Friday, July 30, 2010

A Back from the Road Update with some Oregon Serpentinite

I've been without a good or constant internet connection for a couple weeks, so am just now getting caught up on the California serpentinite issue (#CAserpentine). While out and about, I drove by some serpentinite in eastern Oregon, including the greenish hills above, which are west of John Day and east of Mt. Vernon on U.S. Route 26 where it overlaps with a short segment of U.S. Highway 395 (Google Maps). It appears that aggregate is being mined locally from these rocks, which overall consist of weakly to strongly serpentinized mafic and ultramafic rock (dunite, peridotite, gabbro, diabase).
If you stop at the Strawberry Mountains rest stop and overlook (which has an oversized covered wagon as a tribute to pioneers that traveled the Oregon Trail), you can examine and read about three large boulders of weakly serpentinized gabbro and diabase (Google Maps Street View). My photo shows a couple white to pale green, fibrous veinlets that I presume are made of chrysotile. The serpentinized boulders weren't very photogenic; someone had splattered red paint all over them. And I didn't get a picture of the plaque that told something about their geology; the sun angle was lousy or I was impatient (or both?).

In the meantime, I'm trying to get caught up on my serpentine link fest. If you notice any missing links, let me know. I'm not linking to SB 624 propoganda (just like they aren't linking to me).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Whence the GeoBlogosphere

David Bressan and Michael Welland are co-hosting this month's Accretionary Wedge, which goes meta and asks questions about the Geoblogosphere and geoblogging. Where is the geoblogosphere going? Can geoblogging impact society? What is the purpose of geoblogging? Without going into a long rant about why I blog, which I've probably never done but which has been included in more than one blog and geoblog survey, I'll ramble into a few possibly related topics.

First off, when I speak of the Geoblogosphere, I include geologists, geophysicists, and other geoscientists who are blogging. Some of the bloggers in this larger Geoblogospheric group don't always blog about geology or geosciences, some do all or most of the time, some do occasionally to even rarely. This wide range of types of blogging — informal, formal, science-related, more personal — is really one of the things I like and enjoy about the Geoblogosphere as it is today and as it has been over the past couple-few years that I've been reading and blogging. I personally derive value from reading from a wide range of topics, and also in knowing — and sometimes even meeting — bloggers from many backgrounds, regions, and countries. For good summaries of geoblogging and the geoblogosphere see Active Margin, Clastic Detritus and Research at a Snail's Pace. I would also like to point out that Kim Hannula, Anne Jefferson, Suzanne Franks, and Pat Campbell studied women-in-science blogs (this blog is part of the Geoblogosphere and is also one of the many women-in-science blogs), and found that a diversity of blog types and topics is valuable to women. Their results were presented as a paper at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland, Oregon, and are reported online here.

The Geoblogosphere as I know it consists of a broader range of geoscientists than the smaller, more restricted group I meet and know through professional and alumni associations.

The number of geobloggers seems to have increased greatly in the last year or so, at least judging by the number of feeds at AllGeo — and at Geoblogosphere News, which I don't follow as closely, but which aggregates a wide range of geoblogs. My sidebar GeoBlogosphere links also reflect this increase, though I list inactive to relatively inactive geoblogs, and have kept links to original blogs when a geoblogger has moved to a new site. What is inactive? Well, that's a matter of perception, and I've considered putting inactive geoblog links into another category, but haven't done that yet. Having them all there in my sidebar, listed alphabetically, is pleasing to me. I certainly don't have them all, especially on the palaeontology side of things — there are a huge number of palaeo blogs.

What does the Geoblogosphere do? We generally have strong to loose overlapping and intermingling groups of blog writers, who comment on each other's blogs, who sometimes meet here and there, who send each other information, who support each other in sometimes tangible and often intangible ways. Some geobloggers write about their research and the research of others. Some write about geology in a way that can interest both geologists and non-geologists. Some write more personal items and things not completely related to geoscience or work in the geosciences. Some are now writing articles for geo-magazines, or have written one or two magazine articles — which came about at least in part from our exposure at the 2009 GSA Annual Meeting in Portland.

Should the Geoblogosphere join together in a joint project of some kind? I'm not really sure what sort of thing that might be or who would coordinate it. I do know that several geobloggers have recently been involved in protesting the proposed removal of serpentinite as a state rock in California (see an incomplete list here). This geoblogging-tweeting-mediacontacting-letterwriting protest has been a way to (hopefully) increase people's understand about some geologic issues and terminology, and it arose naturally, without plan.

Possibly we in the Geoblogosphere are more civil than some bloggers in other parts of the science blogosphere. Possibly we used this general civility to our advantage with the above-mentioned serpentinite issue, an issue which was brought to our attention initially by Andrew Alden and Garry Hayes, and which was then carried on by many bloggers, including some outside our usual circle of geoblogs, many geotweeters and others on Twitter, and which was finally taken up by the MSM, who were contacted by @geotripper (Garry Hayes) and @westcenter (Jon Christensen). Would we garner more attention for this issue by loud shouting? Who knows? The activism aspect of geoblogging is described in more detail by Jim Repka.

Should the Geoblogosphere do more things like this? I don't know. I really hate the word "should."

Should we as a group promote ourselves somehow? I'm not really sure, other than the ways in which we promote currently, which is individually and also collectively as a group with a presence both in the blogosphere and on twitter.

