Will pillow plunging be a new trend?

Today was largely about volcanic trends in plunging pillow lavas. We measured orientations of almost 250 pillow lavas along four different walls in a pillow quarry. We don’t have the data stereo-netted yet, but looking at pillows in minute detail is pretty pleasant if not locally positively perplexing…which way do you think this pillow is plunging (right or left)?

Which way is this pillow plunging?

Which way is this pillow plunging?

Two of the Pillow People happy to be measuring plunges in the rain…

Two of the Pillow People (Alex Perpalaj and Liz Plascencia).

Two of the Pillow People (Alex Perpalaj and Liz Plascencia).

Sometimes even the most studious geoscientists have to just hang for a while. One of the favorite spots for budding volcanologists is the corner of Pillow and Pillow…

Just hangin' out at the corner of Pillow and Pillow...

Just hangin’ out at the corner of Pillow and Pillow…

Pillows galore

The started out looking to have great pillow promise, but by late afternoon the weather was only pleasant for lavas born in water. However, we gigapaned aplenty and picked apart pillows for senior projects. We even found some dualin’ MCJBs (massive column-jointed basalt) arguing about whether they were steeply dipping subaqueous sheets or pillow plumbing systems…use REPLY below to send you vote as to which should win the argument:)

Dualing MCJB's - lava sheet? or guts of the pillow plumbing system?

Dualing MCJB’s – lava sheet? or guts of the pillow plumbing system?

Ellie Was was in a pillow smashing frenzy collecting samples for her research. Don’t let her cheery disposition fool you – she is deadly with a pillow hammer…

Ellie Was and her senior research pillow

Ellie Was and her senior research pillow

Alex Hiatt (temporarily adopted Dickinsonian earth scientist) was a man among pillows collecting samples of pillow rim glass for his senior project.

Alex Hiatt (Wooster) collecting pillow rim samples.

Alex Hiatt (Wooster) collecting pillow rim samples.

The ‘Wall of Pillows’ versus Dickinson Earth Scientists!! Alex Perpalaj, Liz Plascencia and Ellie Was mounted a valiente effect to conquer the Wall by measuring, photographing and sampling it – and in the end, even the Wall still stands, they have unravelled a few more of its secrets…

Alex Perpalaj, Liz Plascencia, Ellie Was and the Wall of PIllows

Alex Perpalaj, Liz Plascencia, Ellie Was and the Wall of PIllows

Xenoliths, Dikes and more Pillows

Had a big day on Thursday! We started off with a quick stop at Grænvatn (minus Meagen, Adam and Michael, who had left for the U.S. :(, a small acidic lake filling some explosive craters in the Krusivik area of the Reykjanes Peninsula (see pic below). We wanted to examine the gabbroic xenoliths that were spit out during the formation of the craters, as we have found troctolite inclusions in some of our pillow quarries…

Team DC + 1 at Graenvatn examining gabbro xenoliths.

Team DC + 1 at Graenvatn examining gabbro xenoliths.

Second stop was to sample not 1 but 2 dikes that might be feeders dikes to the pillow ridges. They are well-exposed and were pretty impressive for the students to see, measure and sample…

DC/CW students measuring length and orientation of basaltic dike.

DC/CW students measuring length and orientation of basaltic dike.

Then around the corner to sample and measure trends/plunges for pillow lavas just outside of the quarries. One ridge seems to be an isolated ‘pillow flow’, while the other looks to have a collapsed lava tube. Maybe part of the ridge feeder system??

DC students measuring thickness and plunges of pillow lava, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

DC students measuring thickness and plunges of pillow lava, Reykjanes Peninsula, Iceland

Finally had a long day at the quarry! We worked until 11 p.m. (but did get an excellent lamb dinner break – thanks JB!!) but measured and sampled many pillow lavas. Overall an awesome field day…

Playing with pillows

Overview

The blog will try to keep people updated on progress of our Dickinson-Wooster expedition in Iceland. We (3 faculty + 6 students) are mapping pillow lavas on the Reykjanes Peninsula, courtesy of several well-placed quarries. The aim of our project is to better understand what happens when volcanic fissures open beneath large ice sheets.

Day 01 – Pizza on the pillows (almost): had a great idea to get take out pizza and go eat it at the pillow quarries so students could see what all the excitement was about – but decided that, while pizza on the pillows was a perfectly plausible idea, it maybe was so brilliant on a cold, rainy evening…

Day 02 – Typical Icelandic spring weather for south coast: wet, windy but great pillow viewing; very nice to have a warm shelter for lunch at least…

Ellie Was (DC) examining a vesicular cavity in a dike cutting through pillow lavas

Ellie Was (DC) examining a vesicular cavity in a dike cutting through pillow lavas

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Dickinson-Wooster field crew sitting at the base of the well-jointed lava flow/shallow intrusion in pillow lava quarry.

