Friday, July 30, 2010

Abandoned Mine Friday! - The Hidden Treasure!

Ah, what better way to run out the rest of the week than with a glimpse back at some old mine. As fledging internet geolgists it is important that you see the places where your prey (rocks) like to hide, mate, sit, lounge and otherwise await your discovery.

Now, mines aren't for everyone. And luckily, if you are one of the many who feel that entering an unstable man-made cavern held up by rotting 100+ year old rotting timbers is a bad idea, you don't need to fear. Rocks can be found on the surface just as easily as they can be found at depth. It's just that the rocks won't be quite as fresh as if you go down to the bowels of the earth and hunt them yourself. It's like picking ears of corn at the supermarket. You can get satisfactory corn from the top of the pile, make a satisfactory meal for your family, and get sent to a satisfactory nursing home when the time comes. Or, you can rifle through the piles of corn until you find the BEST ears at the bottom of the pile, and then go home and make some sort of crazy, french-sounding meal for your wife and then get it on.

And so, in an attempt to nurse you all into the rock hunting preditors that you can be, let's try to acclimate ourselves to the world of the underneath. A land where minerals grow like carrots, and carrots grow like regular carrots. Now, the first rule of mine club is that you don't ever go into a mine. This may seem to be a bit contradictory to a 1st time reader, but as gnarled, hairy veterans of this blog we know that geology is nothing but one contradiction after another. Mines are very dangerous. They collapse, they have holes, they probably contain wolfmen, and sometimes people go in and never come back out. I don't know what happens to them. It's like this one time where I went into the wrong theater after using the bathroom at the movies. Plus I think it may be illegal.

That being said, sometimes old mines are kinda cool. You shouldn't go in them, but if you do, make sure you have all the proper permission. Also tell someone where you are going to they know where to find your body. Ha! No, that's just a little mine humor there (but seriously, make sure someone knows where to find your body). If you manage to clear all the red tape and get into a mine, then brace yourself for a world unlike anything you have ever seen. Cus it's really dark.

The mine for today is the Hidden Treasure Mine. If you read the proceeding post about Jacob City (as I assume you have), then you already know where this mine is located. It was discovered in 1865 or so (I haven't actually read the proceeding post) and for years it was a huge producer in the area. Here's a picture of it, just in case you are too lazy to scroll down a few inches to the previous post.

The ore coming out of the mine was largely a silver-bearing galena, as well as a soon to be covered mineral named sphalerite. The mine followed thick veins of the stuff to a depth of 2,500 feet where it met up with other mines down in Ophir. Mining ended at some point in the 1960's, and the mine sat idle until 1989, when a boy scout got lost in there. They found him, but decided that the mine needed to be sealed up for all time. And so it was...

Now, this is a problem. We can't get into sealed mines! There's all this damn concrete in the way! Taking samples of concrete is an unfulfilling way to spend an afternoon, so we will need to find another way in. Lucky for you, I have connections to an "underground organization". (GREATEST JOKE YOU HAVE EVER READ!) Look, here's another way!

Learning to negotiate rusty ladders is an essential part of your training, and I recommend the following procedure....

After having completed steps 1 through 3, place the ladder up against a tree and climb it a few times. Try to get used to the feeling of uncertainty that such an activity invokes. Embrace it like a feral lover!
Down we go! Further and further into the dark abyss that is the bosom of the earth!

The main workings of the mine took place along an inclined shaft (that's what she said) that was used to carry the ore carts to the surface. Well, there's not a lot left of the ore carts or the tracks, but we can still walk down the incline!

Look out!

Here's a good place to stop and learn about one of the many dangers that lurk in the bleak universe of the underground. A cave in. Cave-ins are a cowardly foe, choosing to ambush the unwary internet geologist instead of putting up a fair fight. You can avoid them by looking for the signs that a cave-in is present or nearby. Do you see fresh feces? Unless they are in your pants, this is not a sign of a cave-in. Do you see a large pile of rotten timbers and blocks of rocks? This is a trusty sign that a cave-in is possibly waiting for you ahead and you should practice extreme caution.

Why, look here! It's one of the friendly residents of the mine!

This boiler once held the sweet sweet energy that kept this mine moving. At least I think it did. It may have also once held lunchboxes for all I know. Leave me alone. What's important is that it is not actively trying to kill us.

