Archive for July, 2009

Never brag about your field weather

July 5th, 2009

Practically Icelandic out there on the northern Estonian coast this morning.

Practically Icelandic out there on the northern Estonian coast this morning.

Wooster Geologists Invade Skagi Peninsula

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.

Rob poses while searching for zeolites in sunny Iceland (not really sunny).

Rob poses while searching for zeolites in sunny Iceland (ha ha Estonia Group).

Adam conquers Vatnsdalsfjall on his way to the top to sample rhyolites.

Adam conquers Vatnsdalsfjall on his way to the top to sample rhyolites.

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!

A Second Project Emerges on the Glorious Fourth of July

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 and Rob at the Kaugatuma locality.  I probably shouldn't point out again the spectacular weather.  That would be like bragging.

Palmer and Rob at the Kaugatuma locality (N58.12409°, E22.19375°). I probably shouldn't point out again the spectacular weather. That would be like bragging.

Crinoid fragments (left) and well-preserved stromatoporoids (right) at the Kaugatuma locality.

Crinoid fragments (left) and well-preserved stromatoporoids (right) at the Kaugatuma locality.

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.

The main Kalli meteorite crater.  On the far side of the pond you may see a spot of blue.  That is Rob McConnell performing his job as a scale very well.

The main Kaali meteorite crater. On the far side of the pond you may see a spot of blue. That is Rob McConnell performing his job as a scale very well.

Heavy Soviet Footprints Remain

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.

Soviet bunkers which once housed anti-aircraft missile batteries near Suuriku Cliff, northern Saaremaa, Estonia.

Soviet bunkers which once housed anti-aircraft missile batteries near Suuriku Cliff, northern Saaremaa, Estonia.

Abandoned Soviet electronics gear at the Suuriku base.

Abandoned Soviet electronics gear at the Suuriku base.

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.

Suuriku Cliff formed of Lower Silurian limestones and shales (N58.50681°, E22.00334°).  This coastline has been available to geologists for less than 20 years.

Suuriku Cliff formed of Lower Silurian limestones and shales (N58.50681°, E22.00334°). This coastline has been available to geologists for less than 20 years.

One Student Project Born

July 2nd, 2009

The Estonia team at Panga Cliff on the northern coast of Saaremaa (N58.55321°, E22.28577°).  What a spectacular day it was.

The Estonia team at Panga Cliff on the northern coast of Saaremaa (N58.55321°, E22.28577°). Note the gorgeous weather.

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 and Palmer closely examine stromatoporoid fossils found in place at the foot of the Liiva Cliff on the northern coast of Saaremaa (N58.57553°, E22,36821°).

Rob and Palmer closely examine stromatoporoid fossils found in place at the foot of the Liiva Cliff on the northern coast of Saaremaa (N58.57553°, E22.36821°).

Rob, by the way, was reunited with his luggage late this afternoon, so he’s a happy man.

The Great Basalt Race

July 2nd, 2009

Todd Finished his I.S. Research!!!! – Rob

Todd measuring the diameter of a pillow.

Todd measuring the diameter of a pillow.

The Iceland crew taking meticulous notes.

The Iceland crew taking meticulous notes.

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

The Baltic Boys

July 1st, 2009

Rob McConnell and Palmer Shonk at the Uugu Cliff locality, Muhu Island, Estonia.  The blue Baltic Sea is in the background.

Rob McConnell and Palmer Shonk at the Uugu Cliff locality, Muhu Island, Estonia (N58.67136°, E23.23988°). The blue Baltic Sea is in the background.

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?)

Palmer and Rob in the traditional fossil collecting position.

Palmer and Rob in the traditional fossil collecting position at Paramaja Cliff (N58.61531°, E22.89790°). Palmer was not particularly happy about the long walk through the stinging nettles.

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.

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