Saturday, March 26, 2011


After completing the three sites by the Tas Silg temple, we still had some extra time before our van was scheduled to come pick us up so we took the opportunity to walk down to the nearby fishing village of Marsaxlokk. It is a fairly small town but is mentioned in many of the guidebooks as a place to visit for the many colorful fishing boats and general fishing atmosphere there.

We were not disappointed. Once we got through the tents set up selling souvenirs to tourists, we saw the many colorful wooden boats in the harbor set against the beautiful blue sky and typical Maltese style architecture.

It was also fun to observe the fishermen at work, tending to their nets, painting their boats and going about their daily routine. Before we headed back up to the temple site, we stopped at a small café for coffee and cake. In addition to the tasty food, it provided a good opportunity to spend some time together just soaking in the peaceful atmosphere and reflecting on our time in Malta (which has been busy and amazing and sadly coming to end).

Friday, March 25, 2011


Being friends with someone is one thing. Living with them for a month, is something else. We have now been together for almost a month. We have come to know each other at a very different level - almost all really good.

One of us in particular, is known for his great knowledge, accurate assumptions, and reasonable claims. We know him as Billy. As one of seventeen children he has had no choice but to be infallibly superior.

Here are a few nuggets of his knowledge:

"Chris is short."

"Some birds fly down."

"If it has a front and a back and floats, it's a boat."

"Just hit 'em with a chair!"

"It takes everyone a long time to learn a new game."

"So the shorter you are, the bigger the ape factor."

"When I run, I run for hours." How often do you run? "Never. I ran a lot in P.E."

"I wasn't scared at all, I was like pumped!"

"Chris can't reach it. Basketball it is!"

"What's outside that I can't find on the internet?"

"This is not chicken. There's fur on this. These must be rabbit wings."

"Technically, buffaloes don't have wings."

Maybe you'll be lucky enough someday to hear some of his knowledge first hand... :P

Tas Silg Temple

We had an incredible opportunity to access an archeological site restricted to the public to investigate the cisterns on site. The temple has a great deal of history... from being a pre-historic site of worship, to a Roman temple that stood as a beacon from the bay below. One interesting feature of the temple was the clay walkway that surrounded the center of the temple (only about half still in tact) that was patterned with evenly-spaced square pieces of marble. Our archeologist on site, David, said that this was a way of defining a "medium" for extremely important ground and common ground. It was a mix, making it a sort of semi-formal site. The temple was of course in ruins above ground, but was currently being excavated for further discoveries in the area. There was a full-immersion baptism site, signs of large columns to hold the roof, and clear signs of divisions within the temple.

The cisterns, however, we more intact underground than the remains above ground. The first cistern was square with 4 hallways in each direction. One was too shallow to investigate, and was even hardly noticeable, as the water level only allowed us to see the slit of the bottom of the hallway. The other three hallways led to large rooms filled with rubble. Each of these rooms had at least two off-shoots that showed signs of even more caves. Unfortunately, all of these accesses were too shallow for the ROV to pass.

The second cistern was similar, but only one hallway was deep enough to explore. This hallway was back towards the first cistern. Once we reached the end of the hallway, it was clear that this hallway connected the two. Below, you can see the mosaic of the sonar images we gathered from the cistern. As you can see, this was a very complex and exciting cistern.

We explored one more cistern out in a nearby field, but it was only a circular well with no outlets. Below is the group with our archeologist, David, at the temple site.

More Data Processing (i.e. Spring Break on Malta)

So despite this week being our "Spring Break" back home, the majority of hours this week were spent on our computers attempting to organize the massive amounts of data that we've collected during our time here.

One priority was creating a database with Microsoft Access . There wasn't much experience working with the program, but after some tutorials and some figuring, we were able to organize a great deal of our data in one convenient location. Here is a partial screenshot:

This gives easy access to locations, latitudes and longitudes, depths, videos, sonar scans and more. Timmy reviewed it earlier today and was "speechless" which I believe makes the entire trip a success.

But it's not all database stuff. Visualizations need to be created / debugged using the data, pictures and videos need to be sorted, blogs need to be written. and backups of everything need to be made. Not to mentioned prepping our equipment for travel by cleaning and organizing it. We're also creating DVDs for people on Malta that have helped us in our explorations which includes owners and archaeologists. After creating videos, mosaics, compiling data and creating a database, the DVDs will have 1,337 files of our time here. A number to be extra proud of!

