Next week I intend to have my life together enough to bring you my thoughts from Emerald City Comicon 2014 (and some photos!), so if you’re not interested in geology, feel free to stop reading now, I won’t be offended.
As a graduate student of geology, one is more often than not required to do some amount of field work. At the end of last summer, I was able to go out into field area and check it out. I was given a grand overview of the rocks out there, but at that point I hadn’t decided what I wanted to focus on yet. This time around, I know what to look for a little better.
Unfortunately, my field area is still very much stuck in winter-mode this time of year. But I’m out here now because the vast majority of my summer will be spent on an internship with an oil company. So I thought I’d share with you what being out in my field area at the beginning of April is like.
First, I’d like to preface this by saying that the 3 days before I went out to the field were spent at Emerald City Comicon. I flew out there to visit family and see all my friends at ECCC. I was literally booked from the moment I woke up to the moment I went to sleep all three days, and this was AFTER the hellish week that came before spring break. This insane amount of activity combined with being around 75,000 people all weekend resulted in me getting violently ill the evening I flew back home (nerds like me call this a form of con-plague). Great way to start off a week in the field, right?
My plane landed at midnight, I slept for a few hours, got up, was violently ill again, went to campus, and we started the five-hour drive to the field area. I slept the entire way. When we stopped for lunch I maybe ate 5 french fries. We made a few stops to look at rocks before we made it all the way into town, and for the most part I was able to keep my head together long enough to see what was in front of me. When we finally made it to the hotel, I basically decided to sleep for 13 hours while my advisor and my fellow grad student went to dinner. This turned out to be an excellent choice.
By the way, most often field work is not done from the comfort of a hotel room. Normally you go camping in your field area. But my rocks surround a city, and this time of year it still snows, so we opted for a hotel for the week. I would like to note that I am extremely lucky. I would also like to note that it was entirely my choice to jump right into the field after my trip to ECCC. I powered through the sick. What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger. Truth.
The morning started out fine. It was cloudy, but not terribly awful – visibility was decent. We walked out to look at some rocks, and then we started to hike up a hill to look at more rocks, and then my 48 hours of eating next to nothing caught up to me. If you’ve never had REALLY low blood sugar, it’s like this: I felt super light-headed, standing was hard, and my vision had become a brown blur. I was rescued by a Cadbury’s fruit and nut bar, and later by a delicious grilled cheese sandwich.
The following day was the first day I actually felt like a normal human being again. But, of course, that was the day the weather decided to be problematic. We set out to look at what we thought were the first paleoflow indicators (structures in sedimentary rocks that tell us the direction the water flowed during deposition) in my special green sand, only to find that they were in a different sandstone altogether, deposited on top of my green sandstone.
But then it started snowing. And it didn’t really stop.
My rocks are dangerous when wet.
So what do you do when the weather goes south while trying to do field work? You have some coffee. And you wait. And then you go back to your hotel and you wait some more, and procrastinate and try to do some work.
Our final day in the field was far more successful. The sun was shining, and we were able to walk around on my rocks! They were super green, it was great. But it turns out the citizens of the city like to abuse my rocks. They are covered in graffiti, and we found the carcasses of two cars that dove off a cliff above. So if you are so inclined to use spray paint on rocks, take a moment to think about the sad future geologist who will come across your “art” and see only paint covering their rocks.
We walked around the cliffs for a while, and came upon a cave, the overhang of which was COVERED in cross-bedded structures. We were in the shoreface (!)(where the coastline interacts with the beach next to an ocean or sea). So much excitement! We found paleoflow indicators in my funky green sand! But then we walked around a corner and realized that when you’re out of the shadow of a ravine, the sand wasn’t green. It was, once again, the sand on top of my green sand.
That was false alarm #2. If I am really lucky, sometime in the next few months I will find paleoflow indicators in my sandstone. But I won’t lie, that was pretty disappointing.
We spent the afternoon doing what my advisor called “urban geology.” Basically, it means we drove around, climbed tall buildings, and took photos of cliff faces (so we can later follow contacts between rock units in photomosaics). I got to use a fancy camera.
So my point in telling this story is just that I love actually doing geology. Mostly I wrote this for my family and friends who might be curious about my graduate school life, so I hope this was a good taste. I head back out to the field briefly at the end of the month for a field trip with my advisor and his class. Super excited! :D