Rocks and Shoals

Literally, rocks and shoals are some of the most common ways that ships come to their doom, particularly in the older times of wooden ships and no sonar.
This is also the slang term most sailors use for the Navy code of conduct, or any similar set of rules.

It’s not easy to take good photos from a train or bus.

But I wanted to share with you some of what I saw and wondered at during my recent travels.

Though there are areas on earth where one can go for miles in any direction without seeing any exposed natural rock, for a large part of the earth’s surface, that is not the case.

In gazing out at all these hard and craggy surfaces – as well as the soft places in between – I had to wonder: How did it get like this?

And so began a short investigation into the basics of geology as a preparation for sharing these photos and info with you.

I was most impressed by the sights I saw on my initial trip from Pullman to Boise, yet my photos from that ride are few and poor. I was more productive during my ride from Denver to Omaha on the train. There are enough scenes here to give you some idea what I was gazing at for hours during my trips back and forth across the West.

cliff face detail

This stone cliff appears to be eroded by water.

rock layers in cliffs

Here some layers seem flat while others are slanted.

green slope with cliff

Brush-grown slope beneath a harder upper layer, with starker cliff in background.

layered rock above river

Layering of rock is very evident above this river.

eroded rocky projection

Though this rocky projection is very eroded, huge areas remain bare.

According to the geologists, rock formation on earth started soon after the planet formed (soon in geologic time anyway). It was only one or two hundred million years after initial accretion of the planet when we started having bonafide surface rock.

After that, things get a little more complex. But it took a long time. As little as 35 million years ago, the earth’s surface was still changing quite a bit. The Rocky Mountains didn’t really start forming until 35 million years before that. What we see at about 70 million years ago is some major disruption that really gets the various crustal plates cracked up and moving relative to each other. Large parts of the ocean floors have formed since that time, and many of our most famous mountain areas did not exist before then.

One oddity is that the continent as we know it today was largely covered by water before the uplift that formed the Rockies even started.

And so the layers. In most cases, the lowest layers will be the original crust. If it were not for the great upheavals of the mountain-building period, those rocks would remain hidden below the layers that formed above them. But a combination of erosion and severe buckling has exposed them in many places. Above the lowest layer are layers created by wind, water and ice erosion, as well as volcanic activity. In the millions of years involved, the upper sedimentary layers have had time to become very hard, though not as hard as the bottom layer granite, nor the volcanic basalt, where that exists. So in an area once covered by a sea, you could have the bottom layer covered by sandstone layers, limestone layers (created by shell-forming living creatures), clay layers, which are basically eroded older rocks moved by water to new locations where they turn back into rock, and conglomerated layers deposited by ice. Then if volcanism occurred later, you might have a layer of lava over all that, or basalt squeezed into below-ground pockets. When volcanic rock forms in cracks in softer rocks, if that structure is then exposed to erosion, the softer rocks will wear away faster, leaving the harder rocks, often in rather odd shapes, or standing as “towers.”

jagged ridges near Las Cruces

These formations in New Mexico are incredibly jagged and probably created by ancient volcanic activity.

In the uplifting of the Rockies, all these different scenarios played out at different locations, leaving all sorts of odd formations, with combinations of newer and older rocks both exposed to view.

In Kansas City I saw a lot of limestone, both quarried as a building material and exposed in place in parks. That suggests the area had been covered by a warm and very alive sea in the distant past, and those layers subsequently uplifted to well above sea level.

I was also amazed at all the mountain meadows we went through on my trip to Boise. These were created mostly by glacial activity that started less than 3 million years ago.

mountain meadow and lake cascade

This Idaho meadow, full of pasture land and farm fields, is about a mile above sea level.

Dinosaur extinction event

About 75 million years ago, something happened on Earth that killed off all the dinosaurs. It killed off a lot of other species, too, but the disappearance of dinosaurs is the most notable. The current popular date for this is 66 million years ago. This also corresponds to when the Rocky Mountains were forming, which means a lot of tectonic activity.

The most persuasive scientific hypothesis is that a very large asteroid hit the planet at that time.

Hubbard also mentions an event that occurred around that time, but chose to keep the data confidential, as it had little bearing on the more general subject, but was needed for a particular processing step.

Another person named Eva Zemanova (Czech) has reported recalling an event that happened she says 80 million years ago. It involved a very highly evolved ET group that was headed somewhere else but experienced a malfunction in their ship and were forced to land on Earth.

The big question is what caused the malfunction of their ship.

She believes there has been some sort of higher intelligence presence on Earth at least since that time. So what both these findings suggest is that even 80 million years ago, other than “natural” factors were having an impact on events on Earth.

And that’s what makes the whole question of exactly what unfolded here all those millions of years ago so interesting.

my train by a river in a canyon

Yes, I really did take a train ride across the country last month, and it’s really hard to take a photo of your own train while you’re riding in it!

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