Sunday, August 25, 2013

Final Field Excursion

Sunday, July 28.

Today is our final day aboard the Stalbas.  We made two major stops, one at Skansbukta, one at Nordenskioldbreen (the o should have two dots over it -- I am not impressed with your limited language symbols, blogspot!).

We disembarked early at Skansbukta, the lovely place at which we dropped anchor last night.

This area was last used for mining.  There is a law in Svalbard (of which I can find no reference, so you'll just have to take me at my word) wherein if something remains untouched for a period of six years, it becomes protected in the way that a historical landmark would.  Thankfully, there aren't too many people interested in leaving trash heaps around in Svalbard.  Instead you get cool things like really old school ice breakers:

Or mining tunnels that everyone wants to look inside:

All of this made Yuribia feel very zen.

We didn't spend too much time at Skansbukta.  Before long, we were packed back onto the Stalbas and passing Pyramiden.

This Russian settlement was completely abandoned in 1998.  It is reportedly picking back up to host the tourism industry (which is booming in Svalbard).  Inside this settlement, you can find the world's most northern statue of Lenin.

We parked the Stalbas out in front of Nordenskioldbreen, and you will now have to observe many, many pictures of the glacier.  If I haven't mentioned it before, breen is Norwegian for glacier.

Look close for the laguna in this next picture (where much of the meltwater comes pouring out).

We zoomed into the beach, and took off on a walk.

On this walk, I was finally able to put real world examples on concepts that I have been learning about for months.

First major milestone.  A roche moutonnee!

This is the landform of bedrock and sediment in the right side of the picture.  A roche moutonnee forms parallel to the direction of ice flow.  It is differentiated from a drumlin in that it is (A) not usually entirely composed of till, but often has major components of rock, and (B) it forms with it's fat side (or non-streamlined side, if you prefer) facing away from incoming ice flow.

First one I'd ever seen.  Hence, pose time.

Sighting #2.  Crag and Tail!!

Mikkel and Jon for scale.  This landform is also streamlined (looks like a tadpole in plan view) -- it is typically comprised of a rind of sediment and bedrock core.

I primarily see these types of landforms as bathymetric images.  I cannot put my hands on them.  Though I have been in my thesis area, I did not have the proper equipment to hop off the R/V Araon and swim down to the bottom of Bombardier Bay and study all those cool looking features down there.  I might've considered trying (despite total lack of equipment, like submarines...), but the Larsen A has an awful lot of fast ice covering all entry points....

I digress!

More Nordenskiold!

Me for scale:

UH for scale!


There is only one way to really end an amazing experience like this.

You have to get closer.

And then everyone will want to join!


Friday, August 23, 2013


Saturday, July 27

Our field work is complete.  We are upon our final night aboard the Stalbas.  A party is in order!  Our party takes place in Skansbukta.

To say that the scenery was stunning would be a bit of an understatement.  But really, if the day is quite fine, it's nearly impossible to take a bad picture in Svalbard.

I still can't get over how flat-lying that strata is.

Our beautiful view was complemented by great food.  Initially, the captain's children manned the grill.  Liz waits patiently by the salad (always the first thing to disappear at cruise meals).

Eventually, everyone pitched in a bit to cook.

And we all sat down to have a lovely meal together.

And of course...

Don't worry.  We waited for 45 minutes after eating before hot-tubbing.

Kapp Ekholm

Saturday, July 27.  As we packed back onto the Stalbas (I realize that I am spelling it wrong, blogger will not give me the proper a with the circle over it.  I like to call it the angstrom) Friday evening, we headed north.  The intended destination was Poolepynten on Prins Karls Forland.  Poolepynten eluded us on the Sunday prior, by hiding itself with rain.  The weather forecasts were initially good, but as we got closer to PKF, we saw this:

Abandon ship!  Well, perhaps not that dramatic, but needless to say, we did change course.  We headed to Kapp Ekholm, a very familiar site for anyone who has studied Svalbard geology:

Kapp Ekholm is one of the key stratigraphic localities on Svalbard -- four distinct glaciations, dating back to the Late Saalian (~150 ka) have been identified within this site.  Thus, it forms the basis of the glaciation curves proposed for Svalbard.  And here is where we were digging.

Group 2 took KC, Group 3 had KA, and my group had KB.  One thing that might initially strike you about these sections.  They were steep!

But that's cool.  We like danger.

Our group had a dig in the middle part of the section -- essentially, we saw an entire glacial cycle, starting with a diamicton.  We interpreted this diamicton to be a till, based on our discovery of striated clasts within the unit.

Till!  This is a nice picture, because you can see a fairly sharp contact between the lower subglacial till and the upper glaciomarine mud (brown).  This contact shows the transition from a glaciated environment into deglaciation.
And once you deglaciate, you get fauna!  Witness our sand section and all its inhabitants!

