Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Grand Canyon Installs New Exhibits at the Visitor Center

Workers at Grand Canyon National Park are busy installing new exhibits at the Visitor Center this week. Recent visitors will know that in 2010 the Park added a 200-seat theater with movie ajacent to the Vistor Center. You can order a copy of the the DVD, "Grand Canyon: Journey of Wonder," here.

Check out the new relief map of Grand Canyon that was installed on the walls of the Visitor Center today. I am sure that this will be a great tool to help visitors learn just how large the Grand Canyon really is. Geologists can use this too when students are brought to the canyon. The link is here. The entire exhibit suite will be finished by April 7. Plan your next trip to the park now!

Monday, March 26, 2012

How Big and Small Everything Is

Take a look at this astounding web site, forwarded by Jim in Michigan. It really puts things in perspective.

Monday, March 19, 2012

It's Going To Be A Cold Night!

Compare to photo 1 in this mornings posting. The sun has broken through this epic storm! I measured the total snowfall at 255 at nearly 30 inches. The Arizona Snowbowl on the San Francisco Peaks recorded 54 inches! It's going to be a very cold night but the return of spring-like weather is on its way!

Morning in Flagstaff

The big news this morning is the snow! I figure we're pretty close to 22 inches total here at 255. Another 1- to 12 inches fell after we shoveled yesterday and got the driveway cleared. We're headed back out this morning to do that next 12 inches. But the sun is peeking through the remnants of this awesome storm.

The San Francisco Peaks are out there somewhere

The snow began as rain so the lower layers are wet and slushy. Later snow is quite powdery.

It's a blanket everywhere

It flocks the trees in huge clumps

The project this morning is to get the driveway cleared so Helen can go to work. NAU cancelled classes on Saturday before one flake fell. Unprecedented to my knowledge.

Sunshine is on the way as well as above normal temperatures the rest of the week. Such is the history of a late winter storm.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Trip's End

And so this journey comes to an end. We wake up and drive through a hazy Jordanian morning, two hours to Aqaba. The guide stops the bus at a panoramic view and we struggle to see the shredded landscape of Petra through the fog, smoke and dust. Were it clear, we would see one of the most spectacular sandstone canyon systems anywhere. Another Colorado Plateau look alike! In spite of the haze, I am pleased.

We've seen a lot of bad air on this trip. With the exception of South Africa, all of our destinations were shrouded in haze, smoke, dust and just plain old bad air. The next time someone complains to me about "government regulations" regarding clean air, I am gong to remind them what the alternative is. Thank goodness for the air we breathe in the USA and the laws and rules that have turned our skies into inspirational messages to us, visible each day.

Our jet circles around to the south so as not to prickle Israeli sensitivities about jets originating in Arabian nations. They certainly have reason to feel prickly as their neighbors have been petulant about their return. But they said yes when offered a chance to settle in their ancestral homeland, in spite of the fact that the others had stolen it from them fair and square and were now ensconced there with their own families. I wonder if some them now wish they had said 'thanks but no thanks' to the offer, and had asked for a piece of Jordan instead (or maybe Maryland?). It's amazing what some humans will do to soothe ancient roots, that serve at the same time to also incite present terror.

And then I recall the lion kill we observed in South Africa. I had just given my second lecture the day before, "Africa, The Cradle of Human Evolution", and visions of early humans descending from the trees onto grassy plains rife with lions and leopards filled my head. Climate change had prompted that descent from the trees and somehow, enough of us survived the lions but not the "scare". I wondered if we still fight wars in the 21st century because of some ancient fear that a lion lurks behind every clump of grass? Probably.

We got a few nice views of snow-covered Macedonia and the town of Graz in Austria. And then a cloud covered all of the rest of Europe. Over Bavaria, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Amsterdam. As we descended into London, the cloud still stretched to the western horizon  towards Ireland and who knows how much farther (Omaha?). Europe sure does clouds!

These are the thoughts that go through my mind in the early AM hours in London - when I should be sleeping to prepare for a 21-hour, coach class, flight marathon. I'll be trashed when I get home but my sweetie will be there waiting for me in Phoenix. I have missed her so much, so it is very appropriate for this trip to come to an end.

