Monday, October 19, 2020

Join Me On a Grand Canyon River Trip - Virtually - November 5, 2020

The Covid pandemic has really slowed things down in my world, as I know it has in all readers of Earthly-Musings. Faithful readers have certainly noticed a sharp drop-off in posts from me as I first, recovered from bilateral knee surgery in late 2019; then in March, the travel industry was put in complete shutdown by the worldwide pandemic. My river trip with the Museum of Northern Arizona in May, 2020 was the first cancellation to my schedule (however, it was run later on August 1 with great safety and success). Then, the same month my Smithsonian Journeys trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos Islands was canceled. Another Grand Canyon geology-themed river trip scheduled for late August was canceled next. I lost another two trips that were scheduled this month - a 10-day excursion with Smithsonian to Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion; then, an Around the World By Private Jet adventure with TCS Travel (that is a tough one to miss). Patagonia and Easter Island with Yavapai College was scheduled for November and December this year but is now rescheduled for 2021 (fingers crossed). And lastly, my 30th trip to Antarctica, scheduled for January, 2021 with Smithsonian Journeys, will have to wait one more year. These are First World problems I know. People are suffering a lot more from this than losing work and our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones. Stay safe!

Nevertheless, I have been busy with Zoom lectures for various non-profits including Smithsonian Journeys, Geofest/Earth Science Week, and others. I want to bring to your attention an upcoming lecture for a good cause! Museums have been especially hard hit by the lack of visitation due to the spread of the virus. For that reason, I will be holding a fundraiser for the Museum of Northern Arizona on Thursday, November 5 at 6 PM (Mountain Standard Time). Join me as we take a virtual river trip along the Colorado River in Grand Canyon. I will be highlighting some of the many attractions that can be found on this amazing trip, using some of my best images from trips taken in the last 15 years. Hopefully, next year we can all run the river for real. But in the meantime, come run the river with me - virtually!

Thank you and see you "on the river" November 5!


Virtual Grand Canyon River Trip
Thursday Nov. 5, at 6 pm Mountain Standard Time (8 PM Eastern; 7 PM Central; and 5 PM Pacific)

Ticketed online event, $12 for members/ $15 nonmembers

Take a Grand Canyon river trip with renowned geologist and long-time river runner Wayne Ranney, all without leaving home! Ranney will share images of the geology, archaeology sites, and waterfalls on the Colorado River. This is a fundraiser to support the Museum of Northern Arizona.



Thursday, August 20, 2020

Update on A Newly Exposed Trackway Along the Bright Angel Trail in Grand Canyon

Artists rendition of how the new trackway was created (Figure 8 in the paper). Art by Emily Waldman.

I have posted a second addendum to my original post from December 11, 2016. A new paper describes this trackway in detail! See the addendum here.

CNN also picked up the story here.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Jellyfish Sprite Captured by Camera in Texas

 McDonald Observatory

On rare summer nights, ethereal forms leap into the skies above distant thunderstorms. Alien invaders? Not quite: it's a jellyfish sprite, an extremely brief and rarely captured event associated with incredibly powerful lightning strikes. This event lasted less than 1/30th of a second and occurred above a powerful storm about 100 miles away as seen from McDonald Observatory on July 2nd, 2020. 




















Image Credit: Stephen Hummel

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Images from Curiosity on Mars


The Mars rover, Curiosity, has been roaming the Gale Crater for 8 years - it was only supposed to be operating for 2 years. This ten minute video is amazing! They have taken thousands of images and spliced them together to make it look like a video. Outstanding !

Watch here.


I understand that if folks are not in tune with desert landscapes that the video may appear bleak. However, looking at an alien planet ironically brings life to the images. Geologically, we see the similarities between our home planet and the Red Planet - sand dunes, limestone, tilted strata, sandstone, and skylines. Try not to let the barren nature of this "other world" taint your appreciation of the wonders of the solar system of which we are finally beginning to understand more deeply.


Self portrait of the Curiosity rover. I support interplanetary exploration!

Friday, July 03, 2020

Remembering Hugh and Ruth Downs - Fellow Travelers to Earth's North Pole, 1998

From left to right, Hugh Downs, Ruth Downs, Herbergers, and Buzz Aldrin.

