Sunday, February 05, 2017

Drunk on Geology - Coal Mine Tempranillo

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Coal Mine Tempranillo from the Coal Mine Vineyards.

Text from the back of the bottle:
"Coal Mine Vineyard is located in Oregon near the old Black Bear Mine which was operated during the early 1900's. This vineyards labor of love is dedicated to my grandfather James Thomas McArdle and to all those who have sacrificed their lives working in coal mines. My grandfather's life in the mines started in England when he was 13 years old. He continued in the mines of Hanna, Wyoming after immigrating here in 1919. For each year of production I wish to share with you the history of this miner's life and history of the coal mines in Hanna. This year I wish to thank my father, Francis Gerals McArdle, only son to James and Gladys (Sykes) for his unwavering love and dedication, my family who have supported me throughout this endeavor and to Nancy who operates the Hanna Museum."
"The Black Bear mine, situated about 2 1/2 miles northwest of Galice, on the south fork of Rocky Gulch, is owned by the Black Bear Mining & Milling Co. Several tunnels, one of which is about 1,000 feet in length, and a 30-foot shaft constitute the development work. The country rock is greenstone near its contact with serpentine that is derived in part from pyroxenite. A vertical belt of quartz veinlets and kidneys 2 1/2 feet in width runs nearly north and south approximately parallel to the contact. Other quartz veins, some of which carry pyrite, run nearly east and west at right angles to those mentioned above. The ore, which is rich in pyrite, with some chalcopyrite, is scattered rather irregularly in the vein belt. About 4 tons of ore has been obtained from the 30-foot tunnel, and its value as shown by assays is said to range from $4 to $27 a ton, chiefly in gold and a little copper. Some of the ore is cut by shearing plains, on which the slickensided ore shows decided movement since the ore was deposited."
Well, it appears that the coal mine from which the winery takes its name was not meant to be the Black Bear mine near where it is located. The mine that the winery is adjacent to is primarily a gold mine, however there is a "Black Bear" Coal Mine in the area, it's just not as well researched as the gold mine. Here is some information from a report on the coal mine from 1942:
"The coal was sampled according to instruction; that is, including everything except what would be thrown out under normal mining conditions. The sample section is as follows:
Coal                                     3.8 feetBone (excluded)                  0.7 feetCoal                                     0.8 feetBone (excluded)                  0.3 feetCoal                                     1.7 feet
This includes a lot of dull, brownish material which undoubtedly has heating properties but which might be excluded as a result of careful working. The mine is an old one and was once owned by the Pacific Coal Company and by Southern Pacific who worked it until they changed to oil. Three coal seams are reported. The lower one was mined was mined by Southern Pacific, the upper one was mined by a man named R. P. Little, and the middle bed is the one being worked at present."

Looking at the back of the bottle, it does state that the winery is named after the coal mines of Hanna, Wyoming though. Moving on to Hanna, Wyoming, there is a "Hanna Coal Field"

The Hanna Coal Field contains at least 3 notable mines in the area (all of which have been closed down), the Medicine Bow Mine, Rosebud Mining and Reclamation, and the Seminoe II Mine. The Medicine Bow mine, takes coal out of the Medicine Bow Formation (Upper Cretaceous) and the Ferris Formation (Upper Cretaceous and Paleocene). The other two mines are located within the Hanna Formation (Paleocene). 

Here are a couple of strat columns from the USGS for my geologically inclined audience showing the degree of coal pervasion in the region. You can also get a brief history of Hanna, Wyoming and it's coal mine here:

So, even though the Coal Mine, for which the winery is named is not the mine it is adjacent to, there is still quite a bit of geology associated with the name and the location in which it is founded.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1300's and 1400's AD: Dragons in the late Medieval Ages

We continue on to our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: 1300's and 1400's AD
Dragons in the late Medieval Ages

Continuing from last time, we are looking at dragons and how they evolved through the Middle Ages. I was recently having a conversation about dragons and I was asked if it could honestly be said that dragons evolved through local discoveries of dinosaur bones. And while, it can not be absolutely proven that dragons stem from dinosaurs (it's likely not even possible that scientists could prove one way or the other that they are linked), I think it is a safe assumption that there is some historical linkage between the two. 

As mentioned before a good website to find information on Medieval beasts is The Medieval Bestiary though.  Another good source is the British Library, which has some crossover between the sources and is a good check on the sources. Images below can be found at this link:

Dragons in the 1300's

Dragon's in the 1300's continued along the very familiar lines of the 1200's. Here is depicted a dragon at the base of the Peridexion tree, with the same physical attributes as before. These include the large hind legs, big ears, and wings, although this particular example appears to not have any wings present. This image can be found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Bodley 912.

