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Geology At Wilcox Hollow. December 2, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Those of you who come here with any regularity know that I live along the Deerfield river in Western Massachusetts, and that many of my photographs are of that river and its environs as it wends its way from Southern Vermont past my home to its terminus at the Connecticut river south of Greenfield, MA.

Along the way it passes named points – The Dryway and Zoar Gap, where whitewater paddlers play; Shelburne Falls, where the famous “Potholes” have attracted Indian fishermen, artists and, more recently, tourists; Stillwater, where campers and fishermen steep themselves in the languid waters of the Lower Deerfield, deep and slow and tranquil.

Here’s a glimpse of a spot just below Shelburne Falls: Wilcox Hollow, a low meadow on “river left,” the Shelburne side (across the river is the town of Buckland,) which is being conserved and allowed to return to something like a natural state.

I ran into a group of UMass geology students there this past week. They were looking at the riverside geology, taking notes and photos and sharing observations:


The consensus (and I concurred) was that this place was a lithic mess, with its “history” obscured by so many events over the last 400 million years that the true history was unclear.

I mean, WTF is this???


OK, so the light brown rock is granitic gneiss, folded into undulating waves. The darker stuff is an interbedded sill of something broadly basaltic, perhaps a diorite, metamorphosed to where there are hornblends clearly visible without a hand lens. And through it all are the light banded “scratches,” which extend down through the interbedded layers, showing that they’re in fact later-forming fractures which have filled with… what?  Perhaps quartz, which is difficult to melt at high heat, but water soluble under high pressure.

It’s all so confusing!

These young folks were fortunate to be learning at the hands of Professor Mike Williams, chair of the UMass Department of Geosciences. I understand that he’s currently engaged in pioneering techniques of mineral dating which are yielding amazingly precise results. At any rate, he was fully present for his riverside class, and still had time to answer a few of my pedestrian questions about what I was looking at in the record at my feet. Thanks, Professor Williams.

But in the end, I’m no geologist. I’m a photographer with an interest  in geology.

So here are some artsy-fartsy black and white photos I took when I wasn’t standing slack-jawed with amazement.

Roots revealed by Storm Irene’s violent denuding of so much of the Deerfield’s banks:

_MG_5257 B&W

The feathered edge of a thin layer of something “broadly basaltic:”

_MG_5253 B&W

…with a cross-hatching of fractures filled with a lighter-colored mineral;

And a pothole carved into the granitic gneiss by a swirling rock, something harder, perhaps a piece of basalt:

Apostrophe B&W

This place isn’t beautiful on a landscape scale, but it holds a treasure trove of details for those with the time and patience to explore its nooks and crannies.

I’ll doubtless be back soon for more surprises.

At The Potholes. August 1, 2011

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature, Love and Death.
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Our local “potholes” on the Deerfield river at Shelburne Falls are actually glacial plunge-pools, but hey, let’s not get picky.

Here are a couple of shots taken on different days in different light.  First, a sprig of that dastardly invasive, Purple lustrife:

It’s pretty and all, but I still hate that shit.  Perhaps it’s pedestrian of me, but I hate to see the changes happening to the “natural world” I know.  I’ve concluded that these changes are inevitable, and perhaps rightly so.  Pampas grass softens the marshes of Berkshire County, and so it goes, and so it goes.

But back here at “The Potholes,” the rock rules:

There’s something palpably Munch  about that shot, hand-held as it is and all.

Most summer days would see this place crawling with people, some sitting in the sun, some jumping from respectable heights, some finding rock slides and deep spots to plumb.  But this year it’s fenced off and posted, which I’m not sure is legal – the river bed below a usual high water level is public property.  But the cost to the town and county of responding to medical emergencies like, oh, say, drowning or breaking one’s neck or shortening one’s spine by misjudging a jump or slipping on the wet rocks and breaking bones was just too much for this little village.  Legal or not (and I don’t know that it isn’t,) the closure has solved that fiscal problem, and of course, saved some incautious people from the pain and suffering of earning a Darwin award.

Still, I miss getting down in there; the rocks are beautifully worn, and in the right light, amazing to photograph.  Today, these were hand-held and taken from the tourist overlook.

C’est la vie.