And if you needed further proof that not everything in the mine has crushing you in its plans, here's another frequent visitor to the area.

That is a rusted bucket. Forgotten by its owners, now it sits and holds nothing but the echos of a forgotten age. Also moss.
Now, not everything you meet down here is going to be some inanimate object that we have arbitrarily decided to give life to. No, there's plenty of the good ol' fashioned REAL living things down here. Look! Some sort of crazy white mildew growing on the beams!

This material may or may not actively be trying to kill you. It's hard to tell with mildew. I mean, it's not attacking you, but it may be filling your lungs with mind altering spores. In the end, I think that's one of the better ways to go.

Look, we've reached our stop! Here we are at Carbide Junction!

As a bit of a fun fact for all of us, Carbide is a form of ultra hard steel that you can put on the end of your drill bits to help them get through the tough rocks. Ah, edufunual! Anyway, from here we can explore one of the many terrifying tunnels that branch off from our only way home. Now would be a good time to remember the blog motto: SPEED STRENGTH AGILITY! Go ahead and say that over and over a couple of times to work up some bravery. You pansy.

Let's walk along and see what we can see....

Hmmm...lots of pictures of tunnels. As I've said before, mines love tunnels. Tunnels are the liver of the mine. Ore carts are the knees, and rusted buckets are the kidneys. Don't feel bad if you didn't know this. You'll catch on soon. Why look! It's a message from the past!

This would be a message that would by and large be good to obey, but I suspect that we are ok in passing just this once. If you are ever in a mine and find a good bunch of dynamite, go ahead and leave it there. Dynamite is the liver of the mine. Look at this!!!

This is called a Stope. You really want to make sure no one ever finds your body? Just fall in one of these fellas. It's where the miners just went nuts on the ore body and dug out a huge cavern! Sometimes the ore doesn't follow straight lines, and you have to chase it a little bit. This results in huge open areas that are hard to photograph. Cave-ins like to live in here, so let's be on our way.

We've seen only a fraction of the wonders that a mine can hold, but if you remember we had to walk down a fairly steep inclined shaft to get here. The problem is that we must now climb back out. Gravity is the liver of a mine. Here it is sadly going to be working against us. Pulling us down....down.....down into the bleak dispair of the ever cooling crust of this miserable planet. So unload everything cool from your backpacks that you have collected, because this is going to be a right old pain in the butt to get out of. Go ahead and forget a bunch of stuff too. Anything to lighten your load.

*1 hour straight of swear words*

Don't be afraid to swear in a mine. First off, no one can hear you except for the large number of mythical creatures who call this place home, such as the Tommy Knocker...

Or, my version....

My version just looks like a mischevious WWI British General. So let's go with the top version.
Also there is the the mold, who is already going to town on your nervous system. Second, the more air you get out of your lungs, the less you have to carry back up the shaft with you.

And so we are out. I didn't take any pictures of the leaving part because I was too busy trying to keep the air out of my lungs through the afore-mentioned technique. I think we have all learned that the underworld is not such a bad place. We also learned that sometimes you can work really REALLY hard and not get a single mineral. Geology can be like that sometimes.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ghost Town Tuesday!!! - Jacob City!

Ahhh, Jacob City. This is gonna be a treat for everyone.

A few months back we had the supreme pleasure of taking a look at the (sorta) ghost town of Ophir, and I think it is safe to say that none of us have ever had that much fun before. Well, get ready to dry clean your pants, because here we go again.

I bring up Ophir because this next ghostly little haunt is located in Dry Canyon, just one canyon to the north of the town of Ophir. You’ll remember that the town of Mercur was just one canyon to the south of Ophir, so it would seem that these miserable little hills were once home to a whole wad of people who got to wake up in the morning and realize that they lived either in a narrow, flood-prone drainage or up on the side of a dim, craggy cliff. On some level I envy them. On a much large level they disgust me. Here’s a map of where we are talking about.

That's too small to read, but such is life. The humble little hamlet of Jacob City is the craggy cliff variety of ghost town. It shouldn’t be hard to figure out why it was settled, what with it being surrounded by rich mining districts. But just in case you are having a hard time keeping up I will give you a hint. The sweet, sweet song of the mining siren.