More images of dragons from the 1300's. These are interesting in that they appear to have feathers or fur of some variety. In the 1200's some of the dragons appeared to have some feathers on their wings but not to the degree that these show. Top row left image is of a dragon supposedly licking somebody, although to me it looks like it is vomiting. Both top row images with the feathery wings can found in Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 308.  Both bottom row images with the bat-like wings can be found in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, KA 16.

The above image is of a wood carving of a bat with four legs, which is rare but not unheard of from the 1200's. This bat also shows leathery bat wings instead of the bird like wings of the drawings. This carving is from the Cartmel Priory, from Cartmel, England and the image can be found in  Wood Carvings in English Churches: Misericords by Francis Bond (1910).

Dragons in the 1400's

There is a continued stagnation of dragon development through the end of the Middle Ages, although the drawings do seem to get more detailed.

More dragons at the base of the Peridexion tree. The interesting item of note here, is that the dragon on the left appears to have something running down the midline of its back and tail. Hard to tell what they are supposed to represent although they do look like octopus suckers. Perhaps they supposed to be spikes? This isn't a one off occurrence either as can be seen in a dragon illustrated below with the same circle pattern. The image on the left is from the Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º (Bestiarius - Bestiary of Ann Walsh). The image on the right is from the Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25.

More of the same types of dragons as before. These often in more detail though. The top row dragon on the left does have that circular pattern running down its tail though. Perhaps it is no coincidence that both images are from the same book, the Kongelige Bibliotek, Gl. kgl. S. 1633 4º (Bestiarius - Bestiary of Ann Walsh). The well feather specimen on the top row, right is from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, KB, 72 A 23 (Liber Floridus). The leathery bottom row dragon with the bat-like wings is from the Museum Meermanno, MMW, 10 B 25.

These carvings (also illustrated in the Wood Carvings in English Churches: Misericords by Francis Bond (1910) like the image above) can be found in the Carlisle Cathedral, Carlisle, England. As seen above, these dragons are pictured with more a bat wing appearance, however the other attributes remain the same.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

What are....Meteorites, Meteoroids, Meteors, Asteroids, and Comets

I occasionally do a set of blogs called "What are...". Here is the next one in the series.

I was reading a book with my daughter, book 8 of the Magic Tree House series - Midnight on the Moon (her current favorite series of books to read) and I came across this passage that seemed off to me:

The main part I was stuck on was:
"Rocks of all sizes crash into the moon from outer space. These rocks are called meteorites."
From what I could remember, meteorite is a term specifically reserved for rocks that crash into Earth. But did it apply to rocks that crashed into the moon (or other planets for that matter) as well? Looking into it, no. This was incorrect. Meteorites are rocks that specifically have traveled through our atmosphere and crashed into the Earth.

So what would be an object that crashed into the moon?  Turns out that NASA scientists just refer to them as meteoroids, as can be seen in this story - A Meteoroid Hits the Moon.

So what are the differences between a meteor, meteorite, meteoroid, asteroid, and comet?

Meteoroid - These are chunks of rock that are floating in space that are smaller than a kilometer in diameter (

Meteor - This is just the flash of light, a shooting star, that you see in the night sky as a meteoroid falls through the atmosphere and starts to burn up. This is not the physical object that is falling (

Meteorite - A meteorite is a meteoroid that has survived entry through the Earth's atmosphere and has crash landed on the surface of the Earth ( This term seems to be exclusive to rocks found on Earth, since terms like "Martian meteorite" or "lunar meteorite" are for meteorites found on Earth that originated from Mars or the moon respectively.

Comet - A comet is a body of ice, rock, and organic compounds that can be up to several miles in diameter. "Comets are thought to originate from a region beyond the orbits of the outermost planets. Scientists believe that gravitational perturbations periodically jar comets out of this population, setting these "dirty snowballs" on orbital courses that bring them closer to the Sun. Some, called long-period comets, are in elliptical orbits of the Sun that take them far out beyond the planets and back. Others, called short-period comets, travel in shorter orbits nearer the Sun" (

Asteroid - "Most asteroids are made of rock, but some are composed of metal, mostly nickel and iron. They range in size from small boulders to objects that are hundreds of miles in diameter. A small portion of the asteroid population may be burned-out comets whose ices have evaporated away and been blown off into space. Almost all asteroids are part of the Main Asteroid Belt, with orbits in the vast region of space between Mars and Jupiter. In space, a large rocky body in orbit about the Sun is referred to as an asteroid or minor planet whereas much smaller particles in orbit about the Sun are referred to as meteoroids" (

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Drunk on Geology - Ichthyosaur "Icky" IPA

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Ichthyosaur "Icky" IPA from the Great Basin Brewing Company.

