Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Geology Through Literature - The Last of the Mohicans

The next up on my Geology Through Literature thread is The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper published in 1826. You can get my complete thoughts on the book/story over at my blog - The Remnant, but for here I will just go into the geological or basic scientific aspects that are brought up in the story.

There is only one instance of geology that I could find worth mentioning but it is a long one. 

Midway through Chapter 6

     A spectral-looking figure stalked from out of the darkness behind the scout, and seizing a blazing brand, held it toward the further extremity of their place of retreat. Alice uttered a faint shriek, and even Cora rose to her feet, as this appalling object moved into the light; but a single word from Heyward calmed them, with the assurance it was only their attendant, Chingachgook, who, lifting another blanket, discovered that the cavern had two outlets. Then, holding the brand, he crossed a deep, narrow chasm in the rocks which ran at right angles with the passage they were in, but which, unlike that, was open to the heavens, and entered another cave, answering to the description of the first, in every essential particular. 
     "Such old foxes as Chingachgook and myself are not often caught in a barrow with one hole," said Hawkeye, laughing; "you can easily see the cunning of the place - the rock is black limestone, which everybody knows is soft; it makes no uncomfortable pillow, where brush and pine wood is scarce; well, the fall was once a few yards below us, and I dare to say was, in its time, as regular and as handsome a sheet of water as any along the Hudson. But old age is a great injury to good looks, as these sweet young ladies have yet to l'arn! The place is sadly changed! These rocks are full of cracks, and in some places they are softer than at othersome, and the water has worked out deep hollows for itself, until it has fallen back, ay, some hundred feet, breaking here and wearing there, until the falls have neither shape nor consistency." 
     "In what part of them are we?" asked Heyward. 
     "Why, we are nigh the spot that Providence first placed them at, but where, it seems, they were too rebellious to stay. The rock proved softer on each side of us, and so they left the center of the river bare and dry, first working out these two little holes for us to hide in." 
     "We are then on an island!" 
     "Ay! there are the falls on two sides of us, and the river above and below. If you had daylight, it would be worth the trouble to step up on the height of this rock, and look at the perversity of the water. It falls by no rule at all, sometimes it leaps, sometimes it tumbles; there it skips; here it shoots; in one place 'tis white as snow, and in another 'tis green as grass; hereabouts, it pitches into deep hollows, that rumble and crush the 'arth; and thereaways, it ripples and sings like a brook, fashioning whirlpools and gullies in the old stone, as it 'twas no harder than trodden clay. The whole design of the river seems disconcerted. First it runs smoothly, as if meaning to go down the descent as things were ordered; then it angles about and faces the shores; nor are there places wanting where it looks backward, as if unwilling to leave the wilderness, to mingle with the salt. Ay, lady, the fine cobweb-looking cloth you wear at your throat is coarse, and like a fishnet, to little spots I can show you, where the river fabricates all sorts of images, as if having broke loose from order, it would try its hand at everything. And yet what does it amount to! After the water has been suffered so to have its will, for a time, like a headstrong man, it is gathered together by the hand that made it, and a few rods below you may see it all, flowing on steadily toward the sea, as was foreordained from the first foundation of the 'arth!" 
     While his auditors received a cheering assurance of the security of their place of concealment from this untutored description of Glenn's, they were much inclined to judge differently from Hawkeye, of its wild beauties. 

The location being described above is Glens Falls (spelled "Glenn's" in the story) on the Hudson River in current day New York. Although the story is fiction, the caves are based on an actual set of caves located on an island within the Hudson River at Glens Falls. The caves have been named in honor of James Fenimore Cooper for popularizing the caves and are now known as Cooper's Cave

Aerial view of the river showing the island, which currently has a bridge laying on top of it (I'm pretty sure the bridge did not exist in the time of the story).

An excellent image of Cooper's Cave (center crack) from the Wireman blog

Given the extraordinary detail that Cooper gives into describing cave formation in the story, I feel I really don't have much to add in that regards. It sounds good and it's pretty spot on with how it actually likely occurred.

The black limestone in question is a fossiliferous unit called the Glens Falls Limestone, and it is part of the Trenton Group from the Late Ordovician (Mohawkian).

