Thursday 7 March 2019

Sunday 24 February 2019

What did we even do today?

What did we even do today?
The theme is six words today.
In the morning we woke up
It was challenging after the disco
Enjoyed some fun in the sun
Packed up and said our goodbyes
Everyone gets to contribute their share 
Peter: “We went to Trinidad and St.Vincent”
Naomi: “One, two, three, four MUD VOLCANOES!”
Marc: “Rocks, Ocean, Why’s the rum gone?”
Betka: “Can you feel it? Soca Music”
Adam: “God this sunburn is so annoying”
Tess: “It is great not being white”
Ivano: “Guys I have too many rocks
Colin: “We’ll never see its like again”
Keenan: “What type of rock is this?”
Alex: “Feed me more rotis and doubles”
Joy: “I still have sand in m'ear"
Chantel: “Why are we writing your blog”
Send Lawyers, Gun and Money - Laurent
Good bye warmth and the islands

Saturday 23 February 2019

I'm on a boat and, it's going fast and...

Hey everyone!

We can hardly believe it, but today was the last field day of the trip. It’s amazing how fast the time has gone. We definitely finished with a bang, though: a trip to Bequia!

Bequia (pronounced BECK-way) is the northernmost and geologically the youngest of the Grenadines. It’s been called “the perfect Caribbean island”, a name which we found pretty much checked out. Geologically, Bequia is, like St. Vincent, almost entirely volcanic, with rocks dating to between 5 to 3.6 Ma. It’s separated from St. Vincent by a stretch of deep ocean, indicating extension between the two islands. Somewhat shockingly, Bequia is also a hub for whaling in the area! They have a quota of 4 humpback or sperm whales each year, and go at them Ahab-style with harpoons! Very cool.

To get there, we got up bright and early to catch the 8 am ferry. Some mild seasickness later, we landed in St. Elizabeth, the island’s largest town. Our magnificent driver Roland then drove us across the island to our outcrop for the day: a small quarried cliff near the airport. We split into two groups, each walking along one level of the out crop. We found lots of evidence for subaerial (i.e. not-underwater) volcanic activity, such as pyroclastic flows, lahars, blocky a’a lavas, and ashfall deposits.

The lavas had plenty of large phenocrysts, including one hornblende we found that was 3 cm across!
We drove further down the island looking for similar outcrops, passing ludicrously luxurious resorts and miles of gorgeous beach. We eventually came to a cliff on the other side of the island, with similarly-dipping lava and pyroclastics. And just like that, the geology portion of the trip was finished! We quickly donned out swimsuits and switched to tropical-paradise-mode.

Our next stop was Friendship Bay (seen above) and unlike the name suggests, it ripped our group apart! We had this beautiful beach all to ourselves but Roland told us there was much better out there. Our group was torn between staying, seeing some turtles, and going to a beach with more.... refreshments. After some debating Joy, Colin, and Ed stayed while the rest of us journeyed on to Roland's recommendation.

In less than 15 minutes, we arrived at a beach front restaurant and indulged ourselves. We had completed our transition to vacation mode. It took Laurent less time to get into the water than it did for some of us to even order a drink! After a well earned meal, those of us left hit the beach and let the crystal clear blue water take us away (literally for some).

Time flies when you're having fun, but sometimes a little too much. We missed our chance to see the turtles but we still had time to reconnect back at Friendship Bay! To end our day in Bequia, we all met back and spent the last hour roaming the reefs, building sand volcanoes, and even getting a little cardio in! What a fantastic group to spend a day in paradise with.

Roland got us back to the ferry in no time flat, and after dealing with a persistent coconut water salesmen we were on our way back to St. Vincent. The boat ride back was nice and breezy for most, but poor Joy had a bit of a rough go. Thankfully Peter was there to lift here spirits!

Our final full day here is coming to a close with a karaoke party in the hotel. Roland and Tess are bound to show us all up but itll be real fun. It's bittersweet that this trip is ending soon but what an amazing times its been. We travel out tomorrow, stay tuned to see if we make it home safe!

