If I ever become ridiculously rich, I'm going to open up a geological theme park. Can you imagine the rides? Earthquakes, volcanoes, landslides, and more - all very exciting. And educational. I think we could make it work, don't you? Imagine the field trips!

Of course, we'd have to have a roller coaster based on subduction zones. It would be pretty intense. There'd be lots of ups and downs.


Image is a hand-drawing of the Juan de Fuca Ridge (spreading center), the Olympic Mountains (accretionary prism), Puget Sound, and the Cascade Mountains (magmatic arc).

A rough diagram of our subduction zone. Don't laugh. I had to draw it by hand. Definitely not to scale, but you get the idea.

We'd start at the mid-ocean ridge, which in this case isn't all that far offshore. The Juan de Fuca plate is just a fragment of a larger plate. Eventually, it'll subduct under the North American plate, some amazing geology will happen, and then it'll only be the Pacific plate in play. We'll have to get deeper in to that someday. But for now: imagine our rollercoaster bumping daintily over the spreading center. Maybe, if we've got enough money to invest, we'll even start underwater, just as we should. How awesome would that be?

So we slip down the side of the ridge, will all the black smokers and other excitement, and then there's a short, smooth ride over the ocean floor between there and the subduction zone. Once we reach there, the coaster goes bumpity-bump over sediments stuffing the trench, and then begins the long climb over the mightily impressive accretionary prism we've got going on.

I mean, check it out.

Image shows the snow-capped Olympics rising jaggedly against a partly-cloudy sky. There is a view of the Kitsap Peninsula and Puget Sound. There are trees in the foreground.

A view of the Olympic Mountains from Richmond Beach.

Then once our roller coaster is perched at the tip-top of those glacier-carved peaks of oceanic basalt and sedimentary goodness, it'll zip down the other side and swoop into the forearc basin. It'll have a little bump over the Kitsap Peninsula, and then splash into the Sound. Cuz we're totally gonna have water, right?

Image shows the mountains, the peninsula, and the Sound without trees in the way. Look at that lovely peninsula and all that gorgeous water.

We'll have a kinda washer-board effect as the coaster rolls over the topography carved and deposited by the Cordilleran Ice Sheet. Then there'll be a higher climb over the magmatic arc, the Cascades. Yeah, the northern Cascades have a lot of sedimentary and metamorphic rock, but they've also got volcanoes. Maybe we'll have Glacier Peak erupting as the coaster goes by. We can use synthetic snow dyed gray for the ash clouds.

Image shows the snow-capped Cascades rising over the Puget Lowland.

Foothills and Cascades

(That's not the view from Richmond Beach, of course.)

So once we're perched at the tippy-top of the Cascades, we're staring into the back-arc region. That's all dry and in the rainshadow, and it's really magnificent, but of course you can't see it because we've just had an eruption and the wind's blowing east. (Okay, actually, it's because I don't have a lot of my photos on this tiny machine, and it took me all night to hand-draw my diagram, since this machine won't play with my tablet. I had a lot of fun, though.)

Let's take the coaster back to Richmond Beach so we can admire our forearc basin and accretionary prism some more, shall we?

Image is looking south-west from Richmond Beach. The Olympics and Kitsap Peninsula are in view at the right.

Gazing into the mists of the Sound.

Hang out in the basin a while. Make friends with the driftwood. Enjoy the magnificent scenery that results when a bit of oceanic crust slides beneath continental, and glaciers put some finishing touches on an already fantastic landscape.

Image is looking across a beach filled with driftwood. The Kitsap Peninsula and the Olympics are visible across the Sound.

(A version of this post originally appeared at En Tequila Es Verdad)