Are blogs private business or public affairs? In musing on this question, I have to lean toward the idea that any given blog is what the blogger (author) wants and deems it to be, that there isn't and shouldn't be any one model of blogging or of geoblogging. Within this general topic, I have to say that I don't really like the idea of prior restraint (of topics or of blogging in general) by employers, but realize that many of the non-academic bloggers like myself have some kinds of blogging restrictions, either self or other imposed.

Are geoblogs a business, as in money-making business? Well, so far for me, no. For others, maybe some. I have recently and tentatively added a few Amazon Affiliate links to a small number of older posts, and am considering other types of advertising. What I have added so far is not a pay-per-click type of program; I would only get paid if someone clicks through and actually buys something. I'm not really sure how I feel about this small experiment; I'd love to get paid enough to quit my day job.

Where are we going? Into the future!

This post is a submission for The Accretionary Wedge #26 being hosted by David Bressan at History of Geology (he also blogs at Cryology and Company) and Michael Welland at Through the Sandglass.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Travel Tuesday: Central Oregon

Mount Washington as seen from Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, OR, with young basalt on the south side of the canyon (looking west).
After you get done climbing (if that's what you like - I didn't try it!)...
You can eat here...
...and have a Terminal Gravity IPA.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to find Detachment: Places, both Here and There

While on the road once again, I'll leave you with these several search phrases that will lead you to find this LFD blog, this time in the category of Places.
  • alcan nino reno
  • before and after alcan highway sticker
  • black rock desert hot springs
  • british columbia folded mountains
  • clear lake, california geysers in 2008-2009
  • loneliest telephone highway nevada
  • long mountain lake in b.c.
  • jarbidge lake fishing
  • jokes about how Yuma got its name
  • mile 41/km 66 Quartz Creek, empties into Kenai Lake
  • most visited truck stop in pa for hookers
  • old house, old doors
  • professor valley road
  • ravioli gerlach
  • repair work on sr 317 rainbow canyon
  • Why it is called professor valley
  • Winnemucca ocean
  • Winnemucca to Oregon highway
  • world map - showing visited countries route 66

So, sieze ya later!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tufa Tuesday: Tufa Domes and Thinolite at Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Pyramid Lake, located in northwest Nevada (MSRMaps), is named for a pyramidal-shaped tufa-mound island officially known as The Pyramid, also called Pyramid Rock. Hot water emanates from springs all around the base of The Pyramid near water level, a fact that can be tested by swimming out to the rock. Please note that the largest island in the lake, which is sometimes thought incorrectly by passers-by to be The Pyramid, is actually Anaho Island, a pelican nesting site. Although Pyramid Lake is entirely within the Paiute Indian Reservation, Anaho Island is a National Wildlife Refuge.
Anaho Island and The Pyramid as seen from an overlook near the junction of Nevada routes 445 and 446.

Anaho Island is the large island in the right and center part of the photo; The Pyramid is the small island closer to the far shore and immediately to the left of Anaho.
The Needles Rocks as seen near Thunderbolt Bay.

As you drive north of Sutcliffe, the paved road turns to dirt — variable dirt, from good conditions right after a blading, to execrable conditions of extreme and rocky washboard that will set your teeth on edge if you really want to get through to destinations to the north (Smoke Creek Desert), northeast (Gerlach and Black Rock Desert), and northwest (Honey Lake).

Eventually, The Needles Rocks comes into view (MSRMaps of The Needles Rocks).
The Needles Rocks tufa mounds seen in the distance from the pullout at George Washington Rock.

The tufa mounds or masses known officially as "The Needles Rocks" and locally as "The Needles" and even "the Needles Rocks," form two rough lineaments near some once popular hot springs at and near the lake margin. If you back out from the MSRMaps view in aerial photo mode, you'll see that the lineaments are parallel to faults or structures cutting bedrock to the north. It seems likely that the hot springs are related to the linear structural conduits, and that both are related to the formation of the mounds, although it turns out that most or all of the large-scale tufa mounds and features formed 26,000 to 13,000 years ago when calcium-rich springs, possibly cold, emanated from the lake bottom (Benson, 2004). Some tufa may still be depositing today, especially at places like The Needles Rocks, where springs may still contain high amounts of calcium (read more here and here).

I don't personally know much about the spring-water composition, but do know that the hot springs at The Needles Rocks are great, especially the hidden ones along water's edge, where you can swim beneath tufa into warm mini-caves.
This is the same view of The Needles Rocks, with a spherical tufa dome on the right.
Another view from the same point at George Washington Rock (Google Street View). I was really surprised to find that Google had driven this road — it used to be considered a road going from nearly nowhere to almost nowhere else: I mean, it goes places, but it's mostly traveled by locals.

I'm not sure which of the two or three large tufa mounds or masses at this pullout is George Washington Rock; a sign may explain things — or maybe the sign just reminds you that you should have a day-use permit to pull off the main road.
A nicely formed tufa dome. Go to The Pyramid to see some tufa "forts" — my word — where large, spherical domes have been eroded in half so you can see the many layers and types of tufa inside. The Stone Mother and the eroded forts uphill from her are great examples (MSRMaps location). Be prepared for a rough, though passable, drive in.
Inside most of the spherical tufa domes — which are called barrels or spheroids, see Figures 18 and 19, among others — you will find masses of elongate to radiating crystals of thinolite.
This partially eroded tufa spheroid shows multiple layers of thinolite crystals
"Thinolitic tufas, or thinolites are thought to be chemical precipitates that originally had the composition CaCO3.6H2O; that is, they precipitated as the mineral ikaite, which suggests the presence of very cold water (Shearman and others, 1989). The thinolites have since recrystallized to a more stable form of calcium carbonate (calcite)."
Benson, 2004.
The Needles area is closed, and has been for quite some time.

