Mark Wilson September 1st, 2009
MITZPE RAMON, ISRAEL–I’m sitting here with a view of one of my favorite places: the little town of Mitzpe Ramon near the center of the Negev Desert in southern Israel. It is poised on the edge of Makhtesh Ramon, a large erosional crater which looks a bit like the Grand Canyon with its steep rocky cliffs and sharp angles, although it lacks a river flowing through the bottom.
I drove here this afternoon in a tiny little rental car from Ben Gurion Airport about two and a half hours to the north. After surviving the noon-day Tel Aviv traffic (they’re not honking at me, I tell myself, at least not most of them), the scenery on the drive is fantastic. The Negev Desert starts near Beersheva where the last of the trees and brown grass gives way to bare yellow rock with a very thin scattering of Bedouin camps and the occasional IDF base. The terrain, animals and vegetation in the Negev Highlands near Mitzpe Ramon look very much like their equivalents in the Mojave Desert of California, save the occasional camel and ancient ruins like the city of Avdat a few miles north of Mitzpe Ramon.
This trip is another part of my research leave this semester. I will be returning to the Jurassic Matmor Formation exposed in Makhtesh Gadol (“The Big Crater”) northeast of Mitzpe Ramon. This is the site of past Independent Study work by Wooster students (Jeff Bowen, Meredith Sharpe, Sophie Lehmann, and Elyssa Belding). My goal is to tie these projects together with a unified stratigraphic model, and to collect various specific fossil groups for further study. I also want to scout out new study topics for future students. I’ll be here for ten days and hope to post blog entries often. Sleep is pulling at me relentlessly now, though, after 24 hours of travel. Lie-la tov! (Good night!)