Team Utah Version 2.0

June 11th, 2013

UTAH – Field work has officially begun for Team Utah, Version 2.0. The team consists of three Wooster seniors (Kyle Burden ’14, Cam Matesich ’14, Candy Thornton, ’14) and two Wooster sophomores (Adam Silverstein ’16, Michael Williams ’16). Tricia Hall (’14) is a returning member who has graciously agreed to stay in Utah after her IS field work to help us with our data collection. This year, we’re also joined by Dr. Thom Wilch and two senior geologists (Ellen Redner ’14 and Ben Hinks ’14) from the Albion College Department of Geological Sciences. Needless to say, we’re a small army, and we’re ready to find the answers to questions raised during last year’s reconnaissance investigations of Ice Springs Volcanic Field in the Black Rock Desert.

Dr. Shelley Judge gives a brief overview of the local and regional geology before heading out to the field.

Dr. Shelley Judge gives a brief overview of the local and regional geology before heading out to the field.

We began the morning at the top of the cinder cone and found a new exposure that was uncovered in the last year.

We began the morning at the top of the cinder cone and found a new exposure that was uncovered in the last year.

I know what you’re thinking…it looks like a wall of pillow lavas. (By the way, Team Iceland’s work on pillow lavas continues.)

It's actually a wall of welded bombs and spatter.

It’s actually a wall of welded bombs and spatter. These blobs of lava were ejected explosively during an eruption and fused to one another on the rim of the cone.

Kyle Burden ('14), shown here taking careful notes, will be working on the welded bomb wall using an approach similar to the one Team Iceland used on pillow lavas. He'll be collecting high-resolution images with a GigaPan and making careful measurements of bombs across the exposure.

Kyle Burden (’14), shown here taking careful notes, will be working on the welded bomb wall using an approach similar to the one Team Iceland used on pillow lavas. He’ll be collecting high-resolution images with a GigaPan and making careful measurements of bombs across the exposure.

After a morning on the cinder cones, we descended into the lava fields.

Candy Thornton ('14) contemplates her field area. She'll be documenting features in the lava flows to determine whether they inflated as they were emplaced.

Candy Thornton (’14) contemplates her field area. She’ll be documenting features in the lava flows to determine whether they inflated as they were emplaced.

One of the features that Candy will be studying are these striae, which are grooves that formed on the sides of a mound called a tumulus. The striae indicate that the interior of the mound moved up relative to the outer crust while the lava was partially molten.

One of the features that Candy will be studying are these striae, which are grooves that formed on the sides of a mound called a tumulus. The striae indicate that the interior of the mound moved up relative to the outer crust while the lava was partially molten.

 

 

Products of an angry giant

June 4th, 2013

SicilyCyclopeanIslands060413CATANIA, SICILY, ITALY–They may look like impressive sea stacks to you, but it turns out these are three huge stones thrown by the aggrieved and wounded cyclops Polyphemus at Odysseus as he escaped that infernal cave. Who knew?

This morning we traveled north of Catania to the Ciclopi Marine Protected Area near Aci Castello and Aci Trezza to look at the evidence of the ancient volcanic activity that led to Mount Etna, and to snorkel and dive on the life-encrusted rocks in the blue, blue waters.

Island060413We took a boat ride all of about 300 meters across the bay to the tiny island of Lachea, shown above. Notice that there is a crack running through the rocks seen just above the boat. This is an active fault that runs through the middle of the island. Also note that there is a mix of light and dark rocks visible.

IslandBasalticIntrusion060413Lachea is a combination of whitish marls and claystones above with black basalt injected from below. This is the very beginning of volcanic activity in this region as hot magma began to work its way into the overlying sediments of a shallow sea. When the lava erupted onto the seafloor, masses of pillow basalts formed (see previous post). The cyclopean rocks in the top image are eroded roots of the massive basalt flows. They show beautiful columnar jointing.

Etnafromisland060413From Lachea we can see the glowering outline of Mount Etna, the true giant in our story.

StationSign060413The island of Lachea and its surrounding rocks has been the site of a research station for over a century. The fauna and flora of both the island and the seafloor down to 110 meters are protected by law.

