Posts Tagged ‘lava’

The Riddle of Red and Black

September 22, 2019

Guy Noir, the Prairie Home detective, spent many years trying to puzzle out answers to “life’s persistent questions.”

Some of those life questions are very important, such as how will I make a living?; what career should I  choose; is there life after death? 

Others are not so important as that, but nevertheless persistent, which is to say. . . they keep coming back again.

This morning I find myself researching, in order to answer a question that has perplexed me for a long time, ever since Pat and I started visiting the Hawaiian Islands about a dozen years ago.

The question is: What’s up with these red rocks and black rocks that seem to constitute the entirety of this Hawaiian island archipelago?

Spoiler alert: I haven’t completely figured it out yet. I will be describing herein my path of wonder, not necessarily giving you an informed report on the subject of red rocks/black rocks in Hawaii.

While I have not yet fully discovered why some Hawaiian rocks are red and others are black, I have managed to gather some learning along the way.

In many ways, I am person who is driven by an appreciation for lifelong learning.

The ancient dynamics and pyrotechnics through which these islands were formed is described in noteworthy detail here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution_of_Hawaiian_volcanoes

You can learn far more about this subject by following the above link. 

But getting back to my little take on it . . . In our ten visits to Hawaii, the photo that I snapped which best shows what lava looks like is:

Formless

This dark gray/black solidified lava flow is called pāhoehoe. You see it throughout all the islands, but mostly on the big island, Hawaii, because it is the newest island, and the one that still displays an observable continuance of recent and still-active volcano activity. It’s fascinating stuff, especially for a curious person like me who took a geology course a long time ago.

We enjoy traveling these islands, year after year. In noticing the vast array of different volcanic rock formations, this question about the red rocks keeps popping up, as “one of life’s persistent questions.’ This never fails to fascinate me. 

Here’s a pic, taken a few years ago on Maui, that shows two layers of black rock with a layer of red rock between them.

RockStory

So we can see that there is some kind of “story” told in these rocks, some sort of history.

Geologic history, Earth history. Hawaiian Islands are perhaps the best location on the planet to identify features by which Earth reveals itself, by telling, in the rock, its own story.

SO, what about that strip of red rock in the middle? you may ask? I’m glad you asked.

I don’t know, but I did ask a Hawaiian about it.

As she began driving our tour bus up into Waimea canyon, I asked Jana about the red rocks, and she said the difference was:

“Rust.” The red rocks have rusted. And, she said, they are older.

I greatly appreciated her immediate answer. It has helped me a lot. It does seem, however, a little too simple for my over-active mind to accept completely. Nevertheless, her concise explanation was confirmed a few days later when I found online a Galapagos report from Cornell U:

     http://www.geo.cornell.edu/geology/GalapagosWWW/LavaTypes.html

Herein I found an authoritative source confirming that the difference in color, in some cases, is “a reflection of age. The older ʻaʻā . . . has weathered and the iron in it has oxided somewhat, giving it a reddish appearance.”

And that’s good enough for me to understand a little bit about what is going on in these vast, ancient islands, which represents processes that have built up our vast, ancient earth.

Meanwhile, back at the beach, I found, two evenings ago, a different working out of the red/black interface.

KaRoksRedBlk

In this scenario, I surmise that, somewhere along the ancient timeline, red rocks were weathered down to red sand and grit, then deposited at low places. During that time, the volcano or the weather must have torn black boulders loose. The black rocks tumbled down into red sands as what you see here. It appears to be black lava rocks trapped in red sandstone, nowadays being gradually dissembled by the thrashing Pacific Ocean.

Or something like that. That’s my answer for the riddle of red and black, one of life’s persistent questions.

  Glass Chimera

what the Original artist did

July 28, 2019

While universe was expanding in all directions, Creator chose one lump and began working with it, rearranging its underneath mass so that water could rise to the surface. The hydrogen/oxygen element would move in a purposeful way instead of just sloshing around.

Creator spun that world into motion so that the sunlight which struck its surface would brighten half of world for a day while allowing the other half to return to darkness during the same interval.

Thus did this division between the lightened side of world and the darkened side establish a cycle which would become known to us as day and night.

Then Creator used the interaction of sunlight and water to introduce an earthly cycle by which water could morph between two different states: liquid and vapor. The liquid would generally flow on, and within, the surface, while the vapor would rise to celestial functions.

This was a heavenly arrangement, although it was happening on crude earth—pretty cool, definitely an improvement over the old lump. Let us just call it day and night. Makes sense to me. You?

Creator was inspired, and so, kept going with it, stirring the flowing waters, gathering them together and thus separating the water from a new thing that was emerging—dry land.

Formless

Thus did we have earth and seas. Once again. . . pretty cool, and btw, cooling; by this stage, progressive processes had definitely been set into motion to produce something worthy of a good narrative.

