Terra Incognito: the Verkhoyansk mountains

The Eurasian continent has been thoroughly explored. From Ireland to Kamchatka, there seems little left to discover. Wherever you go, someone has gone before, and left a comment on tripadvisor. People are everywhere, and all geological features are known. We present and explain, but do not discover. But there are still mysteries. For there are…

Birds on volcanic islands: a study in social isolation

It was on a hike to Mauna Ulu, many years ago. The path from the Pu’u Huluhulu trail head had been easy to follow – at first. It quickly left the shrubby vegetation near the road behind, and the scenery became one of total devastation. The markings of the path became fewer and fewer. Once,…

Wrangellia: How the west was won

The Wrangell Mountains are Alaska’s most secretive volcanoes. We have looked at what they are (post I) and how they may have formed (post II). This area of Alaska has suffered the brunt of the most recent continental collision on Earth, and the Wrangell Mountains are an immense scar from this monumental accident. But there…

Building the Wrangell Mountains

The Wrangell Mountains are an unexpected treasure in a land of riches. Here are shield volcanoes higher than Mauna Loa, which have grown up over the past 5 million years. It stands alone amidst the crowd. From the Wrangell Mountains, other mountains ranges can be seen in every direction, but none of those are currently…

The Wandering Earth: mantle in motion

It is nice to live on the crust. It gives a degree of stability which the rest of the Earth lacks. It is not perfect: the quiet can be punctuated by earthquakes or volcanoes, and lacking those there is still the off-chance of a landslip or flood. The atmosphere may also interfere with our lives.…

Fossils of Mount Everest

The summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, is a sea floor. That may come as a surprise; after all, a sea should be at sea level. In practice, there is some flexibility on this. Three seas are below sea level: the Dead Sea, the Salton Sea and the Caspian Sea. All are…

Black smokers

When visiting volcanoes, the first thing to strike you is the desolation. The ground is black without any sign of green, a lifeless wasteland. In Hawaii, walking through the rain forest, the sickness in the trees is the first thing that becomes evident. A little later, the forest opens up and disappears as the path…

Sands of time: walking the Grand Canyon

The Earth is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. A long time ago, the local council put in new sewage pipes in the town where I grew up. The smell was overwhelming. Normally, a smell of coffee would permeate the town whenever the wind went northwest: the main…

Volcano at fault: Neenach and the art of moving mountains

The San Andreas fault makes a great bend around the city. It leaves its citizens well separated from the real America. On the rim of the Pacific, Los Angeles has become the ultimate laid-back city. The beach-and-body life, the Pasadena coffee culture, the dancing on the highways (ok, that was only in that movie, I…

Saving the Earth with asteroids

The dinosaurs would disagree. After owning the Earth, they were now in a bit of a bother. A major re-arrangement of the Earth had taken place. Pangea had split; Gondwana was broken up. The Indian ocean had formed but not in a clean way: a number of parallel rifts were running through Africa, and the…