Several days ago, Woozle shared this post with me on G+, jokingly wondering if I could identify the “rock formation” this hand sample came from:
And I was all like “Ha ha ha Woozle you are teh funneh – wait. I have something that looks very much like that.”
Check these two photos out:
Not a perfect match, but eerily close, innit?
Both of these things came about through disasters. One was a batch of soap that went terribly wrong. Harena says, “The dark stuff you see in the bars is this fascinating gel of not properly saponified oils (it is not caustic at all that I can tell).” I’m going to have to take her word for it, because I don’t know the first fucking thing about soap.
The second photo in the above pair is an extreme close-up of a fascinating bit o’ rock. It’s from a rhyolite outcrop Lockwood adores. It’s in northern Nevada: you can see its location on Flash Earth here. Someday, I will have to entice a volcanologist to it: we don’t know quite what it is, and only some heavy work with thin sections is going to resolve it. But a great exchange on Twitter between geobloggers came up with some likely possibilities, rhemorphic tuff being the prime candidate.
This would have been a definite disaster, but it’s a beautiful one.
Here’s a small piece of that outcrop. One one side, you’ve got this kind of bubbly texture going in a pale yellow something – I don’t even know what it is (hopefully Lockwood will drop by and tell all he knows, because I know he knows more about these minerals than I do). I believe this is botryoidal texture, which is a habit a lot of minerals have. Of course, I don’t know if this looks like the classic “bunch of grapes” because of the mineral or something else. So much I don’t know about this outcrop. Yet.
Flip this sample over…
I mean, that’s pretty damned spectacular, amirite? I don’t know what’s causing the brilliant orange, but it’s fantastic.
So here’s a much larger chunk, and it’s displaying some of the abundant spherulites we found all over this outcrop.
The spherulites are all those little rounded thingies, which is why I’m not positive about the botryoidal texture – could be lots of spherulites clumped together and coated with stuff for all I know. I need to thoroughly investigate this, but I’ve been busy investigating other things. Give me time. I could do a whole bloody series on this outcrop when I’ve done the proper research. I mean, take a bumpty brownish rock with a little bit of orange on it, flip it over, and…
Yowsa! Colors pop, textures asplode, you can see a bit of what looks like flow banding, there’s clear bubbly glass all over it. Gorgeous!
How spectacular is that? Wait, it gets better:
Absolutely do click for the larger versions of those. And keep in mind, varied as these are, it’s only the beginning of the fascinations that outcrop displays. I could keep you occupied for a solid week showing you different aspects of it.
This, my friends, would have been a disaster if you’d been there. If it’s a rheomorphic tuff, that is some seriously hot rhyolitic ash that descended upon the area. The Pacific Northwest was no fit place to be between sixteen and fifteen million years ago, when we believe this beauty erupted. The Columbia River Basalts coated absolutely everything, or so it seemed, and then the bits they didn’t cover, the McDermitt volcanic field did. Nevada may have been laughing at Oregon and Washington – “Ha ha, look at ya’ll, getting all flooded by basalt. We’re doing fine here! Ha ha ha!” – but it wasn’t laughing long. Let Wikipedia put it this way: “The northwest Nevada calderas have diameters ranging from 15–26 km and deposited high temperature rhyolite ignimbrites over approximately 5000 km2.” (That would be calderas 9-16 miles in diameter devastating an area of around 3,100 miles for those of us allergic to the metric system.) This translates to zomg everything’s covered in super-hot clouds of ash and the whole world seems like it exploded!!eleventy!!
And it left this utterly gorgeous, glassy rhyolitic tuff behind.
People often wonder just what the fuck I find so fascinating about rocks. Then I show them stuff like this, and tell them what I know of its story, and after they’ve collected their jaws from the floor, most of them wonder no more. (It also helps that I sometimes bring samples and the rock hammer to work, and take folks on mini field trips during break. They loves them some hammer time!)
And there you have it: as long as no one was hurt, disasters can be fun, and unexpectedly beautiful.
(Please don’t judge Harena’s Handmade Soap by one disaster. It’s usually quite lovely and not disastrous at all.)