Posted by The College of Science at OSU on July 25, 2008
This is part one of a two part entry, come back next week to view part two.
All photos can be clicked-on to view a larger version!
The club at the Spirit Mountain Batholith, a ~17-15 million year old granitic intrusion. Barry Walker got his masters degree studying this batholith at Vanderbilt University, and since the club was only ~2 hours away, they decided to stop by and have a look for a day.
Here they are inspecting a large outcrop of granite at the Spirit Mountain Batholith while enjoying a spot of shade.
The approach to Racetrack Playa, which is fairly isolated within Death Valley National Park. The group had to drive a little over an hour on a dusty gravel road to see this oddity. From afar, you can see that it looks like a typical stretch of desert sand. The black outcrop within the playa is called the Grandstand.
Teakettle Junction - desert weirdness! Of course, the group needed a photo of this.
Racetrack Playa: This photo beautifully illustrates the process that has confounded geologists for years. The cliffs of tilted dolomite in the background have shed many rocks that fall down onto the playa floor. During intense rainstorms, these rocks slide across the playa aided either by wind and wet mud, a thin ice sheet or possibly both. Wind seems to be the favored mechanism at this point, but no one knows for sure because the action has never been observed. Note the dirt in front of the rock, which appears to have been scraped into a pile.
Badwater Basin is in the heart of Death Valley National Park and is at the lowest elevation in the western Hemisphere: 282 feet below sea level. It is called Badwater because there are some meager pools here that contain water that is spoiled by the dissolved salts from the playa. The Geo Club came here in late March and so experienced temperatures in the high 80s (with clouds for extra protection). In mid summer, though, temperatures can be over 130 degrees. Shortly after this, the group would find itself helping a family from Belgium change their rental van's tire.
The club takes a stroll onto the playa at Badwater Basin. You can see that the desert floor is covered with a layer (several inches thick) of evaporaties (it was salty, so it's probably at least, in part, halite). Note that the evaporite crust has broken up in a mudcrack-like fashion.
Badwater Basin -- unbelievable!
Stay tuned for more photos next week!
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