Archive for July, 2009
mpollock July 4th, 2009
We’re on the Skagi Peninsula now and internet access is a little more random. We started field work on Rob’s and Adam’s projects this week. Rob found some awesome zeolites – too many to name – and a lot of altered basalt (my poor babies!). Adam ran into some trouble early on because many of the rhyolites appear highly altered, but has managed to find some pretty decent samples that he can use for geochemical analyses.
We’re living in a house with 12 people – sounds like a reality show (The Geology World or Big Brother: Geo-Style). Meagen is in a room with 4 girls – it looks like their clothes exploded. Todd, Rob, and Adam are sharing a room – it smells…refreshing(?). They have swum in the arctic ocean EVERY DAY since we arrived. They are CRAZY!
We’re going to be here until July 14. Sadly, we’ll be missing the Hunavaka, a local celebration with colorful balloons and music. Still, every day is a celebration when you’re doing geology!
Mark Wilson July 4th, 2009
KAUGATUMA, SAAREMAA, ESTONIA–It is always an important moment for a Wooster geology research team when it identifies its final student independent study project. Today Palmer Shonk found his. There is a remarkable exposure of a high-energy deposit in the Aigu Beds (Kaugatuma Stage, Upper Silurian) on the Sõrve Peninsula of southwestern Saaremaa island. These rocks have spectacular crinoid materials, including elaborate holdfasts, along with stromatoporoids, bryozoans and brachiopods. The sediments still retain their original dune bedding forms showing the high energy conditions under which they were deposited.
Palmer’s job will be to understand the original organisms and the environments in which they lived and died (a paleocommunity study) as well as the means by which the remains were redistributed and preserved (a taphonomy study). It is exciting material which will make an excellent project.
At the end of the day we said good-bye to our generous and thoughtful Estonian hosts Olev and Ingrid Vinn. We are on our own now in Estonia, but they’ve trained us well. They left us at the marvelous Kaali Meteorite Craters, estimated to be about 7500 years old.
Mark Wilson July 3rd, 2009
TAGAMOISA PENINSULA, SAAREMAA, ESTONIA–The Soviet Union forcibly occupied Estonia in 1940-41, it was briefly replaced by German invaders from 1941 until 1944, and Soviet occupation resumed in 1944 until Estonian independence in 1991. Tens of thousands of Estonians were deported to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Tens of thousands more were forcibly conscripted into the Red Army in World War II (only 30% returned home), and thousands were executed. It is a wonder of history that this small country survived such Soviet oppression and then flourished so quickly when it liberated itself less than two decades ago.
The Soviets turned coastal Estonia into a vast fortified area, closing long coastlines and declaring all the islands as restricted “border zones”. Estonians could not even visit most of their own northern shores and islands. Abandoned Soviet concrete bunkers and other military facilities are still very common along the coasts and in the interior.
Today by Estonian law, all land within 300 meters of a coastline has guaranteed public access. Vast amounts of territory were liberated when the Soviets finally evacuated all their troops in 1994. As scientists we intersect this tragic and ultimately inspiring history when we visit these once forbidden coastlines. We look at rocks and fossils which were untouched by geologists for over half a century. It is a celebration to bring information from these wonderful regions out into free scientific dialogue again.
Mark Wilson July 2nd, 2009
KURESSAARE, SAAREMAA ISLAND, ESTONIA–It was an exquisitely crystalline day of blue and gray here with clear skies, a sparkling sea, and beautiful limestones just waiting for the touch of our hammers. We continued to explore the Lower Silurian (Wenlock) of the Saaremaa coast, fascinated with the numbers and varieties of fossils we found. These rocks have been carefully cataloged by biostratigraphers, so we know exactly how they fit into the larger geological picture in time and space. This gives us the opportunity to concentrate on the paleontological and sedimentological questions before us.
There is a distinctive and widespread horizon in these rocks of stromatoporoids, a kind of calcareous sponge which built on the shallow seafloor stony mounds up to the size of large cabbages. These stromatoporoids were bored by at least two kinds of worm-like organisms, and then encrusted by corals and bryozoans. Some corals even grew inside the skeleton of the sponges in a kind of symbiosis. There are many riddles here about how these fossils are preserved, how the community was structured, and what sort of environment it flourished and was eventually buried in. This will be the basis of Rob McConnell’s Independent Study thesis. We will all return to this site in a few days to do the detailed work of measuring, counting and collecting.
Rob, by the way, was reunited with his luggage late this afternoon, so he’s a happy man.
mpollock July 2nd, 2009
Todd Finished his I.S. Research!!!! – Rob
Yes I did and it feels nice to say that I have my field work complete. Thanks to Meagen, Rob and Adam for all of their help! We had a good time in the quarries collecting samples and we even had some competetive racing.
Now its time to go to Blonduos to work on Rob’s and Adam’s projects. -Todd
Mark Wilson July 1st, 2009
KURESSAARE, SAAREMAA ISLAND, ESTONIA–Like the Iceland team, our first full field day in Estonia was spent in reconnaissance on the islands of Muhu and Saaremaa. We visited an abandoned quarry just north of Koguva to examine Lower Silurian (Wenlock) dolomitic mud mounds and limestones near Koguva, and then went to the Uugu Cliff which exposes a similar sequence but a little younger within the Silurian. Caves are found high in the cliff which were cut by waves of Ancylus Lake, a freshwater precursor of the Baltic Sea between 9500 and 8000 BCE. There are also trenches on the top of the bluffs dug by Tsarist Russian soldiers during World War I.
Later in the afternoon we collected Wenlockian fossils at the seaside Paramaja Cliff which had been weathered out of their rock matrices by the waves. We found a good collection of rhynchonellid brachiopods, strophomenid brachiopods, rugose corals, tabulate corals, encrinurid trilobites, crinoid stems, nautiloids, and cornulitids. (Like music, isn’t it?)
Tomorrow we continue our survey of Silurian localities. The weather could not be better. (It sure beats sleet in Svalbard and mosquitoes in Russia, I must say!) Rob’s luggage is scheduled to arrive at our Kuressaare hotel in the afternoon, so we’ll finally have our full kit.