IslandLizard585This pretty green lizard is common on Lachea and apparently endemic (found only there). It is Podarcis sicula ciclopica. Its mating season of three months is about to begin, so there was much lizardly activity.

Grotto060413One of the first places we visited on the island was this tiny historical grotto. Only five of us could crawl into this completely dark chamber at a time. Once inside you can carefully stand up and (at least some of us) touch your head on the ceiling. That turned out to be a mistake because the guiding biologists then show you the unique cave spiders hanging on their webs about your ears!

Lunch060413Finally I must show you at least one of our large Sicilians lunches, this one back in Catania after our morning marine excursion. We are eating well, if a bit later than usual — and with much more time in the process!

 

A Journey Inside the Volcano

May 31st, 2013

ICELAND – You may remember that Team Iceland is trying to determine the origin of interesting columnar-jointed features exposed in the interior of a subglacial pillow ridge. We have several hypotheses, one of which is that they could be related to the internal magma plumbing system. There’s no better way to know what’s inside of a volcano than by actually going there. Fortunately, we’re able to explore the interior of nearby Thrihnukagigur Volcano through the Inside the Volcano Tour. If you have the chance, you should check out their amazing image and video galleries.

Thrihnukagigur has three volcanic peaks, one of which is a cinder cone with a crater that opens up into a 400 ft deep volcanic chamber. Our goal was to explore the chamber for units and structures that might be analogous to the features we observed in the quarries. The tour began with a 2 mile hike to the volcano over lava flows that were 4,000 and 10,000 years old.

View of Thrihnukagigur Cone and the Inside the Volcano hut (at the base to the right) from the surrounding lava fields. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

View of Thrihnukagigur Cone from the surrounding lava fields. The Inside the Volcano tour has a warm hut at the base of the cone. (The white structure is difficult to see against the field of snow). Photo Credit: Ellie Was

At the hut, we were fitted with safety equipment for our descent into volcano.

At the hut, we were fitted with safety equipment for our descent into the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

We crossed this bridge to get into the open-air basket that took us into the volcanic chamber. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

We crossed this bridge to get into the open-air basket that took us into the volcanic chamber. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

The view down the open volcanic neck from the basket. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

The view down the open volcanic neck from the basket. Photo Credit: Ellie Was

View from below of the lift descending into the chamber.

View from below of the lift descending into the chamber.

Michael Williams ('16, Wooster), Adam Silverstein ('16, Wooster), and Liz Plascencia ('16, Dickinson) in the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Michael Williams (’16, Wooster), Adam Silverstein (’16, Wooster), and Liz Plascencia (’16, Dickinson) in the volcano. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

We saw some features that are analogous to our quarry observations. Here, on the left, we see a contact between the underlying Moberg Formation and the overlying lavas that make up much of the volcanic center. The dark black vertical rocks near the center of the photo are dikes that cut across the lava flows and have heated and altered the surrounding rocks, turning them red.

We saw some features that are analogous to our quarry observations. Here, on the left, we see a contact between the dark underlying Moberg Formation and the colorful overlying lavas that make up much of the volcanic center. The black vertical rocks near the center of the photo are dikes that cut across the lava flows. The dikes have heated and altered the surrounding rocks, turning them red.

This appears to be an irregularly shaped intrusion with an open cavity.

This appears to be an irregularly shaped intrusion with an open cavity that might have transported magma to different parts of the volcano during the eruption. Notice the person in the center bottom for scale.

I have failed to mention that we battled driving sleet and 45 mph winds to hike to and from the volcano. Here's part of our group linking arms to stay on their feet as they hike back from the volcano. Our guides were superb and made sure everyone was safe during each part of our trip.

Did I mention that we battled driving sleet and 45 mph winds to hike to and from the volcano? Here’s part of our group linking arms to stay on their feet as they hike back from the volcano. Our guides were superb and made sure everyone was safe during each part of our trip. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Ellie Was ('14, Dickinson), Alex Hiatt ('14, Wooster), and Aleks Perpalaj ('14, Dickinson) after their return hike. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Ellie Was (’14, Dickinson), Alex Hiatt (’14, Wooster), and Aleks Perpalaj (’14, Dickinson) after their return hike. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

Team Iceland warms up with hot coffee and homemade Icelandic stew.

