Fun With Disasters

Several days ago, Woozle shared this post with me on G+, jokingly wondering if I could identify the “rock formation” this hand sample came from:

Disaster Batch of July 19, 2012. Image courtesy Harena Atria.

And I was all like “Ha ha ha Woozle you are teh funneh – wait. I have something that looks very much like that.”

Check these two photos out:

Crop of another Disaster Batch photo. Image courtesy Harena.
Crop of one o’ mah rocks. Read on for the reveal!

Not a perfect match, but eerily close, innit?

Both of these things came about through disasters. One was a batch of soap that went terribly wrong. Harena says, “The dark stuff you see in the bars is this fascinating gel of not properly saponified oils (it is not caustic at all that I can tell).” I’m going to have to take her word for it, because I don’t know the first fucking thing about soap.

The second photo in the above pair is an extreme close-up of a fascinating bit o’ rock. It’s from a rhyolite outcrop Lockwood adores. It’s in northern Nevada: you can see its location on Flash Earth here. Someday, I will have to entice a volcanologist to it: we don’t know quite what it is, and only some heavy work with thin sections is going to resolve it. But a great exchange on Twitter between geobloggers came up with some likely possibilities, rhemorphic tuff being the prime candidate.

This would have been a definite disaster, but it’s a beautiful one.

Full image of rock the crop was taken from. Don’t worry: scale to follow.

Here’s a small piece of that outcrop. One one side, you’ve got this kind of bubbly texture going in a pale yellow something – I don’t even know what it is (hopefully Lockwood will drop by and tell all he knows, because I know he knows more about these minerals than I do). I believe this is botryoidal texture, which is a habit a lot of minerals have. Of course, I don’t know if this looks like the classic “bunch of grapes” because of the mineral or something else. So much I don’t know about this outcrop. Yet.

Flip this sample over…

Other side of hand sample.

I mean, that’s pretty damned spectacular, amirite? I don’t know what’s causing the brilliant orange, but it’s fantastic.

So here’s a much larger chunk, and it’s displaying some of the abundant spherulites we found all over this outcrop.

Spherulites formed in rhyolite tuff.

The spherulites are all those little rounded thingies, which is why I’m not positive about the botryoidal texture – could be lots of spherulites clumped together and coated with stuff for all I know. I need to thoroughly investigate this, but I’ve been busy investigating other things. Give me time. I could do a whole bloody series on this outcrop when I’ve done the proper research. I mean, take a bumpty brownish rock with a little bit of orange on it, flip it over, and…

Other side of the sample.

Yowsa! Colors pop, textures asplode, you can see a bit of what looks like flow banding, there’s clear bubbly glass all over it. Gorgeous!

Macro of the gorgeous stuff.

How spectacular is that? Wait, it gets better:

Even more macro. Yum!

Absolutely do click for the larger versions of those. And keep in mind, varied as these are, it’s only the beginning of the fascinations that outcrop displays. I could keep you occupied for a solid week showing you different aspects of it.

This, my friends, would have been a disaster if you’d been there. If it’s a rheomorphic tuff, that is some seriously hot rhyolitic ash that descended upon the area. The Pacific Northwest was no fit place to be between sixteen and fifteen million years ago, when we believe this beauty erupted. The Columbia River Basalts coated absolutely everything, or so it seemed, and then the bits they didn’t cover, the McDermitt volcanic field did. Nevada may have been laughing at Oregon and Washington – “Ha ha, look at ya’ll, getting all flooded by basalt. We’re doing fine here! Ha ha ha!” – but it wasn’t laughing long. Let Wikipedia put it this way: “The northwest Nevada calderas have diameters ranging from 15–26 km and deposited high temperature rhyolite ignimbrites over approximately 5000 km2.” (That would be calderas 9-16 miles in diameter devastating an area of around 3,100 miles for those of us allergic to the metric system.) This translates to zomg everything’s covered in super-hot clouds of ash and the whole world seems like it exploded!!eleventy!!

And it left this utterly gorgeous, glassy rhyolitic tuff behind.

I promised thee scale. Here are both beautiful babies with a dollar coin for scale.

People often wonder just what the fuck I find so fascinating about rocks. Then I show them stuff like this, and tell them what I know of its story, and after they’ve collected their jaws from the floor, most of them wonder no more. (It also helps that I sometimes bring samples and the rock hammer to work, and take folks on mini field trips during break. They loves them some hammer time!)

And there you have it: as long as no one was hurt, disasters can be fun, and unexpectedly beautiful.

(Please don’t judge Harena’s Handmade Soap by one disaster. It’s usually quite lovely and not disastrous at all.)

Fun With Disasters

9 thoughts on “Fun With Disasters

  1. Syl

    Soap, huh? I was expecting something food-related – icing or homemade candy came to mind. But, whether you’re cooking soap or food or rocks, all have hot and bubbly in common. The orange stuff looks like cheese. Nature is fascinating.

  2. 2

    I had been guessing the top of a lemon bar, macro, with a poor white balance. The soap is probably not as tasty, though.
    That is a fantastic sample. I may have to wander into northern Nevada sometime…

  3. rq

    I would have guessed food, too. After a weekend away, it’s nice to get back to some delicious posts – especially the St Helen’s related stuff! Very excited to catch up on my reading. Sad I missed the identifications, though.
    BUT beach season here is too short as it is, and I figure I got the better deal. ;)

  4. Rob

    It’s kind of hard to tell without a larger context, but that looks more like a malformed geode with chalcedony forming in the voids. The orange colour is almost certainly an iron rich oxide or a oxidation crust left by weathering of iron rich clay or some other mineral.

    Is the outcrop this came from fairly solid, or does it look like its composed of debris and fragments fused together with these funny interstices? If the latter could it be the remains of a vent?

    Really interesting. I’ve only seen one rhyolite dome before and it doesn’t have any features like this.

  5. 5

    I’ve seen deposits around hot springs in Yellowstone that look a lot like that. Food, however, was my second choice.

    I’ve a little geo-puzzle I’m going to e-mail you shortly, inspired by your “well-rounded” post!

  6. 6

    I also thought that the first one was some kind of food disaster. Maybe a really scary Rice Krispy treat – and those things are nasty enough when you do them right.

    The rhyolitic tuff is awesome! I wants! One more reason that I’ll need to get to Nevada one of these days…

  7. 7

    Your brain works the same as mine, actually. Although my in-person reaction to that particular bar of soap was to think of a geode or another (which set off the Woozle comment to Dana on G+ which, in turn, apparently caused this post to happen)… but when I looked at the picture once it was online, I totally was seeing a Rice Krispie treat! ;D

    And when I am cutting freshly unmolded soap, its consistency makes me think of a nice soft cheese… so thereyago!

    . o O (dang, now I’m hungry)

  8. 8

    Maybe not to humans, but the mice living in the basement (where I used to have the soap operation) found it Quite Tasty ^_^

    I even contemplated “marketing” it with “Voluntarily Taste Tested by Free Range Mice” but decided the general public probably wouldn’t find that enticing ;D

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