Sunday, December 14, 2008

The geologist's life list

It has been said that the best geologist is the one who's seen the most rocks. A while ago, a list was composed of what geologists should try and see in their lifetimes. Geotripper started a meme on that theme, and has been followed thus far by Saxifraga, SciGuy315, Hypocentre, ReBecca, and Kim.

I hereby join the herd... The idea is to bold the ones you have done (and add comments and details in parentheses).

1. See an erupting volcano (Kilauea, the week before last)
2. See a glacier (I've seen many, but my favorites are in Alaska)
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland (Yellowstone, check. Iceland, check.)
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta. (This past summer, in eastern Montana's Hell Creek Formation)
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage (Summer 1995, Brandywine Recreation Area, West Virginia: after a downpour there, the streams that wind through the campground filled up and overflowed. Shockingly quickly.)
6. Explore a limestone cave. (The caves around Franklin, West Virginia, for instance)
7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile. (I've looked into the Berkeley Pit in Butte, but I couldn't really say that I've "toured" it...)
8. Explore a subsurface mine.
9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (sort of -- I've seen ophiolitic blocks in the Virginia and Maryland Piedmont, but never a full, unmetamorphosed ophiolite complex. I hope to change that this summer in Nova Scotia & Newfoundland...)
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger
11. A slot canyon. (The Narrows, in Zion National Park, Utah)
12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere. (Konnarock formation rythymites, interpreted as possible varves, in southwest Virginia.)
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada (the Sierra Nevada, atop Half Dome or surrounding Lake Tenaya)
14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland. (tragically, I have not... I really want to see the Stillwater)
15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (the east coast of North America, the west coast of North America)
16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic. (They're all over my neighborhood of Adams-Morgan in DC, where their pungent "fruits" are known as "barf beads.")
17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (I define stromatolite loosely, as sedimentary structures facilitated by biofilms, and I've seen those many places, most recently in Lake Waiau, Hawai'i) (fossils of them? Galore! Virginia, Montana, elsewhere...)
18. A field of glacial erratics (New England)
19. A caldera (Kilauea, Long Valley, Yellowstone)
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high (Elim Dune, Namibia)
21. A fjord (many, but favorites include Northwestern Fjord in Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska, and the Lynn Canal, between Haines and Skagway, Alaska)
22. A recently formed fault scarp (1959 Hebgen Lake scarp, Montana)
23. A megabreccia (Max Meadows Tectonic Breccia, near Pepper, Virginia)
24. An actively accreting river delta (Mississippi Delta, kayaking with alligators)
25. A natural bridge (I drove over one this fall without seeing it: Natural Bridge, Virginia)
26. A large sinkhole (Not sure how to define "large," but I've been in and out of multiple sinkholes in the Virginia/West Virginia karstic areas)
27. A glacial outwash plain (downstream of Exit Glacier, near Seward, Alaska)
28. A sea stack (Oregon)
29. A house-sized glacial erratic (How about one the size of a city block? Kenai Fjords, Alaska)
30. An underground lake or river (Sinks of Gandy, West Virginia)
31. The continental divide (A gazillion times out west, also the Appalachian's Atlantic/Gulf divide, and the triple divide in Glacier National Park, Montana)
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals (Smithsonian)
33. Petrified trees (Rock Creek Park and Prince William Forest Park host some decent ones; I've also visited Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, and seen the petrified trees in Yellowstone)
34. Lava tubes (in Utah [?] in college, and a few weeks back: Thurston Lava Tube in Hawai'i.)
35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back. (Twice now, I've done the hike from South Rim to river and back in a day. Plus this summer I spent more than a week rafting the river.)
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible (On the W&M regional field geology course in 1995 and again in 1996)
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world. (in 1992, SCUBA diving and snorkeling, with my dad and little brother.)
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m) (I've seen it from New Brunswick, but I think my timing was off. I've been very impressed with tidal variations in Turnagain Arm, Alaska.)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale. (W&M regional field geology)
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe. (Got a nice sample of this in my lab as a result. Visited in 2006 on my three-month road trip.)
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. (Stayed at a coffee plantation, Kifufu, outside of Moshi, on the slopes of Kili with a great view of Mt. Meru; 2002.)
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high (This was our first stop on the Australia trip in 1992. Dad and I summited; my brother and I got chased by an emu while hiking around it.)
44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing (For the first time in 2006, and again this past summer.)
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below. (Does the opposite viewpoint count? I've looked up at Telescope Peak from Badwater...)
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art.
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders. (W&M regional field geology)
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck (W&M regional field geology)
52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist. (...but I have seen feldspar megacrysts that size in California's Cathedral Peak Granodiorite)
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism. (rode my bicycle from San Francisco to Seattle in the summer of 1997, and stopped in at the volcano then)
55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows. (some of my first posts on this blog were images from the Giant's Causeway and surrounding areas)
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa. (2002's 6-week trip to East Africa had me in and out of the rift many times.)
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain (As a kid, we would got down to the Outer Banks every summer)
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington (never even heard of these...)
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton observed the classic unconformity 61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah (most recently this past summer)
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia
65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon (W&M regional field geology)
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone (a recent photo was posted here)
68. Monument Valley (this summer, for the third time)
69. The San Andreas fault (I've crossed it many times, especially when I lived in the San Bernardino Mountains of southern California)
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (2006)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event (Madison River landslide, Montana, last year and this year, and Gros Ventre, Wyoming, this year)
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park (this year)
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches) (two weeks ago)
78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado (this summer)
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0. (highest I've gone is 3.5, in Alaska)
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ ("Find"? Does Dinosaur Ridge count?)
84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil) (My first trilobites were dug out of the Wheeler Shale, Utah on the W&M regional field geology course, and I found lots of dinosaur bone this summer in the Hell Creek Formation, Montana)
85. Find gold, however small the flake
86. Find a meteorite fragment
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall
88. Experience a sandstorm
89. See a tsunami
90. Witness a total solar eclipse
91. Witness a tornado firsthand.
92. Witness a meteor storm (right after the first Harry Potter movie opened in 2001)
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope. (Bradford Woods, Indiana, 1996)
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights. (Homer, Alaska)
95. View a great naked-eye comet (Hale-Bopp, Halley)
96. See a lunar eclipse
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
(at the recent VCCS Science Peer Conference, we looked at the Andromeda Galaxy... is that "distant" enough? Guess it's all relative)
98. Experience a hurricane (two: one in the Philippines, one in DC)
99. See noctilucent clouds
100. See the green flash

That's a total of 67/100 that I have done; 33 I haven't done. I turned 34 years of age on Thursday of this past week; I guess 2/3 of the list is pretty good for 16 years of travelling and checking out geology. What's your score?

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Blogger MJC Rocks said...

Your recent travels seemed to collect just about all the sites I've taken students to in the American west, except Hawaii. That will change this coming summer! Thanks for pitching in!

December 15, 2008 2:08 AM  

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