Here is some text on the area from the Historic American Engineering Record on Glens Falls Dam:

The Glens Falls Dam is situated at the head of Glens Falls on the Hudson River, a natural rock descent over Glens Falls limestone. The top of the falls is at an elevation of approximately 256 feet. A descent of 36 feet of the limestone bedrock occurs over a horizontal distance of 200 to 320 feet, culminating in a pool at the bottom of the falls with an elevation of 220 feet. Two channels have developed at the falls. The secondary channel lies toward the south side of the Hudson River. The main channel is closer to the north side of the river. Since the main channel carries more water than the secondary channel, it has eroded upstream at a faster rate. Therefore, the falls begin farther upstream on the north side of the river than on the south side. This difference in erosion rates has determined the position and shape of the Glens Falls Dam. Instead of being a single straight-line structure perpendicular to the water's flow, and spanning the river from bank to bank, the Glens Falls Dam is constructed in three sections that follow the arc of the highest part of the bedrock at the top of the falls.

The Glens Falls Limestone can be subdivided into the into a lower unit, the Larrabee Limestone, and an upper unit, the Shoreham limestone. The limestone itself is abundantly fossiliferous and formed in the deeper-shelf  (Garver, 1995).

Here is a bit of the basic description of the unit from Geolex:
Named the Glens Falls limestone of the Trenton group for Glens Falls, Warren Co., eastern NY. Consists of thin layers of very fossiliferous limestone with shale intercalations near top and a 2 inch conglomerate layer at base. Contains ripple marks and other signs of shallow water conditions. Basal unit of Trenton group. Thickness is 17 feet. Overlies the Tribes Hill limestone or the Amsterdam limestone and underlies the Canajoharie shale. Fossils indicate that the Glens Falls is of Middle Ordovician age.

And a little bit of more in depth information from the US Geological Survey.
Middle Ordovician New York and Vermont and Ontario Canada  
G.M., Kay, 1937, Geol. Soc. America Bull., v. 48, no. 2, p. 264-267. 
Member of Sherman Fall formation. Constitutes zone of Cryptolithus tesselatus Green, the limestones of lowest Sherman Fall age. In type region, beds comprise upper Glens Falls limestone, overlie lower Glens Falls Larrabee member of Hull age, and underlie Canajoharie shale of later Sherman Fall age. Beds consistently contain Cryptolithus tessclatus, which is limited to the member and Prasopora orientalis Ulrich and Trematis terminalis Emmons. This zone persists in the Sherman Fall northwestward to Lennox and Addington County, Ont., in the equivalent beds of northern Lake Champlain, and northeastward to city of Quebec. In type section, lower 36 feet of member is exposed. Along Mohawk Valley, member is composed of 15 to 25 feet of dark-gray calcareous claystones and shales that contrast with subjacent Larrabee member, and are succeeded abruptly by Canajoharie shale. Member has exposed thickness of 30 feet north of McBrides Bay, South Hero Township, Grande Isle County, VT, with a metabentonite 11 feet from base. Overlying beds are Cumberland Head shaly limestone and Stony Point shale, both of later Sherman Fall age. In New York underlies Denmark member (new).

And there you have it. Another piece of evidence that a piece of historical literature can turn a geological based location into a landmark.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dinos in Pop Culture - Animal Kingdom: Part 5

Back to the series of Dinos in Pop Culture in Animal Kingdom.

- In Part 1 we looked at the dinos outside of the area called DinoLand U.S.A.
- In Part 2 we went to the carnival at "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!"
- In Part 3 we excavated in The Boneyard
- In Part 4 we look at Sue and the dinosaurs around DINOSAUR the ride

And for the last part we are going to look at many of the miscellaneous dinosaurs around DinoLand U.S.A:

Our last post about Dinoland U.S.A. and currently for Disney World in general.

General location of the pictures for this post.

Neighboring "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!" is Chester and Hester's Dinosaur Treasures store. Here we are looking at the front of the store and neighboring DinoRama!.

On the way to the store we have this random billboard. 

And then there is this thing that has always fascinated me. Reminds me of the Crystal Palace dinosaurs but I don't think even they were this gaudy. 

Front entrance to the store with the appropriate billboards for the authentic time period. 

Another billboard over the store. 

Within the store we have a plethora of dinosaurs littered about. 

With tons hung up from the ceiling.

And out the back door of the store a random dinosaur to play on. There were actually several dinosaurs like this but it was getting dark by this time and I couldn't really take pictures of them.

