The goal today was to get as many cores as possible for Stephanie’s project. To achieve that, we went to several different beaches and looked for areas that looked likely to have been affected by storm surges. These areas needed to be close enough to the water to have the storm deposits and far enough to have marsh deposits for dating. First stop: Rosalie Beach! This seemed like a good location because of the nearby marshy areas.
To get to this beach, we ‘had’ to stop at this beautiful little resort (to get permission).
Behind the resort, there were stormy black sand beaches.
The black sand is made from crushed up volcanic rock. These rocks are high in dark minerals that give the sand its black appearance.
We made sure, with the help of a guide, that we would not disturb the turtles that lay their eggs at this beach. We also found some places that we thought may have had a history of storm surges.
Stephanie digs a hole to examine the layers while Dr. Lazar provides guidance.
After Rosalie, we headed to a nearby rocky beach to look for similar spots.
There were definitely some interesting features at this beach, and it was clear that the storms here can bring in intense and unpredictable waves as well as high winds as can be seen in the trees on the side of this cliff.
We took samples at Delices Beach behind large rocks that would potentially slow the receding water and lower the water energy for foraminifera to be deposited in the area. We then can use the core to see the record of storm events by identifying the ocean foraminifera that were taken up onto land and deposited there.
Overall, we managed to recover seven cores that look promising. A very successful day!
We started off the day getting our drone up and running. We’ll be using this throughout the next week and a half to document some features that are more difficult to see on foot.
This photo is of where we are staying, with the drone about 70 feet up!
Though some of our work is fun and involves drones, some is less glamorous, like getting permits to do research, especially in protected areas. While most of the paperwork can be done in advance, there is still the matter of going to town and collecting and signing all the documents… fortunately for us, ‘going to do paperwork’ in Roseau puts us right next to Champagne Beach! Naturally we decided to investigate.
Some of our favorite shots from Champagne Beach.
One of the main draws to Dominica is the underwater bubble streams that give Champagne Reef its name. For us, they are of particular interest because of the research Dr. Lazar is working on. We had to wait until 5 for the permit to research in the reef, so we used several hours to snorkel and select spots that looked most promising for samples.
We entered the water and almost immediately were greeted by 3 squid. We also noticed small CO2 seeps in the shallows here.
We headed out deeper and the larger CO2 vents proved easy to find. They ranged in size and bubble frequency and were spread all over the left corner of the beach. Many of the rocks featured fractures, which were abundant with the seeps.
Of course, the CO2 seeps were not the only highlight of the snorkel. We got to play with anemones, by brushing seaweed lightly by it and watching as the anemone grabbed onto it. We then were able to catch a glimpse of an octopus as it hid away in a crevice of rock.
The actual ‘beach’ on Champagne is mostly rocks but there are a few spots with black sand. The black sand comes from the volcanic materials like basalt, augite, hornblende, iron oxides, lava fragments, and volcanic glass being broken up rather than the calcium carbonate and quartz that make up white sanded beaches.
Tomorrow, with our permits obtained, we will begin sampling various beaches around Dominica!
The Clemson Geopaths team is in Dominica! Our mission today: to explore and mark out the best places for further study in the next two weeks. The first stop was this incredible cliff face right off the main road, which had clearly defined layers of large rocks and fine sediments of varying colors. The most interesting part about these layers was their direction. Usually sediment layers are found parallel to the ground, but here they are diagonal and even switch direction every few meters!
Dr. Moysey and Dr. Lazar discuss the unique features of these cliffs.
Similar rock features continued to follow the road throughout Dominica, making it clear why so many geologists choose this island for their studies. Yet alongside the beautiful, vibrant features lie stories of a different nature. Tropical storms and hurricanes ravage the infrastructure, ecology and coastline – leaving behind devastation and permanent changes to the shape of the land.
Dr. Moysey explains how the river has changed over time, and how we can predict future changes.
A large section of geology dedicates itself to studying how coastlines are likely to change over time based on past events and predicted future ones. This sustainability focus includes recommendations on where to build new structures, and what may be done to preserve current ones.
The remains of a bridge built in 2015
A bridge immediately next to the previous destroyed bridge, built in 1921 and still functional! (But not built for cars to drive across.)
Clearly, there are some questions to be asked if a bridge built so recently can be destroyed while one almost 100 years older remains.
Emily investigates more evidence of storm damage in Dominica.
The later part of the day was spent in the water. We visited Toucari Beach and were able to snorkel out and find CO2 seeps. These seeps release streams of CO2 bubbles and are evidence of volcanic activity of Dominica.
We ended the day when afternoon thunderstorms chased us out of the water. As we headed back, we stopped for ice cream! We were able to try local flavors like banana, coconut, and passion fruit.
They were delicious! (left to right: Katrina, Emily and Stephanie)
(Sorry for the day-late update. The internet and power was down due to the lightning storms!)
Kwaj has a very close tie to World War II. The Marshalls were under German control until they were handed over to the Japanese. In WWII, US forces fought to take control of Pacific islands, including Kwajalein. The battle to take Kwajalein involved one of the heaviest bombings of the war; over 15,000 tons of ammunition was dropped onto the island. It then took 4 days for the US troops to move in.
The original Kwajalein island is smaller than it is today. During the Japanese and US occupation, they dug and/or bombed holes in the coral reef surrounding the island. They then used this material to extend the length of the island to almost 3 miles long.