RockStory

But Creator didn’t stop there. Next thing you know, from out of this developing earth—this interplay between light and dark, active and passive, wet and dry—here comes a new kind of stuff having the coding wherewithal to sprout new stuff never before seen or heard of. Long story short—plant life that could and would regenerate itself on a regular purpose so that Creator could go on to bigger and better things. Awesome!

Jungle1

Through the veggies and their seeds, it was obvious that things were getting better on earth, through the continuing interplay of this very predictable, dependable alternating cycle between light and dark, day and night, active and passive, living and dying.

All in all, not bad for a day’s work, as we say out here in flyover country.

But, hey, that was just the beginning. . .

SSetBrite

Glass half-Full

Tall Tales of Hawaii

June 1, 2018

The islands of Hawaii are the very tippy-tops of huge volcanoes that erupted from the ocean floor a long, long time ago. So while each one appears to be a small island, they are in fact all very high volcanic mountains surrounded by water that is a couple of miles deep.

How this happened is a funny story.

Several geologic ages ago, ole mother earth began spewing out a gargantuan pile of molten lava through a hot spot in the Pacific ocean floor. Solidifying as it piled upward during eons of  time, the great magma pile finally popped up above sea level and became the island of Kauai.

Over vast periods of time, one pile after another eventually rose above sea level to become a new Hawaiian island.    The molten  lava flows were being extruded from earth’s inner parts because of very high heat way down underground. This extreme hotness is always being generated somewhere down there, by mega-friction between between our planet’s internal moving parts. Every now and then the resultant outward pressure overwhelms all the surrounding crud. Molten rock then bursts through and gets spewed out through whatever weak spot or fissure it can find.

Volcanoes, we call them. This process is how the eight islands of Hawaii were formed.

If you look at a map of the Hawaiian archipelago, you’ll see that the islands are all strung out in a geographical chain. This is because, as each volcanic mass was slowly mounting upwards, the bottom of the ocean was, at the same time, taking its own sweet time sliding along sideways. Consequently, each volcanic tower became an island in a different location.

Although we are not generally aware of it, our earth’s outer layer is divided into several giant mega-slabs. These vast tectonic “plates” (as scientists call them) are always shifting. Only seismologists and geologists can  track these planetary developments; technicians have hyper-sensitive seismologic equipment that detects the changes and documents them.

So that’s how we know about all this stuff. We have people somewhere all the time keeping tabs on the incremental, though massive, shifting of our planetary home.

Way, way down deep beneath Pacific waters, a very gradual but steady long-term northwesterly movement of the vast Pacific “plate”  determined in what geographical arrangement the Hawaiian islands got placed. A  generally southeast-toward-northwest sliding, over time, thus established a southeast-to-northwest configuration of the Hawaiian islands chain.

Each island pile is an extrusion of earth’s internal processes. These planetary developments are actually happening beneath our civilization all the time, although we are rarely aware of them. Every now and then ole mother earth makes her inner workings known by spurting out a fresh load of melted stuff.

LavaFlow

Volcanoes, we call them.

The latest  is happening now on the biggest, newest Hawaiian island, which shares its name with the whole group—Hawaii, the “big island.” You may have heard about this new volcano; it’s called Kilauea. Video reports of its activity have lately been all over the web and other media.

At Kilauea

I’ve been to Kilauea, and seen the bright molten lava as it was sloshing down its deep crater hole in the ground. But that visit was a few years ago.

This morning, I woke up in a breezy dwelling on the absolute other end of these strung-out islands.

Here on Kauai, I spend part of my morning reading a very good book about this island, Edward Joesting’s Kauai: The Separate KIngdom.

  https://www.amazon.com/Kauai-Separate-Edward-Joesting-III/dp/0824811623/

This scholastic work has opened my eyes to some fascinating history of this oldest Hawaiian outcropping.

The ancient storytellers here seem to have had a sense that their beautiful islands share a common origin.

Long before we had sophisticated seismology equipment to track planetary changes, we humans had ancient storytellers, people like Moses, Josephus, Homer, Confucius, Herodotus, and many others.

Today I’m reading about some ancient storytellers of Hawaii. In his book, Mr. Joesting writes of native legends that go way back in Hawaiian time.

  It seems to me that some of the ancient storytellers must have felt a tribal urge to somehow, through tall tales, bring their islands back together as one.

This is Hercules and Paul Bunyan-type tall tales, Hawaiian version.   

Edward cites the legend of the demigod named “Maui”— not the island of Maui, but the mythical deity whose name that island bears. As a sort of early comic-book hero, Maui did some amazing feats.

Edward Joesting provides this mythical account, on page 7 of his book:

“The demigod Maui, among his various escapades, chose to draw all the islands together into one land mass. To do this he had to catch a giant fish called Luehu, but the fish avoided all of Maui’s efforts.”

(Long story short, after Maui had managed to snap the big fish on a line . . .)

“Luehu pulled Maui and his canoe around the Hawaiian islands, wrapping the fishline around the islands and drawing them together with great strength. The only two islands that actually touched were Kauai and Oahu (even they are the two farthest apart).”

