Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Revisiting the Geologist's Life List: The Resolution I Make Every Year

Many thanks to Andrew Alden over at About.com Geology for the idea to start my sixth year of geo-blogging (my blogoversary comes on January 7). I'm not one for making resolutions on New Year's Day, but I have a single long-standing resolution: Whenever I can, I try to visit someplace new, and learn something new about a place, even if I know it well.
Here is nearly the last new place of my 2012 year...probably a near future blogpost.
Back in 2008, a meme was going around about "100 things", which reminded me of an article by Lisa Rossbacher in Geotimes (now Earth) magazine around 1990 about the things all geologists should do before they pack it in. The list eventually made it onto the Internet courtesy of Terry Acomb, and I realized it would be fun to adapt the list into a list of 100 things you've done, Geologist version. Today I think of the list as very much a bucket list full of goals, and if I ever finish that list, I intend to start another more international version. Here is the only slightly abridged version of that post. In 2008 I counted 65% of my bucket list fulfilled, and note that since then I have added 3.5 to 4 more items (I finally made it to the green sand beach at South Point in Hawaii, saw varves, saw moving stones on a playa, but on Bonnie Claire Playa instead of the Racetrack, and just two days ago I saw a fair number of sinkholes in the suburbs of St. Louis). How far along are you? You can answer here or at Andrew's site; he thought of bringing it back up for consideration!

From December of 2008:
Memes can be fun, and there is one going around dealing with 100 things that you have done (two recent examples here and here). I counted about 54 things on those lists that I've done in my 51 years. The meme immediately reminded me of the single most influential column I can remember from Geotimes (now Earth), written in 1990 by Lisa Rossbacher on the places that all geologists should try and see in their lifetimes. The list went through several updates, and arrived on the internet in 1997 on a page put together by Terry Acomb, currently in Grand Junction, Colorado. By nice coincidence, the entire list totaled just about 100 items, so I have made only small changes in the content. I have mostly kept the originals; all such lists are very subjective, and if I fiddled with anything I would never have finished. I notice for one that the list tends towards being biased to sites in North America. I would love to see someone put together a purely world-wide list. One geologist I know essentially tried to see them all on one six month journey; you can read his story here.

Of course, the fun part of such a meme is the reliving of those great experiences. The picture above is my visit to the K/T boundary at Gubbio, Italy.

Here they are! Bold the ones you have done (mine are in the comments) and tell us some great stories!

