Friday, February 7, 2014

Journey to the Center of the Earth

I was fairly young (5-6 years old) when I first saw a rerun of the 1959 movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth" starring James Mason and Pat Boone. I was enthralled by this movie. It was fantastic and amazing. I remember I wanted a goose (named Gertrude) and I wanted to see the center of Earth.
 The gist of the movie was that Professor Lindenbrook received some volcanic rock from one of his geology students Alec McEwan (played by Pat Boone). I don't remember the exact details but Professor Lindenbrook discovered that another man had found a way to the center of the Earth a few hundred years earlier.  The professor and his student, Alec head to Iceland to follow the clues left by this guy who discovered the route to the center of the Earth.

Okay, I know what you are thinking...this is just a movie! But it was the first thing I remember as a child that something called a geologist got to go to the center of the COOL was that!!!

Later on in my adulthood, other movies came out (we won't mention "The Core" with the heroine "Rebecca" (weird connection)  but it left me feeling numb and thinking back on the "Journey to the Center of the Earth". I am not a fan of the movie, however it led me back to other probabilities such as what Jules Verne wrote about. IS the only place on Earth where the mid-Atlantic ocean ridge comes to shore. It is so unique that it still surprises me that Jules Verne knew all of this and made connections that most would never be able to. Verne also wrote some of my other favorites like "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea", and "From the Earth to the Moon".  I wonder a lot about Monsieur Verne and H.G. Wells as they were men well before their time.

Can we travel to the center of the Earth. No - unfortunately! (Sad face)

Lab experiments are all we have to tell us the story of the world below our feet. What minerals melt at certain temperatures and pressure, how basaltic flows come up to the surface (divergent zones - mid-oceanic ridges) and  how our Earth's crust is created and recycled. The center of the Earth is still off limits, however geologists today have a good idea of how mantle rock is brought up and how it helps to construct the modern Earth's crust.

Ophiolites are a geologist's best friend when it comes to studying mantle rock. They include basaltic pillow lavas to ultramafics (wehrlite, harzburgite, and dunite) that are brought up and found in the deformation of  modern-day mountain belts which are called "alpine peridotites". These are the modern-day geologists journey to the center of the Earth.

I am hopeful that as a geologist I will be able to travel the to center of the Earth, using modern-day technology and the offering from Mother Earth in the form of ophiolites. Sure, it is NOT as adventurous as the telling of Jules Verne's tale to the center of the Earth, but it does give us a wonderful data as to what is happening deep down in our beautiful planet.

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