Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists Honors "Carving Grand Canyon" with the Geosciences in the Media Award


Tonight, at the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologists (RMAG) annual banquet at the Warwick Hotel in downtown Denver, "Carving Grand Canyon" will be honored with their Geosciences in the Media Award. I received their most welcomed letter on August 30, informing me of the award. Of course, I was thrilled to receive the news.

"Carving Grand Canyon" was first published in April, 2005 and is now in its 2nd edition (2012). As of September 30, 2016, there have been 38,677 copies sold (two editions combined), with an additional 146 e-books sold since 2014. The 40,000 copy likely will be sold sometime around May 1, 2017.

Copy of the award letter send by the Rocky Mountain Association of Geologist
This award follows on the heels of the same award given in 2014 by RMAG to my other book, "Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau," co-written with Dr. Ron Blakey. You can view the entire list of recipients of the RMAG Geosciences in the Media Award on their web site here.

If you would like to order a specially signed copy from me personally, please click here. If you would like to order a book directly from the publisher, click here.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Lake Titicaca, Peru

My last stop on this long trip around South America was at Lake Titicaca - long a goal of mine to visit. This tectonic and erosional basin located on the Altiplano is huge and straddles both Bolivia and Peru. We had great weather for our visit.

We arrived at our hotel in the dark so it was quite a surprise and impressive to look out in the morning and see red sandstone along the lakeshore. And tilted no less!

Tafoni in the sandstone. These are early Tertiary sandstones (as far as I can tell from searching the literature) and belong to the Puno Group, specifically the Saracocha Formation.

Cruising along the lake shore reveals the nature of the sedimentary rocks. Here they have given way to grey limestone.

More grey limestone along Lake Titicaca.

We took a hour and half boat ride to one of the floating islands that the Uros people near Puno live upon.

A Uro man came out in one of the finely crafted reed boats to greet us.

The totora reeds are used for many things - homes, "land," boats, baskets. But I was surprised to learn they are food as well, stripping the outer green to the white inside.

A long knife onboard allows for harvesting of the reeds. The islands are made when large blocks of totora roots are cut during seasonal lowstands of the lake. When the lake waters rise, the cut blocks float and are then "harvested" away to deeper water areas and together with other block. They are then tied together (today with modern straps but previously with reed twine).

Approaching the floating island.

Tying up the boat. The ground was quite squishy underfoot.

No doubt this was a "show" for the tourists but there are numerous islands all around and most of them are the real deal.

Totora reed hut with solar panels (right). They do have electricity make by the sun to listen to the radio.

Colorful tapestry for sale. I'm so glad I have passed the age of "buying."

A woman exiting her hut. I took a lot of photographs as this is ripe material for photography. And we had a perfect day! The lake is at an elevation of 12,400 feet above sea level, making it the highest navigable lake in the world.

The next event on the lake was a visit to Taquile Island pictured here on its north side. This is an unusual island in that the local people have taken control of the amount and kind of tourism that occurs here.

We landed on a dock that was completed in July off this year and the brand new trail that led upwards to one of the farmsteads.

Rural gate on Taquile Island, Lake Titicaca.

The trail led to this hilltop location where we had lunch in a hut. View to the southwest toward out hotel, Titilaka.

Men weaving on the island.

The trail down to the dock where we finished out visit.

Looking south on Lake Titicaca toward the Bolivian side. This concludes my blog posting for the trip, "Cuba and South America." Thank you for reading!

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Flying the length of South America and La Paz. Bolivia

Whew! The trip in South America was quite hectic but being at home is no less so - just familiar terrain. Enjoy these photos from a seven-hour flight from the southern tip of the continent to La Paz, Bolivia.

