Geology - the U.P. and other places

Past-E-Mail: Various Topics: Politics and Religion, Ketchup or Gravy: Geology - the U.P. and other places
Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 - 11:12 pm:

As requested by a few of the PastyCam members, we decided to start a new thread about all things geologic; rocks, minerals, neat structures, pretty rocks, whatever. Ask a geology question, comment about something in your area, favorite things to collect, you name it.

I guess I can start off by saying Upper Michigan and the Great Lakes in general have some of the best geology exposures in the world. The Dr. and I are blessed to have picked a profession that lets us be outdoors and travel to some of the most beautiful areas of the world to study its natural wonders. But, even with an entire world of wonders, we always end up back in the U.P. to study the most fascinating rocks on earth.

By David Hiltunen (Davidcorrytontn) on Wednesday, November 7, 2007 - 11:48 pm:

Do we have more oil inside our borders, than all the other proven reserves on earth?

Here are the official estimates:

• 8-times as much oil as Saudi Arabia
• 18-times as much oil as Iraq
• 21-times as much oil as Kuwait
• 22-times as much oil as Iran
• 500-times as much oil as Yemen

And it's all right here in the Western United States
Geologists call what lies in this region, oil shale.

What is oil shale?
At first glance, oil shale looks like an ordinary black rock.
It feels grainy to the touch and... greasy. Hidden 1,000 feet beneath the surface of the Rocky Mountains lies the largest untapped oil reserve in the world — more than 2 TRILLION barrels.

By maija in Commerce Township (Maija) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 08:30 am:

Capt Paul: please tell us more, especially about Keweenaw.

By Gustaf O. Linja (Gusso) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 08:55 am:

Right on David; oil-oil everywhere but not a drop to tap, because of environment and wild life. which places humans below wild life and environment. Now if USA could get some more refining going on we could be free of oil from the middle east.

By David Hiltunen (Davidcorrytontn) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 10:44 am:

Colorado Oil Lands restricted for 76 Years,Now open for Drilling, There are over 16,000 square miles of oil shale in the Green River formation...

The most abundant areas hold up to 2 million barrels of oil per acre — it's the most concentrated energy source on earth, according to the Energy Department.

The federal government owns 80% of this oil-rich land.

In fact, the government placed protective legislation on this land in 1930, forbidding anyone to touch it.

You see, the government always knew this land was saturated with oil — but getting it out has always been expensive.

Buying oil from foreign countries was always the cheaper bet. It has been for the past 80 years.

Wisely, the government kept the land around for a "rainy day," protecting it with 1930s legislation.

I'm sure you're aware of today's situation at the gas pump. Buying oil from foreign countries has gotten out of hand. The price of oil is sky-high. It's way too expensive to keep buying foreign oil.

In other words, the "rainy day" has finally arrived.

The timing couldn't be more perfect. Oil shale technologies have begun to advance – drastically.

Companies are coming up with ways to extract oil from the Green River Formation very cheaply.

For example, one Utah-based company says it can extract the oil for as little as $10 a barrel. In fact, dozens of companies have stepped forward with similar claims. With oil prices starting to skyrocket again – these are pretty significant breakthroughs.

That's all the government needed to hear. On August 8, 2005, President Bush signed into law a new energy mandate.

This mandate is called The Energy Policy Act of 2005. It calls for the opening phases of oil extraction in the Green River Formation – the world's most concentrated energy source.

We're finally ready to tap the largest oil reserve on the planet...

"The United States Could become ‘The New Middle East..

By Gustaf O. Linja (Gusso) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 11:04 am:

United States being the new oil baron sounds good to me; however will the government make the effort. I suspect many government officals have their money invested in middle east oil companies?

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 11:25 am:

At the risk of being virtually tarred and feathered, the government would make the effort, if it could, that is, if it weren't for the environmentalists' coming up with another previously unidentified endangered species so they can fight and try to block any efforts at all to try to harvest this vast resource. The environmentalists would far rather that the US purchase oil from outside this country than to touch any resources in this country. US oil companies have already been working with the Canadians, to harvest some of their oil shale, to import to the US. It's rather ironic that the very people who fight to try to block every effort to harness US natural resources are the very same people who are objecting to the overseas trade agreements, the loss of US manufacturing jobs, etc. They want it both ways, which they might have a prayer to obtain, if this were an ideal world. But, as we all know, this world is far from ideal. Off my soap box for the moment. :-)

By maija in Commerce Township (Maija) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 01:04 pm:

Don't these harvesting oil arguments belong on the 'politics' page?

Geological info here, please.

By Snowman (Snowman) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 02:15 pm:

Bravo Maija! Encore Captain Paul!

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 02:53 pm:

Let's have the Captain give us some info about that shale oil. Just how much is there?
I read last spring about the Canadian development. They are producing at about $10 per barrel. North of Edmonton is growing as new processing plants area being build as fast as can be. There needs to be a movement begun that points out that a trade off between the environmentalists and oil developers must be reached. The rest of us need to begin to shout a bit!!

By Matt Karhu (Matt_k) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 04:37 pm:

Thank you, David, for iterating what many of us have known about shale oil in the U.S. Let the "oil rush" begin! (:>}

By David Hiltunen (Davidcorrytontn) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 09:11 pm:

I was going to write about the hint you gave there under my first post of the Oil Shale,Maija. But I had a busy day and did not stick this in then with my second post.
I thought some on weather I should post this here or on the Political Page. I belive I made the right choice since who better to ask a Geology question to but a Geologist? A Politician I would have a hard time believing in. Capt.Paul and Dr. Nat so graciously put this page here to be asked questions, and I am thankful for that. Isn't oil going to benefit the U.P. too?
But if it bothers you maija, you can write to me to express you thoughts or feelings. I am open minded and my feelings do not get hurt easy. If my post's are out of line for this thread the Good Capt. Paul will let me know.When you talk to Chuck and Pat tell them hi from me eh,maija.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 09:32 pm:

I commend people for wanting to know more about geology, but at the same time, please keep the politics out of here; that's what the "politics" page is for. If you have a political rant, please put it there!!!! With that out of the way, we can now talk some geology.

There are 2 different unconventional sources of oil actually, one being oil shale, the other oil sands or tar sands. Oil shales are always sedimentary rocks but not always shale. The hydrocarbon in those shales are not oil, but rather kerogen. The US has 2/3rds of the world's supply of oil shale, most of that in Colorado and Utah. The resource is there, the problem is that in the best situation, you only get about 3 barrels of oil per ton of rock processed. Translated, you have a LOT of waste rock for a little oil. Also, to process the oil you need a LOT of water, something that is in short supply in the West already.

Oil sands, or tar sands as the Canadians call them, are sedimentary rocks and sands that contain very thick, almost solid petroleum. We just can't drill into them because it doesn't flow like conventional oil. The same set of problems are present recovering oil from the sands as the shales, a lot of waste and the water. The US has no oil sands, almost all of the world's deposits are in Canada, specifically Alberta and Saskatchewan. Currently, they are mining these and this is where Canada gets most of their oil from today. As far as total resource for both, the oil shales are at between 2 and 5 trillion barrels. The oil sands have resources of over 12 trillion barrels and place Canada second (barely) behind the Saudi's.

If there are UP geology comments or questions I'd love to see those. I do have to credit Dr. Nat with the oil shale/sand figures as well.......

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 09:16 am:

Oil sand contains more oil than shale per ton? Or some other measure? It seems Canada has enough water to process those sands, doesn't it? The Arab nations need more competition in world supply of oil. I note that Brazil now has discovered oil off shore in very large quantities. The water is several thousand feet deep so extracting that could be a problem.
Any other news on that find?

By F.F. (Flipflop) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 09:41 am:

Capt. Paul - A few years back, Miners Castle lost half of the famous formation. That may be happening quite a bit along the shores of this area, but never known because of the remoteness. Was this simply decades of base eroison and just couldn't hold the weight ?
What are your thoughts on this ?

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 09:45 am:

The US has a large amount of untapped oil, off the coasts of California and in the Gulf of Mexico, etc. But, a few of the states have come in with laws prohibiting US companies from tapping that oil. They can regulate US firms, but they can't regulate foreign governments. Case in point, China is actively drilling for oil off the coast of Florida in areas that should belong to the US and the states. How ironic that US firms are not allowed to tap that oil, yet they have to sit & watch a foreign government drilling brand new oil wells, and thumbing their noses at us, so to speak. And, of course, it is out not so good friends, the Chinese, who are taking our oil, and our governments (federal and states) have no way to make sure it is drilled and run in an environmentally friendly manner, or even to tax this oil, or the oil profits, or anything else. It should have been US firms who were given the lease rights to tap this oil. (Our governments can't even make money leasing it to the Chinese--they just came in and started drilling, to the best of my knowledge, and international law is an incredible can of worms).

(Note to Capt Paul--I don't consider the above to be political. It is just a statement of what is going on, just off our coasts, with a not so friendly allie. If you consider it to be political, I apologize in advance. Sorry, but I believe that it belongs with the whole oil discussion.) :-) Maybe the entire oil discussion, including the geology of it might need its own new Gravy or Ketchup page?

By F.F. (Flipflop) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 12:55 pm:

By maija in Commerce Township (Maija) on Thursday, November 8, 2007 - 01:04 pm:
Don't these harvesting oil arguments belong on the 'politics' page?

Geological info here, please.

Actually, A new Thread/Topic can be created by anyone about anything. What is happening here is referred as a thread hijack. Oil drilling by the Chinese is an interesting topic, but I'm guessing not the original intent of the Capt's general Geology themed thread.

By Brooke (Lovethekeweenaw) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 12:56 pm:

Boy did you step in it Capt. I also want to know about the Miners castle collapse.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 01:56 pm:

If Charlie wants to open a new page for All Oil-Related messages and move All of the oil-related messages, including the ones that are geologically-related to oil (especially since oil does not relate to the UP), that is fine with me. It is something that only the management has the privileges to do, to move messages from one area to another, though, so it is up to them.

I disagree, however, that the Oil-Related Discussions belong mixed into the Politics page. For one thing, I don't read that page because it is virtually all opinion, on all sides of the spectrum. At least up until now, almost all of the Oil discussion has been based on facts or request for more information.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, November 9, 2007 - 07:27 pm:

Sheesh people, I didn't realize oil had to equal politics, instead of how oil forms or how we get it. Anyways, I'll try to ignore the opinions of oil and concentrate more on the science of it.

Tom: Think about the pore space difference between sand and solid rock. Even tiny grains of sand will have more porosity between the individual grains than a solid rock. Unfortunitely, the Canadian West faces the same water shortages as in our West. Canada is however very active in the recovery of oil from the sands. As far as Brazil, the technology has come along such that deepwater drilling is no longer a problem.

F.F./Brooke: To me it's very sad that a most famous icon of the UP fell into the Lake last year. However, it's all part of the natural process of erosion. Miner's Castle is composed of sandstone, which when subjected to water and especially the freeze/thaw cycles of a northern climate, tends to erode much quicker than the average sandstone you'd see in say, Utah. I am sure that falling sandstone along the Pictured Rocks happens all the time. Someday, the Pictured Rocks will disappear, as will the Great Lakes; it has happened before because we have the evidence in the rocks for this. One of the interesting things about Lake Superior is how the lake is shifting from northeast to southwest due to glacial rebound.

