Archive for the ‘G is for Geologic’ Category

Ten Strange Places

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Richat Structure (‘African Eye’), Sahara desert, Mauritania, Africa. Photo by NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Strange, beautiful and little known natural wonders of the Earth via Aquiziam:

1. Pamukkale, Turkey: Around for over two millennia, the terraced pools are believed to be created by fractures caused by earthquakes that exposed hot springs. These hot springs evaporated leaving a chalky material, lining the tiered pools with white. Pamukkale is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the pools have been closed to bathing.

2. Koekohe Beach, New Zealand’s South Island: Known as “Moeraki Boulders,” these large, spherical boulders were originally formed on the sea floor from sedimentary deposits that accreted around a core in the same way that a pearl will form around a particle of sand.  The erosion of the cliffs often reveals these boulders from the surrounding mudstone allowing them to join those already on the beach. Maori legend attributes their origin to the arrival of the first ancestors / giants who came in the great Araiteuru canoe which was sunk by three great waves at nearby Matakaea.

3. Nine Hells of Beppu, Japan: Located on the Japanese island of Kyūshū, Beppu is the second largest producer of geothermal water in the world. Located in the same area are the “Nine Hells” or strange geothermal springs, each with its own remarkable character and color due to the variety of minerals in the outflows.

4. Las Canadas, Tenerife, Canary Islands: At the summit of Mount Teide, one of the largest Island volcanoes in the World is the Las Cañadas caldera. The crater, which is an enourmous sixteen kilometres across, is a picture of what Hell might look like if it cooled a little.  Shear walls that formed when the caldera first collapsed encircle this dry and alien place.

5. Great Blue Hole of Belize: In the Light House Reef of Belize is a deep circular cavity known as a Blue Hole. Also throughout the Bahamas, the Blue Hole is often the entrance to cave networks, some of them up to 14 kilometres in length. Divers have reported a vast number of aquatic creatures, some of which are still new to science.  In addition, they’ve recorded chambers filled with stalactites and stalagmites which only form in dry caves, which may be proof that nearly 65,000 years ago, when the world was in the grip of the last major ice age, the sea level was lower than it is today, and vast cave networks were created.  When sea levels rose again about 10,000 years ago some of these collapsed inwards and the Blue Holes were formed.

6. Hell’s Door, Turkmenistan: Located in the Kara-Kum desert of Turkmenistan, it is a result of a Soviet drilling for natural gas in 1971. The roof of the cavern collapsed leaving a crater-like sinkhole some 25 metres deep with a diameter of approximately 60 – 70 metres. It soon became evident that natural gas was still rising into the crater from even deeper sources and the story goes that the decision was made to ignite the emissions rather than risk either a concentrated build-up of gas or local poisoning.  According to various sources it has burned continuously since then and has apparently been named “The Gate to Hell” by the local people.

7. Sanqingsha, China: A small National Park near the city of Shangrao in the Jiangxi province of China has a combination of extraordinary granite geology in the form of weird outcrops and pillars combined with seasonal climate variations than often cause mists, fogs and striking sunsets. This effect is enhanced by the profusion of natural waterfalls, pools and springs.

8. Eye of Africa, Mauritania: From space this mysterious depression in the Sahara Desert of Mauritania really does look like a human eye. The image to the left is the “pupil” but a visit to Google Earth zoomed out a little will reveal the cliffs that make up the rest of the eye. This natural phenomenon is actually a richat structure caused by the dome shaped symmetrical uplifting of underlying geology now made visible by millennia of erosion. Some academics believe it is the sight of a meteor impact.

9. Suqatra Island, Yemen: Located off the coast of Yemen in the Middle East, isolated from the rest of the world its plants have evolved into many bizarre shapes and forms that are unknown in other parts of the world. One of the most famous of these is the Dragon’s Blood Tree the sap of which is used to make crystals that can be used as a dye or as an alleged aphrodisiac.

10. Racetrack Playa, California, USA: Called the ‘Sailing Stones,’ once a year the “Playa” or flat desert area experiences short winter rains and becomes slippery as the hexagonal desert floor turns back to mud. During this time the boulders and rocks move leaving clearly visible tracks behind them. Although scientists believe that high winds are responsible, some of the rocks will suddenly change directions and move at almost perfect right angles to their previous direction.


Dawn of the Anthropocene Age

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

Photo via flickr by mattyp

According to a team of geologists and scientists,  we are entering a new age of geological time which they call the “Anthropocene Epoch.”