The story of Jacob City begins with the discovery of valuable earth-goods in the area. Around the same time that Ophir and Mercur were starting to take off, someone clever individual (who I am guessing was named Jacob) decided to look at nearby canyons for even more good mining spots. A likely scenario is that around 1865 a group of solders who had been sent to the region to watch over the mormons got the fever. You see, many of these solders had been bitten by and were nursing the swollen, pulsating tick that is gold fever. On one of their little excursions they met up with some Native Amercians who showed them a place where they got the metal for their bullets. That same year several claims were made on the site and so our story begins. Well, continues. The beginning is at the top of this paragraph.

Of all the mines operating out of the canyon the largest producer was the Hidden Treasure Mine.

This was one of the sites located by the tick-infested solders in 1865, and by 1870 several of the claims had met up and consolidated into one huge, mega-mine. This isn’t to say that this was the only mine in the area. Also located up Dry Canyon are the Chicago, Sacramento, Keasarge, Utah Queen, Wandering Jew, Queen of the Hills and probably others, all of whom did just fine at pulling various minable goods from the bowels of Lady Earth.

As mining got fired up, there came a need for a variety of “services” that miners frequently seek. Ophir is located just 2 miles away, but you had to climb all over these stupid hills to get there so it ended up taking all day, and by that point most miners were no longer in the mood for either whiskey or ladies of the evening (not vampires). So a closer location was needed. And so, like a majestic Elm, the town of Jacob City rose from the earth, its trunk representing the mining industry, its roots representing the incredible work ethic of the people, and its leaves representing cheap floozies.

As was said above, Jacob City is located at the top of Dry Canyon and was consequently very isolated from other communities. As a result, the city needed its own school, stores and such. And by 1876 it had all of these and more. Houses clung to the sides of the canyon like the larvae of some great foreign moth. A large hotel was built in a flattened out area of the canyon wall. This hotel….

At its peak, the place boasted a population of 200 to 300 people. So it was never a huge place, but you could probably find enough people to fill out the rosters of a couple baseball teams. I don’t know why that’s how I’m describing this. I don’t even know why I’m still writing this sentence. Go away.

So, now we have reached the point where everything looks good for the thriving little town, and now I face the difficult duty of walking us down the path to ghost-townmanship. Getting the ore out of the mines wasn’t difficult, as it seemed like there was an endless amount of the stuff down there. But getting the ore out of the town and to a smelter WAS difficult. And ore is useless to someone if they can’t get it to some sort of place that can do something useful with it. For a while, the ore was carried down the canyon by carts. This totally sucked because it was hard to do. So then someone built a majestic tramway to carry the goods over the ground and down to the mouth of the canyon. This was a much more impressive transportation system, but it was really slow so it kinda sucked too. Finally someone figured out something great. A guy named Matt Gisborn owned the Mono Mine, a quant little producer located a good half-mile south of Jacob City spent a ton of money and finally built a good road out of the canyon. You guys ready for a picture of a road? Here it is!

This road has been improved over the years, and can now accommodate all but the most pathetic of vehicles, such as the Nissan Cube. Anyway, this Gisborn guy charged the crud out of the other mines to use his road, and in the process made a bunch of money, so everyone wins. Except for you and me. If you are reading this blog then you have most certainly not won. And I write the stupid thing, so there are very few who would consider me a winner.

Anyway, self-depreciating humor aside, the Mono Mine ended up being the place to be. You didn’t have to climb all the way up to Jacob City, and you had a great mine right there that could give you all the lung-disease you could hope for. And so, the town of Gisborn was created around that mine and soon challenged Jacob City for the title of “Lousiest City Stuck Up In A Canyon”. The Mono Mine pinched out in 1879, but by then the town of Gisborn had all but taken over all the prostitute action in Dry Canyon.

I don’t have any pictures of Gisborn. Sorry.

The large scale mining kinda puttered out by 1885, but the city of Gisborn stuck around until about 1929 when folks officially threw in the towel.

So ended the town of Jacob City and its eternal enemy, Gisborn. Today the site looks very much like this…

Here’s a picture of an ore bin that use to ring with the sounds of industry. It would have been located just above the main portion of Jacob City…

The hotel was once the main attraction up the canyon. It hung on up until the 1980’s, when it finally gave way and fells down. Some folks feel that it was destroyed in when the mines in the area were reclaimed and careless workers plowed it down. Others say that nature is a vengeful force, and finally managed to destroy the works of man. I don’t know the truth, but here’s what it looks like now…

A large pile of rubble. Neat!

