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Rosetta Stones

Rosetta Stones


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Exclusive Sneak Preview of Metamorphic Madness

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Oh, my darlings, will I have treats for you! Lockwood and I are in the midst of our geoextravaganza tour down the Oregon coast and across the Josephine Ophiolite. Lots of hot volcanic action round here, but there’s a huge metamorphic story to be told. There’s going to be a lot to absorb and process before I can relate that tale, but I’ll give you a bit of a preview here.

Devil's Punchbowl from Cape Foulweather

Devil's Punchbowl from Cape Foulweather

We’re going to linger lovingly over this location soon – you’re looking at a sandstone cape here, one with an enormous hole in it. There’s a story about the Columbia River Basalts, and a geologic puzzle that took some time to solve. This is a great place to show that science is a process.

Cape Blanco from further back on Cape Blanco

Cape Blanco from further back on Cape Blanco

We’re very close to the subduction zone here – this is about as close as you can get on land. We’ll discuss that, and the fact that this cape is rising at an incredible pace. By geologic standards, it’s screaming upward like one of those super-fast elevators in high rises. There’s also a fantastic jumble of rock round here – Oregon’s endless basalt finally ends, and we begin to see older rock, and the crazed mess the collision of various plates has made of it.

Lotsa Natural Arches

Lotsa Natural Arches

Further down the coast, almost to California, you see some spectacular sea stack scenery. This location is a little wayside where several arches have formed in a tiny area. It’s utterly enchanting. We’re going to explore how the sea creates these features, and why your children’s children may not be able to view them.

Sheeted dikes along the Smith River

Sheeted dikes along the Smith River

Now we’re in it. This is the Josephine Ophiolite, and this is a lovely sheeted dike complex. We’ll discuss ophiolite sequences in detail, but just think of this right now: standing here, you’re looking at rocks that formed far below the ocean crust. So many dikes of mafic magma pushed up that there’s no host rock left – it’s all dikes. Both of those facts cause my eyebrows to migrate into my hairline, and my mouth has uttered an abundance of “Oh, wows!” and “No ways!”

And I haven’t even shown you the absolutely magnificent serpentinite. Ya’ll are gonna love it.

Those who are yearning for the next Mount St. Helens post won’t have long to wait – it’s two-thirds done. We can have our volcano and our ophiolites, too. Stay tuned…

Dana Hunter About the Author: Dana Hunter is a science blogger, SF writer, and geology addict whose home away from SciAm is En Tequila Es Verdad. Follow her on Twitter: @dhunterauthor. Follow on Twitter @dhunterauthor.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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