I'll save that thought for a later post, just to tease ya ;-)

By maija in Commerce Township (Maija) on Saturday, November 10, 2007 - 06:46 am:

Let's hear it, Capt. Paul

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Saturday, November 10, 2007 - 02:54 pm:

Wasn't that freeze to hot over the period of a year called exfoliation or such? I can't remember all that exactly anymore.
I thought Canada had more water than the the US?
Are they using a different process? Any idea if that Canadian oil is on-stream yet? Seems some should be in the "pipeline" soon?

By Snowman (Snowman) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 08:38 am:

As requested by a few of the PastyCam members, we decided to start a new thread about all things geologic; rocks, minerals, neat structures, pretty rocks, whatever. Ask a geology question, comment about something in your area, favorite things to collect, you name it.

Captain, I surely respect your knowledge in this field and would love to hear more from you.

Hope the Captain returns.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 02:36 pm:

Lol, even I need a break now and then from the hectic world, and that break was yesterday. How was that accomplished?? by playing with the camera out in the back yard and taking mineral pics indoors......

Tom: I think what your referring to is the freeze/thaw that happens in the springtime when water seeps into cracks, then freezes and expands the crack or joint more each time until the whole thing collapses such as what happened at Miner's castle. Exfoliation is the process by which concentric scales or plates of rock are successively stripped from the bare surface of a rock mass. Out in the hill country northwest of Austin, TX are numerous examples of this process.

Surface wise, Canada does have more water than the US. However, Alberta and Sasketchawan have the same groundwater shortages as our western states. As well as the tar sands, Canada also has in the same locations very heavy, thick oils that can't be recovered conventionally. Their solution: inject hot water, steam, or carbon dioxide into the ground to heat up the heavy oil and make it flow easier. Around Ft. McMurray, Alberta are numerous plants devoted to pulling heavy oils out of the ground which is piped to refineries to be processed.

Speaking of oil, here's a fun little tidbit. Where was the first commercial oil well drilled in North America??

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 02:56 pm:

Actually, heating up the heavy, thick oils with injected steam sounds like a great way to get them out of the ground, as that would make them flow more easily! The resultant mixture might require extra steps in the oil refineries, as the oil is separated by molecular structure and weight, and I would think that they would have to pull off the water in a step, too. Some of the heavy, thick oils are more like greases or waxes. If there was not a need for those fractions, you could break up the molecules, making the smaller ones, that you wanted in the first place.

As for where was the first commercial oil well drilled in North America, if I remember correctly, it was in Pennsylvania?

By Snowman (Snowman) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 03:22 pm:

Has to be Oklahoma!

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 04:31 pm:

As for where was the first commercial oil well drilled in North America:

Canada! (Ontario).

By Snowman (Snowman) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 06:03 pm:

Rats! Another test I flunked. :)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 07:18 pm:

In 1858 in the town of Oil Springs, Ontario, a man by the name of James Williams built the first successful oil well in North America on a deposit of gum beds. Good job FRNash...

What makes it really interesting is that a man named Arthur Stokes was a contractor at the time and assisted Mr. Williams in his venture; Arthur Stokes was my GreatGreat Grandfather!! His brother, Samuel, was another local contractor and later became one of the founders of Imperial Oil in Petrolia then later Sarnia.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 07:37 pm:

Well, I 'din't' know where in Ontario.

Izzat the same Oil Springs, ON that's located about 8 miles ENE of Algonac, MI, 21 mi ESE of Port Huron, MI, 55 mi NE of beautimus downtown Deetroit?

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, November 11, 2007 - 09:34 pm:

Ooops, it looks like Mary beat me to it!

Thanks for the detailed instructions FRNash!

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 12:17 am:

Hey folks, I'm in beaumont for the week so if you have questions, maybe the good Dr will answer them.......

By Snowman (Snowman) on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 09:29 am:

I would really like to know more about agates.

By FJL (Langoman) on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 02:14 pm:

Buy a book........:)

By Snowman (Snowman) on Tuesday, November 13, 2007 - 03:42 pm:

I was trying to save time and money! :)

By Cindy Pihlaja Russell (Gone2long) on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - 08:28 am:

It's much more fun to learn about agates and geology from our very own resident expert. Thanx for coming up with this subject Cap'n and Doc.

By Snowman (Snowman) on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - 07:04 pm:

Please Captain and Doc, I don't want to buy the book, I want to hear it from you!
I've seen agates cut up into slices with a hard crust around them. That leads me to believe that a whole agate is undiscovered by a non-geologist. How do you know?

By the way, my favorite agate has a name; Agatha Crystal.

By k j (Kathiscc) on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - 09:46 pm:

Groan.... I thought those were geodes. Like this-

By k j (Kathiscc) on Wednesday, November 14, 2007 - 09:50 pm:

After doing some research, I found these as well.


By Snowman (Snowman) on Thursday, November 15, 2007 - 07:51 am:

Thank you Captain kj!

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Thursday, November 15, 2007 - 09:29 am:

How is the lake shifting from ne to sw??? A slow rising of the land in the east? What is expected in the longer period of time in the south west part of the lake? Maybe that end is sinking???

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Thursday, November 15, 2007 - 09:19 pm:

Agates and geodes form in basically the same way. They begin with a void space in a rock (called a vug or a vesicle). Water flowing through the rock carries minerals dissolved in it. As this water moves through the rock, some of the dissolved minerals come out of solution and coat the open space. If there is plenty of water flowing through the area, the void space can be completely filled with minerals. If not, a geode will probably form. Agates are made of microcrystalline quartz. The colours come from impurities in the quartz. Agates are common in volcanic areas because the quartz that forms them is derived from quartz-rich volcanic rocks, especially ash beds.

Realise, this is the Cliffs Notes on agates and geodes. They are actually rather complex creatures.

Lake Superior is slowly tilting towards the south due to something called isostasy. The glaciers of the Last Glacial Maximum pushed down the earth's crust under their impressive weight. After the glaciers melted, the crust recovered from this depression by rising upwards (it's called glacial rebound or isostatic rebound). The ice was thicker in Canada, so the crust has risen more in Canada than Michigan, tipping Lake Superior towards the south. A great way to picture isostasy is an ore boat being emptied. When it is filled with iron ore, it sits low in the water. As the weight of the taconite pellets is removed, it will begin to rise. The earth's crust reacts in the same way to weight applied to it or removed from it.

By Snowman (Snowman) on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 06:56 am:

Thanks Dr. Nat!

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 08:00 am:

Also keep in mind that the Great Lakes region has experienced some major earthquakes as a result of the glacial rebound. Evidence near Sudbury suggests that some of the quakes could have measured upwards of magnetude 7 or 8 right after the ice retreated. Even today, there are still minor quakes in that area due to rebound.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 08:29 am:

Capt Paul, would you please elaborate more on major earthquakes in the Great Lakes region, such as how long ago was the last major one? What do you think the chances of having another major one would be in your lifetime might be?

We have had a few significantly smaller ones that we could feel here in mid-Michigan, but only if we were on the top story of a 4 or 5 story building, etc, or something.

What I am getting at is, do you think people in mid-Michigan should be carrying earthquake insurance? It is offered in our area, but I never thought it was a necessity. (We went out to the San Francisco Bay Area, a month or so after their last major one. That was pretty scary, seeing what it did, collapsing the Embarcaero Freeway, and part of one of the Interstate bridge systems in Oakland. I remember that the Bay Bridge was damaged, but I don't remember if it had been fixed by the time we were there, or not.) Anyway, I have seen the devastation that major earthquakes can cause. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on the subject. Thank you.

Thank you, Dr Nat, for the Cliff Notes version, comparing geodes and agates. :-)

By Gustaf O. Linja (Gusso) on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 09:12 am:

EARTHQUAKES MICHIGAN: One can find the history of earthquakes in Michigan including the UP by using Google search with "Michigan Earthquakes" as key words

By Tom Karjala (Tom) on Friday, November 16, 2007 - 11:41 am:

Thanks, Dr. Nat on the rebound info. Had never heard of that before. Does it mean more and deeper water at the south west end of Lake Superior? Over a long period of time, I mean. Or will the lake sort of over flow current shore lines and change all that?

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, November 18, 2007 - 09:50 pm:

Sorry for the lack of responses lately but it's almost impossible to write things when taping on a PDA!!

Oh well, we can still answer stuff from work.......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, November 19, 2007 - 10:01 pm:

I don't think I would run out to buy earthquake insurance anytime soon, although I'm sure the agent would love it!! Most (not all) of the major uplift from rebound has taken place already. Subsequently, most of the large quakes have happened in the past as well. That's not to say the Great Lakes won't experince a minor earthquake or 2 or 10 in the future, I just don't see the large powerful ones such as those immediately after the ice retreated. Honestly, I'd be much more worried about New Madrid, Missouri producing a large quake than the Great Lakes region of the continent.

As far as Lake Superior, the most likely thing you'd notice is the water encroaching and overtaking the southern shorelines while Canada would get larger beaches because the water is receeding towards the south. However, this wouldn't even be noticed in your's, mine, or our great grandkids lifetimes (remember, geologic time runs mighty slow!!). The eastern basins of the Lake will always remain the deepest points; this would not change because of shifting water.....

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, November 26, 2007 - 09:34 am:

On the Sunday, 11/25 What's UP page there was talk of the difference between the copper in the Keweenaw and the copper that is coming out of Arizona. The major difference is the type of copper itself. The Keweenaw is home to the single largest native copper deposit in the world. The copper in Arizona, New Mexico, and South America is locked up in various oxides, carbonates and sulfides. Copper in the Keweenaw is easily processed as well; just break it out of the rock, separate it and smelt it. Other copper ores require chemical separation/precipitation or electrowinning to process the copper and form ingots or in many cases, large sheets.

Another major difference is the mining process. In the Keweenaw, all of the copper was recovered from underground mines. This type of mining is great if you have a small, highly concentrated orebody like the copper country. However, there are limitations in how deep they could go. Also, shaft mining is not practical if an entire mountain is the orebody; in comes open pit mining. In open pit, the minerals are very low grade (0.5 lbs/ton) but the orebodies are very large, sometimes square miles. Hence, this is why the largest mines in the world are open pit, such as Morenci, Bingham Canyon, or Chuquicamata in Chile.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Monday, December 3, 2007 - 11:54 am:

An interesting discovery while dredging a pond on a farm near Arnheim, Mich.

From The MTU Lode Published the week of 2007-11-28: Farmer's pond conceals prehistoric forest.


""…a whole forest [buried] 15 feet underground … the trees were either transported or mowed down by the last glacier to move across the Keweenaw, before Lake Superior covered the peninsula. “That would make them more than 10,000 years old …"

Snowman (Snowman) on Monday, December 3, 2007 - 07:17 pm:

Another "lost world"?

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, December 4, 2007 - 09:05 pm:

A very interesting find indeed.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, December 6, 2007 - 08:03 am:

In case you were just curious as to what a 10,000 year old tree looks like...........


By Hank Morgan (Hank) on Thursday, December 6, 2007 - 09:22 pm:

I`ve a question for our resident Geologist`s concerning oil and geology, w/o a hint of politics to it.:)D you think it`s possible oil has a non-biogenic origin as opposed to the
conventional theory as to it`s origin.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, December 10, 2007 - 12:54 pm:

As far as I know, petroleum is only formed from biological material (organisms, dead critters, etc...). When organisms die and sink to the bottom, they are covered in mud, sand, and other mineral deposits. This rapid burial prevented immediate decay, which would normally occur if organisms remained exposed on the sea floor. The lack of oxygen in the sedimentary layers caused organisms to slowly decay into carbon-rich compounds. These compounds mixed with surrounding sediments and formed source rock, which is a type of fine-grained shale. As more layers were deposited on top of one another, pressure and heat acting on the source rock compressed the organic material into crude oil.

