NEWARK, NEW JERSEY–Wooster junior Will Cary and I are departing very soon on a flight to Tel Aviv, Israel, and the start of our ten-day field trip to Israel. We will be exploring the Jurassic of southern Israel (the Matmor Formation in Hamakhtesh Hagadol — a favorite place for several Wooster geologists including Jeff Bowen, Meredith Sharpe, Sophie Lehmann, Elyssa Krivicich, Micah Risacher and Andrew Retzler (click the “Israel” tag to the right to see dozens of our blog posts). Our plan is the usual one: after arrival in Tel Aviv, we will drive south to Mitzpe Ramon, our Negev base, where we will meet Yoav Avni of the Geological Survey of Israel. We will then make the daily drive to the Large Makhtesh to measure strata and collect specimens. We want to concentrate on a crinoid-rich fauna near the middle of the formation. My dream is to find a significant number of rare bryozoans and maybe a few brachiopods as well. Since our goal is paleoecological reconstruction, all that we find is data.
Boarding a flight to Israel is always an adventure in itself. The gate for the Tel Aviv flight is set apart from the others at the end of a concourse. It has its own separate security procedures, and once you are in the waiting area you are discouraged from leaving. Guards with automatic weapons stay ready in the background, visible but not obvious. Each passenger walking up the ramp to the plane is looked square in the eyes by a grim Israeli security officer. (I give an innocent and naive scientist’s smile back.)
Fifteen hours or so from now I expect we will arrive in the little town of Mitzpe Ramon in the afternoon sunshine. I can feel the gravel under my boots already.