Friday 22 February 2019

Hiking La Soufriere; the tallest sub-areal volcano in the Lesser Antilles island arc

At the base of the volcano our adventure began,
Majestic and tall she stood,
The first tropical biome we were about to scan,
Hiking up twelve hundred meters we would

              Going up the volcano, we had two stops along the way. The first stop was a basaltic lava flow from an eruption, full of beautiful plagioclase, olivine, and hornblende phenocrysts, representing the more primitive material extruded from La Soufriere. Most island arc volcanoes erupt more felsic lavas, however the lack of large magma chambers under the volcano hinder extensive differentiation, causing more mafic lavas to be erupted. The second stop was another lava flow, this time more andesitic. The rock from the second stop is younger and was deposited after a magma chamber had developed, allowing for some differentiation and therefore a more felsic composition.

At the Top

Windy, raining, gusting, clouds,
Obscuring the volcanic dome,
Such high speed fog did enshroud,
As we traversed the crater in roam 

              After a long, steep, treacherous hike, our group finally made it to the rim of the volcano. Visible from the top, at least at first, was the basaltic lava dome which has been built up since the last eruption of La Soufriere in 1979. Degassing from the magma underneath was visible and smellable from the rim in the form of smelly sulphur dioxide being emitted from the dome. There was also a pool of sulphur rich water, endearingly named Betka's pool, at the bottom of the cone and an alluvial fan as well. Not long after reaching the top, the clouds came in and we were bombarded with wind and rain. Our view was obscured but that didn't stop us from enjoying our time up there, as well as our lunch.

Heading Back Down

Down the volcano was the longest part,
As our knees screamed and yelled,
Past illegal marijuana farms--crafty and smart,
Our thrill for adventure thoroughly quelled  

              After lunch, we headed down the leeward side of La Soufriere, ready to get out of the rain and back to the sun and rainforest. On our way down, we encountered a marijuana farm in the distance, but stayed on our path. Closer to the bottom, we encountered the dry river bed of the Wallibou River, which provided a perfect path to our destination. The sides of this river bed were full of alluvial deposits with rounded volcanic clasts of all sizes, along with being almost 10m high in some places. We followed the path of the river right down to the sea.

              What an adventure the day was. Never in any of our wildest dreamed could we have imagined that we would start the day hiking up the windward side of the tallest sub-aerial volcano in the lesser, over looking the Atlantic Ocean, to arrive at the top of the crater of La Sourfriere and traverse the crater ridge in a furious gale of high speed winds and spontaneous rain, to finish by hiking down along the dry river bed of the Wallibou River and arrive –unscathed for the most part –at a glorious black sand beach. However our journey did not stop here. We leisurely walked along the beach until in the distance we saw it. The three motors powered her sleek white hull. Indeed, our journey was about to be taken seaward. All 14 of us plus our La Soufriere guide, Enos, pilled into this high powered small boat to take a wild adventure on the sea back to our hotel. Throughout our journey we passed two rock outcrops that were featured in Pirates of the Caribbean. The ride was stunning and exhilarating as the little boat jostled about the choppy waves. All in all, the day could not have possibly gone any better than the way it unfolded.

Authored by Tess and Ivano


Thursday 21 February 2019

Our First Day in Paradise!!

After a very pleasant breakfast at Paradise Beach hotel, we took a short drive to the adjacent beach, Indian Bay. There, we saw Bequia in the distance, with Dyke Island and Grand Dove Island in the forefront. As we looked longingly at the locals swimming in the ocean, Ed gave us a very interesting overview of the geology of St. Vincent. St. Vincent is made up of primarily basaltic and basaltic andesite rocks, and the island has the most primitive, high magnesium composition in the Lesser Antilles.

We rolled out in our van with our phenomenal driver Rolland, and headed to Johnson’s Point. Here we saw a stunning cross-sectional view of the volcanic debris that has been deposited by aerial deposition. There was visible draping of the Yellow Tuff formation over the Grande Bonhomme Formation, as well as a obvious contact between the two features. The Yellow Tuff appeared in several layers, suggesting that there were repeated eruption-deposition cycles. In one of the lower Yellow Tuff layers that appeared in the outcrop, we observed that there were dark, spherical inclusions of glass within the tuff. Ed later explained that these were known as Pele’s Tears, named after the Hawaiian fire goddess of volcanoes.

