I’m about to start a regular series called the Jordan Geology Project and wanted to explain a bit about why. In February 2013 I had the privilege of being a member of the U.S. State Department’s TechWomen delegation to Jordan, after which I continued on to Lebanon. TechWomen is an initiative of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and “brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program.”
My family’s been involved in TechWomen since it first started in 2010 and I cherish every chance to get involved with the inspiring Emerging Leaders and their equally inspiring mentors.
I was in Jordan and I blogged about it then but I’m coming back now to write a series on rocks in the region because it hasn’t been written yet. Rocks are a simple and non-threatening way to start explaining the region, a way I’m hoping some of you who haven’t had the fun of going to the Middle East can connect to. So much of the news from the Middle East leaves even my most open-hearted of friends exhausted-outraged-horrified-burnt-out. The rocks in Jordan are some of its most unique characteristics (think about Petra) but they way they form and interact with their environment is common across all continents and cultures (sandstone is sandstone).
I’m also writing this series because I love rocks. I’ve written about my love of rocks before, but I think like all on-going attachments I have different reasons for being fascinated with them at different times. Growing up, collecting rocks was something I did with my family. In college, my first Geology course in the last semester of my last year was one of few spaces where I could freely explore and just dive into something new.
Right now, geology is a comfort because no matter how very bad the world seems, batholiths are still rising in middle America. Sediment is slowly forming in the pits of the Pacific Rim that will someday form the tops of high mountains, or return to the lava from whence it came. Geology keeps going. Rocks keep forming and breaking. And, when we’re very lucky, they look like this:
Geology is also something that I can carry with me–not just in the small stones that find their ways into any bag I’m carrying or decorate my desk at work and my counters at home. But I carry within me the knowledge that I can learn more about where I am just by looking closely. The cuts on the side of a freeway tell me a million and more years of the history of the ground. The shape of rivers, the composition of gravel, they all tell a story about a world so much larger and more long-lasting than ourselves.
And if seeing the rocks of Petra and the Dead Sea, with cameos from the northern mountains of Lebanon, doesn’t make you feel hopeful for a new world? At least the pictures will be pretty.
This series will be part travelogue from my trip to the Middle East last Spring, part Geology 101, and all rock nerdery. Enjoy.
PS: As a reference, I’ll be using my Introduction to Geology textbook, Physical Geology by Charles Plummer, Diane Carlson and Lisa Hammersley. I’m not a trained geologist, but love never stopped for a degree.
“The Himalayas are the crowning achievement of the Indo-Australian plate. India in the Oligocene crashed head on into Tibet, hit so hard that it not only folded and buckled the plate boundaries but also plowed into the newly created Tibetan plateau and drove the Himalayas five and a half miles into the sky. The mountains are in some trouble. India has not stopped pushing them, and they are still going up. Their height and volume are already so great they are beginning to melt in their own self-generated radioactive heat.
When the climbers in 1953 planted their flags on the highest mountain, they set them in snow over the skeletons of creatures that had lived in a warm clear ocean that India, moving north, blanked out. Possibly as much as 20,000 feet below the sea floor, the skeletal remains had turned into rock. This one fact is a treatise in itself on the movements of the surface of the earth.
If by some fiat, I had to restrict all this writing to one sentence; this is the one I would choose: the summit of Mount Everest is marine limestone.”― John McPhee, Annals of the Former World