For Geologists, Life is a Field Trip

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Way back in 1990, Lisa Rossbacher, then-editor for GeoTimes magazine (now Earth) published a list of the top places every geologist should visit in their lifetime. It has been revised and modified several times over the years. A copy of it can be found here, or presented a little differently here. And a nice variation on the list is here. There are many more around.

Ever since I saw that list, years ago, I have kept a copy of it in my head (or a hard-drive somewhere) tucked away and ready whenever I need inspiration or something to daydream about. So below, I wanted to post my own version of The List, with some of the places I’ve been fortunate enough to visit in bold. It is not comprehensive or exhaustive or even complete. But it is a wish list and a dream list that can be broken up or modified however one wants. The main point is to just get out there and experience the world around us!

Specific Places of Geologic Interest:

  • Siccar Point, Berwickshire, Scotland
  • The chalk cliffs of England or France
  • Land’s End, Cornwall, Great Britain
  • The Giant’s Causeway and the Antrim Plateau, Northern Ireland
  • The volcanic landscapes of the Canary Islands
  • Iceland
  • Pink Sand Beaches, Bahamas
  • Soufriere Hills Volcano and Plymouth, Montserrat
  • The Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada
  • Chixculub, Mexico Impact site and Cenotes
  • The Banded Iron Formation, Michigan
  • Shiprock, New Mexico
  • Devil’s Tower, northeastern Wyoming
  • Yellowstone
  • The Grand Canyon
  • Meteor Crater, Arizona
  • Landscape Arch, Utah
  • Bryce Canyon, Utah
  • The Waterpocket Fold, Utah
  • The Goosenecks of the San Juan River, Utah
  • The giant crossbeds visible at Zion National Park
  • Fossil hunting in The Burgess Shale of British Columbia
  • Hells Canyon in Idaho/Oregon
  • The Channeled Scablands, central Washington
  • Yosemite Valley, California, USA
  • Telescope Peak, in Death Valley National Park
  • The San Andreas Fault, Carrizo Plain, California
  • Mount St. Helens, Washington
  • The Mima Mounds, Olympia, Washington
  • La Brea Tar Pits, Los Angeles, Ca.
  • Denali, Alaska
  • Tierra del Fuego, Chile and Argentina
  • Chimborazo, Ecuador (furthest point from the center of the Earth, due to the equatorial bulge)
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Black sand beaches, Hawaii
  • The Big Island of Hawaii
  • The Lime Caves at Karamea on the West Coast of New Zealand
  • The Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  • Ayers Rock/Uluru, Australia
  • The Li River, China
  • The Gorge of Bhagirathi
  • The Tunguska Impact site, Siberia
  • Lake Baikal, Siberia
  • Madagascar
  • The Dead Sea
  • The Red Sea
  • The Great Rift Valley, Africa
  • The Snows of Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (while they still exist…)
  • Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
  • Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania
  • Mount Nyiragongo, Congo
  • The Dalmation Coast, Croatia
  • Dinosaur footprints in La Rioja, Spain
  • Mt. Vesuvius, Pompeii and Herculaneum, Italy
  • Visit some of The Great Mountain Ranges of the World:
  • The Alps
  • The Andes
  • The Himalaya
  • The Rockies
  • The Pyrenees
  • The Sierra Nevada
  • The Cascades
  • The Alaska
  • The Brooks
  • The Karakoram
  • The Hindu Kush
  • Visit some of the Great Deserts:
  • The Sahara
  • The Gobi
  • The Kalahari
  • The Sonoran
  • The Mojave
  • The Atacama
  • Rub’ al Khali (Empty Quarter)

Natural Phenomena to experience:

  • See an erupting volcano
  • Visit a glacier
  • Walk on an Ice Cap
  • Rappel down into a slot canyon
  • Boulder on a house-sized glacial erratic
  • Snorkel or dive a coral reef
  • Dive at a coral atoll
  • Find Vertebrate fossils in-place
  • Find living and fossilized stromatolites
  • Climb (or at least visit) a sea stack
  • Hike a glacial outwash plain
  • Visit a large sinkhole
  • Hike through a field of glacial erratics
  • Find a gingko tree, which is the lone survivor of an ancient group of softwoods that covered much of the Northern Hemisphere in the Mesozoic
  • Boat up a fjord
  • Hike a sand dune more than 200 feet high
  • Boat down an actively accreting river delta
  • Walk along a recently formed fault scarp
  • Walk across (or at least Visit) a natural bridge
  • Explore lava tubes
  • Find petrified trees
  • Drink a beer on the coastlines of the leading and trailing edge of a tectonic plate
  • Walk the continental divide
  • See a glacier calving into the sea
  • Hold fluorescent and phosphorescent minerals
  • Explore an underground lake or river
  • Watch one of the famous “big waves” breaking
  • Find gold, no matter how small the flake
  • Experience an earthquake with a magnitude greater than 6.0
  • Experience a volcanic ashfall
  • Experience a sandstorm
  • See a tsunami (from a safe distance!)
  • View a total solar eclipse
  • Witness a tornado firsthand
  • Witness a meteor storm
  • View Saturn and its moons through a respectable telescope.
  • See the Aurora borealis (the northern lights)
  • View a great naked-eye comet
  • See a lunar eclipse
  • View a distant galaxy through a large telescope
  • Experience a hurricane and a typhoon
  • Live through monsoon season
  • See noctilucent clouds
  • See the green flash
  • Witness a large forest fire, and its aftermath
  • Swim through the freshwater/Saltwater interface
  • See hail larger than 3” – from shelter…
  • Walk through an old growth forest (esp. a large redwood grove)
  • Witness a supernova
  • Witness ball lightening

And because one can dream – Visit the Moon!