The pilots of our 757 gave us the final statistics for the trip. In all, we flew 41 hours and 41 minutes on our private jet and traveled 19,936 miles (statute). With the 11,000 miles I racked up on commercial flights, I traveled 31,000 miles in the air - one and one-quarter times around the globe! Amazing. Our jet consumed 48,776 gallons of jet fuel in 24 days, making for an average of 2.5 miles per gallon. Not too bad considering our heaviest take-off weight was 235,430 lbs. and there were 72 people on board. We used only 1.5 quarts of engine oil. In all of this travel, the jet's engineer replaced one air conditioning valve, while carrying 3,500 lbs. of spare parts. The jet and crew was fabulous!

We've seen amazing things, all too fast of course, but what a trip of this kind lacks in 'hours on the ground', is more than made up for with education and learning. It's been a seminar really. Each stop with knowledgeable guides sharing their expertise. Thank you one and all.

And thank you for reading this blog. After my "recovery" from flying home, I'll be exploring more of North America and the Southwest and you can check back here to see what I am up to and what there is to see on this wonderful planet.

Tiger's Nest Monastery in Bhutan, March 8, 2012

Monday, March 12, 2012

Flying Over "Forbidden" Countries

Our airline crew on this trip has been fantastic! First Officer Phil Gardner always comes to my seat before the flight and gives me a print out of our routing, which in this part of the world is often not in the straight line path you would expect. For example, when leaving Jodhpur, we had to route south for about 20 minutes because the straight line track to Jordan would have taken us directly over India's nuclear missile silos pointed at Pakistan. (We also had to fly around Israel as no aircraft leaving Arab countries can fly across their space). Anyway, Officer Gardner's thoughtfulness has really reaped dividends for all of us, since I like to point out to folks all of the things of interest we are flying over. If I know what's coming up, I can get people to look out the windows more often. The flight stewards are professional and truly interested in the experiences we are having. They stay at different hotels than us and so when we return home to the "mother ship", we exchange stories of our different experiences. It's a fun group!

We had a great flight west from India that took us over some countries with tantalizing names to Americans - Pakistan, Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia. As always, when ever I mention that we are crossing into these territories, many people always ask, "Are we allowed to?" The answer is yes but the flyways are strictly enforced. We were not allowed to fly over Afghanistan or Iraq but we came close. The day was extremely hazy and the photo's not the best. But when seen from an altitude far from the war-like calls from governments, these counties look like any other with regards to their geology. How I would love to be on the ground in south central Pakistan and southwest Iran, places that approximate things we see in the American Southwest!

I thought I would give you a view of the interior of our jet. Seventy-four first class seats in a jet that can seat as many as 250.

This is David Keeling my fellow lecturer on the trip. He is a Geography professor at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green. We have had a great time together on this trip.

The stewards will often don dress that is native to the local culture. We never know what we'll see when we return back on board. My seat for the second half of the flight has been Row 6 Seat A, visible on the far right. This is where I have been getting my photo's from and why the jet engine frames many of my pictures.

Jill, wearing a bindi on her forehead, is part of the wonderful crew that has served us. The crew is from England.

Interesting settlement pattern in northwest India where a small town is located along a river as roads converge from all directions

We passed in to southern Pakistan and soon saw the great Indus River, draining a great portion of the western Himalaya. Note the high standing mesa bordering the west side of the river valley

And then Pakistan revealed a landscape so familiar to travelers in the American Southwest. Folded sediments were arched up in great swaths across the desert landscape west of the Indus River. I am guessing that this is part of the Kirthar Range.

Some areas were quite similar to the folds we see on the Colorado Plateau. This one looks a lot like the Raplee Anticline near Mexican Hat Utah but is located in Pakistan. I continue my search for landscapes worldwide that approximate the Colorado Plateau!

We crossed into Iranian airspace and the wonders folded strata continued. Here is an eroded anticline with the various colors of the strata highlighting the structure beneath.

