Thursday, 31 October 2013


Today we examined our cores that we collected on the 22nd of October. We were split into two groups, and the group that I am in were given Core 2 Drill 1 and Core 2 Drill 2. Core 2 Drill 1 goes from 0cm depth to 64cm depth and Core 2 Drill 2 goes from 50cm depth to 150cm depth, meaning that there is a 14cm overlap.

Our Cores
We then made a log of the characteristics of the cores that we could see without doing anything to them, concentrating on their colour changes, vegetation densities and shell content. The upper part of the cores was densely vegetated, whilst the deepest part of the cores contained some gastropod shells.

After that we cut out 26 samples from the centres of the cores to be heated before we can study them separately to see what they are made of and what their Zinc concentration is. Keep an eye out over the next few weeks for an update on how everything goes.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

America Day 11 - Tuesday 15th October

We landed at 4pm UK time on the Tuesday (which was 8am to us!), and managed to get through baggage collection quite fast. At 5pm we got on the mini bus and set off towards Plymouth. Some people slept, whilst the rest of us chatted and played games. We stopped briefly for a stretch of our legs at 7pm, and then continued, arriving in Plymouth at around 9:30pm, the end of our trip.

I hope you’ve all enjoyed my not so brief overview of the trip! Sorry that the last few posts haven't really been geology related, but I thought you would like to know how it all ended.

Monday, 28 October 2013

America Day 10 - Monday 14th October

On Monday we gave the lecturers some presents for the trip (a bottle of wine, a new cap and a rock sticker book), and then left for a long journey to the Los Angeles Airport at 11:20am, where we arrived at around 5pm. There was a bit of a queue for check in, and we managed to get through security without any problems and boarded the plane at 9:30pm.
We took off at 10:30pm, and had an uneventful journey. There was some very unexciting food, and we all did a bit of work on our overall summaries. Some people managed to sleep, but I didn’t manage too, so I just missed a nights worth of sleep!

Los Angeles Airport

Sunday, 27 October 2013

America Day 9 - Sunday 13th October

As we were leaving on Sunday morning, we saw a tarantula running around the campsite, which made us all shiver at the thought of it being there the night before! We then wandered around the Valley of Fire area, looking at petrified logs, ripples in rocks and the visitor’s centre, where we saw lizards, scorpions and tarantulas.

We left there at 11:30am, and at 1:30pm we arrived on the outskirts of Las Vegas, where we had a brief look at the geology around Vegas whilst we waited to be able to check into the New York New York Hotel at 3pm. 

First View of Vegas


New York New York
We headed out at 7pm to look around Las Vegas and all had dinner in the Arena 24 restaurant in the MGM building, before looking around Vegas. We saw several of the casinos, went in to a couple of the souvenir shops, and did varying amounts of gambling. 

Sunset over Vegas

Saturday, 26 October 2013

You know you're a Geologist when...

Mid Atlantic Ridge
The Mid Atlantic Ridge (see above) is a spreading centre that separates the Eurasian Plate from the North American Plate, and the African Plate from the South American Plate. The ridge itself runs roughly north-south, and is cut by roughly east-west faults.
Today, whilst walking through town, I saw a little girl with her hair in pigtails on either side of her head, and the parting between each pigtail reminded me of the Mid Atlantic Ridge! I think geology has officially taken over my mind!

America Day 8 - Saturday 12th October

On Saturday we examined the Pliocene (5.3 to 1.8 million years ago) Furnace Creek Formation down the road from the ranch. It’s composed of sandstones, mudstones, conglomerates (that’s a fine grained rock with larger grains within it that have been cemented together), breccias (that’s a fine grained rock with larger fragments of minerals and grains within it that have been cemented together) and basaltic lava flows. The units were deposited in a deep lake setting, which we worked out from the presence of ripple marks in some of the beds, and a few of them had been faulted during the deformation in Death Valley.

Furnace Creek Formation
At 12:10pm we went to Zabriskie Point, Gower Gulch and the western end of Echo Canyon Wash to look at some cool views and discuss some of the deformation that occurred in Death Valley. 

Zabriskie Point

Zabriskie Point
We also briefly discussed deformation on the Black Mountain Fault near Furnace Creek Inn, before setting off to the Valley of Fire campsite where we stayed for the night, which we got to at 5pm. This was an interesting night as the toilets were a hole in ground and wind ripped through the valley for most of the night! We did have a lovely time chatting around the campfire beforehand though.

