In Which I Play the Geological Host


There’s this place in Seattle called Seward Park, where, after an easy amble up a nicely-paved walk, you dodge off onto a wee little trail and come bang up against a fault scarp.

Mah Boys with Fault Scarp

I did a wee write-up on it a bit over a year ago. Good thing, too, because I keep missing the geology walks they do there sometimes, and when you’re showing off the local geology, it helps to know a little something about it. I dusted off ye olde research and read up a bit to refresh ye olde horrible memory, so there were a few moments during which I could answer questions. Such as, “What’s a fault scarp?” Which is answered at the link.

I’ll be doing a more in-depth write-up soon, once I’ve drilled down a bit. There’s so much more to this park than just one fault scarp, although that’s bloody awesome.

So I had Ryan Brown and his friend Ryan with me, and we babbled about geology and looked at geology, and there was the wonderful interval when all three of us were walking along the pebbly beach with Lake Washington roiling under gray skies, and plucking out particularly beautiful rocks. I could even identify some of them. We found a nice porphyry, and a variety of granitic rocks, and quartz of course, and some fragments of migmatites, and gneiss, and some rocks so green they probably had a lot of epidote in them. And I found a piece of smoky quartz that is extremely special because it’s the first bit of smoky quartz I’ve ever found in the wild. Woot!

Then Ryan (no, not Glacial Till Ryan, the other Ryan) spotted the tiniest baby slug I’ve ever seen.

Baby Slug!

And no, I don’t know what kind of rock he’s on – I was too occupied with the slug to look closely. It’s kind of quartzy, I think. Um. Yeah. Hey! Slug!

So Cute Slug!

And there were fruit trees flowering:

Flowers

I took about a billion photos of fruit trees, including the whole tree and the bark, and I’ll be posting them for your pleasure soon. I know some of you like identifying such things. Not many wildflowers out yet, alas, but I also got some unidentified birds, so the ornithologists in the audience will soon have challenges of their own. Yes, I think about all of you constantly while I’m out adventuring. I want to make you happy, my darlings!

One of my goals for this outing, besides showing Ryan and companion some fun geology while they were in town, was to get a photo of my Glacial Till with some glacial features. And I succeeded! I’ve got Ryan, aka Glacial Till, riding a glacial erratic:

Glacial Till with Glacial Erratic

We ended up in bits of Seward Park I’d never been in, and saw things I rarely see, like breaking waves on Lake Washington.

Breaking Waves

And we found an outstanding outcrop of the Blakeley Formation.

Outcrop!

Yes, I squealed when I saw this. There are other exposures up by the art center, but this one, round the tip of the peninsula, is utterly gorgeous.

And dere were bald eagles! Which probably explains why there’s a trail named Bald Eagle Trail.

Bald Eagle

Soaring majestically, although from some angles, they actually look kinda like they’re upside-down.

Upside-Down Eagle

Then all back to majestic again.

Eagle Soaring

Ryan’s studying meteorites, so his forte is space rocks more than Earth Rocks. He’s my very own Meteorite Man. And so I gave him a little fragment of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, which is the huge-arse iron octahedrite that created Barringer Meteor Crater. I just discovered that this meteorite, my home-town meteorite, helped date the age of the Earth to 4.55 billion years. How awesome is that?

So here we have glacial geology (note the drumlins and the glacially-carved lake) with meteoritics (note Ryan’s hand holding his meteorite) and a very pretty fruit tree.

Meteorite and Drumlin with Fruit Tree

I can’t tell you how much I love this picture, but I think you can guess.

Within the next few days, I’ll have lots of lovely photos for you: mystery flora, mystery avian dinosaurs, skunk cabbage for the skunk cabbage lovers, daffodils for the daffodil lovers… We’ll dig in to the Blakeley Formation, and visit with some more glacial erratics, and revisit the fault scarp. Then we’ll head back down to Oregon, because I should really get off me arse and get some of that delicious geology posted for ye.

And there are some exciting announcements coming up. Things round here are gonna change. Stay tuned!

Something struck home during this visit, and it’s the thought I want to leave you with: geology is something anyone can do. You do not have to be an expert. Here I am, a freaking amateur, and I can walk folks round the local geological delicacies just fine.

It’s okay to not know everything. It’s okay to not know all the terms. It’s okay to admit you’re stumped when you are, in fact, stumped. But after doing some reading, both books written for layfolk and the scientific literature, and getting out there to bang on some rocks yourself, you’ll be surprised by how much you’ve learned. And it’s a total delight when you revisit a place you’ve seen before, and realize how much more you know and understand.

What I’m saying is, don’t let anything keep you off the rocks. If you love them and want to know more about them, you don’t need an advanced degree, an expensive education, and higher maths to hear what they’re saying. You just need the passion. It’s kind of like amateur astronomy that way. Layfolk can get involved, and have a damned fine time doing it. That’s true for all of the sciences, of course, but some are easier on the mathematically-challenged than others. This is one.

There’s nothing like being on the rocks. Nothing at all.

Comments

  1. says

    Great post. Yes, geology is a populist science (so to speak), that often isn’t recognized as such. Keep promoting it and hopefully people will start to listen. :)

  2. Gregory in Seattle says

    The Puget Sound is an excellent place to be an amateur geologist, between the seismic activity and a history of glaciation. There are a number of rock clubs and minerological societies around here that hold seminars, offer classes and make excursions. Lots of fun.

    • Dana Hunter says

      It’s just too bad about all that damned biology in the way. Sigh. But yes, this is one of the greatest places on Earth to indulge a passion for geology. Astronomy, not so much…

  3. says

    This: “…it’s a total delight when you revisit a place you’ve seen before, and realize how much more you know and understand.” Remember how I said I was a big fan of multiple visits to particularly interesting sites? This is a big part of it. One’s knowledge grows between visits. Additionally, with different seasons, weather, lighting, vegetation cover, time available, etc., one sees different things each visit. A site that seems initially straightforward may be quite different than the first impression, or turn out to have lots of subtle details not initially apparent. Professional geologists are trained to recognize and record the most critical details rapidly and efficiently, because there simply isn’t time to make every possible observation- though that doesn’t mean the working geo doesn’t *wish* she/he could spend more time.

    One of the great joys of doing geology in the field is seeing how my ideas change through time. It can be difficult to explain to students from the US education system that it’s about process, not getting “the right answer.” It’s an interesting metaphor to consider the development of a hypothesis into a theory as the evolution of explanations by means of mental selection and survival of the fittest ideas.