Archive for September, 2010

Monday, September 27th, 2010

Brian, Class of 2012

Geology of the Great Basin Day 3

Wednesday started with another early morning wake-up at 5AM. We grabbed a quick breakfast of toast and bagels in the main lobby of our motel and piled into the van to follow the archaeology group back out to their work site. As we headed west from Tooele to Iosepa, I looked back toward Salt Lake City to see a multi-colored sunrise coming over the mountains. It was the first of many surreal experiences not just during the trip, but also of the day.

We arrived at the archaeology site around 6:15AM and helped out with setting up canopies and field equipment again. However today we would not be staying around the excavation site to do archaeology; we would instead head into the mountains to check out the local geology. We headed up the path that had taken us to the petroglyph rock the previous day, stopping to check out various points of interest, most of which included interesting features in the local limestone. Also spotted on the hike up (thankfully from a distance) were a small rattlesnake and a black widow spider. Both are extremely venomous and represented some of the greatest hazards out in the field. We climbed higher and higher, stopping under the shade of an outcrop to eat some lunch. The night before, I had bought a few cheap plastic discs to throw off the side of the mountain. They felt too light to really fly, so I had added some weight with duct tape earlier. I gave it three tries, which all turned out to be miserable failures. It was disappointing to see them take nosedives rather than float through the air, but somehow also satisfying to hear them smash into the rocks below. We reached the summit of Salt Mountain in the early afternoon, just when the temperature was reaching about 100 degrees and we were starting to run low on water. We headed back down the mountain, taking a different route and also making note of any interesting geology we passed on the way. By the time we reached the van again, we were totally sapped of energy but satisfied with a good day.

We returned to the hotel later in the afternoon, each took a cooling shower and had a meeting to discuss what we had seen and collected during the day. That night we had another meal of delicious (and authentic) Mexican food. After an extremely long and strenuous day, I was ready to put away a few enchiladas and tostadas, as well as some healthy servings of rice and beans.

Taking Measurements Along a Calcite Vein

View from the Top of Salt Mountain

Members of the Class on the Summit

Friday, September 10th, 2010

by Brian, Class of 2012

This summer, I had the opportunity to spend 12 days in the western United States taking part in a geology field class entitled Geology of the Great Basin. The course was offered through SUNY Potsdam’s Geology Department and was taught by the department mineralogist. The field experience provided a fantastic opportunity to get up close with a variety of geologic features and to see what geologists do in their professional fields. My next few blog entries will chronicle our trip day-by-day and hopefully recapture the excitement I felt when I was there.

Days 1 and 2; Travel day and geoarchaeology in Iosepa, UT:

I left for the Rochester airport early in the morning on Monday, July 26. My flight left around 9AM and arrived in NYC’s JFK airport, where I met up with two other classmates on their way to meet up with the rest of our class group in Salt Lake City. Thankfully, the flights went as planned and everyone arrived on time with all of their bags. It was in the early evening when we arrived, so we wasted no time getting to our hotel near Tooele, Utah and getting settled in. We found a restaurant for dinner and started discussing plans for the next few days, along with things to be aware of in the field. Dr Kelson constantly reminded us of the need to hydrate in the desert sun, as well as the dangers of rattlesnakes and black widow spiders. We then stopped at a grocery store and stocked up on lunch food for the next few days. After that, we turned in for a 5AM wakeup the next day.

We got up early on Tuesday morning and piled into the school van to head west of Tooele toward the small town of Iosepa, Utah. A group of Potsdam archaeology students were working in Iosepa for about three weeks prior to our arrival. They were excavating an abandoned town site that was settled by Mormons who had moved to Utah from Hawaii in the late 19th century. Almost the entire town had been bulldozed and all that remained were a few building foundations. However, a great number of artifacts lay under the surface of the ground and the archaeology students had been working to remove, preserve, and catalog these artifacts. Geology and archaeology have some principles in common, but most of what the archaeology students showed us was new and unfamiliar. We helped them with tasks such as sifting through dirt to extract artifacts and making sketches of the excavation site. This first day served as an adjustment period for those of us in the geology group who had been in Utah for less than 24 hours. Going from a warm and sticky July in western New York to a hot and dry environment over 6,000 feet above sea level was certainly an adjustment for me, and my classmates felt the same.

At about midday, we (the geology class) joined the student field chief at the archaeology site in a hike halfway up a nearby mountain to see some petroglyphs (rock carvings and drawings) made by the Hawaiian settlers around the end of the 1800’s. Climbing up the side of this mountain gave us a great opportunity to soak in this new and exciting landscape that few of us had ever experienced. The Great Basin is a region of extensive mountain ranges, most of which run in a north-south direction within 20 miles of each other. For someone who has become accustomed to the rolling, tree-covered hills of upstate New York, the jagged and exposed peaks of the west are entirely new and breathtaking. After our trip up to the petroglyphs, we headed back to the area of our hotel and grabbed dinner at a Mexican restaurant. Again we called it an early night in anticipation of another early start the next morning.

The Iosepa Archaeology Site

Geology of Great Basin class photo

Sifting Through Excavated Dirt for Artifacts

Salt Mountain of the Stansbury Range

Examining Petroglyphs on Salt Mountain