1. See an erupting volcano
2. See a glacier
3. See an active geyser such as those in Yellowstone, New Zealand or the type locality of Iceland
4. Visit the Cretaceous/Tertiary (KT) Boundary. Possible locations include Gubbio, Italy, Stevns Klint, Denmark, the Red Deer River Valley near Drumheller, Alberta.
5. Observe (from a safe distance) a river whose discharge is above bankful stage
6. Explore a limestone cave. Try Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, Lehman Caves in Great Basin National Park, or the caves of Kentucky or TAG (Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia)
7. Tour an open pit mine, such as those in Butte, Montana, Bingham Canyon, Utah, Summitville, Colorado, Globe or Morenci, Arizona, or Chuquicamata, Chile.
8. Explore a subsurface mine.
9. See an ophiolite, such as the ophiolite complex in Oman or the Troodos complex on the Island Cyprus (if on a budget, try the Coast Ranges or Klamath Mountains of California).
10. An anorthosite complex, such as those in Labrador, the Adirondacks, and Niger (there's some anorthosite in southern California too).
11. A slot canyon. Many of these amazing canyons are less than 3 feet wide and over 100 feet deep. They reside on the Colorado Plateau. Among the best are Antelope Canyon, Brimstone Canyon, Spooky Gulch and the Round Valley Draw.
12. Varves, whether you see the type section in Sweden or examples elsewhere.
13. An exfoliation dome, such as those in the Sierra Nevada.
14. A layered igneous intrusion, such as the Stillwater complex in Montana or the Skaergaard Complex in Eastern Greenland.
15. Coastlines along the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate (check out The Dynamic Earth - The Story of Plate Tectonics - an excellent website).
16. A gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic.
17. Living and fossilized stromatolites (Glacier National Park is a great place to see fossil stromatolites, while Shark Bay in Australia is the place to see living ones)
18. A field of glacial erratics
19. A caldera
20. A sand dune more than 200 feet high
21. A fjord
22. A recently formed fault scarp
23. A megabreccia
24. An actively accreting river delta
25. A natural bridge
26. A large sinkhole
27. A glacial outwash plain
28. A sea stack
29. A house-sized glacial erratic
30. An underground lake or river
31. The continental divide
32. Fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals
33. Petrified trees
34. Lava tubes
35. The Grand Canyon. All the way down. And back.
36. Meteor Crater, Arizona, also known as the Barringer Crater, to see an impact crater on a scale that is comprehensible
37. The Great Barrier Reef, northeastern Australia, to see the largest coral reef in the world.
38. The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada, to see the highest tides in the world (up to 16m)
39. The Waterpocket Fold, Utah, to see well exposed folds on a massive scale.
40. The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan, to better appreciate the air you breathe.
41. The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania,
42. Lake Baikal, Siberia, to see the deepest lake in the world (1,620 m) with 20 percent of the Earth's fresh water.
43. Ayers Rock (known now by the Aboriginal name of Uluru), Australia. This inselberg of nearly vertical Precambrian strata is about 2.5 kilometers long and more than 350 meters high
44. Devil's Tower, northeastern Wyoming, to see a classic example of columnar jointing
45. The Alps.
46. Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park. From this spectacular summit you can look down onto the floor of Death Valley - 11,330 feet below.
47. The Li River, China, to see the fantastic tower karst that appears in much Chinese art
48. The Dalmation Coast of Croatia, to see the original Karst.
49. The Gorge of Bhagirathi, one of the sacred headwaters of the Ganges, in the Indian Himalayas, where the river flows from an ice tunnel beneath the Gangatori Glacier into a deep gorge.
50. The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah, an impressive series of entrenched meanders.
51. Shiprock, New Mexico, to see a large volcanic neck
52. Land's End, Cornwall, Great Britain, for fractured granites that have feldspar crystals bigger than your fist.
53. Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina, to see the Straights of Magellan and the southernmost tip of South America.
54. Mount St. Helens, Washington, to see the results of recent explosive volcanism.
55. The Giant's Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland, to see polygonally fractured basaltic flows.
56. The Great Rift Valley in Africa.
57. The Matterhorn, along the Swiss/Italian border, to see the classic "horn".
58. The Carolina Bays, along the Carolinian and Georgian coastal plain
59. The Mima Mounds near Olympia, Washington
60. Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland, where James Hutton (the "father" of modern geology) observed the classic unconformity
61. The moving rocks of Racetrack Playa in Death Valley
62. Yosemite Valley
63. Landscape Arch (or Delicate Arch) in Utah
64. The Burgess Shale in British Columbia
65. The Channeled Scablands of central Washington
66. Bryce Canyon
67. Grand Prismatic Spring at Yellowstone
68. Monument Valley
69. The San Andreas fault
70. The dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
71. The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
72. The Pyrennees Mountains
73. The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
74. Denali (an orogeny in progress)
75. A catastrophic mass wasting event
76. The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
77. The black sand beaches in Hawaii (or the green sand-olivine beaches)
78. Barton Springs in Texas
79. Hells Canyon in Idaho
80. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado
81. The Tunguska Impact site in Siberia
82. Feel an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 5.0.
83. Find dinosaur footprints in situ84. Find a trilobite (or a dinosaur bone or any other fossil)
85. Find gold, however small the flake
86. Find a meteorite fragment
87. Experience a volcanic ashfall
88. Experience a sandstorm
89. See a tsunami
90. Witness a total solar eclipse
91. Witness a tornado firsthand. (Important rules of this game).
92. Witness a meteor storm, a term used to describe a particularly intense (1000+ per minute) meteor shower
93. View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
94. See the Aurora borealis, otherwise known as the northern lights.
95. View a great naked-eye comet, an opportunity which occurs only a few times per century
96. See a lunar eclipse
97. View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
98. Experience a hurricane
99. See noctilucent clouds
100. See the green flash


Celia Lewis said...

Wonderful bucket list, Garry - and I'm sure you'll add more ones soon! Enjoy this year of discoveries! Happy New Year.

Randy A. said...

The anorthosite in Southern California is a layered intrusion. So is it a 2 for 1 deal (10 & 14)?

I can check off about a quarter of these personally -- without ever trying!

One of the great things about geology is that it's everywhere, and you don't need any equipment to appreciate it. So I appreciate geology wherever I go...

Have a very gneiss new year! And happy perihelion (this evening, Pacific time).