Mya truncata and Mytilus edilus used to dominate this place.  The bivalve pictured above is Mya truncata, and he's sort of the definition of ubiquitous.  He lives everywhere, from the tropics to the cold polar regions.  Mytilus edilus (unfortunately, not pictured -- for a closer look, order mussels the next time that you go out for seafood) tells a different story.  He tells us of a warmer climate -- the presence of Mytilus edilus indicates a Holocene climate optimum.  Pretty sweet.  From here on it, it's a straight coarsening upward sequence.

Regression with punctuated debris flow of massive boulders.  

Group 2 had the Holocene glaciation.  Yuribia first explains the diamicton...

And then, she showed us this!

I really like this.  I'm not terribly sure what causes the upward deformation in this imbricated section, but I like it.  It's nice.

By now, we were quite tired from our exertions, and so we had a short respite.

Did I mention the view at Kapp Ekholm?

Across the fjord...

And, perhaps my favorite, evidence of Holocene (like really, really Holocene) kelp-rafted debris!

This is my new favorite dropstone transportation method.

I will end with a small Kapp Ekholm anecdote that may be useful to some who are just beginning their geological career.  Sometimes, you need to crack open a rock.  This may be so that you can identify which rock formation you're in, so you don't screw up your map.  Maybe you've come upon a possible geode, and you want to make sure.  Maybe you are lost in a desolate, formerly shallow sea, and you need to fashion a survival instrument to combat the wild animals lurking amongst the cactus, but limestone is the only material at your disposal (read: Big Bend).  Or maybe you know that a rock is fostering multiple casts and molds, and you really really want to see inside of it.
To accomplish any of these crucial tasks, you need a rock hammer.  And if your rock hammer is stowed in a drawer back on the cruise ship, that task is going to cost you.


Ectoproct (I think from the Fenestrata class) and trace fossils.

This rock cost me a few slices out of my left hand.  Totally worth it.

Take-home point:  Don't forget your hammer.  Ever. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Van Keulenhamna

Friday, July 26  -- Van Keulenhamna.  We literally took a westerly skip over the fjord to get to this place.

Today, Svalbard graced us with one of her gorgeous sunny ... well, it's always day.  I will go with sunny 12 hour window.

So.  Van Keulenhamna.  Here's a view looking back at the Stalbas:

First thing to notice (I will get to the awesome fold tucked away in the mountains later...).  The beach is mainly gravel, and this is clearly visible.  The beach is also not flat -- there are many little (seriously little) ridges and valleys cutting across it.  And this raised beach goes on for quite a ways...

(Person for scale, above)

We're in marine terrace territory now.  No sections today.  Today, we level the raised beaches, and we use a theodolite to do it.

This surveying technique creates a very precise vertical profile across the entire terrace.  We began the survey at the high tide mark -- an easily recognizable starting point.  The person peering through the theodolite (in this case, Krzysztof) sights the several meter high stick through the lens.  The height is recorded, in some cases to the centimeter, and the surveying continues until the sighter can no longer see the stick.  This is an image of the front-sighting technique.  It's nice and literal -- backsighting occurs when the theodolite is ahead of the stick, and turns around to face it.  Here is what you see:

We operated the theodolite in shifts -- first Group 3, then Group 1, and Group 2 took the last profiles.  I was super jealous of them, because they went all the way to the marine limit.  And then they got this amazing picture:

They're really high up.  The only rocks I climbed today weren't strictly speaking within my working duties.  But rocks sometimes call to be climbed upon, because you can see great things like this!

Now you can play your own game of Spot the Ectoproct, Coral, and Brachiopod fragment.

The theodolite was not the only goal of today's field work, however.  We also got to play detective!

Here we employ our finest CSI techniques as we search for pumice.  Happily, pumice is a very distinctive volcanic rock.  It's texture is highly vesicular, it's density much lower than the gravel on the beach, and we were looking for pumice in a pitch black shade.

Iceland pumice.  We expect that this pumice was transported via ocean to Svalbard.  There are volcanoes on Svalbard, and some of them active as recent as the Quaternary, but these are primarily in northwestern Spitsbergen (Sverrefjellet is a good example).  Not exactly close enough to spit pyroclastic material directly onto this beach, but you never know.  To ensure that this pumice is related to Icelandic eruptions, the petrology of each sample will need to be examined and compared to samples recovered in Iceland.

We also looked for intact shells in proximity to the pumice.  This was a largely unsuccessful venture, but it did afford us many opportunities to use random objects as digging tools, locate cool looking rocks, and take the occasional cowboy nap.

The view was truly spectacular.

This nearly vertical strata houses a rock glacier in the center.

 This is just awesome.

And one jump shot of me and Ingunn to end the day.