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Tag Archives: Erosion

Rock in Surf

Through the magic of continuous shooting at some crazy number of frames-per-second, I was able to capture the exact moment that this wave came into contact with this rock. This is the sort of thing that happens, quite literally, in the blink of an eye.  Our minds register the water washing over the rock, but the nuances of the event escape our consciousness…like the way the wave explodes into hundreds of individual droplets before “re-forming” as foam…or how the rock, which is clearly a three-dimentional object, appears almost two-dimensional from this perspective…or how opaque the spray of even this crystal-clear tropical water becomes as it literally turns into “white water” before our very eyes.

Look at the shape of the rock, the scalloped edges standing out against the surf, and marvel at how many millions of times that rock was struck by waves to erode the way it has.

So much drama takes place each day in just this one square yard of shore…now multiply that to encompass all the coastlines of the world…most of it unwitnessed by humans…neat.

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Slope Mtn

The title of this post can refer either to the experience of gazing upon a massive mountain top…or the fact that said mountain was once at the bottom of the sea!

The sedimentary layers that make up this mountain were layed down millions of years ago, possible from the erosion of an even more ancient mountain, and then the entire formation rose at an intriguing angle, much faster on one side than the other…

Today, this mountain is eroding as well, and creeks and rivers carry its sediment into the nearby ocean.

Someday in the distant future, millions of years from now, this mountain will form new sedimentary layers at the bottom of the sea, and eventually those will sink and then rise into yet another mountain…

It’s recycling on a grand scale!

In a small cemetery in the Palouse, an old grave marker stands tall, on not one but two separate pedestals.  I found the fuzzy orange lichen on the smooth white stone to be a lovely contrast of colors and textures.  Clearly this grave has been here for many decades.  Look at the beautiful weathering on the lamb’s head and body in the image below, polished like a river rock by many years of rain and sleet and snow and wind.

I hope he’s able to keep his silent vigil for many more years before he eventually erodes and crumbles away into an unrecognizable lump of stone.  While some people might find him already too old and weather-worn for their liking, to me he is absolutely perfect just as he is.

One thing I love about the desert is that the geology is front and center.  It’s not hidden by a bunch of grass or trees or water.  It’s out in plain sight for anyone to see and interpret.

Most of the desert is sedimentary rock, and most of that is sandstone and shale.  Sandstone is pretty much made out of sand (and sometimes gravel), and shale is made out of mud and clay.  It’s pretty basic.

What shapes the sandstone and shale into such interesting formations is wind and water.  Primarily water, which I find ironic in this arid environment.  While wind will pick up loose sand and “sandblast” the sandstone rock, the sand is usually not picked up very high.  A geology teacher I once had told us that 6′ is usually the limit.

But rain and rivers can do amazing things, as the Grand Canyon proves.

This formation looks a bit like The Sphinx.  Okay, maybe a cat wearing a fez.  Perhaps I was in the sun a bit too long without a hat….

This one looks to me like a massive Frostie cone, or perhaps as if a giant had been playing with Silly Sand.  Anyone remember that?  Whoops, I may be dating myself again here….

The variety of shapes, colors and textures is almost endless, and if the light is good I feel like a kid in a candy store.  Sidelighting brings out the texture of the rock, and long shadows can add drama.  Some afternoon clouds are good too.

Recipe to create a pleasing desert rock formation:  Take a lot of sand and mud.  Bury with more sand and mud.  Compress for a few millions years, give or take.  Return sand and mud (now called sandstone and shale, respectively) to surface of earth.  Tilt if desired.  Add liberal doses of water and wind.  Erode for a few million more years.  And…voila!