Ichthyosaur "Icky" IPA is named after the state fossil of Nevada, the Ichthyosaur (genus Shonisaurus).  

Text from the front of the box:
Ichthyosaur India Pale Ale is brewed from the heart. It was our first "brewmaster's special" when we opened our doors in 1993 and, enduring the test of time, remains our most popular beer today. Richly hoppy, aromatic and ever so satisfying."
"A brew more than 200 million years in the making."

Some text from the Great Basin Brewing Co. website:
 "Long before there was humankind, there was the mighty Ichthyosaur.
Ichthyosaurs, Greek for "fish lizard," were reptiles that had fish and dolphin-like characteristics and ruled the ancient seas at the same time the dinosaurs roamed on land. The fossil specimens found in central Nevada swam some 217 million years ago. They are among the largest ever unearthed, reaching 50 feet in length. Take some Ichthyosaur IPA with you when you visit the fossil display at the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park in central Nevada, both natural wonders. Available in 6-Packs."

 "Named after Nevada's official state fossil"
Ichthyosaur photo courtesy of Benjamin Hager and the Las Vegas Review Journal
An actual fossil of an Ichthyosaur (genus Shonisaurus) from the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas, NV. You can see that they greatly resemble modern day dolphins, a result of convergent evolution resulting in similar body phenotypes. The phenotype of an animal is the "set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction of its genotype with the environment" ( Ichthyosaurs, and their "cousins" the plesiosaurs, are often terms aquatic "dinosaurs", however, these animals were not dinosaurs. A better term for them would be aquatic reptiles, since they branched off of the evolutionary tree after the evolution of the archosauromorpha (also known as reptiles) but before the evolution of the traditional dinosaurs (dinosauromorpha).

Nevada is the only state where a complete Ichthyosaur skeleton has been found. It was approximately 55 feet long and found in Berlin, Nevada ( The area where the ichthyosaurs were found is now protected in the Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. The park is "home to the most abundant concentration, and largest known remains, of Ichthyosaurs, an ancient marine reptile that swam in a warm ocean that covered central Nevada 225 million years ago. The fossils are protected and displayed at the park’s Fossil House."

Text from the top of the box:
"You better hold on tight. This is one tough species."

Thursday, January 19, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1100's and 1200's AD: Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

For our next entry in DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: 1100's and 1200's AD
Dragons in the early Medieval Ages

Even though much writing and other information has been lost from the Medieval Ages, there is still some sources available about what people thought about dragons during that time. During this period it is unclear though if the myth of dragons had stemmed from the discovery of more dinosaurs, or had slowly been evolving on its own, building upon itself as time went by. 

A good website to find information on Medieval beasts is The Medieval Bestiary though.  Another good source is the British Library, which has some crossover between the sources and is a good check on the sources. Images below can be found at this link:

Dragons in the 1100's
I cannot find many examples of dragons in the 1100's or earlier. But the dragons during this time period are depicted in the one work I found to be rather small. They kind of have a dog appearance, however they only have hindlimbs (no front limbs) and large wings (compared to their body size). 

The images above were found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Ashmole 1462(De medicina ex animalibus).

Dragons in the 1200's

As time continued into the 1200's, a feature of dragons that was common during this time was their morphological characteristics. More often than not, they were portrayed with large wings, large rear legs, no front limbs at all, and large ears. Their general body shape was elongate/worm like with enlarged torsos. The one thing that has evolved in them since the 1100's is that they are now depicted much larger, often depicted in association with elephants to emphasize this. Their ears and hind legs have also grown in proportion to the body, as compared to the previous century.

This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 14429.

In some myths, the dragon took on the embodiment of Satan, where in this instance the doves are Christians trying to be protected from being devoured. The tree is referred to as a Peridexion tree and can be seen a few times in the literature. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Douai, MS 711 (De Natura animalium) and the one on the right from the British Library, Harley MS 3244.

 Some more dragons near some Peridexion trees. The image on the left can be found in the Bibliothèque Municipale de Lyon, MS P.A. 78 (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc) and the image on the right can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, fr. 1444b (Bestiaire of Guillaume le Clerc).