At low tide, these tide pools are accessible. The inside of the pools are often home to sharks and other sea creatures that get trapped as the tide rolls out. This give you the chance to take a look at some animals that are otherwise hard to find. Low tide exposes some of the reef and can be explored.
Clemson Geopaths Intern
Yesterday was a great boat day. We were all at the dock at 8 am, and out on the water by 8:30. We immediately set out for Kwajalein Atoll's West Reef. This involved heading out of the lagoon through the man-made SAR (Search And Rescue) pass. The plan was to get video footage of SAR pass by dragging a GoPro through the channel but the waves were too rough and it was too shallow to put it in the water. So we continued on toward Gea.
Once in the water we were able to record the odd channel-like grooves on Gea. There are multiple of them, all and they all lead up to the island.
Gea proved to have a lot of life, even though the coral present seemed to be struggling. Bleached and algae-covered coral dominate most of the area, but pillow starfish and sea urchins and clams were abundant. We even were able to catch a glimpse of a sea turtle and see a pair of dolphins play for a minute.
Once we left Gea we headed back into the lagoon through South Pass (between Carlos and Carlson). This time we were able to drag the GoPro and image the natural pass and much of the lagoon dropoff on the way to Carlson. Once at Carlson we circled the Prinz Eugen, attempting to get better images than last time off of the GoPro setup.
On our last pass by the ship the clamp attaching the GoPro to the handline snapped. We then had to circle back around to look for it. Thankfully, we saw it and a friend jumped in and was able to retrieve it. She completely saved over two hours of video we had collected that morning. Thank you Danielle!
Clemson Geopaths Intern
Field work is a lot harder than I expected. Even though I am very familiar with the area and comfortable in the water, getting work done at the same time is a new challenge.
The weather here in the tropics, as always, has been sunny and hot, but also windy. The last couple of days has had wind around 20 mph. And while the wind might feel nice in the heat it makes the water choppy and disrupts the clarity. Meaning plans over the last few days have changed a lot, with cancelled boats and waves stopping tidal pool trips.
But there is always something to look at on the island. Even if there is less than 2 square miles of land to explore readily.
Clemson Geopaths Intern
Yesterday I went on one of the most intense boat rides of my life. It was fairly windy and rainy but there was no advisory for small crafts so we decided to go. For the first part of the afternoon we decided to head to a close island- Big Bustard. There we hopped into the water and immediately found a suitcase about 30 feet down.
Almost immediately it was clear that the coral in the area has not been doing well. While there are healthy parts in most sections of the reef, the majority of the reef shows some sign of damage. There are toppled pieces, bleaching pieces, broken pieces, along with dead coral. In the photos most of the brown is algae that is covering the dead coral.
The next thing I noticed was a large amount of trash in the area.
After a while off of Big Bustard we decided to head to a shipwreck- the Prinz Eugen located off of another island.
Most of the wreck is underwater so to get video of the length of it, we attached a GoPro to a device that let us drag it off the back of the boat. None of the video showed the boat because the water was too murky from the storm. At this point our radio went dead. We then turned out from around the wreck and were met by 5 ft waves that put more water in the boat than was comfortable. So we headed back.
Also, I found this really odd coral head. It seems like a calcium carbonate rock with an anemone or soft coral covering. My friends and family and I all have a different idea of what it is so to be honest I don't know what it is.
Clemson Geopaths Intern
The first thing you should know about the Marshalls is that they feel like they are in the middle of nowhere. It takes about 2 days to travel out here (from the East Coast US), but the destination is absolutely worth it. Hopefully after seeing and learning about the Marshall Islands and what this island nation is losing from climate change, you will feel the same way and share the knowledge with others.
The Marshall Islands are about halfway between Hawaii and Australia and are made up of low-lying coral atolls and islands. These islands face a variety of problems from climate change from sea level rise to ocean acidification. The rising sea intrudes into the shallow water lenses that provides water for the people living here and also threatens to destroy homes and the islands itself. The coral reefs that provide food face destruction from the rising temperatures and increased acidity from an increase in the CO2 in the water.
While I am out here I plan to document the troubles the people here face from the changing environment and share their stories. I want to show people the beauty of the islands that will disappear as we continue to pollute the Earth.
So below are some of my favorite shots I have gotten so far, all while snorkeling off of my island, Kwajalein.
I will be posting more about what I see here in the Marshalls over the next few weeks as well as reporting conditions on the water salinatization, sea level rise, coral bleaching, and more!
Clemson Geopaths Intern
Clemson's senior geology students finished their senior research projects less than a month ago, and we are already gearing up for next year's class! Each senior in our program is required to complete a research project in order to graduate, which they begin their sophomore year. The students work with faculty mentors to develop and complete these projects over a three-year research sequence, and investigate everything from bedrock petrology to hydrogeology to climate change.
Our program, Clemson Geopaths, aims to improve geology research experiences for our undergraduate students, both majors and non-majors. This summer, Geopaths intern Stephanie Hibberts will be traveling home to the Marshall Islands and documenting the effects of climate change on her low-lying Pacific atoll, Kwajalein. To learn more about the negative impacts climate change and sea-level rise will have on the Marshall Islands check out her interactive StoryMap, and keep up with her adventures by following this blog over the next month!
-Dr. Kelly Lazar
Clemson Geopaths Coordinator