What you may be thinking of is coal?? Coal formation starts with the accumulation of organic matter (bits of dead plants) in a low oxygen setting such as a peat bog. The organic matter accumulates and forms a bed of peat. The peat bed gets buried by other sediments and under heat and pressure begins to transform to a low grade coal - a lignite. More heat and pressure further metamorphose the lignite into bituminous coal. Even more heat and pressure metamorphose the bituminous coal into a nice hard shiny anthracite.

If you were thinking of something else that I'm not seeing (which does happen), let me know......

By Tom (Tom) on Monday, December 10, 2007 - 09:18 pm:

Didn't the Germans pre-WWII and into the war make oil from coal?? They needed it for their war machinery/weapons.

By Hank Morgan (Hank) on Tuesday, December 11, 2007 - 12:02 pm:

Capt Paul,
My interests lie in astronomy. Of chemistry/geology I know little. With the energy problems facing the world it got me to do a little thinking and a little research.
Astronomers have found that polycylic aromatic hydrocarbons are extremely abundant throughout the universe.Found in the interstellar medium, meteorites,comets, etc...
The cassini spacecraft has found them in the atmosphere of Saturn`s moon,Titan and also what appear to be large lakes of it near Titan`s north polar regions.(evidence of a primordal origin for earths petrolium deposits?)
Some propose there were large carbon formations
left from when the earth was formed and through
chemical/geologic processes it transformed, (at least some deposits)into our present day oil deposits.Ive read that the Abiogenic petroleum origin theory is an accepted theory in Russia and that geologists there use it in their search for oil as opposed to the theory accepted in the west that you stated above.It would`nt be the first time accepted scientific theory has been proven wrong. I don`t take a stand either way.
You`re the only geologist I know and you know
what you`re talking about so I thought I`d ask you. I was just curious as to your opinion.
Thanks for taking the time to answer the questions posed by us readers of this thread.

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Tuesday, December 18, 2007 - 12:33 pm:

I am not a petroleum geologist, but I’ll do my best to answer this question.

The idea of an inorganic origin of petroleum is fairly old, in fact the earliest paper I know of postulating this origin of petroleum is a French paper from the 1860s. And it is true, the gaseous planets contain methane and a type of meteorite (carbonaceous chondrites) also contain traces of hydrocarbons, which are almost certainly of an inorganic origin. However, most geologists recognise that the economic deposits of oil we are extracting today are biologic in origin. (It is actually mostly chemists and astronomers who argue the abiogenic oil hypothesis). Here are a few reasons most geologists reject abiogenic oil:

1. One explanation for the source of abiogenic oil is the reaction of water with iron carbide in the mantle to produce methane and oil hydrocarbons (Mendelev, 1902; Porfirev, 1974). However, there is no evidence for the existence of iron carbide in the mantle and if this hypothesis was true, oil should be found in areas with igneous rocks and areas of deep crustal disturbance and faulting, but it is not.

2. The second hypothesis on the abiogenic origin of oil is that there are large reservoirs of methane in the mantle. Faults allow this methane to polymerise into longer strings of hydrocarbons and accumulate in crustal rocks (Gold, 1979, 1984; Gold and Soter, 1982). One problem with this is that porosity and permeability are basically zero at mantle depths, so where exactly is this gas being stored? Secondly, Gold’s papers imply that to find oil one only has to drill deep enough along a fault. Unfortunately, many, many wells have been drilled along faults. We’re still waiting for the oil.

3. Abiogenic hydrocarbons have a different isotopic signature than biogenic hydrocarbons. A 1986 study of a location in Sweden that was supposed to the prime example of abiogenic hydrocarbons, when isotopically analysed, proved to be your run of the mill biogenic ones (Jeffrey and Kaplan, 1988, 1989).

Basically, to be short and sweet, abiogenic hydrocarbons do exist. But they do not exist in great quantities that can be exploited for use. If oil was abiogenic in origin, places like Manicougan would be prime locations to search for oil. Alas, none is found there. The best oil reservoirs on earth are sedimentary basins, where lots of little beasties lived and died and turned into oil.

I hope this answers your question. If you would like to know more, just let me know.

By PATT HANSEN (Truetroll) on Saturday, December 22, 2007 - 07:21 am:

As a mom of a former Techie who now is at U of Wyoming as a grad student in geophysics, I found this topic very interestng and hopefully useful to use when "the kid" comes home. Thanks so much for making this topic a bit more understanding for a non scietific mom. MERRY CHRISTMAS EVERYONE!!

By Mr. Bill (Mrbill) on Monday, December 24, 2007 - 12:21 pm:


Herr Fisher and Trope did indeed invent a commercial chemical process for converting coal into light hydrocarbon fuels. This chemistry is still in use in South Africa to manufacture high melt temperature paraffin waxes, i.e., paraflints, which are exported world-wide.

By lz (Llamamama) on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 08:16 am:

Can I ask about what might have happened to the exploration of possible diamond mining in the UP? This was probably at least 10 years back and I believe they were considering it a source for industrial grade diamonds? Possibly this was already discussed and I missed that somewhere? Thanks.

By Gustaf O. Linja (Gusso) on Thursday, December 27, 2007 - 09:33 am:

As might be expected; the diamond mining went the same route that "SOME FOLKS" are trying to do with the Copper and Nickel mining project in the Yellow Dog Plains. SOME FOLKS don't give a d---m about the economy of the UP but like to spend their time trying to stop any job generating project.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, January 2, 2008 - 06:39 pm:

I believe you are referring to the Lake Ellen Kimberlite near Iron River?? There are quite a number of kimberlite pipes in that area of the UP actually. Even though a few diamonds and other precious gems were found in those pipes, they were not considered economic either for gems or industrial use so further plans for large scale mining were abandoned. The closure of that project had absolutely nothing to do with people objecting to the mining such as the case of the Eagle Project; the Lake Ellen Kimberlite was a matter of economics plain and simple. Kimberlites themselves are strange little creatures that can pop up in the oddest places. Think of them as carrot shaped orebodies, with the pointy end in the mantle where they originate and the fat end on the surface where they erupt. The word “Kimberlite” comes from the type locality in Kimberley, South Africa, the site in the 1870’s of the first and most dramatic diamond rush. Today, the big diamond rush is in the Northwest Territories north of Yellowknife. The Ekati and Diavik mines produce the best diamonds in the world, better than anything coming out of Africa or Russia at this time......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, January 6, 2008 - 11:44 am:

On December 28 there was a question about the photos of the water "fountain" near Champion. It is indeed an artesian spring, which is a spring from which water escapes from a fissure or other opening under artesian pressure. Most likely, the hill behind the spring has a high water table, higher than the spring. Because of this, hydrostatic pressure has built up and thus causes the water to flow out of the pipe.
There are plenty of other artesian springs/wells in the Copper Country and the UP. One famous spring in Lower Michigan near Clare has been providing lumberjacks and travelers headed for the north-country with cold, clean water for what seems like forever......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, January 15, 2008 - 09:44 pm:

On today’s (1/15) PastyCam main page, there was a question about taconite vs. pelletized iron ore and what is loaded out of Marquette. Taconite is a low grade (usually under 30%) ore of iron that, until the higher grade natural iron ore ran out in Minnesota, was considered a waste rock. In the 1950’s, researchers from the University of Minnesota developed a cost effective method of removing the iron from the taconite and thus created taconite pellets. Had it not been for taconite, Minnesota’s iron industry would have ceased long ago. In Michigan however, the iron mined at Empire and Tilden is still the higher grade magnetite and hematite. The processing of each is very similar though, and I can go into it if enquiring minds want to know. Generally however, the term “taconite” is used for all iron ore pellets loaded into ships on Lake Superior whether from Michigan or Minnesota.

As far as the depth of Lake Superior, it is quite a bit longer than the longest ship on the lakes. The depth was always thought to be 1,333 feet. However, recent depth soundings have determined the depth to 1,279 feet, a difference of some 54 feet. If one ever gets a chance, take a look at a model of the bottom of Lake Superior and look at how hilly and cut up the bottom is. It is really impressive to see just how intricate and selective the glaciers were in carving out the lake bottom.

By k j (Kathiscc) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 03:43 am:

Capt. Paul- you said-"take a look at a model of the bottom of Lake Superior and look at how hilly and cut up the bottom is."
And where would one go to find this?

By paul (Pungvait) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 08:02 am:

the visitors center on the waterfront in duluth has a large 3d map - i think there's one at the soo, also

By k j (Kathiscc) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 12:12 pm: there any place a person who lives in Illinois could go to see this? Perhaps on the internet somewhere?

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 04:53 pm:

The 3D bathymetric model of the Lake Superior bottom is what I was talking about. I know there is one in Duluth and one in the Soo, as Paul mentioned. I'm not sure where one would be in Illinois; maybe the Field Museum in Chicago?? I'll check around on the internet to see if I can dig one up. If I do, I'll post the link in here....

By Snowman (Snowman) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 06:03 pm:

Hmm, Captain Paul just keeps digging. A true Geologist.

By Heikki (Heikki) on Wednesday, January 16, 2008 - 07:25 pm:

Capt. Paul...

I was the person who mentioned taconite on 1/15. I remember when the first plants came on line. There was a mine near Iron Mountain (can't remember the name!) that made pellets. Did a bit of research on this and found that the base ore in taconite is magnetite (found on Cleveland-Cliffs site). I suppose since the taconite plant in MN was the first, the name caught on and was applied to any pelletized ore. I had always called it taconite until reading some article concerning the Empire/Tilden mines, where the term wasn't used, only 'pelletized iron ore'. The assumption was made that the name 'taconite' only applied to iron ore derived from taconite. Not! lol.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, January 17, 2008 - 06:04 pm:

I believe the reason why Empire/Tilden didn't use the term "taconite pellets" was because there is no taconite ore at those mines; all the taconite was found and mined in Minnesota. There is only around 30% magnetite in taconite ore, making it a very low grade ore of iron actually. However, it was this low grade ore that saved the iron industry in Minnesota. I have heard people claim that what the ore carriers carry is "taconite", "iron ore pellets", and "pelletized iron ore"; I suppose it depends a lot on who you talk to and perhaps where the load originated as well. I mean sheesh, we wouldn't want to compare our iron ore pellets to that low grade stuff coming from Minnesota, now would we??? ;-)

By Jeff Kalember (Jeffkal) on Sunday, January 20, 2008 - 08:03 am:

taconite, hematite, magnetite ... can you put a chemical formula with the name? FeO, Fe2O3, Fe3O4 .... and which is the "BEST" from a commercial standpoint to mine? I'd guess FeO. Which is most commonly found? maybe i just better hit google with all these questions !

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Monday, January 21, 2008 - 08:08 pm:

Taconite and haematite have the same chemical formula: Fe2O3. Taconite is the lowest grade of ore that is mined. Magnetite has the chemical formula of Fe3O4. All of these are mined using the same open-pit method. If I recall correctly magnetite, the most commonly found iron ore, is the easier ore to process through magnetic separation. Haematite requires a more difficult separation process requiring flotation.

By Matt Karhu (Matt_k) on Monday, January 21, 2008 - 09:32 pm:

Will someone please give us the latest information on the search for nickel in the Yellow Dog Plains area of the Huron Mountains?