Valley of Fire


Friday, 25 October 2013

America Day 7 - Friday 11th October

On Friday we arrived at Panamint Valley at 10:30am, and looked at some of the amazing views over Panamint and Death Valley.

View of Death Valley
We then continued driving into Death Valley, when we came across a closed road. This just happened to be the road that we were supposed to be driving down for the day so that we could do our work! After a few moments of despair, and some not so carefully chosen words, we headed off to find out what else we could do. 

Closed road!
We found a closed off town, a few sand dunes (where we had a bit of time off), a halite salt pan and a couple of other things, but we didn’t manage to do any work, so we headed to Furnace Creek Ranch at 2pm.
At 3pm we went to the Beatty Cut-Off Road to look for evidence of reworking of gravels on pluvial (extended period of abundant rainfall) lakes in Death Valley that occurred in the Late Pleistocene (0.1 to 0.01 million years ago). The deposits here represent a transgressive period in a lake, which is when the sediment supply rate is less than the lake level rise, causing an overall rise in the water level. We left there at 5:10pm, and got back to Furnace Creek Ranch where we stayed the night, and had a swim in the naturally heated pool.

Beatty Cut-Off Road

Diagram of a Transgressive Period

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Millionaire Farmer

 A 'very significant skeleton
A farmer from Hell Creek in Montana is to become a millionaire after a 38ft long Tyrannosaurus rex and a 26ft long Triceratops were found on his land. The find has been classed as very significant, impressive and valuable, as the T-rex skeleton has around 40% of its original bones, and the Triceratops has around 70% of them. As the T-rex is in the top 20 ever found, it is likely to fetch £1.4 million, whilst the Triceratops could reach £560,000. See the Daily Mail for more information.

America Day 6 - Thursday 10th October

On Thursday at 10am we went to Chalk Bluff Road to look at the Bishop’s Tuff formation. Both of the units here were from explosive volcanic eruptions, but their actual depositional events were slightly different. The bottom unit was deposited in a pyroclastic fall, which means that material dropped from the volcano and didn’t have any flow. The upper unit was deposited in a pyroclastic flow, which means that material was carried down the side of the volcano under gravity. They were both lapilli tuffs, meaning that the grain sizes within the units went up to a maximum of around 64mm.
We arrived at Hot Creek at 1:45pm, where we looked at the hot springs that unfortunately we weren’t allowed to go in as they were too hot!

Hot Springs
At 2:40pm we went to an obsidian, rhyolitic lava dome which is part of the Mono-Inyo Crater Chain. Unfortunately we couldn’t really see much here thanks to the snow that came down the day before! The views were lovely, and a few of us had snowball fights, before leaving there at 3:30pm.

Lava Dome
We then went to look at the Inyo Craters at 4pm, where several 1,000 year old eruptions took place, however we couldn’t see much there either thanks to the snow. At least it was very pretty! At 4:40pm we headed back to Lone Pine Hostel, which was just next to the motel, which unfortunately was full, where we stayed for the night.

One of the Inyo Craters

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Science Busking on a Beach!

Today our Communicating Earth Sciences lecture was about Geoscience Outreach, which is a way of engaging the public to teach them about various aspects of geosciences. We were put in groups and given a scenario where we had a location, a group of people and topic, and we had to come up with an idea of how to communicate the topic to the group of people. Our topic was Mass Extinction, our group of people were young children and adults without any scientific background and our location was a beach!
We came up with the idea of building a large 3D sand sculpture of a dinosaur and a sand timeline showing when the five major mass extinction events occurred, with piles of sand showing what percentage of species were wiped out. This should encourage people to come over, and then we could ask them what they know about extinction events. We could then develop on their knowledge, and explain about the different events, concentrating on their timing, how many species were wiped out, what species were wiped out and what caused the mass extinction. The plan was to do this as a song, to help keeps the children entertained, but also give the adults some information that they may find interesting, and hopefully they can go home with a bit more knowledge about geology.
The idea of this is that's it's a good way of engaging many different people in a flexible way, as it can be done on any beach at any time (depending on time), but it is also cheap, as all you need are some willing volunteers to talk to the public and a spade for building the sculptures!
This was very interesting, as it made us think about how we have to talk to people to give them more information about geology, and how we can make it engaging and fun, so that they will remember what we tell them.