Team Iceland warms up with hot coffee and homemade Icelandic stew. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

The t-shirt that says it all. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

The t-shirt that says it all. Photo Credit: Liz Plascencia

It was an incredible Icelandic experience! Much thanks to the Inside the Volcano Team for their excellent knowledge, guidance, and hospitality!

Fantastic Weather Makes Productive Field Days

May 28th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland made the most of the beautiful weather over the last two days. After spending all day in the field yesterday, we went back after dinner;  the lighting was just right to take GigaPan images of the field site.

Aleks ('14, Dickinson) and Ben (Dickinson) set up the GigaPan to take a panoramic image of the quarry.

Aleks (’14, Dickinson) and Ben (Dickinson) set up the GigaPan to take a panoramic image of the quarry.

This is a simple panorama made of three images stitched together. The GigaPan system allows us to merge over 100 images to produce a high-resolution image.

This is a simple panorama made of three images stitched together. The GigaPan system allows us to merge over 100 images to produce a high-resolution image.

Our plan is to couple the high-resolution GigaPan images with elevation information from the laser range finger. Here, Michael ('16, Wooster) and Ellie ('14, Dickinson) are recording the elevations of contacts along the quarry walls.

Our plan is to couple the high-resolution GigaPan images with elevation information from the laser range finder. Here, Michael (’16, Wooster) and Ellie (’14, Dickinson) are recording the elevations of contacts along the quarry walls.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are mapping and sampling the different units. Adam ('16, Wooster) and Aleks ('14, Dickinson) are ready to sample a glassy pillow lava.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are mapping and sampling the different units. Adam (’16, Wooster) and Aleks (’14, Dickinson) are ready to sample a glassy pillow lava.

Alex ('14, Wooster) describes a volcanic breccia unit.

Alex (’14, Wooster) describes a volcanic breccia unit. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

Liz ('16, Dickinson) carefully describes the mineralogy and vesicularity of a sample.

Liz (’16, Dickinson) carefully observes the mineralogy and vesicularity of a sample. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

Ben and I are having a blast working in the quarry (no pun intended).

Ben and I are having a blast working in the quarry (no pun intended). We’ve seen a number of interesting features that have our minds racing. Photo Credit: Aleks Perpalaj

We're currently puzzled over these large, light gray, columnar jointed features.

We’re currently puzzled by these large, light gray, columnar jointed features.

 

The puzzling features are associated with these steeply dipping pillow lavas, which might lead to some insights into their origin.

The puzzling features are associated with these steeply dipping pillow lavas, which might lead to some insights into the origin of the features and enhance our understanding of the formation of subglacial pillow ridges.

Mission Possible: Mapping the Quarry Walls

May 27th, 2013

ICELAND – We spent Sunday morning discussing all of the features that we’ve seen during our reconnaissance investigations. After comparing notes, we defined several lithofacies, or mappable units with specific lithologic features. Our coherent lithofacies include pillow lavas, dikes, and intrusions while our fragmental lithofacies are units like volcanic breccia and lapilli tuff. By the end of the morning, Team Iceland was ready for their first group assignment: map a section of the quarry wall.

The students worked diligently to record comprehensive field notes.

The students worked diligently to record comprehensive field notes.

Image of a pillow lava that shows some of the features the students were looking for: radial columnar joints, glassy rind, interbedded hyaloclastite.

Image of a pillow lava that shows some of the features the students were looking for: radial columnar joints, glassy rind, and interbedded hyaloclastite.

The students celebrated the completion of their mission with lunch by large mining equipment.

The students celebrated the completion of their mission with lunch by large mining equipment.

 

 

A Visit to the Utah Core Research Center

June 13th, 2012

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH – On Tuesday, Team Utah visited the Core Research Center at the Utah Geological Survey. The repository includes cores and cuttings from more than 4000 wells, on-site microscope facilities, and a friendly and knowledgeable staff. We suspect that the sedimentary xenoliths that Kevin has been finding represent Lake Bonneville sediments. Tom Dempster and Peter Nielsen pulled out some cuttings for us to look at and set up the microscope. Mark Gwynn showed us some core that they recently recovered from an area near our study site.