Day 03 – Sunday sunny Sunday…not quite! But we go to do a transect from the bottom of the quarry up through an interesting layer dominated by sill-like intrusions (or maybe sheet flows??). Also found two ashy layers that are rather continuous and olivine-rich…hhmmm…

Day 04 – Monday was windy, but beautiful in the evening so we went back out for an after dinner bit of thigh-burning-talus-climbing (after all we had chocolate covered cream puffs for dessert). Sometimes 100 percent rock exposure doesn’t make things easier! We have some tricky stratigraphy to sort out with pillow lavas and under/overlying vitric volcanic breccia…

Reflections on Russia

These posts will highlight a few of the adventures I’ve had this spring while on sabbatical. I was incredibly fortunate to have the opportunity to go to the far east of Russia two times: once in late January and once in March/April. I traveled to observe, monitor, sample and measure the properties of lavas being erupted at eruption on Tolbachinsky Dol, which is the southern flank of Plosky Tolbachik, a large volcano in central Kamchatka.

January visit consisted of snow camping for about 5 days at a location that was about 1.5 km from the active vent. When the wind was quiet at night we could easily hear the ‘whomp whomp whomp’ of the bursting lava bubbles from the vent lava lake. Occasionally the tent door with undulate gently to the sound as well. While our main goal was to document interactions between the lava and snow, this first trip proved to be a bit difficult as most of the lava flows were moving within the confines of the flow field, and we only saw active flows moving onto snow on the last day as we were flying out. The views we had were compelling – large ‘a’a flows moving across the snow, with small steam puffs accentuating the impact of the bigger blocks as they rolled on to the snow. BUT, it was too windy to land!! So my heart sank a bit as we flew away…but we had gotten to investigate some strange looking flows that I suspected had been emplaced into/beneath snow, but without seeing the process it was difficult to be certain. The trip was spectacular in many ways – we sampled lava from active channels several times, and I got to make my first attempts at measuring the temperatures of large-scale lava flows with thermocouples. It was quite a bit more challenging than anticipated – even though the lava was moving at velocities of 1-2 m per second, the upper surface was relatively viscous and difficult to penetrate. Even collecting samples was a bit of a struggle (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35mVYYrstaA).

When we returned for the first 10 days of April, we hit the jackpot! The activity had shifted back the to East Flow Field, and we had complete access to the flows every day. We saw lavas moving on top of snow, beneath snow, and moving through fractures in the snow (essentially basalt dikes in snow!). We dug ‘lava observation pits’ in the snow in front of advancing lava flows, so we could see up close how the lava was moving through the snow, and how much melting was happening at the lava-snow interface.

Lava channel in East Flow Field, Tolbachik eruption, April 2013

Lava channel in East Flow Field, Tolbachik eruption, April 2013

Front of advancing lava flow moving against snow bank.

Front of advancing lava flow moving against snow bank.

Sasha Belousov in lava suit preparing to collect sample

Sasha Belousov in lava suit preparing to collect sample

Steaming from 'snow dome', where lava is pushing up blocks of snow.

Steaming from ‘snow dome’, where lava is pushing up blocks of snow.

Lava ice snow experiments at Syracuse

Update on Lava-Ice experiments:

Starting to see lots of internet coverage of the Lava-Ice experiments I have been doing with Jeff Karson and Bob Wysocki at Syracuse University, including pictures in German (http://de.engadget.com/2012/08/28/video-kampf-der-titanen-lava-vs-eis/) and Malaysian (http://www.malaysiandigest.com/tech/93901-watch-2500-degree-lava-bubble-over-ice.html) news sites. We should also have a short blurb being broadcast on the Canada Discovery Channel sometime in September…Jeff and Bob wrote an article for the magazine Earth (http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/do-it-yourself-lava-flows), which has recently been published…HOWEVER I would STRONGLY recommend AGAINST trying the do-it-yourself lava in the microwave. That is very dangerous and hopefully AGI will remove that suggestion from the website before someone gets seriously injured…

We have a short manuscript written already, and we are in the process of reformatting  journal submission. I’ll try to keep the blog updated on the progress of the manuscript and any other news coverage it gets over next week or two. See more pictures from the experiments below…

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