The last time I was there, in June 1991, it was open to the public. I was leaning back in my camp chair, watching the sun dogs to the west, when I glanced straight overhead and saw a Kern arc. The sun was low on the western horizon, and the arc looked like a rainbow making a complete circle around the zenith. It was distinct, not faint like the one at Atmospheric Optics. At the time, I didn't even know such a thing was possible.

Some References:
Benson, Larry, 2004, The tufas of Pyramid Lake, Nevada: USGS Circular 1267.

Benson, Larry, 2004, The tufas of Pyramid Lake, Nevada: USGS Fact Sheet 2004-3044 (a shorter version of the above Circular).

Coolbaugh, M.F, and others, 2006, Geothermal Potential of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Reservation, Nevada, USA: Evidence of Previously Unrecognized Moderate-Temperature (150-70°C) Geothermal Systems: Geothermal Resource Council, Transactions, v. 30.

Ikaite (Wikipedia).

Monday, July 19, 2010

How Do You Write?

I write like
Arthur Conan Doyle

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Where it all Began

I write like
Isaac Asimov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Serpentine: A Group of Minerals, with long list of links.

I write like
Johathan Swift

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Serpentine post without the long link list.

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Finding a Thesis: Battle Mtn to Austin to Gabbs

I write like
Ian Fleming

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Finding a Thesis: Pole Line Road

I write like
Vladimir Nabokov

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Mt. St. Helens Field Trip

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Finding a Thesis: Pole Line to Belmont

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Friday from the Road: The Road to Gabbs

I write like
Douglas Adams

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Why Highway 8A?

I write like
Chuck Palahniuk

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Drilling Stories: Getting Started at Northumberland

I write like
Edgar Allan Poe

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

Here's to you, Geological Heroes

I write like
William Shakespeare

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

The Unlikely Gradational Stratigraphy
(Was it in Iambic Pentameter??)

I write like
Arthur Conan Doyle

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

What is Continuity?

Summary:Arthur Conan Doyle: Where it all Began & What is Continuity?
Edgar Allan Poe: Battle Mtn-Austin-Gabbs & Geological Heroes
Douglas Adams: Pole Line-Belmont & Why Highway 8A
Chuck Palahniuk: Road to Gabbs & Getting Started at Northumberland

How do I write? Eclectically? Heterogeneously? Multifariously?

I have no idea what it all means...
(From a meme going around on Twitter.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Quick Note

Teresa Lake at 10,230 feet

I'll be in and out of internet connection over the next couple days, then will be going someplace cool. Links on earlier posts will be updated only sporadically, and all comments will be on moderation (not to say they won't be published, just that they won't be published immediately).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tufa Tuesday: Shapes at the Lake

Tufa takes some interesting shapes at Pyramid Lake, NV

The idea for a Tufa Tuesday came upon me a couple years ago after a few geobloggers posted about tufa (some links below). Needless to say, I have yet to really get around to this - and I'm not planning a series!! - but here's a taste of some of the tufa from the northeast shore of Pyramid Lake (Wikipedia, MSRMaps), just off the main dirt road north of Sutcliffe.

Mono Lake Tufa (Ron Schott's Geology Home Companion Blog)
Tufa is so Weird and Cool (Christie at the Cape)
Death Valley Day 2.5 - The Tufa Pinnacles near Trona, CA (Dynamic Earth)
Geology Picture of the Day – Mono Lake Tufa (The Geology News Blog -Rockbandit)
The Tufa Towers of Trona Pinnacles, California ( Geology - Andrew Alden
Dispatches from the Road: Far Western Section Conference in Bishop, California (Geotripper)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Mostly Wordless Monday

Lupines on lichen-covered ash-flow tuff

The picture, taken the last day of May, is from our central Nevada hiking area on the west side of the Desatoya Mountains.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Where it All Began


"How Did a Nice Girl Like You Become a Geologist, Anyhow?"

I was often asked this question, especially in my early years as a geologist — the question was usually asked by strangers, mostly men, who I had just run into out in the field: prospectors and would-be prospectors, landowners, ranchers, and even other geologists. Really, you'd think people could be a little more inventive than to reuse that worn phrase so many times. The question seemed to imply some kind of wrongness in my choice of careers, and some other kind of wrongness that I'd managed to meet them out in the field — a "field" where I presumably didn't belong.

I've run into that question from Yuma to Gabbs, from Hog Ranch to Okanogan, and from Juneau to Fairbanks, and I wondered at the question every time it was asked. (The song Tucson to Tucumcari seems to be a most applicable song: my exploration travels have taken me, on legitimate business, to the places in the song: Tucson, Tucumcari, Tehachapi, and Tonopah.) I usually stuck to my routine answer, "My dad was a geologist," an answer that made sense and explained everything, at least it did for all those who asked the question. It didn't really explain things to me, nor did it tell the curious or suspicious questioners much about me.

