28 June 2009

Glacial Successions - 2009 University of Calgary

In June, we arrived in Calgary to teach the principals of sedimentary deposition, effects of secondary weathering and methods to describe those elements on boring logs and then rationalize a meaningful way to correlate geologic units from boring to boring.

It was a blast.

First, we drove to Calgary (Ken Borrell and me, Dan Kelleher). The drive is about 20 hours from Waverly, Minnesota and it took us two full days. Someone might say wanting to drive across the "boring" plains is crazy....but to a pair of keen geoscientists, the glacial landscape is full of subtle rolls that tell a riveting post-glacial story.

We sampled a pilot boring the day before the course to better understand the regional setting. It was my first sonic boring in Canada (June 16, 2009). The long days enabled us to spend sufficient time with the core and place it on tables in order to read the story the sediments were telling us.

The capacity course began on campus at the University of Calgary. The first day is dedicated to teaching depositional environments, secondary weathering and then moves into the "do's and don'ts" of building the geologic framework, unraveling glacial sedimentary complexities and then applying what we see to designing ground water monitoring systems, selecting geotechnical soil samples that are diagnostic to site stratigraphy and project objectives and having confidence in your site conceptual model.

The attendees arrived at the field site on Day Two by motor coach. Soil core was continuously sampled by sonic methods and then placed from end to end on a table. Placement of the soil core is remarkable when inspecting it in this manner. The sedimentary story is so much easier to read and the geologic history is apparent, even to those without a science background.

We were glad we had a circus-sized canopy tent at 3pm when a drenching storm cloud passed overhead for 10 minutes. Everyone stayed dry and we never lost a minute of teaching.

Although sonic drilling was reportedly developed in Canada and gained popularity in the US through North Star Drilling (Tom Oothoudt) which is now Boart Longyear, sonic is reportedly just gaining momentum in Canada for environmental applications. The drilling company that drilled the boring in Calgary was Crater Lake Drilling from Red Deer, Alberta. The crew did a world-class job of careful sampling and 100-percent core recovery which makes teaching sedimentary sequences much easier, thank you to Gary Whitesell and his crew.

Following the course, Ken and I headed to the Columbia Ice Field located between Banff and Jasper, Alberta. The ice of the apline Athcabasca Glacier is remarkably clean compared to those reportedly dirty continental ice sheets that covered the Upper Midwest. It was an enjoyable trip that was worth every mile. -Dan.