Armed with the Geologic Field Guide of Newfoundland, last week I ventured to one of the most intensely scrutinized outcrops in the world. Green Point in Gros Morne National Park provides continuous exposure to more than 30 million years of sediment accumulation in the Iapetus ocean. The rocks formed in deep water near the base of the ancient continental slope. It was awesome and humbling.
In January 2000, the International Union of Geological Sciences designated Green Point as a Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP). That's an official international reference point for the geologic time scale. I learned after the fact that there are only a handful of these in North America.
Researchers and students at Memorial University and elsewhere studied more than 10,000 fossils from Green Point, using tiny conodonts and delicate graptolites to locate the boundary between the Cambrian and Ordovician periods, 488 Ma in the past. They have narrowed it down to a single layer, Bed 23, that contains the first appearance of the conodant species, Iapetognathus fluctivagus.
To the best of my estimatation, I have indicated the location of Bed 23 with the white dashed line in the figure to the right, and with the pointing figure of my *ahem* geologic scale marker in the photograph below.
Snapshots from the Outcrop
Being the massive natural exhibition that it is, there are likely volumes of things to observe and measure at Green Point. I had no agenda whatsoever, but here are four observations that caught my interest:
- Cavities from core plugs at regularly spaced intervals. Each piece taken and studied as part of an international scientific experiment, aimed at accurately identifying major turning points in earth's history.
- Small scale fault with some antithetic joints reminiscent of some artifacts I have seen on seismic.
- and 4. A faulted limestone conglomerate bed. Shown from two different points of view. I am increasingly curious about the nature of the aperture of deformation zones. Such formidable forces, such a narrow region of strain.
I left with a feeling that I am sure is felt by most geologists leaving a site of extreme interest. Did I make enough observations? Did I collect enough data? I wish I had a GigaPan, or maybe portable LiDAR station. I feel reconnected to the vastness of scales over which earth processes occur, and the heterogeneity caused by well-understood systems playing out over inconceivable expanses of time.
I'd like to flip the outcrop 120° counterclockwise, and build another stupid seismic model. What could mathematicians, programmers, and geoscientists do at this outcrop? A digital playground for integration awaits.