We got back into the car and drove up to one of the highest points on the southern end of the island, the Belmont Look-out Point. This overlooked the Mesopotamia valley which was part of an ancient volcanic crater. The volcanic origin of the valley provided optimal conditions for growth of the Breadfruit, a traditional St. Vincent dish. From the viewpoint we were able to take very nice photos, and also discuss the potential origins of the valley itself. There were suggestions of glacial origins, as well as simply erosional conditions.

After saying farewell to the cute dogs at the top of Belmont Hill, we drove down to St. Vincent’s airport, Argyle International Airport. Here we looked across the runway at a large outcrop that showed a cross-sectional view of the Yellow Tuff and Grande Bonhomme formations. Using binoculars, we were able to distinguish a contact between the two, as well as other features such as dykes and faults.

Then LUNCH TIME! Rolland drove us to a local pub where we enjoyed St. Vincent cuisine, including the breadfruit! We had an incredible view of the ocean, played some pool, and also ogled a baby goat.

Following the amazing food, we drove back to the north side of the airport, where we saw an incredible outcrop of the Yellow Tuff overlaying the Grande Bonhomme formation. For the first time, we saw phenocrysts of plagioclase and amphibole in the rock suggesting the rock had more time to cool in this region. These were lahar deposits which formed due to intense rainfall on the side of a volcano that brought loose rocks down and deposited them. We also saw an incredible drape structure on the N side of the road, where the Yellow Tuff very obviously overlaid the Bonhomme formation.

Our last stop was to the Black Point Tunnel that had been dug out by slaves in 1815. The tunnel was created so sugar came could be moved more effectively to the coast in order to be traded overseas. At the other end of the tunnel, we saw that it had been cut into an impressive rock face overlooking crashing waves. The rhythmic cycling of the volcanic eruption and depositional periods were evident in the layering of rock units. We were also treated to the discovery of olivine inclusions in the fine grained, more well-laminated rocks.

After a jubilant game of yellow car (won by Marc!), we arrived back at the hotel just in time for a quick swim before the sunset. We snorkeled, swam, and played frisbee, all with the beautiful backdrop of the setting sun in Villa Bay.

- Keenan & Joy xoxo 

Wednesday 20 February 2019

The Day of Waiting

Our final day in Trinidad started at the Royal Hotel, where we packed up and a bananaquit said farewell. Bananaquits are a type of bird which is especially abundant in Trinidad, named so for their banana-coloured underside.

From there we traveled to the Trinidad airport (~1h), then we waited for check in to start (1.5h), then waited for Tess as her boarding pass name was Tessa (~15 mins). From there we waited to catch our plane which was also delayed due to the pilots being late (2h). After all this waiting we boarded the plane.

The plane ride from Trinidad to Saint Vincent is very short, only one hour. We hoped to see the Kick em' Jenny submarine volcano which lies only 170m below the surface of the water, but sadly the weather was overcast. Nearing Saint Vincent we got a fabulous view of the islands of the Lesser Antilles Arc from the plane. Our plane traced the subduction zone, where the Caribbean plate descends below the South American plate. Here the subducting hydrated oceanic crust releases water into the mantle, causing melting and forming a plume which rises through the crust to form volcanoes.

Once we landed in Saint Vincent, a van picked us up and we drove along the coast, giving us a spectacular view of the sunset with a large cruise boat illuminated in the distance. It was a beautiful introduction to the island of Saint Vincent and what it has in store for us in the next few days.

We then arrived at the Paradise Beach Hotel, which is absolutely outstanding. It is surrounded by yachts and small scattered forested islands. Our rooms are right along the beachfront giving us an amazing view for when we wake up tomorrow.  We did have a little bit more waiting for food when we got there (~1hr), but the conch was exotic and tasted delicious. 

Total wait time: 5.25hrs

Cheers & fairwell Trinidad  - Chantal and Ivano

Tuesday 19 February 2019

Here by the sea and sand

Greetings readers!