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, January 23, 2008 - 08:19 am:

This is straight from the DEQ website:

December 14, 2007
The Department of Environmental Quality has announced its decision to approve a series of permits to the Kennecott Eagle Minerals Company to conduct mining operations at the proposed Eagle Project Mine near Marquette. The department's decision follows a period of extensive review by the DEQ of public comments and supporting information to determine whether Kennecott's proposal met the strict standards contained within Michigan's air quality, groundwater, and mining laws. The DEQ is required to make its decision based solely on whether a proposal meets those standards.

So, it would appear that the Eagle Project is a go!! Kennecott still has to apply for a surface use lease from the DNR for the project, so I assume the "nimby" and "banana" crowds still have a chance, albeit a slim one at best.

As far as what's going on elsewhere, there is active exploration being conducted in the UP for nickel and PGE (platinum group elements) minerals. Last I knew, there were a couple small Canadian companies that discovered some decent indicators west of the Huron Mountains......

By Jeff Kalember (Jeffkal) on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 09:16 pm:

i'm really surprised the $$$$$$$ of the Huron Mountain club hasn't put up a fuss over the proposed Kennecott mining situation. There are a lot of WELL connect WEALTHY people with homes in there ..

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Tuesday, January 29, 2008 - 10:05 pm:

The "nimby's" haven't given up. From the website:
In a related matter, on January 10, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) announced at the Natural Resources Commission (NRC) [See WIMS 1/11/08], that it is delaying its decision on approving a surface use lease for 120 acres of public land for 35 years necessary for the proposed Kennecott nickel mine in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula to commence. The MDNR decision is the second part of the State approvals required for the mining operations. MDEQ has already announced its approval of the Kennecott’s permit to develop the sulfide mine [See WIMS 12/14/07]. On December 21, 2007, the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, Huron Mountain Club and Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve announced they were filing a contested case petition and a lawsuit against MDEQ as the first step in a legal challenge to halt the mine

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, January 30, 2008 - 08:39 pm:

I really don't see how those groups are going to win a lawsuit against the DEQ or Kennecott. If everything was done by the law and legally completed by the laws written specifically for sulphide mining, then there isn't a court in the land that will rule in favor of said groups.

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Friday, February 1, 2008 - 07:29 pm:

I would like to think that was true but I no longer forecast what a judge will rule. Some judges seem to think their purpose is to write the laws.
I see that Kennecott didn't get approval of their permit from the DNR on January 10th as expected. Instead the DNR has asked for more information and doesn't expect to make a decision by their February meeting.
Kennecott also needs a water use permit from the EPA.
Sometimes I think the red tape in this country is designed to encourage people to give up in disgust.

By Matt Karhu (Matt_k) on Saturday, February 2, 2008 - 08:39 am:

Thanks for the information about the nickle mining and other mining activity in the U.P. Now, to figure out when is the right time to invest in Kennecott sounds like a good idea.

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Saturday, February 2, 2008 - 03:42 pm:

I don't think you can invest directly in Kennecott. It is a branch if Rio Tinto which is traded. You may be a little late in investing. Rio Tinto was about $200 a year ago and was $484 in November and currently $421.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, February 5, 2008 - 11:07 pm:

To change the subject a bit. I am currently reviewing the manuscript of a future book on the life of Douglass Houghton, Michigan's first State Geologist. From what I have read so far, it will be an incredible book when published and a must read on the life of a brilliant statesman and scientist whose life was cut way to short......

By Matt Karhu (Matt_k) on Thursday, February 7, 2008 - 08:48 pm:

Bob J., thanks for the information about Kennecott.

By Heikki (Heikki) on Thursday, February 14, 2008 - 03:02 pm:

Crystal caves in Chihuahua, Mexico. Fascinating!
One of several websites....

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, February 15, 2008 - 04:41 pm:

Indeed; those caves are incredible. The huge crystals in the caves are selenite, a form of gypsum. It is also said that the temperatures in the caves are upwards of 140° F. with almost 100% humidity. Prime crystal growing conditions, but almost inhabitable for humans to spend any amount of time there.

The same can be said for the deep mines of the Wiitwatersrand in South Africa. There, the gold mines have penetrated down almost 13,000 ft. into the earth. Because of the geothermal gradient of the earth, the temperature rises about 1° F. every 100 ft. down. Calculated out, this means at the bottom of the Western Deep Level Mine the temperature is around 130° F. with near 100% humidity. Luckily, the air is cooled in the mine to a more tolerable 90-95° F.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 07:28 am:

There was a fairly strong (M 6.3) earthquake a couple days ago near Wells, NV in the northeast corner of the state. Anyways, I'm not sure if anyone who contributes to the PastyCam lives in that region, but if you do and you felt the quake, I'd like to know about it...........

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 02:22 pm:

Some discussion today (elsewhere) of some jurisdictions running short of salt for use on their roads due to significantly more snow this year reminded me of this little geological fact that I've known about since at least my school daze in Deetroit (late '40s to mid/late '50's). Perhaps some PastyCam visitors are not aware of this:

Q: Where does all the salt that's used on the roads in Michigan (and many surrounding states) come from?

A: Just 1100 feet below the city of Detroit! … or you may use this alternate link, which doesn't require Macromedia Flash Player (although for those that have it,the ride down in the elevator is kind neat). No shortage there — there should still be at least a few bazillion tons of salt down there!

Kinda also reminds me of an earlier discussion here about a briny water table in da UP.

By Mary Drew at Pasty Central (Mdrew) on Tuesday, February 26, 2008 - 04:01 pm:

Hey Capt. Paul, speaking of earthquakes, when we were in San Diego a couple weeks ago, I felt my first earthquake. It was about 11:12 p.m. (CA time), it only lasted a few seconds and it felt like I was sitting in the boat at the dock, when another boat goes by too fast, producing waves that rock your boat. The actual earthquake was in Baja California, Mexico, which is 109 miles away and it registered as 5.1. I was surprised that it could be felt like that, that far away. Here's the data about it:
5.1 02/08 23:12:04 32 21.6 N 115 16.6 W 40 km (25 mi) SSE of Calexico
It was actually kind of neat to experience, but I'm thankful it was that far away from where we were. Give me a good old fashioned snow storm, any day!

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Thursday, February 28, 2008 - 09:42 am:

If you ever do feel an earthquake, try to take the time to go to the United States Geological Survey website if you are able ( They have a survey for people to report what they felt. You can be a part of scientific research and help geologists better understand earthquakes by doing that.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, March 3, 2008 - 01:35 pm:

To many peoples surprise, there have been earthquakes in Michigan. The USGS lists one centered in lower Michigan (M 4.6) in 1947, and several around the Great Lakes and Central US that have been felt in Michigan, including the New Madrid quakes of 1811/1812. The USGS also lists the "unusual occurrences" that happened in the Keweenaw in the early 1900's........

I've posted a couple links from the USGS. The first is a list of historic US earthquakes, the second is earthquake history of Michigan:

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Monday, March 3, 2008 - 03:30 pm:

From the Michigan earthquake history link above (in part):


"Between 1872 and 1883 a number of moderate earthquakes were centered within Michigan. On February 6, 1872, three shocks lasting 30 seconds were reported at Between 1872 and 1883 a number of moderate earthquakes were centered within Michigan. On February 6, 1872, three shocks lasting 30 seconds were reported at Wenona. No additional information is known about these tremors.. No additional information is known about these tremors."

I wonder where "Wenona" is? Or maybe they spelled Winona differently in 1872?
Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - 07:42 am:

Nope, not Winona near Twin Lakes in the UP, but Wenona in the lower peninsula....... better known as Bay City, Michigan today. It was the site of a large sawmill on the Saginaw River. Profits from the sawmill went to gathering important early gifts for Cornell University in New York state. Also, if you remember your poetry, you'll recall that Wenona was the mother of little Hiawatha in Longfellow's poem.

I'm not totally sure what may have caused the three shocks felt there in 1872. It could have been glacial rebound, movement along one of the buried ancient faults associated with the Grenville Front or even the Midcontinent Rift, or something entirely different that geoscientists know nothing about........

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Tuesday, March 4, 2008 - 03:09 pm:

Capt. Paul (Eclogite):
" …not Winona near Twin Lakes in the UP, but Wenona in the [LP] … [i.e.] Bay City, Michigan today."

Well so it is: Wenona, Michigan! Thanks Capt. Paul (and two demerits to me for not doing the research!) I'm generally pretty good on geography (perhaps more contemporary than historical) but that's sure one I missed!

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, March 7, 2008 - 04:17 pm:

No demerits here........ ;-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, April 7, 2008 - 12:34 pm:

Just reading over the wire that South Texas had an earthquake this morning at 4:52 am. Much of the scientific info can be found below:

No, we didn't feel anything; too far away from the epicenter. But from what I hear, it shook a three story office building enough to move some desks around......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, May 9, 2008 - 09:37 pm:

Folks were asking about the Daisetta Texas sinkhole......


Right now, it seems the growth of the sinkhole has greatly slowed down or even stopped. The exact cause is still unknown, but it is most like the collapse of a saltdome caused by either oil drilling from over the years might have weakened the salt dome or a natural occurrence caused by ground water leaking into the salt dome and dissolving parts of it. Another possible cause is that saltwater waste that is being stored underground in the area has leaked out of the dome. The saltwater is a byproduct of oil production and has to be stored underground so it won't contaminate water supplies and the environment.

At any rate, it's an interesting geologic formation. Unfortunitely, no one is allowed into the area......

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, May 9, 2008 - 10:59 pm:

That is fascinating, Capt Paul. Thank you! I'm curious how far this sink hole might be from the epicenter of the earthquake that you all had down there a couple of months ago, or whatever it was. Was it around a couple of hundred miles apart, or something? I guess I'm "fishing", wondering if there might be a connection between the two events?

Many thanks for all of your help. And, a very Happy Anniversary to you and Dr Nat! And many, many more! :-)

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Friday, May 9, 2008 - 11:56 pm:

With discussion this week about "Cinco de Mayo", and on the Jokes page, "Sinko De Mayo?" I suppose I should point out that the "Daisetta Texas sinkhole" was nicknamed the "Sinkhole de Mayo" by local residents... according to this New York Times article.

Okay, all together now: <Groan!>

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, May 11, 2008 - 12:39 am:

The sinkhole is totally unrelated to the earthquake that occured south of San Antonio a few weeks ago. What regulators now believed caused the sinkhole was that a disposal company was pumping saltwater brine into the dome at doubled the amount they were supposed to according to their permit, which in turn dissolved the salt dome and caused the collapse.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Monday, May 12, 2008 - 08:16 am:

Thank you, Capt Paul. That's what I figured, but my curiosity got the better of me. :-)

By Hank Morgan (Hank) on Monday, May 12, 2008 - 09:53 pm:

Capt Paul
On your post dated 1-23-08 you mention "nimby" and "banana". I know what the nimby is but what
is banana?

Hank Morgan

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, May 12, 2008 - 10:24 pm:

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it only makes one stronger in the end!! ;-)

Banana - Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, July 7, 2008 - 08:43 am:

Too quiet on this thread..........