This is Morro Chico (Little Rock) a volcanic neck about 12 million years old. There are four other necks nearby along the road from Puerto Natales to Punta Arenas. Volcanic necks are the remains of a volcano -specifically the root or conduit where the lava  moved toward the ancient surface,

In the air again! I love these flight. This time it was a scenic flight over the southern Patagonia region of western Argentina and eastern Chile. This is Lago Argentina, one of many glacially carved depressions in this part of the world. Some are filled with sea water (fjords) farther west and some like this do not have a connection to to the sea and are filled with fresh water.

This is the next big lake to the north called Lake Viedma. Note the spine of the Andes Mountains beyond and the large glacier spilling out of them toward the east. Clear days like this are very rare in this part of the world.

Zooming into Mt. Fitzroy. These towers are a beacon to rock climbers and it was in this area that Yves Chouinard got the idea for the name of his outdoor clothing company, Patagonia. The granite spires belong to part of the intrusive event that also occurred at Torres del Paine to the south of here.

This is quite a bit farther north in Argentina and these are likely kettle lakes. One of the big frustrations in these flights is that sometimes huge weather systems cause clouds to block our view and we miss seeing huge swaths of the landscape. This si not so far north that the glacial evidence in Patagonia is is completely behind us however.

Another set of clouds obscured our view, I gave a lecture and by the time I returned to my seat we flying past Anconcagua, the highest mountain in the world outside of Asia, and thus the highest peak in the Western and the Southern hemispheres. It lies entirely within in Argentina but we are flying over Chile and looking to the east. Winter snow still blankets the lower elevations beneath the peak.

Just off the coast of northern Chile and southern Peru I spied the edge of huge band of clouds that stretched in the Pacific Ocean as far as the eye could see. Note the shadow cast by these clouds on the Pacific. As we landed briefly in Lima Peru, we descended through the cloud layer and when I asked our Captain how high was the blanket he told me it was 2,500 feet above sea level. The distance from the cloud to the sea here is 1/2 mile.

The next morning we were exploring the capital city of Bolivia, La Paz. What a truly unique setting for a city of two million people.

This area is right in the city and is called the Valle de Luna (Valley of theMoon). These are relatively recent volcaniclastic sediments (rocky debris and dirt composed of volcanic rocks) that is being rapidly eroded.

A hoodoo capped by a boulder in the Valle de Luna in La Paz Bolivia.

Look at the city as it grows up the slope of this giant arroyo cut into the edge of the Altiplano. The plateau top here is the edge of the Altiplano and the city has grown up onto and beyond onto the plateau.

Dense city cluster to the top of the Altiplano. The part of the city of La Paz on top is known as El Alto.

Growth of the city over the unconsolidated sediments. See an interesting article here about La Paz.

Mount Illimani at 21,122 feet above sea level is a dramatic backdrop to the city.

The national soccer stadium where many a South American football player comes to gasp for air. The stadium is at about 11, 932 feet above sea level.

La Paz does have a Colonial-era heart and the narrow streets are like many in South America.

The Plaza Mayor in central La Paz with the traditional flag (barely visible) behind the newest flag of the country, called whipala, which represents the loose amalgamation of indigenous nations. Seean interesting story behind this flag here.

Look closely at the clock on this government building - it is backwards with the 1, 2 and 3, o'clock hours on the left side. More background on all of this here.

Colorful street scene in old La Paz. The wall art is incredible and this man sleeping next to it was too rich to pass up.

An Amarya woman walks past the wall art.

Weaving seen in the store of a street vendor. It is a very colorful city.

A series of telefericos (gondolas) are part of the public transport system and we got to ride one to the top of the Altiplano. An interesting solution to the horrific traffic that clogs the streets.

Fantastic clouds seen on our way to Lake Titicaca across the Bolivian Altiplano. This was a dream come true for me to visit the lake and see the Altiplano. My last blog posting from this trip will be about the lake.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Sorry for the delay folks! The end of the trip was a blur with no time to write. But I will be posting from home about our last few stops - Torres del Paine National Park Chile, La Paz Bolivia and Lake Titicaca Peru.

