Monday, August 29, 2011

A Rainy Trip to Homer / No Augustine: AK2011 Day 8

The 8th day started out cloudy, and gradually turned rainy. Here we're heading down to Homer, having already passed Clam Gulch, and having just passed Ninilchik. As we drove by, I was thinking maybe we'd stop at Ninilchik or the beach on the way back, though we hadn't gotten an early start, and I didn't know how rainy the day would turn.
Not much farther on, we pulled over to look at the view across Cook Inlet (in the far distance in this wide angle shot) and to look at the lupines and cow parsnip, which were also blooming alongside fireweed.
It is at about this spot that one might hope for a view of Augustine looking south down and across Cook Inlet. Augustine is an island volcano that last erupted in 2006. Check out these much better images (ha!) at AVO. Augustine (sometimes called St. Augustine or Mount St. Augustine but shown as Augustine Volcano on topo maps) is officially a stratovolcano, one with a central dome and flow complex or cluster; it's part of the Aleutian volcanic arc, and it's the most active volcano in the Cook Inlet area (location map at AVO).
Ah, yes. We arrived at this famous sign, which doesn't mention Homer as a "quaint little drinking village with a small fishing problem," supposedly seen locally on bumper stickers.
Despite the fall-like weather (even for an Alaskan summer), we manage to get this view of the Kenai Mountains across Kachemak Bay. The glacier in the upper left is a small glacier coming out near the Doroshin Glacier (not visible farther left or in the clouds). It probably has a name, but not on topo maps available to me (MSRMaps location).
Before a late lunch, we stopped briefly at the Alaska Islands & Oceans Visitor Center, which has some interesting wildlife and ocean displays and a nice little gift shop, where I bought art notecards of two puffins and four ravens.
The Visitor Center parking lot overlooks a small mud flat just below Beluga Lake (MSRMaps location).
That's Grace Ridge, tucked behind Sadie Cove and in front of Tutka Bay, across the flats and across Kachemak Bay.
By the time we finally stopped for lunch, the rain had become a downpour. Sitting outside was out of the question, although at least one brave (or crazy?) soul was out in the weather.
I had to take a picture of this "Local Organic Wi-Fi" sign, which I noticed when we were leaving the organic lunch joint.

A Couple Augustine References:
Power, J.A., Coombs, M.L., and Freymueller, J.T., eds., 2010, The 2006 eruption of Augustine Volcano, Alaska: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 1769, 667 p., 1 plate, scale 1:20,000, and data files.

AND (part of above) Section 2: The Geology of the 2006 Eruption.

Related Posts:
Wordless Wednesday: I Love the Color of the Water

Record Reds

Down to the Kenai: AK2011 Day 4

At the Cabin: AK2011 Day 4

Fishing for Reds and Other Miscellany (including a Volcano): AK2011 Days 5-7

Wordless Wednesday: Seen at Homer

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Alpenglow and Tentglow

On the way over to Great Basin National Park last week, I grabbed this quick photo of the alpenglow hitting the west side of Wheeler Peak (13,063 feet ASL), partly because the lower line of the pinkish band was hitting the mountain at just about tree line. The pinkish band is sometimes known as the Belt of Venus or antitwilight arch, at least when it is seen in the sky, and the dark purplish blue area below the alpenglow is the Earth's shadow on the mountain. It is sometimes called the dark segment, at least when seen in sky.

If you happen to be standing on a mountain when this pinkish phenomenon is visible to those to the west of you, you will be standing in the pinkish, dying light of the sun, just before it goes below your western horizon (presuming you aren't in Alaska or somewhere very far north or very far south, where the sun doesn't always set in the west, but can set in the north or south, or not set at all). As the pinkish, last light of the sun leaves you on your mountain perch, the terminator will come upon you, you'll be in the twilight zone, and then you will pass into the night (all while standing still).
In this grainier enlargement of the same photo, you can see that the pinkish alpenglow isn't exactly congruent with tree line in all places.
We drove on, to find and set up camp in the dark, at about 9800 feet on the other side of that same mountain.

