An interim note for AW#45

This is a quick note for AW#45.

Up to now, I have received 18 contributions for the AW#45 “Geological Pilgrimage”. Thank you! As far as I know, at least one post is still on its way (that is mine one :P). So, there will be still time to send in yours before the end of this week. I shall then have a summary post.


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Most Important Teacher – AW#44

In Chinese, we have a phase “薪火相傳”, which literally means “to pass the flame”. And  actually the phase has a deeper meaning, which is “to pass the knowledge and good traditions to the next generation”.

I am a very lucky person. I have met many good teachers in my life. Some of them not only passed on their knowledge, but had also influenced the way I see the world, and helped me to become the person I am today. But, when Simon of metageologist asked us who is our most important teacher,  I know immediately who is the most important teacher of mine.

Of all the good teachers I have had, Prof. LS Chan at the HKU is the most important. Prof Chan is my abecedarian, the teacher who introduced me to the grande of geology. He who took me to the first geological field trip I ever had, showed me how to read a geological map, use a compass, bang on an outcrop… This is, of course, not THE reason why he is special.

Prof Chan is truely supportive to his students. I could not easily explain how supportive he was when I was doing my Master under his supervision and he is still doing so to me. He once told me a short conversation he had with his own professor when he just finished his PhD (some 30 years? ago). He asked his professor, “Professor, you have done so much for me, … How am I gonna repay you?”, and Professor replied, “If you wanna repay me, all you need to do is to do exactly what I have done to you to your own students in the future.”

I know these are not the exact wordings.  But this is what “薪火相傳” means.

This post is the Accretionary Wedge #44, hosted by Simon Wellings. And this is not exactly a post about geology.

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AW#45 Geological Pilgrimage – Call for Posts

I am happy to host the 4645th Accretionary Wedge geoscience blog carnival. The topic I have chosen is:

Geological Pilgrimage – the sacred geological place that you must visit at least once in your lifetime 

Because the topic may slightly overlap the previous AW#16 – Geologists’t List, I would like to define the pilgrimage as a single place, which is “geologically” unique,  relatively remote, and requires some difficulty to get to.  If you have already done your geological pilgrimage, please share with us your experience. If you are still planning your pilgrimage, then let us know where your sacred geological spot is and why.

Please post a link of your post in the comment below, or via Twitter @denisetang). The due date for handing in is 30th April 2012, but you will definitely get a couple of extra days (or a week) before a summary is posted.


(Oops…I got the number wrong. It should be Accretionary Wedge #45.)
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Most Memorable Geological Event – AW#41

The most memorable geological event that I had directly experienced occurred when I was at the final year of my undergrad. It was a rockfall – a man-induced one.

My final year thesis was to investigate the geological strucutures in a Permian sedimentary unit in Hong Kong. The unit exposes only at the coastal section of a small isolated island which is connected to the mainland by a tomobolo. My project was to measure the orientations of the folded layers and determine the folding patterns, deformation phases etc.

On one particular field day, I invited my best friend and classmate, Brandon, to assist my field work. So, we walked along the coastal section, making records and measurements of the geological structures along the way. And then, we arrived at an outcrop which was essentially a cliff. Some sub vertically dipping rock layers were nicely seen, but we would need to make a 1-2m climb on the rock face to reach the point where we could make a good measurement. Brandon was a stubby young man then, had kindly offered to help me to do the measurement, when I could stay on the ground and record the strike and dip.

Somehow, we were young, inexperienced and probably too careless. We had not judged the conditions before acting. Brandon climbed up the rock face with one of his hands holding a geological compass. He probably did not realise that he was holding onto a rather loose boulder in one of his moves. All of a sudden, the boulder moved and toppled. It hit Brandon’s chest, and bonunced. Brandon fell with the boulder and I was just beneath them at the toe of the slope.

Although it was probably not a life threatening event, but it was quite scary. The boulder was blocky, about half a metre in diameter, and Brandon was over 150 or 160 pounds. They fell just next to me. It was certainly a near miss. Luckily, Brandon did not get serious hurt, but minor bruise.

