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Patagonia field work — Update #3

February 18, 2012

Unexpected trip to town this morning to get some new (and much beefier) tires put on our vehicle. The ones we had were okay, but it’ll be good to have some better ones for some places we want to go in the coming weeks. So … while we wait for new tires to be put on we figured we’d stop by our favorite coffee/internet cafe.

Yesterday we drove up to Estancia Cerro Guido to meet with some other scientists doing research in this region. They were giving a little talk to some locals and tourists. One of them is a plant fossil expert investigating the history of South America-Antarctica connections. Patagonia and the Antarctic Peninsula were once connected until the Drake Passage fully opened in the Oligocene. He’s studying the Upper Cretaceous through Miocene plant fossil record in both Patagonia and Antarctica to test hypotheses about the timing of the opening. Very cool.

Another scientist gave a short talk on ichthyasaur fossils they are excavating from Jurassic to Lower Cretaceous strata just west and downsection from where we are working. The fossils are extremely well preserved and found amongst deep-marine turbidite deposits. An interesting aspect of this is the mechanism for their preservation because it’s thought turbidity currents would destroy the carcass in the process of ripping it up off the seafloor. They are hypothesizing that the animals were potentially sucked down into a submarine canyon following the passage of a turbidity current. Very interesting.

It’s great to learn about what other Earth scientists are working on down here. We are focused on the sedimentology and stratigraphic architecture of these turbidite systems — mapping out bed-scale to basin-scale relationships and reconstructing the location and nature of submarine channel systems. These channels are the main conduits delivering sediment from land to the deep sea and their deposits left in the rock record help us understand their evolution.

Image: photograph taken yesterday of the famous Paine Massif near Estancia Cerro Guido

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