Another version of the dragon showing the "standard" morphological features. This image can be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, lat. 6838B,

 Another version of a dragon with two sets of wings and legs. I assume, based on the preponderance of only legged dragons during this time, that the front set it not meant to represent front limbs, rather another set of hind limbs. This image can be found in the British Library, Harley MS 3244.

 Another dragon, presented much the same as those above except this one is shown in comparison to an elephant to illustrate its size. This image can be found in the British Library, Sloane MS 278 (Aviarium / Dicta Chrysostomi)

This image I found to be rather peculiar compared to the previous ones. The hind limbs have almost taken on a front limb characteristic, and the illustration seems to have much more detail and colors than the others. This image can be found in the Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 167.

Next time we will continue through the Medieval Ages with the 1300's and 1400's.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Random Dino Pic - Bird Footprints

Another random pic I had come across. Some modern dinosaur (bird) prints along Jones Beach on Long Island. These are likely seagull prints if I recall correctly. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Random Geology Photos - Flight over the Great Salt Lake

Going through some old photos, I came across these that I took as we were flying over the Great Salt Lake on my flight from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. 

 A view of the salt marshes to the east of the Great Salt Lake.

 Antelope Island, which was formerly an island in the lake, however dropping water levels have exposed the land to the east of the island, no longer making this an island. 

 Another former island, Stansbury Island, which is further to the west. 

 Not exactly of the Great Salt Lake, but in the middle of this photograph is what is called the "Stockton Bar". You can partially see it at the foot of the smaller mountain in the center of the picture. The Stockton Bar is a sandbar located in the Tooele Valley (the valley one over from the Salt Lake Valley) from the old Lake Bonneville. 

A view looking back at the Great Salt Lake from the south, where you can see some of the rock formations in the Oquirrh (pronounced o-ker) Mountains. This is the mountain range on the western edge of the Salt Lake Valley.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Drunk on Geology - Allosaurus Amber Ale

The next up in our Drunk on Geology series is Allosaurus Amber Ale by Vernal Brewing Company.

The Vernal Brewing Company is located near Dinosaur National Monument (of which I had done a Geology Through the National Parks post on before), which is famous for it's Jurassic age fossil wall. This wall contains several different species of dinosaurs in situ (where they had been found), including Allosaurus, Stegosaurus, Apatosaurus, Camarasaurus, and Diplodocus.

The beer is named after the state fossil of Utah, Allosaurus fragilis. Quarries in the area of the brewery have produced abundant quantities of this apex predator. These quarries can be found at the Dinosaur National Monument as well as in central Utah near Price at the Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry.

Allosaurus fragilis from the Natural History Museum of Utah.
Allosaurus lived 140 million years ago in the Late Jurassic. The size of these beasts ranged from 25 to 35 feet long and had 4 inch long teeth. The Allosaurus is known as a theropod, meaning that it ate meat. It is also an ancestor to modern day birds. Due to the large number of Allosaurus fossils that are found together in both Vernal and Price, it is thought that Allosaurus may have hunted in packs.

From the can:
"If walls could talk, they'd tell you about prehistoric beasts and modern day savages! Dinosaur National Monument holds over 1,500 fossil bones under one roof."
The fossil wall at Dinosaur National Monument. Home to many an Allosaurus

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~800 AD: Of Beowulf and Dragons

For our next entry, we move on from the Prehistoric Times into the Medieval Times:

Medieval Times: ~800 AD
Of Beowulf and Dragons

"He heeded not the fire, though grievously it scorched his hand, but smote the worm [dragon] underneath, where the skin failed somewhat in hardness."
 One of the hallmarks of the Medieval time period was, of course, dragons, and the knights that rode in to slay them. Beowulf was one of the first pieces of literature to present the dragon, along with the now synonymous fire breathing aspect of it.  

Even though there are no illustrations from the period of Beowulf to show what contemporary people thought the dragon would have looked like, here is a 1908 illustration by J. R. Skelton, which is as far removed from modern interpretations as I could find in reference to Beowulf specifically.
Similar to the gryphon, cyclops, Amazonians before, bones of dinosaurs are thought to be the basis for the dragon mythology. Ancient people would find the bones and build legends around them, much like they did in Ancient Rome and Greece. However, in this instance the beasts that were created became dragons, with an ever expanding array of features like fire breathing, armored skin, and wings. Unlike dragons of modern day though, the dragons on the middle ages appeared more "worm-like" as mentioned in the Beowulf text. As we continue on through the middle ages, this will become more pronounced.