After leaving Buenos Aires, we flew down over the Pampas (the Great Plains of Argentina) and across the eastern side of Patagonia. We landed in Punta Arenas but did not go into the city proper. Instead, we drove 3 hours east and north through the Patagonian landscape to Puerto Natales.

We often board our private jet using stairways out on the tarmac. This gives us an opportunity to be greeted by our captain, Peter Wittik whom I have flown with before on an Around the World trip in 2013. Our jet is fabulous!

Here I am with my fellow lecturer, Hugh Neighbor. Hugh is a former employee of the US State Department with assignments in Fiji, Bolivia, and Austria. We give our lectures in the space just in front of our seats. It's a neat system - our lectures are broadcast over Wi-Fi onboard and the passengers see the slides on iPads and hear our voices over Bose headphones.

Lifting off out of Buenos Aires. The sun finally came out. We had two days of rain prior.

The Straits of Magellan in the southernmost part of South America.

On the way to Puerto Natales, we had lunch at a Patagonian estancia (ranch).

They raise llamas and sheep here and a gaucho was rounding up a herd of llamas. I include a few scenics of this.

Llamas on the Patagonian landscape.

Near the corral.

A young, curious llama.

The following day we were on our way to the national park out of Puerto Natales. You can see the lines in the snow that denote sedimentary rocks in the landscape. These are mostly Cretaceous shales, sandstones, and conglomerate.

We entered the park from the east side and got our first view of the Paine massif in the distance. There is often overcast, rainy weather here so I was so pleased to see that we would have a nice day.

As we neared the park the details of the rocks became obvious. These are the Cuernos de Paine (cuernos = horns; paine = blue and pronounced pie-nay). More on these later but note the black caps on top of light-colored granite.

These are the Torres del Paine (torres = towers). I hiked up to the base of the towers in 1993 on a seven-day backpack and would love to do that again.

A wide view of the Patagonian sky! The east side of the park is by far the sunniest as the massif creates a massive rain shadow.

Reflections on Lago Amarga (Bitter Lake).

The granite is a mere 12 million years old and has cooled, crystallized and been brought to the surface and eroded in that short amount of time. It likely was not emplaced too deeply - perhaps only 2 to 2.5 miles down.

To the south (the part of the park that no one except crazy geologists look towards since the Towers and Cuernos are to the north) are black shales of the Cerro Toro Formation. These rocks were laid down in the Cretaceous Magallanes basin ∼100 Ma, which was then located in the South Atlantic Ocean. The shales were laid down in about 6,000 feet of water, explaining their fine-grained nature.

However, within the shale are these very coarse conglomerates - an odd relationship. How could these well-rounded cobbles and bounders become interbedded with fine-grained, deep-water shale? The answer is seismicity! In the Cretaceous, the early Andes Mountains were being uplifted and shading coarse sediment to the east to the coastal margin of the Magallanes basin. When earthquakes related to the tectonic setting mobilized the nearshore gravel and cobbles, they became entrained in submarine debris flows called turbidites. Amazing preservation of a tectonically active margin.

A Nineo plant (Anarthrophyllum desideratum) frames a beautiful view of Lago Nordenskiold and the Cuernos del Paine. The bright red flowers are a sure sign of spring in Patagonia.

So what about these variably colored rocks in the Cuernos and Towers? The black caps are the shales of the Cerro Toro Formation and the light-colored granite intruded into it about 12 Ma, forming a laccolith (lacco = Gr. for cistern or chamber). A laccolith is a mushroom shaped intrusion. This laccolith is highly dissected giving the interesting distribution of rock type and color. Glaciers carved the deep valleys on the flanks of the massif.

This is the highest peak in the Paine massif, Cerro Paine Grande (Big Paine Peak) at 9,462 feet. It is capped with the black shale turbidite.

A final view of the Cuernos del Paine as we head back to Puerto Natales.