Chapter 3

Staking the claim in Iran


McKenzie started fieldwork in Iran in the late sixties after a large earthquake in the northeast of the country. “We started working on the earthquake fault which had moved,” he recalls. “What we were trying to do was to put in steel stakes on either side of the big faults there and measure the movement because we knew in Iran that most of the movement was not seismic, it was by creep. It never came to anything.” One problem was that the local villagers were so poor that they would dig out the steel stakes; the team would return the following year to find 2-metre-deep pits in place of the stakes. The other problem was the Iranian Revolution taking hold in 1978. “After that we couldn’t work in Iran on the ground,” says McKenzie, “but James JacksonJames JacksonJames Jackson (1954-present) of the University of Cambridge works on active deformation of the continents, focusing on earthquake source seismology alongside geomorphology, space geodesy and remote sensing. He is interested in quantifying not only the deformation from individual fault ruptures but also in how individual earthquakes combine to produce the landscape of active tectonic regions. continued the project and worked with the Iranians; he did all the teleseismic stuff and they did the fieldwork.”

Photograph by Dan McKenzie, taken from 35mm slide, of a field project to install strain meters in qanats at Dasht-e-Piaz [Plain of Onions], c.200 km south of Mashad in north-east Iran. Image shows the field workers lowering a rope down the vertical shaft of a qanat to about 30m deep to access the horizontal tunnel at the base in which the strain meter was placed.
The study trip resulted in the paper: King, G C P and R G Bilham, J W Campbell, D McKenzie & M Niazi, “Detection of elastic strainfields caused by fault creep events in Iran”, Nature, 253: 420-423, (1975).