We can hardly believe it, but today was our last field day in Trinidad. Didn’t our plane land, like, an hour ago? Today we saw the fantastic features of the Mayaro Formation, as well as our fourth(!) mud volcano field!

The day began bright and early for us in the Trinidad Squad, racing across the island from west to east to beat the tide on the western shore, our first stop. We planned to study cutaway sections of the rocky outcrops rising out of the sandy beach. After a long bumpy ride, a snack stop for some “Doubles” (a delicious Trinidadian dish of fried flatbread and curried chickpeas), and a slightly hairy orientation in a rusting abandoned warehouse, we got down to the beach.
Two particularly badass geologists in the mangrove stands at the beach.
We started at the south end of the beach and walked north, observing changes in dip, lithology, grain size, and bedding along the way. The sands and muds of the Mayaro formation are Pliocene in age (~5-0.5 million years old), and represent the ancient delta of the massive Orinoco river, which reaches the ocean just to the south of Trinidad, in Venezuela. The various layers of sand and silt represent the different depositional environments of a river delta: streams, beaches, tidal flats, and coastal shelves. As the basin expanded, the sediments sloughed down the shelf, creating faults and folds that we could see preserved in the cliffs. As the sediments were buried, water was pressed out of them, creating spectacularly huge “flame” and “pillow” structures.

A giant flame structure! (dank hand model for scale)
Fossilized ripple marks from an ancient beach!

The scale of the sediments in the cliffs was unreal.
More giant flame structures, with slumped bedding and hummocks. (smol geologist for scale)
Nowadays, it hosts numerous offshore oil and gas deposits which are mined from oil rigs in the Columbus basin to the east. Coming to the northern terminus of our trek, we discovered trace fossils of mantis shrimp burrows - tubular structures of dark-colored rock embedded in the material above our heads. After some investigation (i.e. wet shoes), we noted that the tide was coming in and that it might be time to make haste for the bus.

We also found a number of other seaside oddities on the beach: for instance, numerous spiral-shaped planktonic structures; washed-up Portuguese Man-O’-Wars as small as a fingernail or as big as a fist; barnacle-studded wooden rafts; and albatross, osprey, vultures, and pelicans gliding overhead.
Our next and last stop of the day was the spookily-named Devil’s Woodyard, a mud volcano complex located just west of San Fernando, along the same fault as the Digity mud volcano we visited a few days ago. According to Amerindian legend, the volcano was caused by a demon, possibly Satan himself, coming to Earth to cut timber; this is probably inspired by the mud volcano’s tassik - its radius of harsh salt and undeveloped clay which is barren of all but the hardiest opportunist plants.

The central cone at Devil's Woodyard.
One of the secondary cones... still bubbly!
The Devil’s Woodyard mud volcano erupted explosively only a year ago, turning what once was a relatively benign park into a muddy moonscape. We clambered up the 2-meter-high wall of mud onto the surface of the field, where about 15 small mud cones were calmly gurgling away.The largest was located right in the centre: about a meter tall and bubbling every minute or so, with a flow of thick mud rippling down the side and congealing a salty white.


Our guide from the other day, Xavier, has done some fantastic research on this particular mud volcano. By photographing the volcano from the air with a drone over the course of weeks and months, he measured slight elevation changes in the surface of the mudpile. Essentially, he was watching the volcano breath! Super cool.

This stop also represented our latest (and, thus far, greatest) attempt to enjoy fresh coconuts, since our previous efforts were stymied by poor technique, small size, and seawater. This time, though, there were large dry coconuts within easy taking range - we had to try again! We bashed some open with hammers then haphazardly held them over our mouths while coconut water spilled everywhere. It was messy, but it worked! Finally, Marc managed to split a coconut right down the middle, so that he and Tess could enjoy a civilized coconut-on-the-half-shell.

Tess enjoys some fresh coconut water, while the mud volcano looms in the background

At last, we retreated back to San Fernando, to pack up and enjoy one last night on the town. The mayor of San Fernando himself has invited us to tonight’s steel pan performance! How cool is that?

That’s it from us for now. Tomorrow, we’re trading in our mud volcanoes for real volcanoes!


Adam Brudner and Marc Roberge-Pika