Seismic Station History

The plans for the Loras College seismic station started in 1961 as part of a government program called VELA uniform. VELA uniform was started in 1959 as a result of President Eisenhower creating a panel on seismic improvement.  The panel was to develop a method to monitor nuclear activity to make sure that the nuclear ban treaty was not broken. VELA uniform was program of research and development directed by the Department of Defense. The goal of the program was to increase industrial and university research to increase the sophistication of seismology.  This research and funding from the VELA uniform project resulted in the creation the World Wide Network of Standardized Seismograph Stations (WWSSN). (“Seismograph”).

St. Louis University received a contract to set up a network of four seismic stations in the central United States.  Loras College, in Dubuque, Iowa was chosen as a site along with sites in Bloomington, Indiana, Rolla, Missouri and Manhattan, Kansas. Dubuque was chosen because there was a bedrock formation close to the surface and removed from heavy traffic.  The location, the north edge of the Loras College campus, was selected in 1961.  Construction, by Conlon Construction Company began on March 6, 1961 and the station began operation on July 3, 1961. (“Seismograph”)

From July of 1961 until September of 1966 records from the station were forwarded on to St. Louis University.  During this time the Loras station recorded the Alaskan earthquake of 1964. (Hughes) The forwarding of records was stopped in 1966 when the contact with the US government and St. Louis University was terminated. At this point the ownership of the station was transferred from St. Louis University to Loras College. (McCarron)

From 1966 until 1978 the Loras College physics department operated and maintained the station, while forwarding data to the National Earthquake Information Service of the Department of Interior. For economic reasons in 1977 the use of the short Wood-Anderson short period seismometers was discontinued. (Status)  In 1978, the department made a proposal to the college to convert from photographic recording instruments to a pen and ink recorder. This conversion would have significantly reduced operating costs and allowed for direct read of data instead of waiting for photo development of the records. The Budget Committee gave tentative approval of the proposal to modernize the station. However, no improvements were ever made because no assistance was available from St. Louis University to help make the changes and no one at Loras College had the proper training or background. (Kopp)

The station remained dormant except for a few tours to local high school students and the Loras College astronomy classes, until 1983 when a student refurbished the station for a thesis project. (Kopp) Since, then no work has been done on the station.


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