(But Maui’s project was complicated. He had eight brothers who were helping him with this unique angling expedition.(Talk about a fish story!) As it happened. . . at one point in their super striving to keep the fish Luehe on the line, the brothers got distracted by—I’m not making this up— the sight of a beautiful woman.  She must have been the first Miss Hawaii, quite an extraordinary femme fatale. Because the sight of her caused Maui’s eight brothers to lose their concentration for the matter at hand . . .)

“At that moment Luehu escaped from Maui’s line and the two islands drifted back to their original positions.

The legendary hero Maui returned to Wailua (on east shore of Kauai). His brothers had disobeyed his orders, and so he turned them into stone and sank them in the mouth of the (Wailua) river. The eight boulders remain there still.”

Now here’s the ancient tall-tale evidence that corroborates the geological, volcanic facts mentioned earlier in this blog: According to the legend abpit fearless leader Maui . . .

“At Kaena Point (on Oahu) there is a rock called Pohaku o Kauai, Rock of Kauai. It was a piece of Kauai that became stuck on Oahu when the two islands touched.”

So there you have it: the two islands of Kauai and Oahu shared a very important rock, which goes to show you . . .

These two islands— Kauai and Oahu— surely were generated from the same volcano! Either that, or they share a very big fish-tale. Take your pick which.

Glass Chimera 

Speculating on a Stratified Story

June 25, 2012

Wandering on a rocky Hawaiian shore we discovered this layer of red rock stratified between two layers of black rock. I was wondering, how did this happen?

I am no geologist, but I have done a little reading about the earth and the rocks within it, and some exploration, as you can see here. That’s my hand in the pic.

In offering a layman’s analysis of this geological puzzle, I must begin with a basic fact: TheHawaiian islands are all exposed parts of one very big volcano, situated on the Pacific Ocean floor three miles below the surface, but extending high enough to protrude into air.

In this particular case, the red strata, formerly hidden within massive black/gray lava fields on the edge of Maui island, has been exposed by the erosive action of nearby ocean waves that have been perpetually crashing upon these rocks for a long time.

What I do now about the black layers is that they are igneous rocks formed by volcanic lava, which had flowed from the erupting earth fissures many years ago.

I’m not so sure about the red streak. My investigating touch (shown above in the pic), indicated that the texture of the red rock is granular, sandy, which is different from the feel of the black layers below and above it. This apparently sandy composition may indicate that the red layer is sedimentary rock. If that is correct, we could say that the red, iron-bearing deposit was laid by weathering wind/water forces, and laid upon the black basalt lava rock below it.

Presuming that my sedimentary assessment contains, perhaps, a grain of truth, we could infer that the red streak may indicate a more recent epoch of time when the volcanic lava flow had ceased, enabling earth processes to leave something different for awhile–say, a few thousand years? I don’t know.

A geologist could tell you. On the other hand, he may blow my whole theory to smithereens, just like the volcano, Puukukui, blew all that black rock into the location you see here.

Whatever that red layer is, obviously it was later covered by a another black volcanic lava flow, and thus was covered for many an eon until the Pacific Ocean knocked the shoreline around and taught it, and us human inquisitors, a thing or two. If you can help me interpret this stratified story, please do. Rock on.

Glass half-Full 

Planetary birth pangs

June 22, 2012

Out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, about three or four miles down below the water surface, our planetary home gave birth to Hawaii.

As Father in Heaven had sewn within Mother Earth’s deep crevices the seeds of creative planetary development, she cried out from the Deep in her anguish when the aweful time of delivery had come.  With wailings of hot magma and rumblings of steamy contraction,  Mama pushed out those volcanic islands-to-be. Spewing forth from her ocean floor, striving upward from her tectonic fissures,  the nascent super-hot lava tumbled and rolled skyward from beneath its tectonic birthplace, into cold Pacific waters.  Then,  after a few million years of childlike submersion under watery tutelage, these pubescent islands stuck their stony little heads out into air and proclaimed to the birds and the stars that they had at last arrived, ready to be transformed as the land of the living.

Yesterday, we were walking on some of those rocky island shoulders. We watched with fascination as vehement Pacific waves pounded her dark lava extremities with ceaseless planetary fury, casting high cascades of spray into the blue sky with airy veils of aquamarine and silver-white brilliance. The basaltic wasteland whereon we trod was sculpted with moonish alacrity, revealing with otherworldly starkness layers of black, grey, reddish brown– solid rock punctuated with massive boulders, cracky protrusions, some rounded by the rushing of the water and wind, others still sharp with the newness of elemental violence.

Then, there is was. A small carpet of vivid green something living, splayed upon the barren rock, growing as merrily as you please in the sunshine, with little orange-tipped teardrop succulent leaves spreading across the lithic void.

“That,” said the traveler to his nephews and nieces, is the beginning of dirty old life.

CR, with new novel, Smoke, in progress