Kevin examines some cuttings under a binocular microscope and projects the image so that we can discuss it as a group.

We also had the chance to meet with Amanda Hintz, a UGS geologist with an expertise in the Black Rock Desert.

Amanda so graciously gave us part of her day to answer our questions about bombs, xenoliths, lava flows, and faulting.

Finally, Stephanie Earls, the UGS Research Librarian, was so helpful in finding historic aerial photographs for us.

Matt, Dr. Judge, and Whitney examine the aerial photos, trying to make sense of the lava flows surrounding our cinder cone.

After a productive day at the research center, we visited Bingham Canyon on the way out of town.

View of the Bingham Canyon mine from the visitor's center.

Although it make for a long day and a late night, our trip to Salt Lake City was instrumental in helping us think about our field area as we wrap up our field season. Thanks to all of the folks at the UGS for their help!

 

The Joys of Mobbing

June 11th, 2012

FILLMORE, UTAH – [Guest Bloggers Matt Peppers, Whitney Sims, and Will Cary]

Wizard Will enjoys some early morning tomfoolery.

With our alarms set for 6:30, we guaranteed that we wouldn’t be up before 7 am. After a hurried lunch packing session, the group headed out to inaugurate Tricia into the research community. She will be doing a project focused on the origin of the basalt islands in the western channel. Hopefully, her project will be used as an analogue for the islands found in the rest of the lava field. We mobbed Tricia in the morning, and through a heroic effort, managed to complete her fieldwork in just under three hours. Dr. Shelley “The Machine” Judge burned through a majority of the 50 individual columnar joint orientation measurements that will help Tricia with her interpretations. While the measurement team ran through the orientation measurements, the rest of the group broke into two smaller teams to collect samples and track out the significant fractures in the area. With each person working toward his or her specialty, the data collection process flew by.

Mob mentality at work.

 

Riding high after a stellar group outing, we moved toward the western breach to take a look at a large fissure Dr. Pollock, Whitney, and Tricia had seen a few days before. When we came across the gaping fissure (nicknamed “Chubman”), we decided to take a well-earned lunch break in the shade of the nearby wall before tackling the measurement process. While Team Fissure worked on mapping and tracking the fissure in the northern end, Team Flow Bandits tracked the fissure south on their way to investigate the possibility of a nearby flow boundary. The familiar call and response of, “Whitney, do you want to take a sample here?” followed by a subdued, “Yes…” echoed throughout the flows as the day came to an end. We had a weary trek back through the sand and sagebrush back to the car, satisfied after a productive workday. Celebratory pie for desert was the icing on the cake to yet another day in paradise.

The "Chubman" Fissure dominates the landscape.

 

A Rocky Start

June 11th, 2012

FILLMORE, UTAH – Today’s return to field work after a fun day in Bryce Canyon was a little rocky at first.

We were a little confused about where to begin.

After a short while, we found our purpose.

Whitney and her team spent the day mapping lava flows that breached the northern rim of the cinder cone.

Fortunately, Whitney had Matt on her team, who chiseled samples from the solid rock with his raw strength.

Will and his team spent another day hunting bombs and blocks on the rim.

In the end, it was a fantastic field day. Will has nearly wrapped up his ballistics sampling and Whitney can practically redraw the lava flow map. Back to the lava fields tomorrow!

STOP, Hammer Time

June 8th, 2012

FILLMORE, UTAH – [Guest Bloggers Matt Peppers and Will Cary]

On the morning of the 8th, all seemed well. Much like days before, we all arose and began to pack our lunches for the day. However, as we piled into the car, an ominous light started to blink on the dashboard. Low tire pressure. Concerned, Dr. Judge pulled us into a nearby gas station and checked the tires. Much to our dismay, the left rear tire was 10 psi lower than it should be, a repeat occurrence from a few days earlier. Not wanting to jeopardize our upcoming Mystery Fun Day, Drs. Judge and Pollock made the decision to take the car into a repair shop to have the problem diagnosed. While they were gone, they left us to wreak havoc upon the KOA Kampground. We started by swimming and relaxing by the pool, and ended by swimming and relaxing by the pool. All before lunchtime. We retired to our individual cabins to enjoy the lunches we had packed a few hours earlier in glorious air conditioned komfort.

