SRU Good News for Nov. 24, 2009
Patrick Burkhart pens article for international geology magazine
Patrick Burkhart, Slippery Rock University professor of geography, geology and the environment, is the co-author of the lead article in December's GSA Today, a prestigious monthly magazine for geologists. The article challenges Charles Darwin's hypothesis about the origin of a group of boulders in southern South America.
"Enigmatic boulder trains, supraglacial rock avalanches and the origin of Darwin's Boulders - Tierra del Fuego" is part of the magazine's bicentennial celebration of Darwin's birth and the sesquicentennial publishing of his seminal "On the Origin of Species."
"In June 1833 from the deck of HMS Beagle, Charles Darwin described a swarm of boulders observed near Bahia San Sebastian, Tierra del Fuego, in southern South America," Burkhart said. "He noted that one enormous block of syenite near St. Sebastian Bay was barn-shaped and had a girth of 47 feet."
Darwin argued the boulders were drawn into icebergs by the calving of a glacier, floated by ice rafting, then stranded and deposited with vertical uplift of the seafloor. Instead, Burkhart believes the boulders arose from avalanches of granite from mountains in the Darwin Cordillera, settled upon a glacier and were deposited as the glacier melted.
"While our interpretations after two centuries of continuing field mapping and sophisticated material analyses have revealed inaccuracies in Darwin's geologic thoughts about the boulders, we revere his exquisite, detailed recordings of natural occurrences, as well as his pursuit of rational explanations based upon observable phenomena," Burkhart said.
GSA Today is a news magazine published by the Geological Society of America. Lead articles present the results of new research on hot topics. Nine other geologists were involved in researching the boulders.
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