 Another Dino Institute logo. 

 My favorite sign of the entire park right here for "Trilo-bites".

 Random dino skull and hands next to "Gargantuasarus World Tours". 

And that is it for our look around at the dinosaurs within Walt Disney World. Thanks for sticking through it.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Dinos in Pop Culture - Animal Kingdom: Part 4

Back to the series of Dinos in Pop Culture in Animal Kingdom.

- In Part 1 we looked at the dinos outside of the area called DinoLand U.S.A.
- In Part 2 we went to the carnival at "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!"
- In Part 3 we excavated in The Boneyard

Today we are going an area within DinoLand U.S.A around:

I did not actually ride the DINOSAUR ride, either this year or the previous year for various reasons so these pictures are primarily from the area surrounding the ride. There is one very notable inclusion from this area which I will go into below.

 Here is the main entrance to the DINOSAUR ride with Aladar the Iguanodon from the movie Dinosaur (2000). 

Here is the text from the ride website:
A Joyride to the Dinosaur AgeTravel back in time on a perilous race to rescue an Iguanodon before the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs strikes.Step inside the pristine halls of The Dino Institute, a one-time secret research facility and museum that is home to real fossils dating back to when dinosaurs walked the earth. Stroll past prehistoric exhibits and behold the colossal skeleton of the carnivorous Carnotaurus, one of history’s most feared dinosaurs. 
A Secret Mission Make your way into the research control center and watch an informative video about your expedition into the primeval past. The briefing takes a turn when you’re recruited to rescue an Iguanodon from extinction and return to the present with the 3.5-ton dinosaur in tow. There’s just one problem: the date you’ll be visiting is when a giant meteor hit earth and caused the extinction of nearly all living things. 
Blast to the Past! Board a sturdy, 12-seat Time Rover and race through a darkened forest in search of the tagged dinosaur. Speed past a spiky Styracosaurus grappling with a nearby tree. Brace yourself as you careen through unpredictable hairpin turns, a ragged Alioramus foraging for food nearby. Dart around a fearsome Velociraptor hunting for prey and avoid the clutches of a Cearadactylus soaring overhead.As the countdown clock ticks, meteors crash all around you: The end is near. Suddenly, the terrifying roar of an unimaginably huge beast can be heard in the distance. Is it the friendly Iguanodon you’re searching for—or the dreaded Carnotaurus looking for a meal?Time is nearly up. Will you complete your mission and make your escape? Or will you join the dinosaurs and become extinct?
Location of the DINOSAUR ride.

Here is Aladar at night.

 Some posters around the ride building promoting the dinosaurs that you'll find on the ride. 
Here is Alioramus

 Here is Carnotaurus

 And here is Styracosaurus

 But here is the big thing that I wanted to see... SUE!!!!!
If you don't recall, back in 1997 Sue, the T. rex, was sold at auction for one of the highest prices ever paid for a fossil. The purchasing entities were a combination of the McDonald's Corporation, The Chicago Field Museum, and Disney. In return for purchasing the skeleton, Disney acquired a cast of the skeleton, which you see here. The actual skeleton is mounted at the Chicago Field Museum for everyone to see.

 Actual skeleton of Sue with a reconstructed skull at the Chicago Field Museum.

The real, crushed, skull of Sue on display away from the skeleton at the Chicago Field Museum

 Sue in a grainy nighttime photo.

 Slightly better nighttime photo of Sue.

 Sue's informational plaque.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

DINOSAURS: From Cultural to Pop Culture - 1607/1608: The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents


The History of Four-footed Beasts and The History of Serpents by Edward Topsell
"Among all the kindes of Serpents, there is none comparable to the Dragon..." (Edward Topsell)
Illustration of some dragons from Edward Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658) 
In 1607, Edward Topsell wrote The History of Four-Footed Beasts, shortly followed in 1608 by The History of Serpents. Both volumes were eventually combined in 1658 into The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents after Topsell's death. You can actually find a PDF of the book here at Archive.org to check it out yourself, but as far as I am aware the 1658 text is identical to the original text of 1607 and 1608.