So if you go to Jacob City, prepare for some level of disappointment. Unless you like pictures of foundations, then the place probably isn’t for you. The road leading up to the place takes you a little close to the edge of an impressive drop, one that has certainly claimed a few victims in the past. So do be safe.

Now, like I said, the Hidden Treasure Mine has been closed off to the public for quite a while now. But wouldn’t it be something if your brave author found a way into it? Hmmm…now wouldn’t that be something…..

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Geology In Action!!

You know, we have looked at a lot of rocks. Big rocks, shiny rocks, rocks that may or may not be trying to kill you, etc. We are at a point where if you can think of an adjective, chances are that we have covered a rock that has that quality in spades. This is a good place to be, and I’m proud of our little community that has grown out of our combined love of whatever it is that this blog contains. You are each important to me, even the follower named “indirectly" although they are only indirectly important to me.

Anyway, while we have looked at a lot of rocks, we haven’t really looked at geology in action. People love it when the things have an action, and geology is no exception. You can’t spell geology without “logo”, which is pretty close to “loco” which is short for “locomotion”. On that note, I propose we look at an example of geology in motion.

Now, nothing would give me more pleasure than showing you footage of a sudden and unpredictable earthquake, geology’s most feared weapon. Or perhaps of the eruption of a slumbering, majestic volcano, geology’s most feared weapon. Or even of the breath-taking glow of a meteor impact, truly geology’s most feared weapon. Sadly, I don’t have footage of any of the previously mentioned geologically-themed events. But dry your eyes! Not all is lost! We may not have the big stars of the geologic world attending our little electronic party, but we still have the B-listers! The Segals and the Gellars of the rock world! And in that spirit, I present for your consideration the geologic freak-show that is the Shoshoni Ice Caves!

Now, this adventure takes us outside the comforts of Utah (Idaho), but as junior internet geologists it is important that you learn the value of new experiences. And the Ice Caves are just that, an experience that should not be missed by anyone who values the unexpected. For example, how many places do you visit on regular bases that boast one of these?

If you can think of any other parking lot with one of those, then kudos. If like me you are mostly just confused as to what that is, don't feel bad. You are far from alone. Besides, it will make a little more sense latter on. Well, actually I can’t promise that. Anyway, if you still had doubts that you were embarking on a truly special journey, I propose that you consider this…

I've often been quoted (in several very reputable scientific-like magazines) that you can easily judge the learning potential of a location by the number of cavemen you can fit on the back of a giant green dinosaur. Also, where better to park your car than under the watchful stare of prehistoric man? They survived the Sabertooth Cat, they sure as hell can handle some two-bit thug with a crowbar. Anyway, the treats don’t stop there. Let’s take a look at some of the other surprises that stalk the parking lot like repressed memories of horrible events…

Uh-oh! Free museum!

It is important to also take every opportunity to learn something new, even if it is located in a museum surrounded by oversized novelty cave people. Perhaps it is even more important to visit these places, for these establishments are more likely to contain the gritty facts that regular museums are too scared/forbidden by law to present. For example….

Two antlers tangled in wire. If this isn’t a metaphor for life I don’t know what is. Oh how my contempt grows for these so-called “safe museums” that refuse to show us nature at its worst! This particular museum is filled with various heads. Some, like this one…

seem to still express emotion. Specifically, this one still seems confused as to why it was killed. It made me sad, but then I looked over and was reminded of the good times…

This is another rule of the internet geologist. Shoot, we have a lot of these things now. Let’s make a list.

1. Idaho is wierd.
2. Free museums will usually contain questionable material.
3. Cartoony dinosaurs are funnier than dead deer heads.

I suspect that this list will grow as we go on. Yes, while such museums may seem intimidating, it has proven to be a treasure trove of information. But there must be balance in all things. Truely, for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. And so it is with the museum. For every happy, confused deer head, there must be one of these....

For every colorfully painted, non-threatening dinosaur in the parking lot there must be one of these...

Alright, that is another rule we have to write down.

4. Scary things suck.

Oh, I promised to explain the statue from the beginning.

