"In a series of papers published between 1923 and 1932, J Harlen Bretz described an enormous plexus of proglacial stream channels eroded into the loess and basalt of the Columbia Plateau, eastern Washington. He argued that this region, which he called the Channeled Scablands, was the product of a cataclysmic flood, which he called the Spokane flood. Considering the Nature and vehemence of the opposition to his hypothesis, which was considered outrageous, its eventual scientific verification constitutes one of the most fascinating episodes in the history of modern science."
Victor R. Baker, 1978

In Baker's 1978 paper, he highlights the relationship between the flood morphology of the channeled scablands and the flood channels on Mars. In both cases, cataclysmic floods scoured the landscape, producing deeply incised river valleys, streamlined hills, and other indicative erosional features.
The recent discovery of columnar jointing in Martes Valles, Mars (Milazzo et al., 2009) has strengthened the relationship between the Channeled Scablands, where jointing is readily observable in the Columbia basalts, and our terrestrial neighbor.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Post-trip publicity: Andrew Ryan interviewed by Ryan Fitzgibbons

Last month, following a return from a cross-country adventure to the Channeled Scablands, Andrew Ryan was interviewed about the Lunar and Planetary Science Academy's fieldwork in Washington State. Watch this video to see.....

Monday, July 25, 2011

Channeled Scablands travelogue

The LPSA Channeled Scablands travelogue video is now online!
Join the interns on their expedition through Washington State as they study the columnar basalts and geomorphology of the region.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Physics in GeologyLand

I also am trained in the ways of physics instead of geology, but I have decided to pursue Geoscience in my graduate career. I am fairly certain “Geoscience” means almost whatever you want it to, and I have been toying with the idea of having it include field work despite my very theoretical base in physics. I am happy to say LPSA’s trip to the Scablands has helped to solidify that plan.
Being able to see, touch, climb on, and take measurements of the rocks and processes that we are studying adds quality to our research that you simply cannot find in textbooks and computer modeling. The main subject of our studies in the Scablands (researching basalt columns on Earth to make inferences about ones on Mars) embodies the union of space missions, data collection, and field work that makes planetary science so exciting.
A lot of physics is asking questions- how does this happen? Why does it happen? What is it made of? I learned on this trip that geology is no different. Geology is a mystery that geologists have set out to solve. In the Scablands, we saw a 15 million year old basalt layer lying on top of a 100 million year old granite layer. A passerby may think this is a very pretty contrast, but a geologist asks the question: where are the 85 million years in between those layers?
At first when I saw photos of the basalt columns we were going to measure, I was simply shocked that nature could create something that shape by itself. Now after our trip, I hope that the group’s efforts at characterizing the basalt columns of the Scablands contribute to solving the mystery of exactly how they formed. I also hope that our work can help characterize the basalt columns we see on Mars.
I feel extremely fortunate that I was able to explore the Channeled Scablands, and even more so when I think about the fact that the Scablands are one of very few places on Earth we can see the results of an ancient megaflood and the formations of basalt columns. At the end of a day of surveying our specific sites, everyone on the trip was sure to sit back, think of the larger picture, and soak in the beautiful landscape. It was a good trip indeed.


Southern Girl Goes West

I’ve only recently had my first taste of the wild west, and I’m addicted.  As a southern girl from Raleigh, I initially couldn’t understand how my more western-bred comrades referred to the east coast as “claustrophobic.”  I missed the trees, and the longsungof wide open spaces just seemed to give me vertigo.  But this past week in the Scablands, I saw land diversity unlike anything I’ve ever experienced, and got to explore it all!  I felt like a small child constantly deposited onto giant playgrounds and told to GO!  And we did: there were LPSAers climbing over rocks and hills and cliffs, standing at the top of waterfalls, rolling down sand dunes, tapemeasuring those basalt columns.  We’ve been back on the east coast for a couple days, but I’m already ready to return to the Scablands.   Becoming intimate with the land itself in a hands-on way has provided me with a fresh perspective on a new field of science—geology—as well as a further appreciation for the way the human body interacts and responds and adjusts itself to different types of landforms and their provided space.  Now, we just have to take a field trip to Mars and see what .4g does to my vertigo!


Well... we're back.

Last week was arguably one of the longer weeks of my life, although it was also one of the most fun. Despite being a physicist, I think we all got to learn a surprising amount about geology during the trip. I think I now know all I'll ever need about basalt and flood features! I don't really know what to add to this, as summarizing each day would take an excessive amount of space and time, but giving you an overview of the trip as a whole seems too trivial. Anyway, a lot of other people have done that.

So I guess I'll say what I learned. I learned that going on a trip that involves long (really long) flights/layovers is basically an instant bonding experience. I learned that basalt is sharp and not always the best rock to climb, as it might decide that it wants to hurt you. I learned that, while rolling in a giant plastic pipe in an empty quarry, you have to brace your arms and legs or you just slide around. Oh yeah, and I learned about basalt columns too. :)

Besides all of that, the trip itself was breathtaking. I took a lot of pictures-- 400 something-- but somehow they still don't manage to quite capture the magnificence of it all. Everything we passed was beautiful, even if it was a wheat field by the side of a road. Maybe it was because it was so radically different from here, in Maryland, and we're just missing the beauty at home because we're used to it. Something to ponder, at least.

In closing, I want to thank LPSA and everyone who had a part in planning this trip, for taking us to a place so grand that sometimes it really was like being on another planet. Everyone was amazing, and together all of you guys (even Rebecca!! Awesome logo) are what made this trip so great, despite setbacks and delayed flights. So thanks. It definitely will not be forgotten, at least not by me.


While you were gone...

I didn't get to go because I got sick at the airport and had to go back. But while I recuperated, I created the LPSA logo for this year (above). Enjoy! (I'll just...suffer quietly in a corner.)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Good Times

Well we're back from the Scablands now, and it was awesome. We took measurements of basalt columns and striae at three different sites in Washington, and stopped at dozens more places to learn about the geology/morphology that shaped the land. Besides this, we climbed rocks, waded in lakes, feasted beside great coulees, and dangled at edges of precipices. We drove past amazing rolling hillsides and leapt down sand dunes. The views were astounding. The activities exhilarating. The memories everlasting.

I could not have imagined a better trip to learn from while at the same time having fun. Our trip was one for the books.