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Video Camera Scans Innards of Old Faithful

August 20, 1995| from Associated Press

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. — Fluctuations in the temperature of water seeping into the conduit of Old Faithful could be responsible for the changing intervals of the geyser's eruptions, a geologist said.

In the first video probe of the park's best known thermal feature, Susan Kieffer, head of geological sciences at the University of British Columbia, recently lowered a specially designed video camera about 45 feet into the geyser's conduit.

A relatively cool flow of water into the conduit 24 feet below the surface may come from high-level ground water, she wrote in the latest edition of Yellowstone Science, a publication of scientists conducting research in the Yellowstone area.

Kieffer, who began studying Old Faithful nearly 20 years ago as an assistant geology professor at UCLA, said despite seismic monitoring of the geyser in the late 1970s and early 1980s, underground activity remained a mystery.

In 1983, she teamed up with planetary scientist Jim Westphal of the California Institute of Technology to build a probe to measure temperature and pressure in the geyser's conduit during the period between eruptions.

When Westphal was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1991, he decided to take advantage of miniature video cameras in hopes of learning more about how Old Faithful works.

He helped design and build a vacuum-insulated, ice-cooled probe that contained a 2-inch video camera. Two versions of the camera have been lowered into the geyser. Both carried temperature sensors and equipment to relay the information to the surface.

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