Recent Great Basin N.P. Blogospherics:
A Park without it's Namesake at Geotripper
We Head Underground in the Great Basin at Geotripper
Great Basin National Park at Nature's Blog
My Backyard - Great Basin NP at WATCH FOR ROCKS

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Accretionary Wedge #37: Geology that makes you sweaty and warm.

Lockwood has come up with a sexy topic for this month's Accretionary Wedge — yes, you guessed it (or already knew): Sexy Geology. For the record, Lockwood has defined "sexy" as:
I mean geology that makes your heart race, your pupils dilate. Rocks and exposures that make you feel woozy and warm. Structures and concepts that make your skin alternately sweaty and covered with goosebumps. Places you've visited, read about, or seen photos of that make you feel weak-kneed, and induce a pit in your stomach.
I'm in a bit of a rush these days it seems, and so I'm just going to post a couple photos of some geology that always turns me on, and two links to related posts from earlier this year.
Beds and bedding are always of interest to geologists; cross-bedding is best.

Related Posts:
More Cross Bedding

Also see Callan's recent post.
Photos are of the Jurassic Navajo Sandstone in Zion National Park, on Utah route 9, the Zion–Mount Carmel Highway, a few miles east of the Canyon Overlook Trailhead.

UPDATE: Accretionary Wedge #37, Sexy Geology, is now up at Outside the Interzone!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

New Book Meme! NPR Top 100 SF Books

I'm joining the NPR Top SF Book Meme [actually SF/F], which Dana at En Tequila Es Verdad recently created. The basic rules, get the list here or from Dana or at NPR, bold the books you've read. I've added a few things: I've colored blue the books I've seen as movies (sometimes bold blue if I've also read the book), and I've added a few notes, including notes about books I may have read or about series I've read parts of, in orange.

Note: This list was created by voting, so is unlikely, IMO, to be entirely representative of "best." I'm not sure why a few books are even included as being SF/Fantasy (Animal Farm, for example). Also, I haven't read much Stephen King, but normally I don't think of his books as SF/Fantasy as they seem to lean more towards weird horror. But, because I don't read him often, I could be wrong!

Note the Second: There are several series on this list. I have found it hard to stick with series that go much beyond 4 to 6 books, like The Wheel of Time, even if the series is a good one. After a while, I'd like an ending. I've read The Wheel of Time through about 10; there are only four more to go, so maybe I'll finish it someday, maybe not. Some longer collections of stories set in a particular "universe" are easier to stick with, as they routinely have endings (at the end of each book, or at every three or four books).

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien [book and movie]
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert
5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin
6. 1984, by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman
12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan - many but not all
13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson
15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore
16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov [book and movie]
17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand, by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess [movie only]
31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein - not sure about this one
32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein
35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne [movie only]
38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys
39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells [book and movie]
40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings
42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact, by Carl Sagan [probably the movie only]
51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman -- maybe
53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z, by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman -- possibly
57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson -- maybe 1, maybe 2
59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson [movie only]
66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard -- might have seen the movie
69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson
72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne
73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson
76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks
84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher
87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan
90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury
92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville
99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony -- about half of these so far
100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis -- the first one only so far

I've read 43, if my memory serves me right, so have quite a ways to go. A few of my favorites from the finalist list that didn't make the top 100:

The Faded Sun Trilogy, by C.J. Cherryh
The Foreigner Series, by C.J. Cherryh
The Tales of Alvin Maker, by Orson Scott Card
Time Enough For Love, by Robert Heinlein

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fishing for Reds and Other Miscellany (including a Volcano): AK2011 Days 5-7

We spent a good deal of our Kenai cabin days standing in the river fishing for reds (Sockeye salmon), hip high in the water, sometimes soaking wet from our first day's leaky boots, sometimes not quite as wet from enthusiastically getting in a little too far. I really don't have many pictures of these operations; I was too busy standing in the river fishing, catching and not catching, throwing back "foul caught" reds*, and hauling in the one keeper. Also, I didn't have a waterproof camera.
One day, we walked a trail down to a part of the river that turned out to be not very far away had we walked along the bank (not possible), and fortunately, in my opinion, we didn't see any bears or come upon any unsuspecting moose on this walk. Instead, we saw a juvenile bald eagle flying overhead, and saw an adult bald eagle being hassled by a gull.