One fossil find that is even named after dragons because of it's uncanny resemblance to what we know of today as dragons is the pachycephalosaur Dracorex

Dracorex at the Children's Museum of Indianapolis, photo by David Orr
Although not discovered until 2003, it is unlikely that this specific species of dinosaur was the source of the dragon mythology. But it is not out of the realm of possibility that other similar fossils sparked the medieval imagination.

The next few posts will follow the "evolution" of dragons through the Middle Ages to see how they have "evolved" in medieval culture.

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture


Friday, December 09, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~100 AD: Battle of the Amazonians

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture

For our next entry, we continue on the island of Samos with the last entry in the "Prehistoric Times" (at least for now).

Prehistoric Times: ~100 AD

A long time after Euphorion talked about the Neades (about 300 years), Plutarch came and also came up with a reason for the bones on the island. Plutarch talked about a tale where the god Dionysus tried to recruit the giant Amazon warriors, however they refused, and Dionysus pursued them to Samos. A great battle took place and the Amazonians were slaughtered in "fields of blood". 

The majority of Samos is covered with white and beige sediments and rocks, however there is a significant deposit of red sediments with many white fossil bones eroding out of them. The localities of these deposits coincide with the locations of battles depicted on ancient maps.

Samos red rock fossil beds (Soulinias, 2007)
The deposits of these fossils were found within a volcanic tuffa that was interbedded with sandy marls and gravels from the Early Miocene. The variety of mammals within the fossil beds is astounding, ranging from Mastodons, rhinos, and hyenas, to flightless birds (Forsyth Major, 1893).  

One of the most common fossils that are found on the island is that of the Prehistoric horse, Hippotherium. Coincidently (or perhaps not), the Amazonian's were known to have rode horses into battle.

Skeleton of Hippotherium from Wikipedia

Mayor, Adrienne. 2000. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Soulinias, N. (2007). Samos Island, Part II: ancient history of the Samos fossils and the record of earthquakes. Inside the Aegean Metamorphic Core Complexes: Journal of the virtual explorer, electronic edition.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - ~220 BC: The Neades

A while ago I started a series I termed "DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture", describing how the science and just mere existence of dinosaurs (and sometimes other prehistoric beasts) have influenced culture and pop culture. 

For a full listing of all of the entries you can click here: DINOSAURS!: From Cultural to Pop Culture

For our next entry, we have:

Prehistoric Times: ~220 BC

Samos is a Greek island located in the Aegean Sea, near present day Turkey:

Location of Samo from Sarris et al, 2007

This island has been written about numerous times in the ancient past. One of the notable examples was the following:
" primeval times Samos was uninhabited [except for] animals of gigantic size, which were savage and dangerous, called Neades. Now these animals with their mere roaring split the ground. So there is a proverbial saying in Samos: 'So and so roars louder than the Neades.' And Euphorion asserts that their huge remains are displayed even to this day"
Euphorion (~220 BC)
Quoted in On Animals by Aelian (3rd Century AD) 
The Neades seem to be similar to other ancient beasts, the works of authors finding the fossils and trying to come up with story to explain them.  Below are some of the fossils that have been found on the island of Samos and have been dated to the Tourolio during the Early Miocene (


The original writings of Euphorion had been lost, but the above section had been quoted by the natural historian Aelian in the 3rd century AD. Fossils today have been found in the Mytilini basin, which is located north of the village of Mytilini on Samos, along a major fault zone on Samos. Faults = earthquakes. Perhaps the ancient Greeks equated the earthquakes with the roar of the Neades (Soulinias, 2007)

Euphorion's quote also seems to focus on the fossils being put on display. It was discovered that around the 7th century BC a large fossil thighbone was placed on an altar of the Temple of Hera, a popular place at the time (Kyrieleis, 1988). It is likely that Euphorion saw the thighbone and created a tale of his own to explain it. 

Besides Euphorion's tale, Not much is written about the neades (I couldn't even find a picture), but Samos continued to be a focal point where paleontology influenced the culture of the time period. Next time we will look at when Plutarch makes a more impactful statement about what he thinks the fossils came from.

Kyrieleis, H. (1988). Offerings of the common man in the Heraion at Samos. Early Greek cult practice, 215-21.

Mayor, Adrienne. 2000. The First Fossil Hunters: Paleontology in Greek and Roman Times. Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ

Sarris, D., Christodoulakis, D., & Koerner, C. (2007). Recent decline in precipitation and tree growth in the eastern Mediterranean. Global Change Biology, 13(6), 1187-1200.

Soulinias, N. (2007). Samos Island, Part II: ancient history of the Samos fossils and the record of earthquakes. Inside the Aegean Metamorphic Core Complexes: Journal of the virtual explorer, electronic edition.