The Making of a Geologist:
I'd like to say that it all started on Highway 8A, in Nevada, but it didn't. Nor, I suppose, will it end there, although it could. It all really started before I was born.

I was conceived and born while my dad was in grad school continuing his studies as a geologist at UO. Upon my birth, we moved almost immediately to central California, where I grew up with the foothills of the Sierra Nevada as my backyard playground, and with the northern Sierra Nevada towering above me. In those days, you could see the Sierra from Sacramento, you could see Half Dome from the Central Valley (you still can, just not routinely), and you could see Mt. Shasta from a bridge on Highway 40, now I-80, the road to San Francisco (at least, that's the way I remember it).

I began life downstream from the headwaters of the McKenzie River of the southern Cascades, where I was like a little geologic formation myself, filling in the lowlands of a wide valley. The deposition and formation of my early life continued after my parents moved to another vast lowland: the Great Valley of California. Sediments formerly and actively depositing from seas or rivers, and rivers meandering and flowing between levee walls to the delta and into the bay, were all a part of this early life of mine — a life buttressed by the strength and continuity of the granite of the Sierra Nevada batholith, which formed the backbone of my early life.

While I was growing up in this serene and stable-looking area, my dad was at work as a geologist (the area, which is not far from where faults of the San Andreas fault system run through the San Francisco Bay Area, is far from geologically serene or stable, as many of you know). We routinely traveled from there into the McKenzie River and Willamette Valleys, up and over the crest of the Cascade Mountains, and up and down the Oregon coast; we meandered around the Sierra Nevada foothills, into the Sierra Nevada, to Yosemite and Lake Tahoe; and we made these traverses during all the seasons of the year.

The Carlin Unconformity, with old Highway 40 and the Humboldt River meandering past.

unconf Roadcuts were magnets to my father, so we stopped and looked at them any time we went out for a drive. We collected rocks everywhere we went, and we went to lots of places. By the time I was five, I had seen the famous unconformity in Carlin Canyon, NV, and I had collected slate from eastern Nevada, granite from the Sierra, andesite from the foothills, asbestos from northern California, and agate from Oregon.

It probably also helped that I have rock collectors on my mother's side of the family, and that I grew up inspecting (and adding to) their collections of agate, geodes, barite roses, and other seashore and desert goodies. All these connections, collections, and early explorations combined might be enough to make a geologist out of anyone, but my brother, less than three years younger than I, who remembers much of this time period, did not become a geologist.

What truly did it, I think — what made me into a geologist, that is — was that I was born with a North Arrow in my head: you know, the kind of north arrow you find on any good map, one that continually and consistently points north. I guess that's a little like asserting that I was born with little magnetite or iron oxide pieces in my brain, so I can navigate the way geese or other birds supposedly do. Anyway, as far back as I can remember (possibly back to 1 or 1.5 years old), all my memories come with accurate north arrows engraved on them: that window faced east, that bed faced north, that street ran east-west, and you turned south into that driveway.

It's possible that later knowledge and directional orientation (when did it start?) has superposed North Arrows on my old memories, but maybe not: the arrows hold true for houses I was in when I was ≤1 years old, ≤1 to 4.5 years old, 4.5 to 5 years old, 5 to 6 years old, and so on. I have only revisited one or two of the early houses as an adult, and two of the early houses I have not revisited at all. For the latter two houses, my North Arrow memories check out with the house-detail memory of my mother ("Well, after you came in the front door, the master bedroom was immediately to the left...") along with the directional memory of my dad (who doesn't remember where the rooms of the houses were but does know that the front door faced east).

My dad was also born with a built-in North Arrow, as far as I can figure out, and consequently has been turned-around only once in his life. (I've been lost or turned-around three times that I can remember: once in fog, once in a dense forest, and once in fog in nearly impenetrable brush.) My natural directionality and 3-dimensional thinking (the latter is a requirement to be a geologist and the former is highly recommended) were both reinforced every time we, as a family, traveled anywhere or stopped at any roadcut. Probably the words north, south, east, and west were in my vocabulary by the time I was three, along with the words rock hammer and roadcut, so it remains a little difficult to pull out the built-in part from the added-to-later part — but the built-in part was there, of that I am sure.

That, anyway, is one way to make a geologist, although I'm sure there are other ways. One thing that geologists are sure of is the existence and viability of other ways — this idea is technically referred to as "multiple working hypotheses," and it's sometimes overstated as, "if ten geologists mapped the same area, you'd end up with at least ten different maps."

This story may be continued in another form later...

Seatrain I'm Willin' on the Seatrain album (1970)

A classic road song.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Geology on the Road: Ely Limestone Panorama

Because I'll be away for a couple days, possibly without access to very usable wifi (I'll have a connection, but not a good blogging connection), I'm going to post this view of the Pennsylvanian Ely Limestone in the White Pine Range of White Pine County, NV, as seen from not far off Highway 50 near the dirt road turnoff to Illipah Reservoir. In fact, drive straight down this road (Google Maps Street View) and keep going straight a couple hundred yards past the left turn to Illipah Reservoir. That's the Ely Limestone in the middle ground ridge on the left, and Ely Limestone on the main ridge behind and to the right. (There could be some Riepe Springs Limestone capping the Ely, though it may not show in the photo.)
Alternately, park at the pullout on the east side of the paved highway right at the Illipah turnoff (at Nevada historic marker #53), and look around from there. The hills on the east side of the road, part of the Butte Mountains, show equally good examples of the Ely Limestone, which can be recognized miles away because of its typical cyclothemic appearance. I mentioned the cyclothemic aspect of the Ely Limestone in an earlier post, without showing good photos of it.

