The Bear Post

July 25th, 2014

One of the wonderful benefits of working in the wilderness is the potential for interaction with wildlife. Sometimes, we’re entertained by energetic jackrabbits. Sometimes, camels eat our lunch. Always, we keep safety at the forefront.

The British Columbia team was fortunate to see majestic bald eagles, curious stone sheep, and many (many) marmots in their natural habitat. We also saw several bears.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

Most of the bears that we saw were black bears eating the fresh grass alongside the road.

However, the very first night in the field, we saw grizzlies.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Part of our group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

The yellow arrow is pointing to a momma grizzly and her cub. Our anxious group is standing on the edge of our campsite.

We were well prepared for a moment like this. Before going to the field, we had several long discussions about bear safety. We knew that the best strategy is to avoid a confrontation. At all times, each of us carried our own bear spray, a pepper spray with a strong propellant. We also had bear bangers, fire-cracker cartridges that are launched with a pen-like launcher. One of the first things we did when we arrived in the field was practice using the bear spray and bear bangers.

The bangers worked just as they were designed when we used them that first night. We spotted the momma grizzly and her cub walking across the ridge toward our camp. They didn’t change their course after the first bear banger, so we set off another. The second banger caused them to stop, and the third startled them into running in the opposite direction. Confrontation avoided!

As an added precaution, we set up a portable electric bear fence around our tents. The gentle tick of the fence was a comfort at night.

Sakurajima Erupts on Volcanology Field Trip

July 23rd, 2013

KAGOSHIMA, JAPAN – It was as if the IAVCEI 2013 organizers planned it. Shortly after arriving at the Arimura lookout on the mid-conference field trip, Sakurajima began erupting.

The start of the eruption as viewed from Arimura lookout.

The start of the 22 July eruption.

The ash cloud rose from Showa crater, located just beyond the summit as viewed from the lookout. Part of the ash cloud ascended into the atmosphere while some of the cloud flowed along the surface in a pyroclastic density current. A pyroclastic density current is a gravity-driven movement of hot gas and volcanic material. (See this interesting twitter conversation about the difference between the terms pyroclastic density current, pyroclastic flow, and pyroclastic surge). The video below shows the initial eruption cloud as it developed.

The eruption column continued to grow as multiple pulses of ash were emitted from the crater. It wasn’t long before the cloud was carried downwind and started depositing ash.

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Up until this point, the eruption was relatively quiet. Most of the sounds were caused by rockfalls and explosively ejected bombs. Then the volcano made an eerie rumbling noise as the flank began to move downslope.

You can hear the collective oohs and aahs as the volcanologists observe the eruption with reverence and awe.

At this point, we thought the show was over.

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The initial eruption cloud migrating away from Sakurajima, depositing ash downwind from the volcano.

Soon after the initial pulse, the deep rumbling sounds began again, and we were treated to a second, larger blast. The ash cloud was much darker and we could see large bombs raining down near the base.

The second column reached higher in the atmosphere, up to about 3 km is what I heard from one of the volcanologists on the field trip. The volcano continued emitting pulses of black pyroclastic material and was still erupting by the time I had to leave the lookout.

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A quiet Sakurajima is illuminated by the moon in our view from the post-trip gala on the ferry. (I heard there was another explosion during the party that I missed.)

The gala ended with a brilliant display of fireworks against the Sakurajima backdrop. Although the fireworks were truly spectacular, I think most of the volcanologists agreed that Sakurajima’s fireworks were the highlight of the day.

The gala ended with a brilliant display of fireworks against the Sakurajima backdrop. Although the fireworks were truly spectacular, I think most of the volcanologists agreed that Sakurajima’s fireworks were the highlight of the day.

If you’re interested in seeing more photos and videos of the eruption, please check out my Google+ album or my YouTube page. Have an eruption story of your own to share? Please comment!

Volcanoes! Volcanoes! Volcanoes!

July 20th, 2013

KAGOSHIMA, JAPAN – The 2013 Scientific Assembly of IAVCEI, the International Association of Volcanology and Chemistry of the Earth’s Interior, has officially started in Kagoshima, Japan.