America Day 5 - Wednesday 9th October

On Wednesday we continued to examine the fault scarp and managed to determine that it was a normal fault with a small amount of strike slip movement, which appears to have moved more than once. We determined this because there were two stages of erosion along a part of the fault scarp, and the calculations that we used to find its age came up with two different results.

Diagram of a normal fault

Rain starting to set in
The rest of the day was quite unsuccessful thanks to the heavy rain that decided to set in. We left the fault at 12pm and drove around Big Pine, peering at the geology through the windows. We saw a few interesting sites, but didn’t get to do any work, and at 4:30pm we gave up and headed back to the same hotel that we stayed in last night. 

Geology by bus!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Core Drilling

Today we had a field trip to Antony Marsh in Cornwall to take sediment cores to investigate sub-surface concentrations of heavy metals. Antony Marsh is a salt marsh, which is a vegetated area that is regularly flooded by the tide. Whilst we were there, we took four cores of the following depths:
Core 1, Drill 1 = 0-100cm
Core 1, Drill 2 = 75-175cm
Core 2, Drill 1 = 0-69cm
Core 2, Drill 2 = 50-150cm
We then calculated the height at which we took the cores by comparing it to a known height (unfortunately our lecturer couldn't remember that height, so we'll find that out soon!). We calculated that the difference between the height of our cores and the known height is 9.7cm, so hopefully soon we'll have some proper values!

Measuring the relative heights

America Day 4 - Tuesday 8th October

On Tuesday we headed to Red Hill across the Mojave Desert, where we arrived at 10:45am. Here we looked at Late Pleistocene (0.1 to 0.01 million years ago) volcanic deposits south of the Red Hill Cinder Cone. The deposits were made of primitive (young) basaltic lavas, had a variety of minerals included in them, and their texture suggested that when they were forming, they were moved slowly, but cooled rapidly. The origin of their melt was most likely to have been from a thin section of crust where extension occurred. 

Red Hill Cinder Cone
We then headed around to the corner to Fossil Falls, which consisted of the same basaltic lava, but here it had been cut by water after the last glacial maximum 20 thousand years ago. The lakes in the surrounding area would have filled up with melt water and over spilled into the valleys where it was able to carve through the rocks. We also found some black obsidian, which has a glassy texture as it cooled very rapidly and would have been used to make spear heads and tools. We also saw some petrogliths, which is art that has been scratched into the rocks, most often shamans and animals. These would have been made from 1000BC to 1300AD.

Fossil Falls

At 2:30pm we arrived at Alabama Hills and examined the Cretaceous (145 to 66 million years ago) granites which had been brought up from depth by extension, which can be shown by the fractures. The temperature of exhumation would have been at between 350 and 500oC (this can be seen from deformation in certain types of minerals and not others).

Fractured Granites
We then headed over to the Lone Pine Bajada, which is home to the 1872 Fault Scarp that formed during an earthquake. Here we tried to determine its nature and look at its history to see how and when it formed, and if this could be related to the East California Shear Zone. As we continued to work here on the 9th, I’ll explain our findings then. At 5:45pm we headed down to the Dow Villa Motel in Lone Pine, which is where we stayed for two nights.

Lone Pine Fault Scarp

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dangerous Rocks?

Charges are being considered after a group of scouts pushed over a 170 million-year-old red rock in Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, claiming that it was dangerous and could have fallen over at any moment. But in the video that they took, it's clear that they had to use a lot of effort to push the sandstone rock, known as a Goblin, over off its apparently "razor thin inch of dirt". The men involved are being investigated, and have already received several death threats from all around the world. You can check out the video on the Daily Express.

America Day 3 - Monday 7th October

Monday was the day of our first obstacle. At 9am we arrived at San Onofre State Beach, where we expected to examine the rock units exposed around the Christianitos Fault to see if there were any potential hazards that would affect the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station just down the road. Everyone wandered down to the beach, when disaster struck! The sand had been eroded further than before, meaning that the tide was around 1m higher than expected. We all ran around to a path further down the beach to see if we could find another way through, getting a bit damp in the process! There was a track that went through the vegetation and we found our way to a small clearing, where there was a wall that we climbed to get back to the mini buses.