In northern Nevada, correlative formations from a similar depositional environment (though reportedly more clastic) are called the Moleen and Tomera Formations (the lower and upper Ely Limestone, respectively).

I won't get into the details of cyclothems and the cyclic depositional environments that were common during the Pennsylvanian of Nevada (and elsewhere through the Carboniferous and possibly into the Triassic), but this 1964 publication from The Symposium on cyclic sedimentation is a great place to start reading. There's even an article about the Pennsylvanian and Permian of eastern Nevada, including the Ely Limestone! H/T to Brian Romans @clasticdetritus and Clastic Detritus.

Bissell, H. J., 1964, Patterns of sedimentation in Pennsylvanian and Permian strata of part of the eastern Great Basin, in D.F. Merriam, ed., Symposium on cyclic sedimentation: Kansas Geological Survey, Bulletin 169, p. 43-56.

Comments Not Working Properly

UPDATE 6Jul2010 12:00 noon: Comments seem to be working again, although comment counts on some posts, including this one, are inaccurate.

UPDATE 8Jul2010 6:50pm: Comments are working!!

I've noticed that my own comments to my serpentine post are not showing up on the post, although I'm getting email notifications about them (I've posted 3 or 4 that I can't see). The email notifications give me the content of my comments, so I know I made them!

I've also noticed this on at least one other blog I commented on (Geotripper); my comment didn't show up, or at least I can't see it.

And at least one other Blogger blog today isn't showing a particular comment if you click on the blog post heading, and only shows the comment if you click on comments directly. (This seems to work for one of my comments on my serpentine post, also, but not for 3 others that I've made so far.)

The point of this little post: If you think your comments aren't getting through, please send me an email (not that I'll be able to post the comment for you, but at least I'll know what you've said and can reply by email). It's likely that I'll see your comments in my email notifications from Blogger, but I'm not sure about that.

Also, I'll be on the road and don't have time this morning to set up a "Something's Not Working" complaint at Blogger/Google. I've searched their help forums; so far there aren't any answers, and there may be 1 or 2 people awaiting solutions to the same or similar problems. And it may be a Known Issue; they seem to have a lot of Outstanding Known Issues.

UPDATE 6July2010 9:00am: At least one of my comments not using my Blogger profile but using name/URL is readable to me if I click directly on comments rather than on the post title. It also has shown up on my comment widget. So far, a second name/URL comment of mine hasn't. So something is quite erratic.

UPDATE 6July2010 9:24am: All the comments may now be suddenly showing up, all at once. Don't know if it's fixed completely. Time will tell.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Serpentine: A Group of Minerals

Last updated 28Apr2013 at 6:35 a.m. PDT

As a property owner in California, and as a geologist, I'm annoyed about the recent BS (SB 624) the state legislature is up to in trying to delete serpentine as the state rock. First of all, as many have pointed out, serpentine is not a rock, it's a mineral group: the Serpentine Group, AKA the Kaolinite-Serpentine Group according to (shall we outlaw clay, also?). It is serpentinite (sometimes called serpentine or serpentine rock) that is a rock, the state rock of California – see Serpentine and Serpentinite from the USGS Cascades Volcano Observatory.

Serpentinite, the rock, is commonly formed of antigorite, lizardite, and chrysotile – all of which are Serpentine Group minerals – and other non-serpentine-group minerals such as talc, chlorite, magnetite, magnesite, brucite, chromite, sometimes relict olivine or pyroxene, and sometimes quartz and calcite (usually as later veins). Other mineral associations (for example at New Idria) include montmorillonite, coalingite, hydromagnesite, nepouite, pecoraite, and trace amounts of tremolite. Besides being host to a unique flora that can survive the plant-harsh conditions of high Mg, Fe, Co, Cr, and Ni (along with relatively low amounts of plant nutrients like calcium and potassium), serpentinite bodies in California have been host to most of the state's mineral deposits of chromite, magnesite, and cinnabar, and possibly some of the state's nickel occurrences. Other trace element associations can include minor copper and platinum. Chromium is of the non-hexavalent type (USGS Open-file Report 95-831, Chapter 5).

Asbestos is not a single mineral, and in fact isn't the name of any defined mineral at all. Asbestiform is a particular mineralogical habit that some minerals take: long fibers often in veins or masses. Asbestiform and fibrous, as crystal forms, are similar, with asbestiform being a more extreme version of fibrous. More minerals have a fibrous habit (for example, siderite, malachite, gypsum, celestite, chalcedony) than have an asbestiform habit.

The word "asbestos" comes from the Latin and Greek asbestos, meaning "unquenchable" or "inextinguishable" – also see more about the etymology of asbestos at the Online Etymology Dictionary, at Asbestos: Changing the Name of a Quebec Town, and at Merriam-Webster Online. According to my mineralogy book – the Manual of Mineralogy (after James D. Dana), 21st Edition by Cornelis Klein and Cornelius S. Hurlbut, Jr., 1993 – asbestos minerals in natural form have a length to width ratio greater than 100:1. Also, the book defines the term "asbestiform" as referring to "minerals that are mined for asbestos and possess fibrousity typical of asbestos—that is with small fiber thickness, flexibility, and separability." Not just any old mineral can be called asbestos or be described as asbestiform.