IAVCEI leaders and local welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today's opening ceremony.

IAVCEI leaders and local elected officials welcome delegates from ~60 countries in today’s opening ceremony.

The conference is a volcanologist’s dream, with sessions focused on every aspect of volcanology and a mid-conference field trip to Kagoshima’s own volcano, Sakurajima (currently at alert level 3). Day #1 didn’t disappoint. I’ve already co-chaired a session on Lava Flows with a fantastic group of international scientists and gave a talk on the dynamics of pillow-dominated subglacial eruptions recorded in Undirhlithar quarry on the Reykjanes Peninsula in southwest Iceland. You may remember that Lindsey Bowman (’12) and Becky Alcorn (’11) completed I.S. theses in Undirhlithar. Here are some highlights from our presentation:

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Undirhlithar quarry is a unique exposure that  provides insights into the internal architecture of a glaciovolcanic pillow ridge.

We've identified and mapped  pillow lavas, intrusions, and dikes.

Most of the quarry is made of pillow lavas, which are emplaced during effusive subaqueous eruption. We’ve also identified intrusions and dikes that feed the overlying pillow lava flows.

We've also identified tuff and tuff-breccia in the quarry.

There are also fragmental units in the quarry. The tuff, or fine ashy layers, probably represent periods of quiescence between eruptive events. The tuff-breccia, which has larger clasts, are formed during explosive activity and as a result of gravitational collapse along steep slopes.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we've generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced.

Combined with geochemical and petrological variations, we’ve generated a model for how the units exposed in Undirhlithar were emplaced that involves a complex sequence of multiple eruptive events.

The model involves a complex sequence of eruptive events under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions.

The sequence of events occurred under changing magmatic and eruptive conditions, which suggests that even small glaciovolcanic ridges can be constructed in a complicated manner.

Congratulations Team Utah!

June 20th, 2013

UTAH – Congratulations to Team Utah on completing a successful field season!

Team Utah 2013 at the end of their last day in the field. From left to right: (front) Dr. Thom Wilch (Albion), Michael Williams ('16, COW), Ellen Redner ('14, Albion), Cam Matesich ('14, COW), Adam Silverstein ('16, COW); (back) Kyle Burden ('14, COW), Dr. Meagen Pollock (COW), Ben Hinks ('14, Albion), Candy Thornton ('14, COW), Tricia Hall ('14, COW), and Dr. Shelley Judge (COW).

Team Utah 2013 at the end of their last day in the field. From left to right: (front) Dr. Thom Wilch (Albion), Michael Williams (’16, COW), Ellen Redner (’14, Albion), Cam Matesich (’14, COW), Adam Silverstein (’16, COW); (back) Kyle Burden (’14, COW), Dr. Meagen Pollock (COW), Ben Hinks (’14, Albion), Candy Thornton (’14, COW), Tricia Hall (’14, COW), and Dr. Shelley Judge (COW). Credit: T. Wilch

Although we’re parting ways, the students will be working on the research. They have plenty of data to analyze and lab work to do, so continue following the blog to stay updated on their progress.

Sandstone Appreciation Day

June 16th, 2013

Zion National Park, Utah – Team Utah took a break from the volcanic field to explore some of Utah’s (more famous) sedimentary rocks. We visited Zion, Utah’s first National Park.

Zion is a geological wonderland, featuring striking sheer cliffs and narrow slot canyons.

Zion is a geological wonderland, featuring striking sheer cliffs and narrow slot canyons.

The students took the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools.

The students hiked the Kayenta trail to the Emerald Pools. Credit: T. Hall

This is the Court of the Patriarch, so named for figures from the Old Testament by Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916. Abraham Peak is on the far left. Isaac Peak is in the center. Jacob Peak is the white peak that can be viewed just beyond Mount Moroni.

This is the Court of the Patriarchs, so named for figures from the Old Testament by Frederick Vining Fisher in 1916. Abraham Peak is on the far left. Isaac Peak is in the center. Jacob Peak is the white peak that can be viewed just beyond Mount Moroni on the right.

