Energy colonization

If Wyoming can be said to have been acupmictured for energy, nowhere was this so variously evident as in the southwestem quadrant of the state, from the new coalfields near Rock Springs to the new oil fields of the Overthrust Belt, not to mention experimental attempts to extract petroleum from Eocene lacustrine shale, which -in […]

Recent years

In recent years, the number of ways to feel the elephant has importantly increased. While the science has assimilated such instruments as the scanning transmission electron microscope, the inductively coupled plasma spectrophotometer, and the 39Ar/40Ar laser microprobe-not to mention devices like Vibroseis that thump the earth to reflect deep structures through data reported by seismic […]

Yellowstone Park

Yale had one of the better geology departments in the world, and its interests were commensurately global. It was syllogistic, encyclopedic, and stirred its students to extended effort-causing him to disappear into the library for months on end in what he calls his golden years. It was a department preoccupied with the Big Picture, and […]

Banbury Cross

When one or another of the cowpunchers used a revolver, the man did not so much fire a shot as “slam a bullet.” If a ranch hand was tough enough, he would “ride anything with hair on it.” Coffee had been brewed properly if it would “Roat a horseshoe.” Blankets were “sougans.” A tarpaulin was […]

Eastbound streams

In the Bronco, we moved through the snow toward the mountains, crossing the last of the Great Plains, which had been shaped like ocean swells by eastbound streams. Now and again, a pump jack was visible near the road, sucking up oil from deep Cretaceous sand, bobbing solemnly at its task-a giant grasshopper absorbed in […]


Much of Wyoming’s bentonite is Cretaceous in age and consistent in composition. Since it lies on every side of the mountain ranges, it seems not so much to imply as to certify that when it was so broadly deposited the mountains were not there. The Cretaceous is not far back in the history of the […]

The surface of Europe

“The surface of Europe, adorned before by a tropical vegetation and inhabited by troops of large elephants, enormous hippopotami, and gigantic carnivora, was suddenly buried under a vast mantle of ice, covering alike plains, lakes, seas, and plateaus,” he wrote in his Etudes sur les Glaciers (1840). “Upon the life and movement of a powerful […]

A spellbinder

“Science is not a detached, impersonal thing. People will be influenced as much by someone who is a spellbinder as by someone with a good, logical story. It is spellbinding to say that these belts are exotic and were built through time by micro or macro pieces aggregated to the continent. But the fact that […]

The Finsteraarhorn

Of all special fields within the science, glacial geology is the most evident, the least inferred. It is, for one thing, contemporary. The ice is in recess but has not gone away. In addition to the ice of Antarctica, there is ice more than two miles thick over Greenland. There are twenty-seven thousand square miles […]

The Brevard Zone

I remembered Leonard Harris-one day at their home in Laurel, Maryland-saying, “The Brevard Zone is the sort of fault you would see in any thrust belt. With the plate-tectonic model, anybody can write a history of an area without having been there. These people have no way to evaluate what they’re doing. They just make […]