This is what the EPA has to say about asbestos:
Asbestos is the name given to a number of naturally occurring fibrous minerals with high tensile strength, the ability to be woven, and resistance to heat and most chemicals. Because of these properties, asbestos fibers have been used in a wide range of manufactured goods, including roofing shingles, ceiling and floor tiles, paper and cement products, textiles, coatings, and friction products such as automobile clutch, brake and transmission parts. The Toxic Substances Control Act defines asbestos as the asbestiform varieties of: chrysotile (serpentine); crocidolite (riebeckite); amosite (cummingtonite/grunerite); anthophyllite; tremolite; and actinolite.
Five of the minerals listed above that have asbestiform versions are amphiboles: riebeckite, cummingtonite/grunerite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. The sixth mineral, chrysotile, is one of the Serpentine Group minerals. The asbestiform version of riebeckite is crocidolite, that of cummingtonite/grunerite is amosite. Anthophyllite is often but not always fibrous, and it is not always asbestiform. The EPA, nevertheless lists the mineral as "asbestos." The same is true for the minerals tremolite and actinolite (two end members of the tremolite-actinolite solid solution series, and to complicate things more mineralogically, both minerals form solid solution series with ferro-actinolite: tremolite–ferro-actinolite and actinolite–ferro-actinolite). Both tremolite and actinolite are commonly found in non-asbestiform habits, and consequently the asbestiform versions are sometimes referred to as "tremolite asbestos" and "actinolite asbestos," which seems to imply, incorrectly, that both minerals are entirely asbestiform.

Are we now going to take all samples of serpentine group minerals and any asbestiform minerals out of circulation, out of all teaching and personal rock and mineral collections? What?? Why? As Lab Lemming says (after pointing out that serpentine can be used for CO2 sequestration and that it prevents earthquakes by allowing faults to creep):
There are 20 forms of serpentine, only one of which is an asbestos mineral. The very dangerous amphibole asbestos minerals specifically mentioned in the bill are completely unrelated to serpentine.
The uproar about serpentinite, the rock, needs to die down: the legislature needs to back off. Otherwise one might think that the legislature was getting ready to fund the state of California (and themselves?) through litigation, rather than by any legitimate means.

GeoBlogosphere - Blogosphere Reports and Photos:
Photo of serpentinite ( Geology - Metamorphic Rock Types gallery)

Monday Mineral: Serpentine (Outside the Interzone, January 19, 2009)

The Other California: Geology and our State Symbols (Geotripper, December 2, 2009)

Rock 365 : Day 74 : Serpentine #365photos (hypocentre's posterous, March 16, 2010)

The Other California: A Journey to the Center of the Earth (kind of...) (Geotripper, March 31)

Dire Threat to Benign State Rock (Updated) ( Geology, June 19)

Unreasoned Fear of Serpents? We Geologists Need to Be Heard (Geotripper, June 24)

Losing Serpentine as the State Symbol of California? Why not educate instead? (Teaching the Earth Sciences, June 24)

CA SB 624 - Senator Gloria Romero's Bill based on BAD SCIENCE (Justin Zzyzx at, unknown date)

Serpentinite Under Attack, Part 2 ( Geology, June 30)

Libby and the Serpentine Killers ( Geology, July 2)

Hiking up Big Rock Ridge (Literrata, July 2)

Something Doesn't Feel Right About This: The Serpentine Issue in California (Geotripper, July 2)

In defense of serpentine (Lounge of the Lab Lemming, July 3)

More on the asbestos dust-up (Lounge of the Lab Lemming, July 4)

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater: The Serpentine Issue in California (Geotripper, July 5)

Serpentine – SB 624, Senator Gloria Romero and ADAO (, July 5)

Politics, California and serpentine (Eruptions, July 6)

Save Our State Rock...Serpentine Gets A Bad Rep! (AFMS- American Federation of Mineralogical Societies blog, July 6)

Down with serpentine; or, clueless in California (The Volcanism Blog, July 6)

Fear and Ignorance winning out over Education and Knowledge: Serpentine Bill Sailing on through Legislature (Geotripper, July 7)

First Of All, California, It’s Your State Rock And It’s Called Serpentinite (Maitri's VatulBlog, July 7)

California Senate to drop Serpentine as state rock because of asbestos ties (Halfway to Concord, July 8)

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater: The Serpentine Issue in California (Geotripper at Daily Kos, July 9)

A Letter to Governor Schwarzenegger and the California Legislature...About Serpentine!?! (Geotripper, July 9)

Wow...If I had a press secretary, would my assemblyperson call me? Update on the serpentinite issue in California (Geotripper, July 11)

Speak up for serpentine (Oakland Geology, July 11)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes 1 (Geotripper, July 11)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes 2 - And How Education is a Better Choice than a Press Secretary (Geotripper, July 12)

The Law Against Serpentine: The Attorneys' Arena (Andrew Alden, Geology, July 12)

In praise of green rocks (Active Margin, July 12)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes 3 - Finding Beauty (Geotripper, July 13)