 

Around 1 pm, the professors returned and it was business as usual. Even though we had lost half of our day to a small hole in the tire (curse you, basalt!) we rushed out to mob Kevin’s project for the afternoon. Arriving on the cinder cone at peak temperature made for a challenging work environment (especially after having spent most of the day in a sun-induced stupor) but we turned the afternoon into a very productive, albeit rushed, day. After reviewing the wall Kevin had used to map his xenoliths, we spread out and tried to collect as many of the 16 different types as we could find. After a few small injuries, stumbles, artistic work with a rock hammer, and some sore hands trying to pry the xenoliths out of the uncooperative host rock, we amassed a small mountain of samples for Kevin. As Whitney struggled to bag and record the samples in the gusting wind, the rest of us made one last sweep of the area for any xenoliths to claim.

Aptly named, the "Avocado" xenolith inspired some dinner choices this evening.

The "Sparkly" xenolith refuses to show its nature in photographs.

 

The "Black and Green" xenolith.

Tricia demonstrates proper hammer usage.

We trooped back down the van, and made the dusty trek back to the kampsite, just in time to shower and recover before we left for dinner at six. After a quick stop to pick up a package containing some hardier field notebooks we went of to dinner followed by a stop for ice cream, where the professors revealed the Fun Trip they had planned for Saturday. We will be driving down to Bryce Canyon on the morrow to spend the day in the park. None of us have been there, so it promises to be a unique experience for us all!

Sailing the Basalt Isles

June 8th, 2012

FILLMORE, UTAH – [Guest Bloggers Whitney Sims and Kevin Silver]

As we arose for our fourth day of field study, the morning was chilly. However, this was to be short lived. A clear day unleashed the full power of the sun upon the Black Rock Desert as we parked our van and began our trek onto the lava flows once again.  It was Whitney and Matt’s day to lead again and the group was split in two to assist each of them.

Matt’s group was comprised of Dr. Judge, Kevin, and Will. Their goal was to look at the walls of the lava channel to find any structural features and to study the islands of basalt that were scattered across the floor of the lava channel. From there, they were planning to travel west towards a portion of the map that showed faulting near the end of the lava channel. Instead, they quickly deviated from the plan as the floor of the lava channel closer to the cinder cone showed great promise. Their day was spent tracking and measuring fissure fractures that ran both perpendicular and parallel to the walls of the lava channel. Many of these fissures were found to run right through the basalt islands. In addition, a large fault was discovered above the cliff face. Due to the wealth of data and the absolute lack of shade the study site provided, the work was very tedious and many of us, most noticeably the fairest-skinned of us, began suffering from exposure. It was a most joyous occasion when our two groups were reunited once more and were heading back to the van. Despite her preconceptions of horror, Dr. Judge found that accompanying the three boys in the field was nothing but pleasant interactions and behavior on the most professional of levels.

Tricia Hall standing on top of a basalt island

 

Whitney’s group was comprised of Dr. Pollock, Tricia, and Whitney. Their goal was to collect samples from different sections of the lava channel while travelling west to determine where the lava channel ended. They came upon what is believed to be the western breach of the flow that showed significant promise to Whitney’s project. Upon their trek, they came across a major fault that Dr. Pollock was really excited about.

 

Whitney Sims and Tricia Hall overlook a large fissure cutting through the lava flows of Ice Springs

The day was very productive and rich in data. It has become apparent that Matt currently holds the equivalent of three I.S. projects in his data and thus will not graduate in 2013. Whitney’s project is proving to be quite complex as Ice Springs is proving to hold some unusual structure and complexity within its flows. There is no certainty what future days in the field will reveal.

a lava tube, half filled with lava, in Ice Springs

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