Those were two of the only four bald eagles we saw the entire trip, which seemed unusual to me, but apparently that's because I'm used to being on the Kenai during silver season in late August. The bald eagles really move in after spawned-out reds and kings start dying and floating downriver and onto the beaches, which means there are a lot more bald eagles to be seen in late August (along with a lot more dead fish and "floaters").
We ate salmon that we caught, we went to St. Elias Brewery, we went back to Buckets — where two of us were left behind by the other two, to be picked up almost immediately upon being spotted hitchhiking down on the main drag just below Buckets. That's the errant vehicle beyond and behind the Buckets sign, returning for my mom and me. Fun for the Family! :)
And we picked up a needed part for the boat, where I saw a wonderfully pink drill rig.
We also took a trip to the other side of the river, which involved driving a long way to a bridge and then driving a long way through the trees, coming finally to unmarked dirt roads. Our goal was ultimately unobtainable, so we made the long trip back. Our reward was this veiw of Mt. Redoubt, as seen from the airport runway in Soldotna (Redoubt activity and webcams).

And then down to Homer on the 8th day...


*Reds can only be caught by being hooked in the mouth, and they typically aren't biters, although they sometimes bite the wet flies on the bottom of the river in irritation, it is said, or maybe just because their mouth was open and the fly drifted in (!?). Consequently, reds are sometimes caught after being "snagged" legally in the mouth -- there is such a thing as illegal snagging, that is, you are *trying* to snag by using a "snagging motion" -- and many fish are accidentally snagged in fins and tails; those have to be returned to the river. I got one possible catch almost all the way to shore, not being able to tell whether it was hooked in the mouth or chin, before it unhooked itself. I unhooked at least one fish I brought all the way in. I'm not sure how many catches that got away from not being hooked well enough would have been keepers. (My poor fishing excuses for only getting one fish.)

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Few Questions (and some Answers)

What do you do when hard rock geologists are hard to come by (as was the case when geological hiring was making a comeback in the early 2000s after the gold crash of 1997-98?

Normally, a lack of geologists with a required experience level or orientation toward mining, exploration, mineralogy, etc. has resulted in an across-the-board increase in pay for geologists in the industry.

Related Thought: Experienced hard rock geologists aren't necessarily hard to come by at the moment, but everyone I know is pretty busy.

One thing that can be done when geologists are hard to find is to increase recruiting efforts at schools that support mineralogy, petrology, geochemistry, and field camp. If you teach at such a school, you should make sure the industry knows that your school falls into that category. Some companies currently recruit, at least in part, outside the U.S.

Companies can advertise jobs where they will be seen: at schools supporting required classes and at geological societies geared towards mining and exploration such as the Geological Society of Nevada (GSN). Many companies routinely do the latter, and I get emails with the resulting job postings.

An Aside: More basic training is probably offered by some companies now than at any time in the recent past, although documentation of this supposition of mine is sparse. Training geologists to recognize common minerals and rock types should not be necessary. Training geologists to recognize uncommon minerals associated with common ore deposit types has, perhaps, beome more common through the years; many of these types of minerals used to be learned in ore petrography, in economic geology and mineral exploration classes, and in grad school. With the industry booming, many young geologists are bypassing grad school for jobs available now (a practise which is being recommended and supported by many companies). In my early days, it was fairly routine to be sent out to your first drill rig without any, or much of any, introduction to drilling, sampling on rigs, contamination problems, what to think if the driller says X, what to do if the driller says Y, when or how to tell them to shut it down (for a variety of reasons, such as poor sampling, drinking on the job, not showing up at the rig...), and many other things that I mostly just picked up on my own.

