Archive for July, 2013

Scary moment a few days ago. I was back sampling at the cirque on Achill Island when the cloud cover dropped and visibility diminished considerably. Once I decided to head out I started walking uphill towards what I thought was where I came in. Next thing I know I am standing near the edge of a 300 meter cliff down to the Atlantic. It probably wasn’t as close as I remember it, but it sure woke me up.

Once I got moderately oriented I took the only visible route back out of the cirque, which just happened to be up the very steep sidewall. Definitely wore me out, but I figured it was the safest route. I had been told to be mindful of quickly dropping cloud cover in Ireland, and now I see why.

Since I had finished up sampling at the Achill Island site early I used the extra day to run back out to the Nephin Beg range and see if I could grab a few samples from a cirque we visited a few weeks before. While there have been steeper more technically difficult hikes this season, this one hike was easily the hardest one. It’s a three kilometer hike across a bog with hidden creeks that love to catch your feet in crevasses. The bog is followed by a sneaky climb that looks gentler than actuality. It didn’t help that the midges were out in force as well as their larger  horse fly friends. They were distracting enough at the car that I neglected to put on sunblock. Something I am paying for now.

Yet, even with all of the troubles I have encountered I am still in good spirits. That means two more sample sites completed and only two more to go. I am returning to Connemara today, and will finish there tomorrow, and then back down to Kerry to visit Dingle Peninsula. Today though, I am taking it easy. Getting some coffee in Westport and giving my clothes a much needed washing.

Here is a picture of the cirque I visited yesterday, and one from the perspective of the cirque.




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Mark another one off the books. As of tomorrow I will be leaving Donegal for the year after finishing up the sampling in the Blue Stacks. It has been a hot past few days. Maybe not in DC terms, but definitely in Irish terms. The added heat, long hike, and heavier granite samples led to some exhausting days in the field. For that reason, when I finished up today I paid homage to Francis M. Synge, a Irish glacial geologist who would celebrate finishing a field site by going for a swim in the tarn. The water sure was cold, but felt mighty fine after the hot day of sledge swinging.


With two or three more areas left to sample the equipment is starting to show wear and tear. I already broke one carbide-tipped chisel with Alan, and the replacement one without the carbide tip is rounding off quickly. It has already lost every bit of it’s padding that made it appealing in the first place. My work gloves are starting to get holes in the fingers, and my field pants are starting to develop holes where I won’t mention.

My hands are starting to feel some wear and tear as well. Nothing bad, just sore from all the errant hammer swings that catch a knuckle or thumb.


I got the good word that the first batch of samples has already arrived in Oregon, and the next batch was placed in the mail today. It will be nice having them waiting for me when I return in a couple of weeks. I’ll probably take a moment to breath, and then get right to processing them in the lab. That’s the plan anyways.

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It has been an eventful past few days. Most importantly, this last Tuesday saw the arrival of my good friend, and geology partner, Alan D. Pitts, on loan from University de Camerino in Italy. He had finished up another year of field camp instruction with the James Madison University group in Connemara and stuck around to help me out. We decided to work on the cirque just north of Killarey Harbor in Mayo that we had visited when we were here two years ago. Working there also gave us the opportunity to visit with some local friends I had not seen in awhile. There may have also been some dancing involved, but I won’t get into that.


What we aimed to be a one-day sample job slowly turned into three. I am lying here now after a long day of sampling writing this up and compiling all of the data we have gathered. The good news is that we were able to assemble pretty good coverage of samples that will hopefully help constrain the interpretation of this cirque’s glacial history.


Most of our days were spent sampling, recording, and discussing. It was very helpful to have Alan around, not only for the extra muscle but also for his geologic know-how and familiarity with the site. As of now we have roughly two or three working hypotheses for this quite complicated cirque. This area may be one of the least straightforward areas I visit this year. What excites me about this site though is that the dates we get back from our samples will almost certainly confirm one of our hypotheses.

This is a far greater tragedy than you can realize.Image

With the Sruhauncullinmore site completed that leaves four more to go. Unfortunately tomorrow we drive back to Dublin so Alan can catch his plane home. Afterwards I will be solo once again. I am thinking I will head north this time to Donegal, and maybe work my way south.


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