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Monday, July 7, 2008 - 04:03 pm:

Why don't you give us the lecture you threatened us with back on the second?
"Beautiful shots; one of our favourite places to go when we return to the Keweenaw every other year. The view from there is incredible, and the geology from that point is second to none. I would talk a bit about what neat things can be seen there geologically, but last time I mentioned geology I got in trouble...... "

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 - 06:52 pm:

I threatened?? Hmmm sounds like a Gitmo torture method..... "I'll talk, I'll talk, just no more geology!!!" ;-)

Why don't we begin with the "Cliff Notes" version of Keweenaw geology first. Little is known of the area before the events of the Mid-Continent Rift System (MRS). It is thought that the area was relatively flat with abundant granites of the Canadian Shield. At approximately 1.1 billion years ago (if the ages I give offends you my apologies) a rising mantle plume began its journey upward through the crust, eventually coming in contact with the underside of the Shield and thinning it out at this location. As the crust was thinning, it was also being pulled apart like a giant zipper, or rifted apart. As the crust thinned further, violent eruptions began to occur. Volcanic rocks (rhyolites, then basalts) associated with the plume began to erupt onto the surface and spread across the surface of the region muck like Hawaii or Iceland today. In the Keweenaw there are over 200 individual lava flows that have been discovered so far. These lavas were erupted in a very short time span, perhaps 2-3 millions years. The lavas also began to depress or warp the region downward from the additional weight on the surface. After the eruptions slowed and ended, sediments from the south and north began filling the rift, further down-warping the surface to an elongated depression or valley. A great analogy is to take a thick book (phone book works well) and fold the outside edges upward. Each page represents a lava flow or a sediment layer of the MRS. As you do this, one side becomes the Keweenaw, the other side becomes Isle Royale. If you noticed, rocks on the Keweenaw dip to the north while rocks on Isle Royale dip to the south; this is because the rocks are dipping or pointing to the center of the Rift, which is buried under Lake Superior today.

Also after the eruptions ended, warm fluids began to percolate through the basalts and sediments, picking up copper ions along the way and later deposited them along cracks and fissures thus creating the world class native copper deposits the Keweenaw is famous for. After the events associated with the MRS ceased, the region was subjected to a 500 million year period of erosion where multiple kilometres of rock were eroded and exposing native copper at the surface. Afterwards, the MRS was buried by rocks associated with the Michigan Basin in the Lower Peninsula (sandstones, shales, limestones, and salt) that ended about 175 million years ago. These rocks also were subjected to a long period of erosion until about 2 million years ago, when the first of the major continental glaciers began scraping and removing the Michigan Basin rocks and exposing once again the volcanic rocks and native copper of the MRS. With the last major advance, the glaciers carved out the Lake Superior basin and exposed many of the landforms in the upper Great Lakes we see today.

From the top of Brockway Mountain, if you look to the west towards Eagle Harbour, you should notice that the hills "tilt" toward Lake Superior. Also on top you should notice that the south side of the overlook drops off sharply, while the north side is relatively more gradual of a drop towards Lake Superior. What you are looking at are the tilted beds of basalt and conglomerate pointing toward the Lake and the center of the Rift. I know I don't have to tell anyone that on a clear day, you can see Isle Royale in the distance. However, next time your up there and see IR in the distance, you are looking across the Rift to the other side.

I'll be back with more interesting things to see; this message is already tooooooo long!!

By David Hiltunen (Davidcorrytontn) on Tuesday, July 8, 2008 - 11:44 pm:

Very interesting indeed, thank you!

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Wednesday, July 9, 2008 - 10:39 am:

Thank you Captain. I'm waiting for the more interesting things to see.
Almost time to head up for the Copper Country Mineral Retreat.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - 01:31 pm:

Been way to quiet on this thread!!!!

After looking at the PastyCam pic a couple days ago with Brooke's kids on the mine piles it got me to wondering about the Retreat this year. So, how many of you took in the events of the Copper Country Mineral Retreat this year?? Anyone find some killer specimens on the piles or underground at the Caledonia?? Since the Dr. and I couldn't make it up there this year, we'd like to hear from you about what you thought.

We are already planning our trip UP there next summer........

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Tuesday, August 26, 2008 - 04:06 pm:

Due to my wife's health I had to cancel out at the last minute. My daughter and son-in-law made it to the mineral retreat. They headed straight back to Colorado from there so I didn't see what they took home but I believe the springs on their pickup were sagging.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, October 12, 2008 - 10:30 pm:

I totally forgot to mention that tonight on National Geographic channel was a special on the Naica Caves in Mexico; the one with the enourmous crystals that have grown inside. The special was awesome and I'm sure it will be on again. Look for it on your local TV guide; it is well worth the time.........

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Monday, October 13, 2008 - 11:26 pm:

Thanks Captain. I had company and forgot about the show. I looked it up and it was rerun in the middle of the night so I set the DVR and just finished watching it.
If anyone else missed it it will be shown at
Tue Oct 14 10 PM
Wed Oct 15 1 AM
Sun Oct 19 2 PM
Tue Oct 21 6 PM

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, October 22, 2008 - 04:46 pm:

For anyone interested. On November 25 the Dr. is giving a presentation to the Houston Gem and Mineral Society titled "Geologic Events in Human History". It is basically a lecture on how natural disasters and other geologic events in earth's history have shaped mankind and where we are at today. Undoubtably, climate change will play a large role in the lecture, as well as other events. If anyone is in the Houston area around that time, come on by; should be a fun one........

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, October 30, 2008 - 03:40 pm:

From the Old Copper Mines/Municipal Water Thread (I thought it might be well suited here as well):

By Dave Jaehnig (Yooperdave1)
Years ago, my father worked at MTU in ores research; he told me that Quincy Mine's copper contained arsenic, which is why the water from that mine cannot be used for municipal purposes. He told me that this is the reason why even after you polish copper from the Pewabic lode, it turns black quickly while copper from other places just turns green.

Quincy Mine isn’t the only mine that contains arsenic, however. In fact, all native copper in the Keweenaw contains some arsenic in solid solution with the copper. The arsenic content in the copper ranges from between a few ten thousandths of a percent to over one half percent; a ten thousand fold variation!! In most mines the arsenic to copper ratio increases with depth in the orebody, meaning the deeper you go, the more arsenic in the copper.

I would bet that the black your Father saw Dave was Tenorite, a copper oxide (Cu2+O) which is thought to have formed after the mines were opened. However, there are some deposits where the oxidation was pre-mining in origin as well. Other coatings that are common on Keweenaw copper include cuprite (reddish-maroon) and malachite (bright green, and the most common). There are specimens from Quincy that exhibit all three coatings.

The moral of the story: not all copper is created equal...........

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, January 9, 2009 - 10:26 am:

By Marianne Y (Marianne)
Capt Paul and Dr Nat: I'm curious what you think about the current/recent swarm of earthquakes in the area of Yellowstone National Park's caldera? That seems to be controversial in the geological world, with some geologists warning of impending doom, a giant volcanic eruption that could cover 1/3 of the US, or something (that side is demanding an immediate evacuation of Yellowstone Ntl Park & an area 200 miles around the caldera, apparently), while others are saying it's no big deal, there won't be an eruption for a 100 or perhaps thousands of years, so the status is still green light? From the little I've been able to see, it sounds like they are all (both sides, or all sides, or something), long on theories and a lot short on data, with much data that should be gathered, perhaps? I'm curious as to your impressions? (Happy Belated Birthday, btw, Capt Paul! I hope you all can celebrate it this weekend!)

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Friday, January 9, 2009 - 02:45 pm:

Unfortunately, predicting volcanic eruptions is not an exact science yet. There are many things we look at to predict eruptions, including earthquakes, gas emissions, ground deformation, heat flow, and others.

Earthquake swarms are not unheard of in Yellowstone. Back in the 1990s, there was a swarm of quakes that cut completely across the park. That swarm was attributed to a dyke being emplaced. (Basically, liquid hot magma was moving around. That sort of thing happens in a volcano). Also, the ground at Yellowstone has been known to bulge and tilt at times. The ground deformation and past and current earthquake swarms (as well as the geothermal features) are due to magma moving around.

So the big questions remains—is an eruption imminent? And that’s a good question. Just because magma is moving, doesn’t mean it will travel to the surface and erupt. But it could… So I guess what I’m trying to say is that scientists don’t always have the answers.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, January 9, 2009 - 03:05 pm:

Thank you, Dr Nat. That actually does sound reasonable, much more reasonable than the two extremes that I've been reading on the recent/current earthquake swarm.

I wish they would collect some more data, though, like on what the floor of Yellowstone Lake (part of the caldera) is doing. I remember a few years again, that it began to tilt some towards one end of the lake, and it was rising. I guess I'm too curious for my own good, or something. And, since some would say that we are maybe some 40,000 years overdue for an eruption, based on the historical data...but, then we know that it is not an exact science. :-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 01:30 pm:

For what it's worth, Yahoo news and AP actually did a pretty good job of reporting......

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 02:45 pm:

Thanks, Capt Paul. That article contains much of the info that I had read in a number of articles in several newspapers from western states. It is a decent summary article of those articles that I had read. :-) It would be a good resource for people who are interested.

It does not give information about the floor of Yellowstone Lake, etc, if that data has even been gathered, though, among a number of other data that I have read that are missing and important pieces of the puzzle. :-)

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Saturday, January 10, 2009 - 09:32 pm:

Some years ago, the land beneath the north side of Yellowstone Lake was rising, essentially tipping the lake to the south. This was interpreted to be magma inflating the magma chamber that sits beneath the park. After a while, the land subsided again. This expansion and contraction of the magma chamber is not an unheard of occurrence. Unfortunately, tilt and bulge of land alone is not a surefire way to predict an eruption.

In addition, I'd like to address the claims that Yellowstone is 40,000 years overdue for an eruption. Yellowstone has erupted three times. That means we have only two data points to calculate a recurrence interval. TWO DATA POINTS! It is statistically and scientifically ridiculous to base an analysis on such little data.

Also, Yellowstone is not the only place in the lower 48 states that has a shallow magma body. Where I used to live in New Mexico, there is a large magma body less than 20km below the surface. It is causing crustal uplift in central New Mexico, hot springs around the Socorro area, and occasional earthquakes. (The last major quakes were in 1906 and were bad enough to make the front page in east coast newspapers. I was in a minor one in the 1990s).

By Tim Landini (Tlandini) on Thursday, January 22, 2009 - 01:57 pm:


Haven't seen any postings yet on Jacobsville sandstone? Please do explain why it is different than other sandstones (eg. color, hardness)? I know it is used in many buildings in Calumet and even used in foundation walls as a filler material.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Thursday, January 22, 2009 - 02:50 pm:

Tim Landini (Tlandini):
"Jacobsville sandstone … is used in many buildings in Calumet…"

And in the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, the Carnegie Office Building in Pittsburgh and buildings in Detroit, MI, Grosse Point, MI and Buffalo, NY.

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Friday, January 23, 2009 - 03:01 pm:

Jacobsville sandstone was used as a building material for a few reasons. First, it is aesthetically pleasing with its rich red colour. But more importantly, parts of the Jacobsville sandstone do not have many fractures, making it a good building stone.

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Friday, January 23, 2009 - 09:41 pm:

If you want sedimentological details about the composistion and cementation of the Jacobsville, just let me know, I love talking about sandstones, I just didn't want to bore anyone with details they didn't want. ;-)

By Tim Landini (Tlandini) on Monday, January 26, 2009 - 03:24 pm:

Thank you Dr. Nat. I found other additional sources elsewhere on its popularity and character. Also, yes please provide structural info and other typical sandstone comparison traits if available (eg. compressive strength, water absorption, thermal exansion, freeze-thaw durability, etc.) Or, is it the same as for typical natural stones? Just using a comparison from a masonry institute's guide.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, January 30, 2009 - 05:50 pm:

A little bit O.T. (as in not in Michigan): I read there are now warnings that Mt. Redoubt (volcano) in Alaska is about to blow. Apparently, that volcano erupted 1989, causing a 4-engine jet to lose all 4 engines at once. The pilots had to drop well over 20,000 feet to be able to restart the engines, so that it could be landed in Anchorage. It cost KLM $80 Million to repair the jet. Apparently, that incident is why the FAA is now the first to hear of impending volcano eruptions. That volcanic eruption could be interesting to watch!

