Surface Surveys

2017-2019

 

2019

 

No6, 25°S:

Simpson Desert - Australia: Protected in 1972 as an Australian Conservation Park

Solo Project: 2019

Project Length: 9 Months

 

Description: With an area of 68,000 square miles and located in the “red center” of Australia, the Simpson Desert is the world’s largest sand desert also containing the longest parallel sand dunes in the world. The primary characteristic of the Simpson Desert is the extensive system of long, straight, and evenly spaced parallel dunes that vary in color from vibrant red to white. Individual dunes commonly extend continuously for over 150km, with some as long as 200km.

Formation: Formation of Simpson Desert began over 270M years ago. The creation of the desert began about 270 million years ago after all the glaciers in the area melted. Sedimentary pieces of sand, mud, and small stones carried by water and glaciers, landed in the depressions of the earth where the desert is and formed a layer, with freshwater lakes above it. This later became the seal over the Pedrika Basin. As the earth moved, the ground shifted and created a down warp. This then filled again with sedimentary layers and freshwater lakes, forming the Eromanga Basin 225 million years ago. The cycle continued for millions of years, until a 200 meter layer of sediment became the base of the sand dunes seen today. About 1.8 million years ago, changes in climate dried up all the lakes and rivers making the arid environment of today.

 

Today: Aboriginal peoples have occupied and managed the desert lands and waters for thousands of generations. No maintained roads cross the desert, however, ancient song lines that reflect the creation of desert landforms and provide geographical references, enabling Wangkangurru Yarluyandi people to navigate their way across the desert.

2018

 

No5, 42°N:

Craters of the Moon Lava Field - Idaho, USA: Protected in 1924 as a US National Monument

Solo Project: 2018

Project Length: 1 Year

 

Description: Occupying the northern edge of the Snake River Plain, Craters of the Moon Lava Field, an area of 400 square miles, is the largest Holocene-aged basaltic lava field in the contiguous United States, and represents one of the best-preserved flood basalt areas in the continental United States.

 

Formation: Around 8 million years ago the Yellowstone Hot Spot was beneath Craters of the Moon and between 6 million and 15,000 years ago basaltic eruptions produced about a 4,000-ft. thickness of basalt flows. Between 15,000 and 2,000 years ago, the present day surface of the Craters of the Moon Lava Field formed during 8 major eruptive periods. During this time, the Craters of the Moon Lava Field grew to cover 618 square miles.

 

Today: In 1969, Apollo 14 astronauts prepared for their trip to the moon by spending time in the lava fields. NASA research continues at Craters of the Moon today. The Monument was designated an International Dark Sky Park in 2017.

 

No4, 32°N:

White Sands National Park - New Mexico, USA: Protected as a US National Monument in 1933 and further as a US National Park in 2019.

Solo Project: 2018

Project Length: 1 Year

 

Description: White Sands National Park is made up entirely of water-soluble gypsum crystals that form dunes stretching over 275 square miles, making the Park the largest gypsum dune field in the world. Gypsum does not absorb heat from the sun so even on the hottest days, the sands remain cool.

 

Formation: The White Sands gypsum was originally deposited 250 million years ago in a shallow sea covering the region of the supercontinent, Pangaea, that is now the American Desert Southwest. About 70 million years ago, the gypsum-rich deposits were uplifted into a dome during a mountain-building episode known as the Laramide orogeny, which also raised the Rocky Mountains. Then, about 10 million years ago, crustal extension along the Rio Grande Rift caused the dome to collapse, eventually creating the Tularosa Basin, which surrounds White Sands.

Today: On July 16, 1945, the world’s first atomic bomb was detonated in the northern section of the White Sands Missile Range at the Trinity Site. Today, the bombing range is still active and closed to the public 363 days a year. White Sands National Park is surrounded by military installations, with the White Sands Missile Range to the north and Holloman Air Force Base to the east. Occasionally, the national monument and U.S. Highway 70 between Alamogordo and Las Cruces are closed due to missile testing.

 

First person to receive permission from the US Army to document the dune field from the air for non-scientific or military purposes.

 

2017

No3, 42°N:

City of Rocks National Reserve – Idaho, USA: Protected as a National Reserve in 1988

Solo Project: 2017

Project Length: 1.5 Years

 

Description: Covering 14,407 acres, The City of Rocks National Reserve is situated at the southern end of the Albion Mountains and features towering granite pinnacles, fins and domes.

 

Formation: City of Rocks is part of the geologic province knows as Basin and Range. The bedrock forming City of Rocks was created 34.9 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. Then over millions of years, erosion sculpted the rock formations seen today. The eruption was from the Emory Caldera, centered near Hillsboro Peak at the southern end of the Black Range.

 

Today: Emigrants of the California Trail, which passed through the region, described the rocks as “a city of tall spires,” “steeple rocks,” and “the silent city.” Today, it is known for some of the most challenging climbing routes in the US, attracting climbers from around the world.

 

No2, 68°N: 

Greenland Ice Sheet - Greenland: The Ilulissat Icefjord was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. The majority of Greenland’s Ice Sheet is inaccessible, providing a form natural protection.

Solo Project: 2017

Project Length: 2 Years

 

Description: The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest body of ice in the world and comprises an area of nearly 650,000 square miles. Its ice ranges between 1-2 miles thick and is estimated that some is 100,000 years old.

Formation: The transition from green land to a large mass covered in ice began approximately 3 million years ago. A decline within the area’s atmospheric carbon dioxide caused the Greenland ice sheet to begin forming.

Today: The ice sheet, consisting of layers of compressed snow from more than 100,000 years, contains in its ice today's most valuable record of past climates, attracting climatologists and researchers world-wide. Many scientists who study the ice ablation in Greenland consider that an increase in temperature of two or three degrees Celsius would result in a complete melting of Greenland's ice, raising global sea levels by 24 feet.

 

No1, 22°N:

Sharqiya Sands, Oman:

Solo Project: 2017

Project Length: 1 Year

 

Description: The Sharqiya Sands is a region of desert in Oman, named for the Bani Wahiba tribe, divided between the northern and southern governorates in the Eastern Region. The area is defined by a boundary of 180 kilometers north to south and 80 kilometers east to west, with an area of 7,765 square miles.

 

Formation: The desert was formed during the Quaternary period as a result of the forces of south-west blowing monsoons and the northern Shamal trade winds, coming in from the east.

 

Today: Home to the Bedouin, the sands offer a glimpse into a traditional way of life that is fast disappearing as modern conveniences limit the need for a nomadic existence. The sands remain one of the unique, increasingly scarce, silent places where mobile phones don’t work, and where there is little evidence of human activity beyond the local Bedouin community.