As you can see, this is a statue of Chief Washakie. The good Chief was born in 1804 and did some pretty amazing stuff in his lifetime. It’s surprising he had time to pose for this statue. That's all the explaining I can give you. I hope it is enough. Time for geology! Get your pick axes and sexually-explicit t-shirts!

That’s another rule of internet geology. The more cartoon skin your shirt shows the better prepared to deal with the rigors of virtual geology you will be. Add it to the list. Let’s walk along the trail to the Ice Caves and talk about what we are seeing.

The setting is simple. Approximately 12 to 17 million years ago much of the Pacific Northwest was covered by massive amounts of molten lava. A huge plume of super-heated melted rock-stuff is located right under Yellowstone National Park, and this hot-plume accounts for a good 99% of the bubbling you see there (burritos are the other 1%). But this hot spot wasn't always under Yellowstone. You see, continental drift has shoved the American Plate around like tubby foreign exchange student. The hot spot has stayed in the same place and has burned a trail of devastation through the plate as it has moved past. While it was under Idaho it pumped out significant volumes of basalt which exceeds 6,000 feet in thickness in places. It is this basalt that we see in the picture.

Much like we saw in the volcano picture previously posted on this blog, this basalt traveled in large tubes formed in the basalt of previous flows. As one flow cooled, tunnels formed that transported the hotter, more liquidy basalt to further, more erotic heights. The cave we are entering is a portion of one of these massive tubes. Not all tubes are so lucky though. Most collapse under their own weight, also much like a tubby foreign exchange student. All they leave for us is a mild depression in the ground. See?

Yes, it is a pretty bleak picture. This massive basalt flow is known as the Snake River Basalt Flows, and there is evidence that this event had global impacts. But how did it treat the people who called this land home? Don’t ask me, ask them yourselves.

No time to try to get some hot cavewoman action! Let’s see some geology! Down we go!

Oh no! It’s possibly some sort of carnivore!

Luckily the unidentified and questionably constructed beast doesn’t attack and allows us safe passage through its lands. Into the caves we go! Say goodbye to sweet mother sun.

You are entering the dusty womb of our other mother, the planet Earth. And we aren’t coming back out unless we survive the trip down the vaginal canal of knowledge. That may be a little intense for the younger readers. Sorry kids.

The first thing you notice upon entering the cave is that it is rightly named. It is very cold down here. Approximately -7 degrees C in places. It is so cold that a poorly painted penguin has taken up residence in the icy depths of this mighty pit.

At least I think it is a penguin. It could be any number of things with a penguin shape. Our tour guide was a bit vague on the details. As a bit of a surprise, we see the remains of an actual creature.

This was once the body of mighty ice-aged bear. Now it is just another carcass sitting in an icy cave. Makes you think. I don’t know about you guys, but I’m stilling thinking about that hot cavewoman sitting up there in the sun. Oh what fools we were to not ask her out! Ah well.
What is neat is that the floor of the cave is indeed entirely made of ice. Well, ice and currency.

Our journey through the caves takes along an elevated catwalk above the ice/change rich floor. A-like so….

So why is there ice in this cave year round? In general, the earth gets warmer the deeper you get so one would think we would be feeling warmth. So much warmth that no self-respecting, vaguely penguin-shaped creature would want to call this place home. And yet…

Here is proof that this cave houses such a creature!

Well, the answer is one of geology in action. Well, geology and physics. Mostly physics. You see, there was another hole in the cave located at the other end of the tunnel. A hole we never even saw. As the wind blows, the air enters Hole #2 at just the right speed where it cools due to all sorts of fancy science words. The ideal gas law, Bernoulli's principle, dark magic, however you can wrap your minds around it. Here it is in mathamagical form....

The cooled air rushes through this tunnel and freezes the water seeping in through the cracks in the basalt. This whole cave used to be completely filled with ice. In fact, the good people of Idaho used to mine the stuff to cool their potato drinks. If the ice held a caveman toe, then no worries. Just fish it out and finish your beverage. Then in the 1940's some douche blew up hole #2 and messed up the perfect wind pattern and made the whole cave melt. Then in the 70's some guy fixed it and made the ice come back. The whole story is very moving.

And so we see that with the help of geology, entire caves can be filled with pure, sweet ice. This post is already waaaay too long, so I'm going to cut it short with that. If you have any questions then perhaps you should consult the caveman wizard in your neighborhood.