. While this might not sound too bad, it most certainly is when considering the total bulk we shipped was 6 pallets worth of 900+ kg of all kinds of items needed during the campaign. After various iterations with Brazilian and German collogues (who run the ATTO), the documentation and instrumentation was finally deemed ready. Now it was up to the transporter to book space on a cargo plane, up to the customs broker to put a price on the import, and up to us to wait.
After more than a month of the instrumentation being stationary in the basement of the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht (IMAU), it was a big relief when a truck came to pick it all up. Strikingly, this was only one week before the 27th of May when the instrument touched down in Brazil… In Dutch we have the expression “A good preparation is half of the work”. We found out that 4/5 is a better approximation!