Save our serpentine! (California Dreaming - and the Reality, July 13)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes 4: What can our state rock tell us about geologic processes on Mars? (Geotripper, July 14)

Geology Fail: California Moves to Disown State Rock (Discover Magazine, Discoblog, July 14)

An Introduction to Asbestos, clicks through to the next article (Andrew Alden, Geology, July 14)

Asbestos in a Nutshell: This miracle material has taught us some lessons (Andrew Alden, Geology, July 14)

Standing up for serpentinite (Highly Allochthonous, July 15)

A Serpentine-Inspired Rant (Haronic Tremors, July 15)

Serpentine Collecting Spots around California (map by Justin Zzyzx, July 15)

Unscientific California: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Serpentine and Biodiversity (Discover Magazine, The Intersection, Sheril Kirshenbaum, July 15, 2010)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes 5: Doing What I Like to Do, and An Invitation! (Geotripper, July 16)

Calling on Californians: West Coast Represent! (Discover Magazine, The Intersection, Sheril Kirshenbaum, July 18, 2010)

California's Unique Serpentinite Landscapes: Eldridge Moores and California's State Rock (Geotripper, July 18)

What California most needs right now -- a defrocking campaign! (Classical Values, July 23)

Serpentinite Adored (Andrew Alden, Geology, July 23)
SB 624 Senator Romero’s Lies (and more lying liars that tell them) (, July 24)

Fighting For California's State Rock: What's Wrong With Senate Bill 624? (Geotripper, July 25)

Fighting For California's State Rock: What's Right With Serpentine? (Geotripper, July 25)

At home with serpentine (Oakland Geology, July 27)

My Serpentine Letter (Oakland Geology, July 28)

Rock in the limelight: serpentinite (Angelina Souren's Earth Blog, July 29)

My letter opposing SB 624: Serpentin(it)e (Perrykid's Posts, July 29)

An Update on the State Rock Debate in California (Geotripper, August 1)

San Francisco suiseki (Oakland Geology, August 1)

Serpentinite - California's State Rock (Gigapan by Ron Schott, August 1)

The Power of Words: The Debate over Serpentine in California (Geotripper, August 2)

Snaky Words like Serpentinite and Ophiocalcite (Olelog, August 3)

A #CAserpentine photo (Ron Schott, taken May 24, uploaded August 3; click #CAserpentine tag for more photos)

Learn the Facts About Serpentinite Before It’s Removed as California’s State Rock (KQED's Quest Science Blog, Brian Romans, August 5)

Serpentine, Science, and the politics of fear (Talkin' Rocks, August 8)

Save California's State Rock: CGF opposes SB 624 (CGF, Committee for Green Foothills, Greenfeet, August 9)

Standing on a Rock: Why the California Legislature Needs to Hear From Educators, Students and Scientists (Geotripper, August 10)

California Serpentine: To Assembly Member Lieu - A Question of Openness and Fairness (Geotripper, August 12)

Home Sweet Serpentine (KQED's Quest Science Blog, Jennifer Skene, August 16)

The California Serpentine Fight Goes On (Andrew Alden, Geology, August 19)

Politics of a rock (California's Islands, August 23)

Ding, Dong, SB624 Is Dead (Andrew Alden, Geology, September 2, 2010)

Erionite and Cancer in Cappadocia, Turkey (Olelog, November 5, 2010)

Serpentinite and mélange (Mountain Beltway, December 25, 2010)

Guest Post - Naturally Harmful Metals and Minerals (The Geology P.A.G.E., December 29, 2010)

Concerns over erionite dust as cancer source (Arizona Geology, January 5, 2011)

Mineralogical Society of America proposes a position statement on Asbestos (Lounge of the Lab Lemming, March 1, 2011)

Asbestos (Hudson Valley Geologist, March 9, 2011)

Maligned Minerals and Serpentinite in Sun (En Tequila Es Verdad, July 31, 2011)

My state’s official rock is a mineral! (En Tequila Es Verdad, Karen Locke, January 11, 2013)

Chrysotile (Sandatlas, March 3, 2013)

More about Serpentine, Serpentinite, and Related Topics:
A Serpentine Haiku: Peter B. Moyle, unknown date.

California State Rock: Serpentine: State Symbols USA.

Klamath-Siskiyou Wilderness Wild and Rugged Sanctuary: California Academy of Sciences – about flora and fauna and serpentinite (among other things).

California Floristic Project: Centres of Plant Diversity, Smithsonian Institution.

North American Serpentine Flora, U.S.A. and Canada: Centres of Plant Diversity, Smithsonian Institution.

Day, D., 2005, Rugged Plants Struggle to Survive on Barren Serpentine Soil: Northern California Geological Society Newsletter, February 2005 [also reprinted here].

Hotz, P. E., 1964, Nickeliferous laterites in southwestern Oregon and northwestern California: Economic Geology, v. 59, no. 3, p. 355-396 [abstract].

Rinaudo, Caterina, Gastaldi, Daniela, and Belluso, Elena, 2003, Characterization of chrysotile, antigorite, and lizardite by FT-Raman spectroscopy: The Canadian Mineralogist, vol. 41, p. 883-890.

Wrucke, C. T., 1995, Serpentine- and carbonate-hosted asbestos deposits, in USGS Open-file Report 95-831.