A recent snow storm had dusted this mountain. Note the small city at the foot of the snow. I am sure that I will be able to located this city after spending time on Google Earth.

Passing across the Zagros Mountain in southwestern Iran, we saw domed mountains dusted with snow.

This line of cliffs reminded me of the Straight Cliffs near Escalante Utah. A small reservoir can be seen in the lower left.

We finally crossed over the northern end of the Persian Gulf and this is where the air quality got especially bad

And this is the reason why - a giant sand storm was blowing across much of the Arabian Desert in Saudi Arabia. In the air, our jet was fighting against 150 mph headwinds.

It finally cleared up somewhat over southern Jordan and we were treated to an aerial view of Wadi Rum below

The rock formations here are beautiful and are composed of Cambrian Sandstone sitting on top of Precambrian crystalline rocks

Coming in closer to the airport, the sandstone has been stripped off completely here and the granite is exposed entirely

The Gulf of Aqaba and the Israeli port city of Elat

It is about a two hour drive from Aqaba to Wadi Musa and Petra. The highways are very modern as Aqaba is a free port with no taxes. This is turning rapidly into a highly populated and commercial area and I noticed incredible growth since my last visit 5 years ago. This is near the junction of four countries, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt.

Here are those crystalline rocks as seen from ground level. Many black dikes pervade the sequence.
More black dikes in the granite and a small cap of sandstone on the upper right cliff

Here it is! The Great Unconformity as seen near Wadi Rum in Jordan. Precambrian granite is capped by Cambrian Sandstone in the center of this photo. The gap in time is many hundreds of millions of years at this unconformity.

As we drove north, the Precambrian rocks disappeared into the subsurface and the sandstone was at ground level. I was hoping to take the day trip on March 11 back to Wadi Rum but I experienced my first bout with travelers stomach and was forced to stay in my room the whole day. The best geology on the trip and I had to miss it!

More Jodhpur India

After an unseasonable cold night in the Manvar tents, we were awakened by a melodic sound. Later in the day, we would return to Jodhpur, see the Mehrangarh Fort, and check in to what would be the most elegant ans spectacular hotel on the whole trip. That is saying a lot considering the very special places we have be privileged to stay.

Sunrise on March 9 at the Manvar camp in Rajasthan

Sweet music make a round to each tent, where waiters bring hot water, and tea or coffee to your tent

A great way to start the day

Driving through the Rajasthani desert on our way back to Jodhpur. The dunes have been stabilized with trees growing on them.

India is a colorful colorful country with many roadside markets. We stopped at this one to have a look.

Wooden, hand-made pitchforks

An impromptu street dance for our group

The people are quick to smile and seemed to enjoy seeing our group

The area near Balesar is a huge flagstone quarrying area. Immense quantities of sandstone are mined here and come from the Bundi Hill Formation, which is part of the Bhander Group and the Vindhyan Supergroup. For a technical article on the age of this supergroup, see here.

Slabs awaiting transport all over southern Asia

After arrival in Jodhpur, we toured the Mehrangarh Fort located on top of a hill in the city. See the link above to know more of the history of this maharaja palace, which stands as a beacon in the "blue city".

How Jodhpur got its name. This is the old quarter located beneath the palace. We were told that blue is the cheapest color of paint and that is why people use it.

The palace is truly impressive as a structure on the hill

An inner courtyard of the palace

This is where the maharaja would receive guests

From the palace, we could see another imposing structure which believe it or not, would be our hotel for the night

This is the entrance to the Umaid Bhawar Palace. To say that this is a luxury hotel would not give a clear impression of its size and beauty.

Morning light on the front fa├žade of the Umaid Bhawar Palace

One of the many courtyards that leads to the rooms

I took a few pictures of the rotunda inside. This building could easily be a capital building in most states in the US

Wow! Picture can do this place no justice

Breakfast on the veranda

Replete with music and a peacock. On leaving Jodhpur, we were sorry to see this place in our rear view mirror. This posting is from one 24-hour period on our trip. From the tent camp at Manvar with morning tea delivered, to roadside markets, to two palaces, this was a great stop.