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!


  1. Very kool photos Wayne. I'm a desert rat at heart because of the love I have foe geology. Unfortunately I live in Sweden where any and all manner of geology is obscured by vegetation.


  2. The photographs shot by you are phenomenal. I searched on Google Earth and found the anticline in Iran; Refer North of Dasht e Lut, hottest place on Earth

  3. Your picture of the Zagros mountains.I have one of the same mountain going the other way !It was 1964 on a Military trooping flight going to London via Istanbul!


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