Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge Wrap-up

Now you see the result of the Wages of Sin™: I get to toss challenges your way and donate my filthy lucre to worthy causes like the Secular Student Alliance. Our Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge was immensely fun – I think next year, we’ll do it all week. If you’ve got geology photos you want to contribute to the cause*, send ’em my way: dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com. I’ll put ’em in a special folder and make next year’s Challenge a little less American West-centric. We could even do something of this sort for Donor’s Choose this fall, eh? This way, you all get to have fun, and the wee bit o’ cash I earn from blogging here goes to where it’ll do some good.

Here’s the roundup of Challenge Photos and Winners:

Challenge Número Uno: Snoqualmie Falls, WA, won by Cynthia Chia on G+

Snoqualmie Falls

I’m impressed that Cynthia was able to pinpoint the location so quickly. I’m even more impressed that she managed to do it from a fragment of the Falls, and keep in mind that the Falls don’t always look the same – what you see in spring is far different from what you’ll see in late summer. Not to mention, the Falls are half-obscured in all that mist!

Yes, it was cloudy, rainy and misty. That just made the views more awesome. I captured this at a moment when the mists cleared and a wee bit o’ sun found its way through the clouds. I haven’t done up a proper post on the geology of Snoqualmie Falls yet. When I do, I intend to shred your socks. It’s bloody well exciting, people.

Challenge Número Dos: Wizard Island, Crater Lake, OR, won by Ron Schott.

Wizard Island

Ron is such a master at this sort o’ thing that he not only identified this as Crater Lake, but pinpointed the exact lava flow and the viewpoint from which it was taken. And he would’ve done that for every single other photo if he hadn’t stepped back to give others a chance. Ron is bloody amazing at this stuff.

I want ya’ll to note that the lake really is that outrageously blue. You don’t comprehend exactly how blue until you’re gawping at it in real life. Most of it is TARDIS blue, the bluest blue you’ve ever seen. Shallow bits have this Caribbean aquamarine tinge. I could have spent the entire day doing nothing but taking photos of the water. I’ll be doing up an in-depth post on it one o’ these days. If I ever finish with Mount St. Helens, that is…

Challenge Número Tres: Dry Falls and Banks Lake from the Air, won by Cole Kingsbury.

Dry Falls and Banks Lake

This one was exciting! Ron had it pegged within 8 minutes, of course, but we had a Schott Rule in effect to give others a chance. Then, after a wee hint, Cole and Lockwood nailed it within a minute of each other. Cole Kingsbury wins, o’ course, because he was a) first and b) mentioned both Dry Falls and Banks Lake, plus the Missoula Floods that created Dry Falls. Lockwood’s right that we’re staring down into Grand Coulee, one of those incredible canyons carved out by the floods.

I’ve got photos from a trip a few years ago, but all on my crappy old camera, so I’m going to revisit it someday and take some much better ones. Has nothing to do with wanting to play in the Channeled Scablands again. Nossir. Not a bit of it. Strictly in the interests of Art. Not. If you’ve never been there, Dry Falls is utterly indescribable. All you can do is stare and make overwhelmed noises. Ron has got some gigapans from that area – you need to go have a look. And read Trebuchet’s comment, which perfectly sums up the geological history and the hydroelectric and irrigational importance of Banks Lake.

I want you to consider one thing about Dry Falls: that plane was 30,000 feet up, and you can still see it clearly. I gazed down at the gouges below the lake and my jaw dropped. That is one hell of a big waterfall – imagine what it would look like with water cascading over!

Challenge Número Quatro: Chesterfield Gorge, NH, won by Lockwood DeWitt.

Chesterfield Gorge, NH

I trusted that at least one of you would remember that I’d been visiting Evelyn in New Hampshire recently, and that she wrote on this feature, so I made a request that not only should the location be provided, but geologists’ ideas on how it formed as well. Lockwood was right on top of that! He correctly identified it as Chesterfield Gorge, New Hampshire, and provided the link to her write-up on our adventure there.

This is a really neat little place. It doesn’t look like all that much – it’s a stream going over bedrock, pretty but yawn – until you look at the rock it’s flowing over and do a double-take. Streambeds are supposed to be rather smooth, really, but this one’s sharp and raw. WTF?! It’s certainly young and odd. And gorgeous. There are stretches where it’s just a babbling brook flowing through a small incline, and then you walk a little ways down and there’s this sudden gash, with a rather dramatic flow. It’s not massive, but it doesn’t have to be. And the rocks around it are fascinating. It’s full of win. If you ever get the chance to go, absolutely do.

Challenge Número Cinco: Hornito (Spatter Cone) at Sunset Crater, Arizona, won by Lockwood DeWitt.

Hornito at Sunset Crater. Image courtesy Cujo359.

No Schott Rule for this last one: it was all hands on deck for the final challenge. And it was challenging! Red herrings, near-misses, and the win. I was afraid, since I’d used a photo taken by Northwest denizen Cujo359, that you’d all realize quickly this must be from that trip to Arizona he and I took together, and get it fast, but that turned out not to be the case. I’d told Lockwood that Sunset Crater looks remarkably like Lava Butte in Oregon, and my intrepid companion was on that trip with us, too. Once I pointed him farther south, Lockwood was able to quickly figure it out.

Trebuchet nearly beat him to it: got the spatter cone, but not the location. Considering his Banks Lake dissertation and the near-miss here, I went ahead and chipped in another $5 to the SSA.

So, hornito. Here’s another view of it:

Hornito at Sunset Crater, showing its open side.

Sorry the image quality is atrocious, but that’s me old camera, and Cujo didn’t have anything quite like this angle. Sigh. Anyway. Technically, this probably isn’t a spatter cone – a spatter cone has got its own vent, whereas a hornito is rootless, meaning the lava that creates it splashes up from a lava tube or some such source from the lava flow itself rather than the source vent. But they’re the same family o’ thing: formed by fluid lava (such as basalt) splashing up and landing in splotches and splootches. Yes, I made up that last word. It’s a good word for big gummy bits of lava landing and sticking to each other, isn’t it?

This one’s hollow, and looks rather like a tuff ring. Lockwood may be able to tell us a bit more about how such a feature forms. It’s not quite like the ones we saw in Oregon that exploded under playa lakes – no lakes around the Sunset Crater area 900 years ago – but it’s remarkably similar, although tiny compared to the giants we climbed round.

Right. So that was our geology challenge. Excellent job, all of you! We earned the SSA at least $110 (our $55, plus the dollar-for-dollar matching funds). And this was a huge lot of fun! We’ll definitely be doing this again.


For those who wish to donate to the Secular Student Alliance themselves, the button still works fine. I just used it! And remember, there’s a $250,000 matching offer on the table that’ll double your money:

*This is a bit different from the reader’s photos which I still haven’t gotten round to posting, but will! For this set, I’ll need clearly identified locations and features of geological interest. It can be of a famous location, but if so, choose a picture that gives hints but doesn’t blatantly announce where it is. Challenge, dontcha know?

Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge Wrap-up
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One thought on “Post-SSA Week Geology Challenge Wrap-up

  1. F

    Sweet! Thanks for the wrap-up post. I didn’t really look at the challenges as I am depressingly bad at this sort of thing (like WoGE).

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