Thursday, February 20, 2014

Out of the Valley of Death: Home from the road

Dantes View at Death Valley National Park
It's geology in the starkest terms. Death Valley is a place where the crust has been torn asunder, with valley floors lying below sea level next to peaks that reach 11,000 feet. Rocks here are rarely hidden by vegetation or soil. It's a land alien enough that George Lucas filmed parts of Star Wars here. It's a land that crushed the dreams of many people, and provided sanctuary for others.

The rocks of Death Valley record an unusually complete history extending from the early Proterozoic eon as much as two billion years ago to rocks that formed only a few centuries ago. It's hard to imagine a better place for teaching geology, and that's what I was doing over the last couple of days.
I bet no one has ever thought of taking a picture from this particular spot before!
The students were enthusiastic and curious, the weather was outstanding, and the scenery was on a grand scale. We'll explore some of the fascinating corners of this incredible landscape in the next few posts.
Some of the oldest rocks in the American west, metamorphosed around 1.7 billion years ago.

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