What was the lesson learnt? Well, for me, never stay too close below a cliff when someone is climbing. And for Brandon, never trust a rock outcrop, it may not be able to support his own weight. OK, seriously, the lesson learnt was the importance of safety when doing fieldwork. Even a minor mistake, or a misjudgement, or carelessness, may result in  serious consequence. Looking back after more than 13 years, I still believe that I was very lucky.

This post is in response to the Accretionary Wedge #41, hosted by Ron Schott.

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Holiday Geology Picture (3): Permafrost, Northern Xinjiang, China

Happy holiday! Well, today is the last day of the 4-day-long Christmas holiday in Hong Kong. Many of us will have to go back to work tomorrow…So, I am trying my best to enjoy myself.

I have chosen a picture of my year-2005 trip to Xinjiang for today’s “Holiday Geology Picture”. The trip was a kind of adventure, because I was on horse-back for 4 days with three other friends to visit some remote places in northern Xinjiang. The places were so remote that there was no proper accommodation and we had to stay with the nomads at night. We rode across grasslands and valleys, and visited small isolated villages.

On one of the days, we crossed a saddle where the permafrost was melting. It was a pity that we did not bring our GPS with us, and I could not recall the exact location of this place. It was close to the county of Altai at the northern tip of Xinjiang. We rode passed many small lakes formed by the melting permafrost and enjoyed the views of mountain chains. The place was beautiful, part of it was because the place was so peaceful.

The trip was very memorable, because there was an accident on the final day of our horse-riding. The horses walked leisurely for most of the time of the trip. But, suddenly they all got mad and started to run. I was lucky because I managed to control my horse before it ran too fast. But for my friends, they just couldn’t stop the horses. I could see that they got thrown down from the horse back one by one. Almost unbelievably, they got only minor scratches…

This is a picture of us riding happily before the accident.

More “Holiday Geology Pictures” can be found here and here.

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Holiday Geology Picture (2): Yardang, Gansu, NW China

Happy Boxing Day! I am continuing my Holiday Geology Picture series. The geology picture I have here is from Mainland China.

This is a landscape called “Yardang” in Chinese. It means a series of small mounds formed by wind erosion. The picture was taken in 2004 when I visited the most easily accessible part of the Silkroad in northwest China. I traveled from Gansu Province to Xinjiang Province for more than 2 weeks. The site is close to Dunhuang and now is a national geopark in China.

I could not remember now the details of the rock formation. If my memory is correct, they are sandstones that formed in the mid-Pleistocene.

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Holiday Geology Picture: Mt Showa Shinzan, Hokkaido

Last week, Evelyn of Georneys posted a series of geology pictures for the geology picture-a-day week.  Some other geobloggers also shared some very interesting geology pictures.

Well, I must confess that I am a SLOW person, and could not catch up with the speed of the geoblogsphere. So, my geology picture meme comes a little bit late. And I am calling this series “Holiday Geology Picture” because the pictures I am going to share here were taken while I was on holiday, and they are posted on “holiday”.

The first picture is Mt Showa Shinzan, Hokkaido, Japan (taken in Oct 2010). It is a young volcanic  dome formed between 1943 and 1945.

There was a display panel describing the volcano:

“A series of violent earthquakes, sometimes over 200 large tremors in one day, occurred from December 1943 until April 1944. The result was the transformation of wheat fields into a raised plateau 50 m high. The first volcanic eruptions started on June 23, 1944, from one crater and continued for four months, destroying the wheat fields, houses and railroads. As a result, this area turned into the egg-shaped plateau, 300 m above sea
level. And seven crater were founded [sic]. In November 1994, lava started rising from the central crater and continued unitl September 1945. At last, the altitude was 407 m. But smoke is still spouting from the reddish-brown peak, which instantly recognisable by its unique pyramid shape.
Because Mt Showa Shinzan was born at the end of the WWII, the military kept this fact a secret. So, satistactory investigation couldn’t be done. Under this situation, Mr. Masao Mimatsu (1888-1977), the postmaster of the district, investigated the development of Mt. Showa Shinzan in detail. His records are valuable scientific data to analyse these unique volcanic activities.”

This is the development record of the volcanic dome drawn by Mr. Mimatsu.

And, Happy Holiday!

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