You may have heard that Hugh Downs, longtime TV personality at NBC and ABC, passed away on July 1, 2020. His obituary was published by the New York Times on July 2. I was fortunate to travel with Hugh Downs, his wife Ruth, and their friend and colleague Buzz Aldrin to the North Pole in July, 1998. He was filming a segment of the ABC program "20/20." Mr. Downs had previously filmed a 20/20 segment at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica and wanted to round out his "far-ends-of-the-earth" résumé by filming a segment at the opposite end of the earth.

In a previous blog posting celebrating the Centennial of statehood in Arizona, I included a picture taken with the Downs' and Buzz Aldrin at the North Pole. The link to that posting can be found here. We were traveling by nuclear-powered ice breaker on the Sovietsky Soyuz through Arctic ice on a 14-day expedition. I was working onboard as a geologic lecturer for TCS World Travel on the trip. 

Ruth (Shaheen) Downs passed away in 2017 and her obituary can be read here. She was a very gracious person on our voyage and Hugh credited her with much of his success. Ruth was quite successful in her own right and I want to remember her passing as well, since she likely escaped much of the limelight when she passed in 2017. They were together for 75 years!

On our voyage, I found Hugh Downs to be an excellent listener, curious, and gracious to all of the passengers on the trip. The well-known Herberger family of Phoenix were also along and our group formed a sort of Arizona contingent on the trip.

I tried to find a link to the 20/20 segment that was filmed at the North Pole, with no luck. If any readers have such luck - send me the link and I will include it here.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Meanders, Oxbows, and Time


My colleague, Brad Dimock, sent along a link recently that I know you will find interesting. It involves a cartoon graphic that shows the way mature rivers meander and evolve through time. You will see meanders turn into oxbow lakes that are cut-off from the main stem, then fill with sediment. You will see point bars grow as meander loops arch outwards. You could look a this for a half hour and not see enough. The site was constructed by Robert Hodgin. Watch it here. Thanks Brad!

Here are photos I took of the upper Amazon River near Iquitos Peru in September, 2009. You can easily see the meanders and oxbow lakes. Imagine that these are migrating and moving just like in the graphic above, but on a much slower pace. 








Saturday, June 20, 2020

Why no blogs...?

Palisades of the Desert from the Colorado River, September 17, 2013
I think everyone will agree it has been a difficult few months. While I weathered the pandemic and its consequent isolation fairly well in March, April, and May, I seemed to falter a bit in June. I miss traveling. I miss lecturing. I miss being on the river looking at the Grand Canyon. I know it is difficult for many of us right now. But we have to keep in mind that we, as a species, aren't calling the shots right now. That can be difficult for some - to admit that we are helpless against nature. But why should we be against nature. No matter how difficult it is for the both of us here, we are doing what we can to limit the spread of the virus. We do it for us. And we do it for others. It has been especially hard on my wife not seeing the children or grandchildren. But we want to be good citizens.

There are really two reasons why I have not been blogging since the end of May. The first is that there is nothing to say. I haven't been anywhere, haven't done anything. So why force it. I can take a break - I hope you will stick with me until we come out on the other side. The second reason is that I have been working on a project. I am a co-author on an upcoming geologic river guide for the Grand Canyon. Since the end of April, I have been plugging away at the keys of my computer, transferring my river observations into readable text. A sample spread is included below. There will be a geologic map on one half of each spread and a mile-by-mile description on the other half. My co-author is Dr. Ryan Crow at the USGS here in Flagstaff and the book will be published by them. I am excited to be working with Ryan - he has researched the lava fields found in western Grand Canyon and brings great expertise to the project.

I am hoping the guide will be ready for the 2021 river season. For that to happen, I will have to take significant time away from blogging and dedicate that time to finishing the guidebook. I will try to post something now and then from previous trips, and I may even dip into my vast collection of photographic slides from days long before this blog existed. There are some good ones. But right now I need to focus on the book and maintain some sanity during the necessary isolation.

Just letting you all know there may be less blogging through the summer. My enthusiasm for travel, geology, landscapes, and exploration remains high. Thanks for your understanding.