Comments, Capt Paul and Dr Nat, on an apparent impending eruption, etc?

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, March 6, 2009 - 02:52 pm:

Well, time for another roadtrip for the Dr. and I beginning tomorrow. This time, we are going to Las Vegas; not to gamble, but to visit some very interesting geologic sights near Death Valley. Then it's on to the Grand Canyon, Sunset Crater, and Petrified Forest NP's in Arizona. We haven't decided if we're coming back through Albuquerque or through western Arizona/southern New Mexico yet, but either way offers more wonders every mile......

By David Hiltunen (Davidcorrytontn) on Friday, March 6, 2009 - 03:37 pm:

Either way it is a sure bet. Enjoy yourselfs Capt. & Dr.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Friday, March 6, 2009 - 08:04 pm:

Either way, it's a gorgeous trip! Have a great time, you two! :-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, July 3, 2009 - 10:31 pm:

Wow, its been a while since any activity on this thread; bout time we livened up the place!! The Dr. and I are going to be in the UP from July 28 through August 9, and we're extending an invite to anyone of the PastyCam posters that happened to be in the area during that time to have lunch with us and talk UP geology or other topics of geology in general. I know quite a number of you emailed us over the past months asking questions which is great, so if your going to be around the Houghton area during that time and interested in learning about the landforms around you, by all means look us up.......

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Saturday, July 4, 2009 - 09:31 am:

Sorry Captain. I'd like to join you but my wife's health is going to make me miss the Copper Country Mineral Retreat this year.

By kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Sunday, July 5, 2009 - 08:59 pm:

My husband and I would love to take you up on the offer, but our
dog is probably going in for surgery on his back right knee
tomorrow, so we'll be UP later than usual this year.

By Brooke (Lovethekeweenaw) on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - 09:44 am:

Capt. & Doc, could you let me know on this thread or by email what geology type things are going on in the copper country at that time. My daughter is interested in all that.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, July 15, 2009 - 11:08 pm:

Bout the closest things going on that first week of August is the Mineral Show at Houghton Elementary School 7-9 and the Quincy Swap Tuesday the 4th. Nat and I will be up there for the week going to the lectures and such for the Retreat, but as far as geology type things not much else.

By Doug Walters (Dawalters) on Friday, July 17, 2009 - 11:40 am:

Capt Paul and Dr Nat,

Just got back from yearly vacation to the Keweenaw in late June. We plan on taking a short trip in October, but time prevents us from getting back to the Keweenaw until next year. I am looking at visiting Tobermory and the Bruce peninsula area. The pictures of the area look beautiful and I keep reading about the Niagara Escarpment, which I don't believe goes as far north as the copper country. There also appears to be more limestone in the area. I'll be reading up some more on the area, but was just curious as to what the major geological differences/similarities are between each area. Since geologically speaking, I am a blank slate, I wanted to know if there was anything significant in the Bruce peninsula area I should be looking for.

Hope the two of you have a great trip to the UP. Thanks!!

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Saturday, July 18, 2009 - 09:56 pm:

The Bruce Peninsula and Keweenaw Peninsula are very different in age, rock type, and formation. About the only thing similar about them is that glaciers moved over them during the Last Glacial Maximum. Both, however, are very interesting geologically.

The Keweenaw Peninsula is composed mostly of basalt, a type of lava like what is erupted in Hawaii today. Conglomerate and sandstone, both sedimentary rocks, are also in the Keweenaw. These rocks were formed about 1.1 billion years ago in a rift valley. These valleys develop where continents begin to split apart. This sort of thing is happening today in East Africa. Imagine the North American continent slowly splitting apart… lava flowed out of the big crack that developed… weathering of the mountains on either side of the rift carried sediments into the rift forming the conglomerate and sandstone… more lava erupted… This process continued for about a million years, resulting in 10 kilometres of basalt layers in the area.

The copper of the Keweenaw came a bit later as hot water moving through the basalt dissolved some of the copper out of the deepest basalt. As the water rose, it cooled and precipitated the copper (and several other interesting minerals). This is, of course, the short version… it’s actually a bit more complicated than that.

The rocks of the Bruce Peninsula formed long after the rocks of the Keweenaw. On the Bruce, the rocks are from a time called the Silurian, which was 443 to 417 million years ago. The rocks of the Bruce Peninsula are part of the Michigan Basin, which I guess you could think of sort of like the Gulf of Mexico is today. It was an area of warm shallow water where abundant reefs grew. The reefs are similar to coral reefs today, although many of the reef building animals that were alive at that time are now extinct. The rocks you will see in the Bruce Peninsula will be limestone and dolomite. These are sedimentary rocks formed by the reef beasties, so take a good look at them if you get a chance, you just might find some beastie fossils.

The Michigan Basin is known for salt and oil resources. The salt formed when that warm shallow sea dried. The oil is trapped in what are called pinnacle reefs. If you are interested in the early days of the oil industry, you can go south of the Bruce Peninsula to Oil City and Petrolia, Ontario. The first commercial oil well in North America was drilled in Oil City in 1858 (they beat the Americans by a year). There are nice museums in Petrolia and Oil City that explain the local geology and oil industry there (some of the old wells are still producing).

Lastly, the Niagara Escarpment… this is a ridge of mostly dolomite that is resistant to erosion, so it forms prominent cliffs in many places. It extends from New York through Ontario and Michigan, all the way into Wisconsin. It’s not a continuous ridge this entire length, but it is still a prominent landform. In the Bruce Peninsula, you will be walking on the escarpment. In the States, the Door Peninsula of Wisconsin is part of the Niagara Escarpment.

I hope this answers your questions. If you have any more, just ask.

By Doug Walters (Dawalters) on Sunday, July 19, 2009 - 10:37 am:

Thanks Dr. Nat. Appreciate you taking the time to provide me that information. I have it printed off for future reference. In the pictures I had seen, there were obvious differences between the 2 peninsulas especially given their relatively close proximity to one another. I just seem to be drawn to these peninsulas, they provide such easy access to so much shoreline. I'll try Bruce this fall, but it will be back to the Keweenaw next summer. You two have a great trip.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, July 23, 2009 - 08:53 pm:

No problem :-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Saturday, August 22, 2009 - 09:40 pm:

Well, as promised, a brief review of our summer trip to Upper Michigan. We left Houston, Texas July 23 and after spending a few days in the Detroit area (which included a private tour of the Cranbrook Institute of Science), we departed for Marquette on July 28. The morning of the 29th, we departed to examine numerous geologic points of interest which included the following: Harvey Quarry, pillow basalts near the old ore docks, the unconformity between the Jacobsville Sandstone and Mesnard Quartzite, Presque Isle for the peridotites, Wetmore Landing for mafic intrusions into felsic granites, the dam failure at the Tourist Park, ripple marks near Negaunee, Jasper Knob, and the Kona Dolomites.

The 30th brought some rain in the afternoon, but beginning that morning we examined more points including: a pyritized zone within the Carp Lake Shear Zone, seafloor deposits near Greenwood, migmatites, boudinage, and more mafic dikes near Republic, the Lake Ellen Kimberlite, and the garnet mica schists of Lake Michigamme. From there, we traveled to our “home” in Laurium.

Beginning the 31st through August 9, we crossed back-and-forth over the Keweenaw GPS marking locations of as many mine rock piles as we could and photographing them and the area around each mine site to document where each is located for a project I am working on. I couldn’t even begin to count every mine site we visited; if I could get our “geo-impala” back to it, we went. In addition, we also looked at coastal geology along Lake Superior at several locations including Little Traverse and Esrey Park. We also toured many sites around Ontonagon as well including a stop at Victoria. Even on the day we left, we found a little time to stop at the Watersmeet Dome to collect some of the oldest rock on earth, a tonalitic gneiss that is beautifully exposed just north of Watersmeet on US 45.

All in all it was a good trip; very relaxing and accomplished mostly what we set out to do geologically. Not sure if we’ll get back up there next year (might be heading for Scotland, Iceland, or The Maritimes), but we always know the Keweenaw is just a couple days away........

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Thursday, August 27, 2009 - 04:26 pm:

Traprock: A 'nuther Copper Country Geology question.

We have the Traprock River flowing south into Torch lake at Lake Linden, and of course Traprock [River] Valley, also Traprock Road, and Traprock Valley Road.

Now the question:

Is there anything geologically relevant about the term Traprock or Trap rock as used in these references?

… such as in Devils Postpile National Monument, the New Jersey/Hudson/Hudson River Palisades, and perhaps Organ Pipes National Park in Australia.

In short, is there really any Trap rock (basalt columns) in the neighborhood?

From Cap'n Paul's previous writeup on the nearby Natural Wall


"Natural Wall is made completely of Jacobsville Sandstone, and while it stands very near the Keweenaw Fault, there are very few basalts incorporated into the sandstone and none in the Wall."

I would think that is clearly not an example of Trap rock, and probably ditto for the Traprock River Falls.

If not, then does anyone know the origin of the local term Traprock?
Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 09:22 am:

Sadly, Wikipedia is not always the best source of information. The basalt columns in the wikipedia article are called columnar joints, which form as the basalt flow cools and contracts and is NOT what the term traps refers to. “Traps” refers to the layer upon layer of basalt flows that are formed when flood basalts erupt. Eventually, these layers are eroded and result in a stair-step outcrop pattern, as shown in the photo below of the Columbia River Basalts. (You can also see some columnar jointing in the photo). The term “traps” is indeed derived from the Swedish word “trappa” for stair or step. (Bates and Jackson, eds., Dictionary of Geologic Terms, 1984).

In the Keweenaw there are both columnar joints and traps. The columnar joints are located near Ahmeek. The west side of the peninsula is composed entirely of flood basalt flows and thus, are traps. Some of the basalt flows are even called the Lakeshore Traps.


By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Wednesday, September 9, 2009 - 01:06 pm:

Dr. Nat (Drnat):
"Wikipedia is not always the best source of information."

Well that certainly is true. Although it is often a good place to start, it isn't necessarily a good source of accurate information on all subjects.

But then da folks in Pastyland sure know where to get the "true facts" on issues of geology, eh?

Thanks Dr. Nat, for the excellent answer!

By Hank Morgan (Hank) on Saturday, September 12, 2009 - 12:34 pm:

I`ve a question for the experts. Are the beaches of the south shore of the Keweenaw made up of sandstone that has broken down over time and if so how come no red sand beaches as that seems to be the predominant color of jacobsville sandstone?

By 4WDGreg (4wdgreg) on Sunday, September 13, 2009 - 11:24 pm:

I have some geology questions. I've traveled across much of the U.P. and seen such a wide variety of rock formations. There's the Niagara Escarpment (limestone?) that cuts across Drummond Island, St. Ignace and through the Manistique and Garden Peninsula areas. There are the sandstone formations around Munising, the iron and mineral formations from Marquette westward, and there are the angled rock and conglomerate formations up in the Porkies area. My question is: Is it unusual to have such a variety of rock formations in a (relatively) small area such as the U.P.? I've read about ancient volcanic activity that shaped the northwestern U.P. Is there a way to somewhat briefly give a summary of how such a variety of different rock formations came to make up the U.P.?

By William P. Aubin (Dasfliger) on Monday, September 14, 2009 - 12:37 am:

RWD, Google "Canadian shield"!