What do you do if your contacts in the hard rock world happen to be minimal or out of date (as mine were in the late 1990s and early 2000s)?

You go to places where hard rockers hang out, such as meetings of the GSN or AGS (Arizona Geological Society) or other state geological societies, field trips run by the GSN twice yearly, field trips run by the SEG (Society of Economic Geologists) every year at GSA, conventions offered every five years by the GSN and yearly by the NWMA (Northwest Mining Association), and you take short courses as necessary. In other words, you update or re-create your contact base. This may or may not take much effort, depending on a variety of variables.

What do you do if you happen to be unwilling to pay the going rate for experienced geologists or less experienced geologists with hard rock degrees (as happened to me in the late 1980s)?

A lot of times, you end up doing the work yourself or end up doing less work per time period—in other words, you suffer. If you hire less experienced people or those with an inadequate background (as I have had to do on occasion because of company hiring policies), you get less done, sometimes spending nearly the same amount as if you had paid a higher rate, depending on your overhead. And you kick yourself a couple times while complaining vehemently to your boss about the company pay rates. There is no real fix to this latter situation, except time and hopefully a management willing to buck the trend or status quo. (Your company may get bought or spun off, thus possibly fixing the management problem, as also happened in the late 1980s and probably also at other times.)

How long does it take to train inexperienced geologists to do the tasks at hand?

This really depends on what you need to have done. For a jasperoid-sampling program down ridgelines in Nevada, training time is minimal, perhaps a few days, at most a week if you also need to teach field location skills (GPS should make this considerably easier than in the past—though map-reading skills should still be required, in case the satellites go down or in case your batteries go dead or you drop your GPS in the water or over some cliff), maybe a day or two more to teach 4WD skills (use a helicopter instead!). If you want detailed rock descriptions or unusual mineralogical determinations (by geologists rather than by x-ray) in somewhat complicated alteration assemblages, for example in IOCG deposits and skarns (iron oxide-copper-gold) or in high and low sulfidation gold-copper systems you had better plan on two weeks minimum (often even with experienced geologists) depending on background and mineralogical aptitude—also, consider sending your geologists on an intensive mineralogy or alteration short course or an appropriate field trip. And, be sure to hire geologists with good observation skills! Always!!

As a just-out-of-school geologist, how should I go about getting a job in mineral exploration and mining?

Here, my ideas are possibly somewhat out of date, but see question number two about creating contacts, elicit help from your professors who are hopefully maintaining some contacts, and contact major and some minor exploration/mining companies.

Consider traveling to mining-oriented states like Nevada if you get some encouragement or just to knock on doors; this may not be done as often as it used to be, but I suspect it would still be considered a sign of initiative.

Sign up for the GSN so you'll get job announcements (not just for Nevada). Although many of these postings will be for people with at least some minimal years of experience, you may be able to apply for some of those jobs, and you will get names of people to contact. Also, jobs for entry-level geologists are advertised through these emails; I got one of these as recently as late May.

Other ideas that work are welcome.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

At the Cabin: AK2011 Day 4

After dinner and beer at Buckets, we made our way back to the cabin, which we hadn't stayed in for three years. The canal looked about the same as it did in 2008, possibly with a few more moose-munched cottonwood trees growing here and there along the bank.

We walked around and looked at the sights:
Reflections from boats and cabins.
Float planes and more reflections.
Old, licheny docks and fish-cleaning tables.
More float planes, this one roaring by to land upriver.
After the seaplane landed, it taxied up the canal to pull in and tie up. While we were there, several float planes came to stay near the canal by the cabin; I counted as many as four at once, maybe five. These are quite popular for hieing down to the river when the reds come running in large numbers, as they had a couple days prior to our arrival on the Kenai. The sockeye surge was just beginning to come into the upper river, and fish-cleaning operations were going on all around us. People typically have tables right along the river or canalside; some fishermen and fisherwomen bring portable cleaning tables over to the river from their off-river cabins.
We decided to go for a walk, to check out a fishing spot I knew we could use (if we could just figure out how to put wet flies on rods for the reds or could find any non-leaky hip waders).

