22 August, 2001
Emily Desmerais is an undergraduate student studying geology and math at New Mexico Tech. She will be the first undergraduate student to accompany Dr. Philip Kyle on a trip to Mt. Erebus. She spoke with me about the Global Positioning Systems (GPS) that will be used to measure ground movement in a wide area around the volcano. The technique used to gain a wide array of data is called “campaigning.” This means that Emily, Dr. Kyle, (and hopefully myself, at some point) will need to fly to several different locations, set up the system, leave it recording for three days and then pick it up for the next stop on the campaign trail. The monitors are extremely sensitive, and can measure ground movement in units as small as millimeters.
Although rock dating is not included in this field trip, it has been a key component of other forays on Mt. Erebus, and the man responsible for doing the tests is Richard Esser. He will be joining the team as a power technician. He took the time to show me several labs here at New Mexico Tech, foremost of which is the Potassium/Argon lab, which essentially measures the ratio of Argon 40 to Argon 39. A detailed description of how this is done would not be appropriate here, but if you’d like a thumbnail sketch of the process, feel free to e-mail me.
Finally, a word about the features of the ubiquitous anorthoclase phonolite found on Mt. Erebus. Anorthoclase feldspar has a crystal structure that is pictured below. These crystals form within the phonolite, which was named because the first researchers to strike it with a rock hammer noted a ringing sound—hence the prefix “phon.” The crystals form in the magma chamber, emit during an eruption, then as the phonolite weathers away they are exposed. The veterans tell me they are everywhere around the crater rim.
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