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, September 14, 2009 - 05:24 pm:

To answer your first question about whether the south shore beaches are made of sandstone; yes, they are the weathered remains of Jacobsville Sandstone after time and erosion has had their way. As far as the red colour; it depends on the alteration of ferromagnesian minerals and the amount of iron oxide deposited as rims on the individual grains of feldspar and/or quartz. This is indeed the predominant colour of the Jacobsville; however, as Lake Superior has continually washed and eroded the sandstone for 10,000 years, the water has in fact acted as a solvent to dissolve the cements (which contain oxidized iron) and totally bleach out the sands on the beaches turning them a dirty white.

Hopefully this answers your question……

By Hank Morgan (Hank) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 02:45 pm:

It does. Thanks

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, September 15, 2009 - 08:51 pm:

It is definitely not unusual to have such a wide variety of rocks in such a small area. There are parts of the American southwest, Canada, Scotland, and other areas where in a morning one can walk across all three rocks types and several million years of time.

While there is no such thing as a “brief” summary of UP geology, I will give it a worthy shot. The oldest rocks in the UP are associated with the Watersmeet Dome rocks (gneiss) which have been dated to about 3.5 GA (billion years). These are part of the original continental mass (Canadian Shield) that formed when the planet was very young and cooling after formation. Even today, little is known from this time period and ongoing research is occurring. The next major time of UP geology is around 2.7 to 2.5 GA when smaller pieces of cooled crustal material (similar to present-day Japan) were accreting onto the Shield. Many of the rocks around the Marquette area are a direct result of this accretion, sometimes referred to as the Great Lakes Tectonic Zone. During this time to about 1.8 GA was a time in earth’s history when the atmosphere went from being anoxic to one with free oxygen. Also during this time was when the banded iron formations (BIF) were rusted out of iron-rich ocean water and being deposited all over the globe. All three BIF’s in the UP formed during this time in shallow restricted marine basins and formed about the same time relative to each other. Also at this time around 1.8 GA were formed a mountain range some say as high as the Himalayas today. These were the Penokean’s and they stretched from near the Twin Cities eastward across the present day MI/WI border to near Ottawa. For the next 750,000 years or so, the region experienced a quiet time; no major tectonic activity and erosion was wearing down the Penokeans. This quiet time would be interrupted quite violently all across the region at about 1.1 GA.

At about 1.1 GA, a mantle plume developed under the present day Lake Superior region and began moving upward. As it did, the continent began to split apart. When this happens, large amounts of lava can erupt upon the surface, as was the case in Siberia, India, and in the Keweenaw. When continents split apart, we call them a rift valley. This sort of thing is happening today in East Africa. Imagine the North American continent slowly splitting apart… lava flowed out of the big crack that developed… weathering of the mountains on either side of the rift carried sediments into the rift forming the conglomerate and sandstone… more lava erupted… This process continued for about a million years, resulting in 10 kilometres of basalt layers in the area. The copper of the Keweenaw came a bit later as hot water moving through the basalt dissolved some of the copper out of the deepest basalt. As the water rose, it cooled and precipitated the copper (and several other interesting minerals). As this was happening, the entire region began to sink from the enormous weight of the rocks on the surface and from the emptying of the magma chamber beneath the region.

Once rifting ceased, a quiet period began over the region for hundreds of millions of years as more sediments began filling in the basin left by the rifting. These sediments were carried by numerous rivers flowing from the highlands that developed south of the basin and flowed north. The sediments (sandstones) that makeup the Pictured Rocks is the result of this sedimentation. Once this inflow of sediments stopped, a warm, shallow sea covered the UP. Here, the story of the eastern UP begins. In the east, the rocks are from a time called the Silurian and Devonian, which was 443 to 362 million years ago. The rocks here are part of the Michigan Basin, which I guess you could think of sort of like the Gulf of Mexico is today. It was an area of warm shallow water where abundant reefs grew. The reefs are similar to coral reefs today, although many of the reef building animals that were alive at that time are now extinct. The rocks you will see around the Garden Peninsula over to Drummond Island will be limestone and dolomite. These are sedimentary rocks formed by the reef building animals. The Michigan Basin is known for salt and oil resources. The salt formed when that warm shallow sea dried. The oil is trapped in what are called pinnacle reefs.

After the seas dried up, a quiet period of erosion began, slowly wearing down the limestones and dolomites covering the UP. In fact, the only remnant of this time west of Munising is Limestone Mountain near Pelkie. About 2 million years ago, the final stages what would become the landscape we see today took place as giant glaciers carved out the remaining limestones from the western UP. On the eastern side, the limestones and dolomites were thick enough that much of it remains; however, wells have been drilled deep enough in the eastern UP and Lower Peninsula that crystalline basement rocks of the Canadian Shield have been recovered. After the glaciers receded back to Canada, they left the landscape we see today across the UP, including sand dunes at Great Sand Bay and the Sable Dunes, numerous kettle lakes, moraines, drumlins, and many other features.

I hope this answers your questions, Greg. I tried to keep it as short and concise as possible, but with a subject as interesting as this, it’s hard to write a “Cliff’s Notes” version yet capture most of the highlights. As always, if you or anyone else has questions, please post away.......

By Jim Curtis (Jcurtis) on Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 10:03 am:

Interesting part of but difficult to sort through. Thanks to all the contributors!

I understand about the rift, the flows, etc. What I don't understand is why the amounts of native copper formations seen in the Copper Country don't occur more often elsewhere?

Have I hit on a legit question or is it that I just have not heard about the other places?


By Tom (Tom) on Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 12:45 pm:

Am I imagining or have there been more earthquakes in the past 10 years or so than in preceding years?
Last week's earthquakes in the Pacific and then another in South America?? Somewhere.
Perhaps those plates are shifting enough for these quakes to occur.

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Sunday, October 4, 2009 - 06:15 pm:

Tom, there have also been a series of quakes east of Los Angeles in the last couple of days. Kids these days learn about the "Pacific Rim of Fire", I believe they call it. I agree, it does seem unusually active in the last couple of weeks. Is it getting ready for one or more big ones in the U.S., from southern California, north through Seattle, on up to Alaska? I certainly hope not! That's the last thing the world needs right now.

By FJL (Langoman) on Monday, October 5, 2009 - 12:01 pm:

Wonder when "Global Warming" will be named as the cause of the recent surge in quakes? All it takes is a Gore planted PHD radical and were off to the race for federal dollars.....FJL

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, October 11, 2009 - 10:55 pm:

Well Jim, what you’ve touched on is a multi-part answer that all fits together. First, the main reason why there is so much copper in the Keweenaw is that it sits fortuitously on a section of the Midcontinent Rift where it makes a sharp bend. This bend produced a lot more faults and fractures in the rock than you would have on a nice straight section of the rift. All these fractures provided a great conduit for copper bearing fluids to travel during the compression of the Rift and later during cooling, deposited all the copper we see today.

The Keweenaw is also unique in that it is the only place where the flood basalts of the Rift are exposed on the surface. The Rift actually extends to the southwest all the way into Kansas and southeast to near Detroit. However, except on the Keweenaw, it is buried under many kilometers of rock and glacial sediments. Drill holes in Lower Michigan, Minnesota, and Kansas have all discovered basalts associated with the Rift. In some of these dill cores, minute amounts of copper have been found. However, with fewer fractures for the fluids to flow through and deposit their copper ions, we don’t see the amount of copper that is found in the Keweenaw.

The reason why we don’t see large native copper deposits in other parts of the world is that the Keweenaw underwent a series of “just-right” events. These events include the eruption of the basalts, the burying and heating of the basalt which drove out the liquids containing copper ions, the fluid flow through fractures created by compression, the cooling of these fluids which deposited native copper in the pore spaces, and the exhumation of the deposits to the surface over time. No other flood basalt deposit has had these series of events occur to create large native copper deposits. Had they did, we might be talking about someplace on the Siberian Traps or Decaan Traps as being the world’s largest native copper deposit.

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 09:28 am:

Tom, The amount of earthquakes that the world experiences has remained roughly the same over time. What has changed is the public awareness of earthquakes. More are reported on the evening news these days. Fifty years ago, few people in the United States really cared if there was an earthquake on Vanuatu, but today the video clips we can get from there make dramatic news footage, so Americans get to hear about it.

Marianne, the Pacific Coast of the United States is part of the "Ring of Fire," an area of active earthquake and volcanic activity. A large earthquake will strike the Pacific coast sometime in the future. I guarantee it. But where and when it will occur... Sad to say, earthquakes are not predictable. It could be tomorrow or thirty years from now.

A good place to go to see recent earthquakes is Just click on the seismic monitor in the middle of the page and you will see all earthquakes magnitude 4 and above that have occurred over the past two weeks. The website has lots of other good information about earthquakes, as well.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 12:51 pm:

To make things a bit easier.......

IRIS - Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology

By Tom (Tom) on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 03:43 pm:

Thanks for the information on earthquakes. I just looked at that site you sent. It seems that there are earthquakes occurring constantly---almost.
So, the tectonic plates are constantly grinding against each other?

By Tom (Tom) on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 03:47 pm:

Why is the earth covered with so much water?

By Tom (Tom) on Monday, October 12, 2009 - 03:49 pm:

Why is the earth covered with so much water?

By Theresa R. Brunk (Trb0013) on Tuesday, October 13, 2009 - 06:29 pm:

Whole face of mountain falls article from Washington State.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, October 15, 2009 - 11:37 pm:

Well, it's that time of year again. Time for the Dr. and I to make our yearly trip to the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting. This year, it is being held in Portland, Oregon. Since neither of us have ever been to that part of the country, we are planning on being at the meeting Sunday through Tuesday, then we are renting a car for the next 4 days and driving around the area.

Hopefully if the weather holds out, we plan on visiting such sites as Mt. St. Helens, Mt. Rainier, the Mima Mounds, and the Channel Scablands of central Washington state. If the weather turns on us, we'll stay in the lower country and possibly visit an ophiolite (ripped up ocean crust and mantle rocks) along the Oregon/California border.

Of course, we'll have photos to share.... ;-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Thursday, October 15, 2009 - 11:52 pm:

So, the tectonic plates are constantly grinding against each other?
Yup; they've been grinding along for eons now ;-)

Why is the earth covered with so much water?
Becuase we are the "Goldielocks" planet!! hehe seriously though, some of the water comes from bombardment of comets during early earth history. Some of it comes from de-gassing, basically meaning volcanoes emit water from deep inside the earth. Because of earth's size, it has enough gravitational pull to keep our water here, unlike Mars where most of it wandered off (less gravity). Our water is liquid because we are the perfect distance from the sun; farther away it would frozen, closer and it would boil away; hence, the "Goldielocks" planet.

Theresa; we will be driving very close to that landslide next week. I'm hoping that the roads are open still up to the slide to get a few photos and such.

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Wednesday, October 28, 2009 - 08:15 am:

We just got back from Washington State and while up there were able to take a look at the landslide. It appears to be what is called a slump or rotational slide. It is not far from a place where landslides had occurred in the past. The rock there is volcanic. When volcanic rock weathers, it produces clays, which are slippery and can move very easily in a landslide. In addition, not all the rocks there are flat-lying, many are tilted and can slide along those tilted surfaces. Lastly, it is the rainy season in the area and water added to a slope can make it unstable.