Sights seen along the way:
Leaves, twigs, and dried spruce needles.
Cotton from cottonwood trees, on what looks like gravel from graywacke.
Miscellaneous cabinish junk and Alaskana, including this scenic (IMO) old pickup.
Fishing related decorations: old floats.
Fishing-related decorations on cabins, garages, and carports.
We did make it down to the fishing hole, decided to wait for further instructions from the fisher-people arriving the next day, a day that would be dedicated to fishing, getting new hip waders, and eating dinner at the St. Elias Brewery.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Down to the Kenai: AK2011 Day 4

Looking across the Turnagain Arm fjord at our general destination, the Kenai Penninsula, that flat area west of the edge of the Kenai Mountains.

It is in the usual order of things for us to make our way down to the cabin as soon as possible after arriving in Alaska, sometimes heading out as early as the first or second day. This time, we drove down on the fourth day.

It is also in the usual order of things for everyone to travel in one vehicle, but this time we took two: the truck needed to get to the cabin so it could be in a position to conduct cabiny things like putting the boat in the water.
Hard to tell for sure with the clouds, but this is most likely Mt. Spurr (MSRMaps), a volcano west of Anchorage and across Cook Inlet (AVO Webcam). It last erupted in 1992.

We made our way eastward down Turnagain Arm on AK State Route 1, the Seward Highway, without making the usual stops at Beluga Point to check the tides or at Girdwood to get coffee. We speculated about the tides, and whereas I thought the tide was possibly going out, the wind was very strong, creating huge easterly waves that obscurred the water motion. The tide books indicated that the tide was either almost all the way in, or just starting to go out, but I didn't try hard to parse the time differences between Kenai and Anchorage and then to translate those times to the arm.

I looked for Beluga whales, but it was early in the summer: they follow the fish, especially the silvers and humpies of August. It was only the late run of July reds that was just beginning to come up the arm; I looked for Belugas nonetheless.
The light on the water of the arm is always fascinating to me. Here it's flickering in thin patches just below the last major valley on the south side of the arm, Seattle Creek.
I seem to photograph the valley of Seattle Creek every time I pass through: it's a great example of a U-shaped valley carved by a glacier that once entered into the larger glacier that carved Turnagain Arm.
We passed the turnoff and viewing area for Portage Glacier near Portage and made the turn at the east end of Turnagain Arm. Crossing the second bridge across the Placer River — a river typical of anastomosing rivers and streams coming off ice fields and glaciers, in this case the Spencer Glacier and a small icefield northwest of the larger Sargent Icefield — I could look northward up the Placer into the valley of the Twentymile and Glacier Rivers (MSRMaps).
Welcome to the Kenai!
The fireweed was in relatively early bloom: when the flowers at the top are blooming it indicates that fall and Termination Dust are just around the corner. Here, only the lower flowers are blooming.

We skipped a usual stop at Summit Lake Lodge in favor of continuing onward to the Sterling Highway (still AK Route 1, but no longer the Seward Highway).
Near Cooper Landing we began to catch tantalizing glimpses of the Kenai River, a river we would soon fish.
We bypassed the cabin, needing to run to town to purchase fishing licenses, thereafter going directly to Buckets for dinner.
We both had the Sunken Island IPA by Kenai River Brewing.

Related Posts:
Getting There: AK2008 Day 1
Turnagain Arm: AK2008 Day 2
We Make the Turn: AK2008 Day 2
Summit Lake and Beyond: AK2008 Day 2
Fireweed in Alaska: Is it Fall?