And Some Other News-Type Items:
Recreation Wrongly Targeted in Clear Creek Closure (Blueribbon Coalition, May 1, 2008)

Several Sierra trails are toxic, group says (San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, June 23, 2010)

California's state rock raked over the coals (San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, June 24, 2010)

Why rock this boat? Decertifying the California state rock, serpentine, because it contains asbestos won't alleviate the cancer that the substance causes. (Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2010)

Should California's state rock be stripped of its title because it contains asbestos? (Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2010)

Lawmakers have serpentine rocks in their heads (San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, July 3, 2010)

Letters to the Editor (San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, July 3, 2010)

California Looks to Shun State Rock Over Asbestos Content (DailyTech, July 6, 2010)

Is Mother Nature Really Out To Get Us? (Carnegie Forever, July 6, 2010)

Serpentine Politics (Burrito Justice, July 6, 2010)

Dan Walters: California state-rock bill has serpentine agenda (Fresno Bee, July 9, 2010)

What's Underneath the State Rock Bill? More Lawsuit Abuse! (California Civil Justice Blog, July 9, 2010)

Throwing the Baby Out with the Bathwater: The Serpentine Issue in California (Geotripper at Daily Kos, July 9)

Rock stuck in a hard place (San Francisco Examiner, July 10, 2010)

Personal Injury Lawyers Between a Rock and a Hard Place - Lawsuit Industry Picks a Fight With Geologists and Friends (California Justice Association of California - CJAC, July 12, 2010)

State rock debate rocks Twitter The Sacramento Bee, CapitolAlert, July 13, 2010)

Lawmakers want to get state rock off the books (The Oakland Tribune,, Political Blotter, July 13, 2010)

Outcry as State Rock Toppled (The Bay Citizen, July 13, 2010)

California May Drop Rock, and Geologists Feel the Pain (New York Times, July 13, 2010)

California May Drop Its Official State Rock (New York Times, July 13, 2010)

The battle over the California state rock (CalCoastNews, July 14, 2010)

Geology Fail: California Moves to Disown State Rock (Discover Magazine, Discoblog, July 14, 2010)

Calif may dump 'state rock' that contains asbestos (AP, Yahoo! News, July 15, 2010)

Unscientific California: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Serpentine and Biodiversity (Discover Magazine, The Intersection, Sheril Kirshenbaum, July 15, 2010)

Geologists take to Twitter to save beloved rock (Mother Nature Network, July 15, 2010)

Lawmakers Look To Change Cancer-Causing State Rock (The Huffington Post, July 15, 2010)

NYTimes, Calif. Press, twitterers too: Big ruckus over state rock serpentine, asbestos activists, and demonization of a stone (Knight Science Journalism Tracker, July 15, 2010)

Geologists protest bill to remove state rock (San Francisco Chronicle, SFGate, July 16, 2010)

Cut and thrust election online (The Sydney Morning Herald,, July 16, 2010)

Wait, they're going after the state rock? ( News Blog, July 16, 2010)

Political call to 'defrock the rock' (The New Zealand Herald,, July 17)

Lawmaker seeks to defrock 'toxic' official state rock (BBC News, July 17, 2010)

My Word: Rocky stance on serpentine status as state rock (Eureka Times-Standard, July 17, 2010)

My Word: Rocky stance on serpentine status as state rock (The Ukiah Daily Journal, July 17, 2010)

Our Opinion: Between a rock and a hard place (Imperial Valley Press,, July 18, 2010)

Calling on Californians: West Coast Represent! (Discover Magazine, The Intersection, Sheril Kirshenbaum, July 18, 2010)

A serpentine approach toward more asbestos litigation (, July 18, 2010)

Serpentine rocks on as CO2 vacuum (San Francisco Business Times, July 23, 2010)

Between a rock and a hard place: California’s rock debate (89.3 KPCC, Southern California Public Radio, podcast with Garry Hayes and Brian Wernicke, July 23, 2010)

'Serpentine, Shelly, Serpentine' (El Defensor Chieftan, July 24, 2010)

Geologists Revolt Over Proposal to Change California State Rock (Gawker, July 24, 2010)

Natural Wonders: California state rock in danger of demotion (Chico Enterprise-Record,, July 24, 2010)

Hamlin: Don't laugh -- this is really important legislative stuff (The Reporter (Vacaville), July 25, 2010)

Californians Debate Fate of Official State Rock (Voice of America,, July 26, 2010)

The irrational fear of our state rock (Los Angeles Times Opinion, July 27, 2010)

Caught between the state rock and a hard place (Stockton Record,, August 2, 2010)

Ashton: MJC teacher on a mission to vindicate state rock (The Modesto Bee, August 2, 2010)

Why California is between a rock and a hard place (Manteca Bulletin, August 5, 2010)

Serpentine to Avoid Flying Serpentine! (OCWeekly, August 5, 2010)

‘Save the rock’ or ‘Drop the rock’? (The Orange County Register, August 12, 2010)

Editorial: Stop ridiculous debate over state rock (The Oakland Tribune, InsideBayArea, August 13, 2010)

State rock controversy enters new phase (The Sacramento Bee, Dan Walters, August 18, 2010)

Signs: "Warning Unsafe To Enter" and "Everything Outside Might Be Dangerous"

I will be updating the Geoblogosphere and news links as more posts and articles are written.