They were very busy at the landslide. An Army Corps of Engineers emergency response group was there. A new road was already built and the river was being re-routed around the landslide and away from homes.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 09:18 am:

I have failed to mention on several occasions that on Tuesday nights on the History Channel there is a program on called How the Earth was made. It usually starts at 7 eastern with two older shows, then at 9 is the new one. Last night was on the origin of the earth and how water and perhaps life came to the planet in the form of meteorites. Other shows have focused on Hawaii, Scotland, Krakatoa, and even the Great Lakes. So far, the new season has featured the Grand Canyon, Mount Vesuvius, and last night's episode, which happens to be my main research area; Archaen Earth.

There will be a new one again next Tuesday night, and I highly recommend tuning in....

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 09:35 am:

I hesitate to correct da Cap'n — risky, too before my first cup o' kahvi — but hey, I have a reputation to uphold, and I certainly can't let such a rare opportunity slip away!

Archaen → Archean.

(That and the devil made me do it!)

{wicked, evil smile!}

By Dr. Nat (Drnat) on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 03:29 pm:

Wow, caught the Captain with a typo! But the question remains, did he reverse the letters a and e, or did he forget an a? I learned the correct spelling as Archaean.

It is actually quite interesting how many things have different spellings or even different names depending where you learn your geology. One of my favourite geology terms is cwm. It is the head of a glacial valley, what in the States is called a cirque.

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 08:44 pm:

Dr. Nat (Drnat):
"Wow, caught the Captain with a typo!"

And that's really a hard thing to do, too!

Now "cwm" sounds like it's from the Welsh,
while "cirque" must be french, as in circus, cf. Cirque du Soleil.
And "favourite" is definitely the British spelling!
Isn't language fun!

By Bob Jewell, Farmington Hills (Rjewell) on Wednesday, December 9, 2009 - 10:56 pm:

The subject of next Tuesday's show is the Sahara.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, December 11, 2009 - 09:45 am:

Smartalecks; both of ya!! :-P

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, March 2, 2010 - 05:51 pm:

The History Channel has been showing an ongoing series called "How the Earth Was Made". Tonight is on "America's Gold" and it sounds like it is on how they extract gold from the Carlin Trend in Nevada. It's on here at 8PM so probably 9 in the east.....

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, March 8, 2010 - 10:37 pm:

Tomorrow night on the History Channel is the 2 hour special of "How the Earth Was Made" which was the very first in the series. It is on at 8pm eastern and if you have a chance, by all means watch it!! They start out in Scotland at Siccar Point (which the Dr. and I have been to) and go through earth history from the beginning right through to today and beyond.

If you can only watch one episode of "Earth", this is the one to see......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Wednesday, June 23, 2010 - 04:13 pm:

Well, I guess this just might liven up the Geology room again.....

M5.0 – Ontario-Quebec Border Region, Canada

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, December 10, 2010 - 11:55 pm:

I've been meaning to post a few pics of our Newfoundland trip on here, but that awful thing called work just keeps getting in the way.

Anyways, I will post one pic of an outcrop of migmatite on the Canadian Shield that demonstrates the hazards of field geology.......


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, February 14, 2011 - 06:20 pm:

I thought I would post another pic of our trip to Newfoundland. Actually, this is more of a test to see if I can post....

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, February 14, 2011 - 06:26 pm:


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, February 14, 2011 - 06:30 pm:


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, February 25, 2011 - 12:29 am:

Gosh, I hope this thread isn't dying or (gasp) dead!!!! L

By jbuck (Jbuck) on Tuesday, January 10, 2012 - 07:26 pm:

So Capt Paul and Dr Nat,

When are you going to put in a suggestion to take Mike from "Dirty Jobs" on a Geology related jaunt? They just had a show which was more related to fossils, but slipped into Geology for a bit ~ and i thought "we know a couple who would be great at this!!!"

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - 10:22 pm:

We should one of these days, eh?? ;-)

By jbuck (Jbuck) on Saturday, January 21, 2012 - 06:49 am:

You just don't know what it could turn into......

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 09:53 am:

For the past couple days, we have been in Bergen, Norway on the west coast, and what a beautiful old city it is. . Currently, it is a driving rain with a temp of 52°. We have been out walking in the rain all day and it actually felt quite nice, not like the monsoons of the tropics, but a nice steady rain.

We drove in yesterday over the mountains and above the treeline near Guilo. Nothing but barren lands of rock and grass (not quite tundra) and the occasional reindeer off in the distance. Once on the other side, we enjoyed seeing one of Norway's many fjords. Today in Bergen has been a day of playing tourist; visiting museums and exploring the gift shops. This is a major tourist destination with many cruise ships docked here. We can see one of them from our hotel room (a Royal Norweigen line I believe) which to me detracts from the scenic beauty of the city, but at least they keep them out of the historic district.

Tomorrow, we head for a little town on Sognefjord called Gaupne, then on a little north to a B&B situated at the foot of a glacier. Weather permitting, we'll be climbing the glacier for a couple hours to see just what one is like.

I realise I can only attach one photo per post, so I'll describe each one briefly. The one below is of the "almost" tundra we passed through:


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 09:55 am:

One of the many stavekirkes (stave churches) of Norway:


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 09:57 am:

A Norweigen fjord that we had to cross by ferry:


By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 10:00 am:

The Bryggen District of Bergen, Norway:


More photos to come.....

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 01:46 pm:

Capt. Paul (Eclogite):
"… I realise I can only attach one photo per post …"

What? There certainly is no such technical limitation, and any such rule that may apply in either of the "traditional "Cam Notes" or "What'sUP" sections of this forum certainly shouldn't apply here!

Just insert into the text of your message as many formatting tags of the form:
as desired.

The placement relative to the text is critical. That is, if the formatting tag appears between two lines of text as above, that is where the message will appear; if the formatting tag appears in the middle of a line of text \image{hint} like this, that is where the image will appear1. If two or more formatting tags appear with no space between them (either vertically or horizontally), there will likewise be no space between the resulting images1, perhaps rendering it difficult to determine where one image ends and the next begins.

Thus for a series of messages, it is generally best to stack them vertically, with at least one blank line (or perhaps a caption and one or more blank lines) between each.

The "hint" used in each message tag of this form serves no purpose other than to allow you to include a "hint" for each image, which will be displayed to you at each upload prompt during the message uploading phase, to indicate which specific image that upload prompt refers to (this clearly is only of value if you have specified a number of images in a single message).

[1 Subject to real estate limitations in the message display space.]

By Shirley Waggoner (Shirlohio) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 04:24 pm:

Capt. Paul, those are really nice the 'stave church'. Thanks for sharing yours and Dr. Nat's travels.

By Alex "UP-Goldwinger" (Alex) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 07:41 pm:

Thanks,Capt. for the pics!
Next best thing to being there.

By Deb S. (Usedtobeayooper) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 08:46 pm:

Thanks so much for sharing, Capt!! Those are great pictures! Glad you guys are enjoying your trip:-)

By jbuck (Jbuck) on Sunday, July 22, 2012 - 09:35 pm:

Great pictures and interesting play-by-play Capt!

Almost missed the updates...... maybe you could put
a note on 'What's up' when you have posted some new
photos? Oh, maybe not, don't want anyone upset!!

Mary says: I think that's an excellent idea, Jbuck! And I don't see any reason why a note with a link to this page, would upset anyone. Go for it!

By Shirley Waggoner (Shirlohio) on Thursday, July 26, 2012 - 06:10 pm:

I think that's a good idea too, 'cause I almost forgot to come 'over here' and check. But I see there's nothing recent. :(

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, August 3, 2012 - 05:44 pm:

I tried to post a few more pics but apparently the system I'm on here doesn't like sending photos; I'll try again later.

I can say we've visited a lot more neat places, including getting underground at a working iron ore mine in Kiruna, Sweden. Monday we visit another old copper mining area that supplied the Kings of Sweden for over 1,000 years....

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Tuesday, March 12, 2013 - 03:54 pm:

Hi. I'm wondering what the good Capt Paul & the good Dr Nat are thinking about these sinkholes suddenly appearing in many different places. Just a week or so ago, the guy in Florida (near Tampa) fell into a sinkhole while he was sleeping in his bed in his house, and his body will never be recovered: he was buried alive. And then yesterday or today, the golfer on the Illinois side, but near St Louis, fell into a sinkhole while he was playing golf. Fortunately, the other two members of his twosome were quick thinking enough to be able to figure out a way to pull him out of his deep hole. I heard the Florida one had something to do with acidic water eating underground limestone structures? What about the golf course one near St Louis? I have been warned about the salt mines around Detroit, I think it is. Why is all of this stuff happening, seemingly all of a sudden? Many thanks for your thoughts! :-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 12:08 am:

Sinkholes are nothing new; I even alluded to one earlier in this thread in Daisetta, Texas. Sinkholes form (commonly) where there are carbonate rocks in the subsurface in the form of limestone, but they can also form in salt beds and salt domes which are near the surface. These rocks are very easily dissolved by groundwater flowing through them, eating them away until a subterranean cavern or tunnel is formed. Another way sinkholes can form is when the groundwater filling an underground cavern is drained away during a drought or if the flow of groundwater has been diverted, either naturally or purposely. Without the water supporting the roof from below, the roof above crumbles. In both cases, the roof of the cavern becomes too weak to support the weight of the soil above it and can collapse.

Sinkholes can be slow to form or can collapse very suddenly like the ones recently in Florida and St. Louis. I really don't believe the number of sinkholes being formed has increased; rather, I believe because both of cases were "high-profile" in which people were injured, they have received enormous amounts of publicity and thus they are everywhere on tv.

Hope this helps........

By kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 09:24 am:

Thanks, Capt. Paul. My husband and I were in Florida (near Tampa)
when the one sinkhole incident happened. We all appreciate having
a resident geologist to consult!

By Marianne Y (Marianne) on Sunday, March 17, 2013 - 01:17 pm:

Thank you, Capt. Paul. I was especially curious on the one that was on the Illinois side of St. Louis, since we normally hear of them mainly in Florida. I think the St. Louis/Illinois area might have been in the recent corn belt drought, so your explanation makes sense! I find it interesting that I don't remember hearing much about sink holes in the past.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Friday, March 22, 2013 - 12:49 pm:

St, Louis and the surrounding areas are underlain by lots of carbonates as well. Just think about all those "Merrimack Cavern" signs you see for 500 miles in every direction...... ;-)

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, April 29, 2013 - 07:48 am:

I guess I should have mentioned before that most of our photos from Norway have been posted to our photo gallery now.

To see them, click HERE

By kosk in Toronto (Koskintoronto) on Monday, April 29, 2013 - 03:13 pm:

Thanks for the link Captain Paul. You two sure look like you were
having fun. I was especially fond of the picture of Dr. Nat with the
troll.I can't believe you were hanging off of that mountain peak,
Capt. I was surprised to see the pictures of the lupines. I don't
remember seeing any when I was in Norway, but maybe that was so
many decades ago, I wouldn't be expected to remember that. What
a gorgeous country Norway is.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, July 15, 2013 - 03:29 pm:

Good afternoon PastyCammers!

As many of you probably already know, Dr. Nat and I will be in the UP beginning July 22. We have been requested to visit several geologically interesting areas and photograph them for an upcoming book. As I photograph these areas, I will be placing them in our gallery for review for the group that has requested them; however, I will also be putting them on this page and adding some commentary as to what you're looking at. I'm hoping this will be a fun little project and it might give me a few ideas for the future.

By Capt. Paul (Eclogite) on Monday, July 10, 2017 - 08:18 pm:

Is this page still active??

By FRNash/PHX, AZ (Frnash) on Monday, July 10, 2017 - 08:38 pm:

Those Keweenaw rocks have been pretty quiet, but yep 'tis alive!

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