So for those that are terribly jealous that our spring break is in beautiful Malta, realize we've been working non-stop! But continue being jealous.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Cistern Models

This last week we have been working hard to process the data we collected the first three weeks. This includes creating a database with detailed information on the sites we visited, as well as using the sonar data to create 3D models of the cisterns, wells, and water galleries. Below are two pictures of one of the cisterns from house da ta'ana. The picture on top is textured using cylindrical coordinates, while the picture on the bottom is textured with spherical coordinates.

On the Radio

Dr. Timmy Gambin and Dr. Christopher Clark were recently interviewed about the project for the series "University Matters" on the Malta University Broadcasting station 103.7 FM. Here is a link to the podcast:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cirwekka Diving

Brig has been looking into diving since the day we arrived, and he finally got the chance to plan an excursion when we were snorkeling at Golden Bay on Saturday. Other members of the group wanted to dive with Brig, but as none of us are certified we decided to snorkel at the dive site instead. When we awoke Monday morning it was pouring rain and many of us were considering staying home, but we all decided to go anyway. The dive school led us to a dive site in northwest Malta called Cirkewwa. Upon arrival our decisions were rewarded with flat clear water, no rain, and a little sunshine as well. With almost perfect conditions we jumped in the water and immediately saw groups of fish and a few jellyfish. During our lunch break many of us saw dolphins playing in the distance, and Christina found a colony of hermit crabs.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Mdina Archives 3D Cistern Visualization

On Wednesday (3/16/11), we went to Mdina to explore another cistern at The Archives of the Cathedral of Malta. This cistern was especially interesting because of its shape. The cistern consisted of a shaft down the center and two bell-shaped cisterns branching off. The smaller cistern's access point was at about 16 meters underwater down the shaft, while the larger cistern's access point was at about 22 meters down the shaft. Gathering enough sonar data for this cistern was very difficult due to the complexity of two cisterns in one. It was difficult to navigate between cisterns through the shaft while keeping track of the distance moved and the orientation of the ROV. We collected 50 sonar scans in all where 15 of them where side-scans. (The sonar was rotated sideways to collect vertical data of the cisterns).

Over the past few days, Chris and I have been analyzing this data and creating sonar mosaics (the compilation of multiple sonar scans to create a map) in order to create a 3D map of the entire cistern. So far, we have created a 3D map and now I am handing it off to Christina for her to transform it into a pretty 3D visualization. The image below represents a map of the entire cistern, which includes both of the sub-cisterns. (This is before Christina's visualizations). You can see the smaller cistern on the left that branches out from the shaft and the larger cistern is on the right. This map was generated with the sonar data using the sonar mosaics to calculate the ROV position at each of the scans and also SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) to help better align the individual scans.

Data Processing!

After a few weeks of gathering huge amounts of raw video data it's crunch time! On the left is a computer being used to edit the massive amount of video collected by the ROV into small ~1-4 minute representations of each cistern. Billy, as seen on the right, is creating a 3D map of a cistern with a program he coded almost from scratch.
Some of the challenges I have found with editing the video is a lack of clear video as well as video that shows the ROV moving around the cistern in a fashion that allows anyone to understand where they are in relation to the starting point. Luckily, we have managed to collect so much video that I have been able to splice together many of the video files to create a short and cohesive video for most of the cistern locations we have visited.

Billy and I working side-by-side pushing through all of the collected data

Creating a video of the inside of a cistern by piecing together smaller portions of video taken by the ROV.

Timmy can win a singing contest using sign language.

Chris's Day

This Saturday was Chris's last day in Malta before he left to rejoin his family in San Luis Obispo. Chris really wanted to visit a place on Malta that he had not been before during this, and his previous visits. So, looking through our guidebook, he stumbled upon Golden Bay.

Golden Bay is a small inlet with a sandy beach, small waves, and a great place to go snorkeling. Despite the looming clouds, snorkeling took place by some, while half of us, me included, decided to lay out on the beach enjoying the sunshine while it was still around. Zoe and Tyler dug a big hole - which Tyler decided to sit in. Later, Tyler and Andy went exploring - ending up on the top of large overhanging cliff to the right of the beach, while Joe, Zoe, and I fell asleep, napping in the sun.

After the snorkelers got back, we all went on a short hike up to the top of the overhanging cliff on the left side of the beach where an old abandoned watch tower stood. We then hiked up the hill further to some more abandoned buildings.

After watching the clock closely we headed back down to the bus stop to catch the last bus out of the area at 5:05 pm - and as usual, it was Mr. Toad's wild ride the whole 30 minute ride back to Sliema.

Everyone was happy and tired getting back to the apartment - a very needed restful day, full of exploring and good times.
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