In their report in the “journal Environmental Science & Technology”, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams from the University of Leicester Department of Geology; Will Steffen, Director of the Australian National University’s Climate Change Institute and Paul Crutzen the Nobel Prize-winning atmospheric chemist of Mainz University state that the dawning of this new epoch may include the sixth largest mass extinction in Earth’s history.

The scientists propose that, in just two centuries, humans have wrought such vast and unprecedented changes to our world that we actually might be ushering in a new geological time interval, and alter the planet for millions of years.

Zalasiewicz, Williams, Steffen and Crutzen contend that recent human activity, including stunning population growth, sprawling megacities and increased use of fossil fuels, have changed the planet to such an extent that we are entering what they call the Anthropocene (New Man) Epoch.

First proposed by Crutzen more than a decade ago, the term Anthropocene has provoked controversy. However, as more potential consequences of human activity—such as global climate change and sharp increases in plant and animal extinctions —have emerged, Crutzen’s term has gained support. Currently, the worldwide geological community is formally considering whether the Anthropocene should join the Jurassic, Cambrian and other more familiar units on the Geological Time Scale.

The scientists note that getting that formal designation will likely be contentious. But they conclude, “However these debates will unfold, the Anthropocene represents a new phase in the history of both humankind and of the Earth, when natural forces and human forces became intertwined, so that the fate of one determines the fate of the other. Geologically, this is a remarkable episode in the history of this planet.”

via ScienceDaily

In an interview with Sputnik Observatory, experimental geographer Trevor Paglen explains how humans, as geologic agents, have re-sculpted the Earth:

Another idea that I am interested in is thinking about humans as agents of geology, as geologic agents. That sounds a little bit weird, and I’ll explain what I mean by that. If we look at geology, historically, we look at the shape of the surface of the Earth; the sediments, layers, mountains, lakes, glaciers, you name it, the contours of the surface of the Earth. Historically, the main things that shape that are plate tectonics, the movement of plates on the surface of the Earth creating mountains, earthquakes, volcanoes, that sort of thing. It’s also shaped by rainfall, water erosion is an enormous contributor to the way the surface of the Earth is sculpted. It brings mountains down, creates lakes, rivers, all kinds of things like that. Other agents might be glaciers, you have an Ice Age, the ice is coming across the land and receding from the land and it really carves out the surface of the Earth in important ways. Now, for at least the past 100 years none of these have been the main factors shaping the surface of the Earth, sculpting the globe. Human activity has been the main thing that sculpted the surface of the globe. For example, mining. When we look at something like the Gold Rush or mining in Alaska, we literally are moving mountains in the span of very short periods of time. Unbelievable. We’re doing things in a few years that would take nature thousands of years to do. Human activity has become the main agent in sculpting the surface of the Earth. Not only in creating cities and these sorts of things, but creating mountains, tearing them down, creating new waterways and that sort of thing. It’s interesting to me. So in that project I’m thinking about what does that mean? Let’s think of ourselves as geologic agents. Let’s think about what we do in terms of geology and long, long time scales. Geologists work in what they call deep time, which is time that happens at a very different pace than human time, usually happens over thousands or millions of years.

CIA Publication: The World Factbook

Friday, February 5th, 2010

The World Factbook is a free online publication provided by The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), an independent US Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policymakers. The World Factbook offers information on the history, people, government, economy, geography, communications, transportation, military, and transnational issues for 266 world entities.

Plus, its Reference area includes: maps of the major world regions, as well as Flags of the World, a Physical Map of the World, a Political Map of the World, and Standard Time Zones of the World Map.

The World Factbook is in the public domain. Accordingly, it may be copied freely without permission of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). The official seal of the CIA, however, may NOT be copied. Misuse of the official seal could result in civil and criminal penalties.

G is for Geologic

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

You are here. Where? Mobile maneuvering and on-demand navigation has enabled civilian cartographers everywhere to create new maps of our world. Whether it’s experimental geographers using mashups like Flickr or Google Earth, or “machinamators” altering the aesthetics of the gaming terrain, landscapes are now environments of interaction. While our media ecologies serve to dimensionalize our sense of place, the graffiti-reminiscent move to tag the journey is also occurring, ranging from digital post-it notes and sticky shadows that direct our sight-seeing adventures initiated by companies such as Yellow Arrow and Socialight respectively, to psychogeographers such as Christina Kubisch, Soundwalk and Neurotransmitter that use soundscapes to explore the invisible topography of space. As alternative topologies are laid upon our real geography, it’s certain that our role as geological agents needs to be reconsidered. The phrase is, “geography is destination, and destination is on-the-way.” May “oh the places you will go” whether virtual or real, be beautiful.