The purpose of the volumes was to provide an accurate representation of animals that exist in the world, however Topsell relied on other people's accounts on what was real and what was fictional. It is my understanding that everything Topsell wrote, he believed was real:
"The second thing in this discourse which I have promised to affirm, is the truth of the History of Creatures, for the mark of a good Writer is to follow truth and not deceivable Fables."
Topsell wrote several items of note about dragons in his books as if they were real-life animals.
"The remedies or medicines coming from this beast are these: first, the flesh of them eaten, is good against all pains in the small guts, for it dryeth and flayeth the belly. Pliny affirmeth, that the teeth of a Dragon tyed to the sinews of a Hart in a Roes skin , and wore about ones neck, maketh a man to be gracious to his Superiors... I know that the tail of a Dragon tyed to the Nerves of a Hart in a Roes skin, the suet of a Roe with Goose-grease, the marrow of a Hart, and an Onyon, with Rozen, and running Lime, do wonderfully help the falling Evill, (if it be made into a plaifter.)" (Page 92)
There are many other recipes as well which call for "the head and tail of a dragon" or "the fat of a dragon's heart".

But this has to be my favorite account:
"There are Dragons among the Ethiopians, which are thirty yards or paces long, these have no name among the inhabitants but Elephant-killers. And among the Indians also there is as an inbred and native hateful hostility between Dragons and Elephants: for which cause the Dragons being not ignorant that the Elephants feed upon the fruits and leaves of green trees, do secretly convey themselves into them or to the tops of rocks: covering their hinder part with leaves, and letting his head and fore part hang down like a rope, on a suddain when the Elephant comcth to crop the top of the tree, (he leapeth into his face, and diggeth out his eyes, and because that revenge of malice is too little to satisfie a Serpent, (he twineth her gable like body about the throat of the amazed Elephant, and so strangleth him to death."
There are pages and pages about dragons once you get to the "On the Dragon" portion of the text (pages 701-716) if you want to check it out yourselves. But the most important part of the text is the illustrations (for my purposes). The sketches of the dragons in his book (above and below) aren't any better than dragon depictions from any of the previous Medieval works from the 1400's back through the 1100's

Illustration of another dragon from Edward Topsell's The History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents (1658)
Reading the text, you get why his illustrations resemble previous illustrations of dragons so much. It is because Topsell isn't coming up with any new information himself. He is just taking the information that had been created previously, thinking it is an accurate representation of what there was at the time, and passing it along in the guise of a factual encounter of real-life dragons. 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Dinos in Pop Culture - Animal Kingdom: Part 3

Back to the series of Dinos in Pop Culture in Animal Kingdom. In Part 1, we looked at the dinosaurs in  that were outside of the area called DinoLand U.S.A.. In Part 2 we looked at the area within DinoLand U.S.A. called "Chester and Hester's DinoRama!". Today we are going an area within DinoLand U.S.A called:

The Boneyard has several features within it. First thing you notice as you enter DinoLand U.S.A. is a giant Brachiosaurus skeleton that you walk under.

The Boneyard is "run" by an organization called The Dino Institute. The Institute is a made up organization (at least I'm pretty sure it is) designed to make the experience appear that much more real. Within the Boneyard there are several slides, mazes, stairs, and bridges around fake rock walls will "fossils" built into them.
 A welcoming sign. 

The Dino Institute's logo

A view of a potential dinosaur excavation site.

A large bone within that excavation site.

 A Parasaurolophus skeleton built into one of the walls. 

 Random Mammoth skull. We will come back to the Mammoth. It does have a purpose here.

T. rex skeleton towards the back of the complex,

 Many of the dinosaurus also come with informational signs so that the kids can learn some more about them if they are interested.


Towards one side of the area there is a walkway that brings you across a bridge to another area that is an active "dig". To get there you must now walk essentially within the Brachiosaurus

 Looking up into the Brachiosaurus skeleton as I walk by.

 As you leave the walkway, you can look down into the entire dig. And what are they digging here?

 Why it's a Mammoth! Told you we would come back to that.

 Complete with a descriptive board to give the kids the information that they need.

 Back across the bridge we head to go to the play area. As you walk around the back it appears they have a whiteboard set up with with a list of the fossils they are working on.

 However, looking at the names of the species and other info, I'm questioning the veracity of this information.

 Random T. rex statue next to the whiteboard.

 And a little more information about the science of paleontology in general. 

Overall, this was probably the best "paleontological" area of all of DinoLand U.S.A. Unfortunately, it wasn't open when I was there last year but luckily I got to explore this time.