Monday, May 7, 2018

UC California Naturalist Certification Week 4

Santa Catalina is the inverse Atlantis of California's Channel Islands. From crushing, tectonic power within a shifting deep, it emerged as a perplexing anomaly of geology and maintains a youthful topography. The island is in good company with California's diverse geomorphic provinces. Our field day challenged us to look closely at what might otherwise be taken for granite. 
To lead us through layers of time, heat, and pressure was John Turbeville. His deep knowledge and personal connection to Catalina provided nimble and thoughtful interpretation, encouraging us to ponder and question the very ground under our feet. We uttered odd words like schist, quartz diorite, andesite, serpentine, rhiolite, amphibolite. We magnified weathered surfaces of ancient seafloor with our hand lenses to marvel at the alchemy stirred up by our planet's athenosphere. 

Amphibolite with rusty-red garnets
Embedded cream-colored quartz 
At Shark and Little Harbors, we walked through a shoreline wonderland. Quartz is relatively uncommon in the rock recipes found on the island which we learned helps explain the rarity of iconic, fine sand found in tropical island travel photos. This beach, though, with its blue and green schist, took my breathe away in unparalleled astonishment.

Blue schist at Little Harbor
Green schist at Shark Harbor
The sliver of California's Floristic Province upon which we ambled did not escape our attention. We encountered species of cacti and succulents nestled up against ancient rocks which have provided the parent material in which they grow after millennia of erosion, dust collection, and rain.

California liveforever (Dudleya virens subsp. hassei) 
Velvet Cactus (Bergerocactus emoryi)
Red Sand Verbena (Abronia maritima)
Earlier in the day, I noticed a wolf spider at the mouth of a turret while we explored a hill with scattered, 100 million year old rocks. In a blink it was out of sight, leaving me to imagine what gems it crawled between. Later, heading back to Avalon, we visited an abandoned World War II bunker buried in a cliff, facing west over the Pacific. Barn and cliff swallows circled just beyond reach, swirling in the mid-afternoon sunshine and flashing feathers the color of blue schist, rusty-red amphibolite, and soft-white quartz. I am thankful for spiders, stones, and swallows.


  1. Was just listening to your song, No More Evolution, that I have on my Kindle and was thinking of you. Thank you for this blog and all the pics. You know Paul Birchall works for the LA County on Avalon?

    1. Hi Carol! Aw, thanks so much for keeping my song from going extinct. Glad you like the blog and pics. The Avalon branch library was one of the first places I visited! I met Morgan, the librarian at the time -- and funny enough, I ran into Paul once on the island! We were both pretty surprised to cross paths and caught up a little. He didn't mention he was going to be the next resident librarian that day -- maybe he didn't know yet -- but now that you passed along his new position, I will definitely make it a point to visit him next time I'm out on the island and mention you told me! I hope you are doing well. Please email me anytime @ at gmail. (Sorry it took me so long to reply -- I don't think I have my settings right to send me notifications, but I happened to notice it by chance yesterday, five months later!)