View of The Narrows, a trail that winds through the slot canyons carved by water through the Navajo Sandstone.

View of The Narrows, a trail that winds through slot canyons in the famously cross-bedded Navajo Sandstone.

The Wooster crew cools off in the Virgin River at the end of an awesome day in Zion. Credit: T. Wilch

The Wooster crew cools off in the Virgin River at the end of an awesome day in Zion. Credit: T. Wilch

Serious Geologizing in Utah

June 13th, 2013

UTAH – Team Utah has been seriously geologizing in the Ice Springs Volcanic Field over the past two days. Here’s a photo-journal of the crew at work.

Ben Hinks ('14, Albion) examines a stack of thin pahoehoe flows in his field area. Credit: M. Pollock

Ben Hinks (’14, Albion) examines a stack of thin pahoehoe flows in his field area. Credit: M. Pollock

Cam Matesich ('14, Wooster), Ben Hinks ('14, Albion, and Tricia Hall ('14, Wooster) looking for samples in an 'a'a lava flow in Cam's field area. Credit: T. Wilch

Cam Matesich (’14, Wooster), Ben, and Tricia Hall (’14, Wooster) look for samples in an ‘a’a lava flow in Cam’s field area. Credit: T. Wilch

Synchronized hammering was the only way we could get samples of the tough lava. From left to right: Cam Matesich, Ellen Redner ('14, Albion), Kyle Burden ('14, Wooster), and Ben Hinks. Credit: M. Pollock

Synchronized hammering was the only way we could get samples of the tough lava. From left to right: Cam, Ellen Redner (’14, Albion), Kyle Burden (’14, Wooster), and Ben. Credit: M. Pollock

Ellen hands Ben the fruits of her labor. Credit: T. Wilch

Ellen hands Ben the fruits of her labor. Kyle is ready to bag it. Credit: T. Wilch

Candy Thornton ('14, Wooster) directs the data collection at her field site. Credit: T. Wilch

Candy Thornton (’14, Wooster) directs the data collection at her field site. Credit: T. Wilch

Kyle, Ben, and Candy document the stratigraphy of an isolated lava pillar in the middle of a depression. Credit: T. Wilch

Kyle, Ben, and Candy document the stratigraphy of an isolated lava pillar in the middle of a depression. Credit: T. Wilch

Adam Silverstein ('16, Wooster) makes an excellent scale. Credit: M. Pollock

Adam Silverstein (’16, Wooster) makes an excellent scale. Credit: M. Pollock

 

Michael Williams ('16, Wooster) and Cam use the GPS to map the location of features in Candy's field site. Credit: A. Silverstein

Michael Williams (’16, Wooster) and Cam use the GPS to map the location of features in Candy’s field site. Credit: A. Silverstein

Tricia measures the orientation of volcanic striae. Credit: M. Pollock

Tricia measures the orientation of volcanic striae. Credit: M. Pollock

Scientific Outreach in Iceland

June 12th, 2013

ICELAND – Team Iceland is nearly ready to return to the states, but not before we share what we’ve learned with the Icelandic community. Our home-away-from-home, the Hraunbyrgi guesthouse, is also home for the Hafnarfjörður scouts. To celebrate the end of their season, the scouts are having a large, nationwide camp-out at a site just south of the pillow quarries. So, for their final meeting, the scouts met with Team Iceland to learn about our research.

Dr. Ben Edwards shows the local scouts a sample of a pillow basalt.

Dr. Ben Edwards shows the local scouts a sample of pillow basalt.

The scouts learned that they’ll be camping along a ridge made of pillow basalts, which formed when lava erupted under a glacier. They also heard about the kinds of information that we can learn from the pillow basalts, like how the upper portion of the ocean floor is formed and how thick the ice was that once covered the Reykjanes Peninsula.  The scouts returned the favor and taught Team Iceland a few new Icelandic words. What a fantastic way to end a successful field season!

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.

 

 

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!

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!

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