A bit damp!

Our climbing wall!
We attempted to find another way around, but at 10:45am we gave up and went back to San Clemente Beach Cliffs to look at the rock units there. We examined the Channel Axis Facies (a facies is a body of rock with certain characteristics that forms under certain sedimentary conditions), and the Channel Margin Facies, which are both turbidites deposited in turbidity currents which are currents of rapidly moving, sediment laden water which moves down a slope through another body of water.

Channel Axis Facies
At 4pm we arrived at Lamont Odett Viewpoint, near Palmdale, which is on the edge of the Pacific Plate. We then moved just down the road to the Anaverde Cut on Highway 14, which is on the edge of the North American Plate (other side of the San Andreas Fault) to discuss deformation in an outcrop that we could see as it had been cut for the road. The rock units had been highly folded and faulted due to movement on the San Andreas Fault, which is a dextral strike slip fault (that basically means that if you stand on one side of the fault, over a long time you would see the other side of the fault move to the right). At 5:50pm we left there and headed to Palmdale Motel where we stayed for the night. 

Folded rocks on Anaverde Cut

Sunday, 20 October 2013

America Day 2 - Sunday 6th October

On Sunday we went to Curley’s Cafe by Signal Hill, just down the road from Long Beach. Here there are two nodding donkeys that get turned on to bring up oil. We discussed the petroleum system of the Los Angeles Basin and the Long Beach oilfield, which has over 1km of net reservoir of oil, thanks to the anticline (that’s when rocks are folded to form an ‘n’ shape) at Signal Hill allowing oil to be trapped underneath. Production at Long Beach oilfield started in 1921, reaching its peak year in 1923, but it is still going strong and rates haven’t dropped far in its nearly 100 year lifespan. 

Nodding Donkey at Curley's Cafe
We left Curley’s Cafe at 10:20am, and drove for an hour to Crescent Bay in Laguna Beach, to look at exposures of the Middle Miocene (around 5.3 to 23 million years ago) Monterey Formation, which consists of shales, siltstones, sandstones and mudstones which were deposited in a coastal setting. These types of units are ideal for trapping oil, making them a great source for it.

Monterey Formation
At 1pm we went to Dana Point Harbour just to the north. We examined more exposures of the Monterey Formation, along with the San Onofre Breccia and the Capistrano Formation. The San Onofre Breccia was deposited in a shallow marine environment during the early part of the Middle Miocene, and consists of sandstones with small rocks included within it. The Capistrano Formation was deposited in a deep water channel environment during the Upper Miocene and the Pliocene (around 5.3 to 1.8 million years ago), and consists of siltstones and sandstones.
We left there at 4:40pm for a half hour journey to San Clemente Beach Cliffs, which is where we camped for the night. We put up our tents before having a brief look at the Capistrano Formation, but we lost focus at around 6pm when a school of dolphins swam past in the sea! They were very cute, but not very geological!

San Clemente Beach

Capistrano Formation



Saturday, 19 October 2013

America Day 1 - Saturday 5th October

Right, I’ve had all my lectures, sort of unpacked, and I’m now on a three hour train journey to go home for the weekend, so I figured this would be a good time for a catch up! I’m going to tell you all about our amazing trip to America, and I’m going to do several blogs over a few days so that I don’t bombard you with information! Enjoy!

Saturday was the day that we left for America, so we left our house at 2:30am and walked past all the drunken students on their night out in the local clubs! We left at 3am, and it only took us around 3 hours to get to the airport, which meant that we got to check in straight away and through to security.
By 10:30am we were all on the plane, and the best part of the flight was at around 3pm when we flew over Greenland! The views were spectacular – there were countless ice sheets, snowy mountains and blocks of ice floating in water. North Dakota did its best to compete against Greenland, at 8:30pm, with lovely snowy views as far as you could see.

North Dakota
North Dakota
We landed at Los Angeles Airport at 10:30pm or 2:30pm local time and an hour and a half later we were through security and baggage collection. By 4:30pm we were at Los Angeles Travelodge and soon after, most of us decided to go visit Santa Monica, where the views were really cool – a great way to start off the trip!

Santa Monica