In August 2017, Darren, Katie and Ben attended Goldschmidt 2017 in Paris. Goldschmidt is one of the foremost annual, international conferences on geochemistry and related subjects. Each year, the week-long conference brings together thousands of scientists from throughout the world to talk about subjects including the origin of the Earth and planets, the chemical processes that have shaped Earth over time, the search for new resources, and the environmental challenges facing today’s world. At the conference, Darren convened a session about timescales of crustal processes, and Katie presented a talk about the team’s research and findings entitled “1 million years of volcanism on Ascension Island: insights from stratigraphy, 40Ar/39Ar dating and petrology”. Both the session and the talk were well attended and interest in Ascension geology was strong. After the conference the team even managed to find a bit of time to do some sightseeing and sample the delights of French patisserie.
We are excited to have been awarded a NERC Isotope Geosciences Facilities Steering Committee grant to enable us to date some extra Ascension samples! The grant was awarded to Jenni, Darren and Katie so that they can investigate, in more detail, the timing and frequency of explosive eruptions on Ascension, using the 40Ar/39Ar dating method, linked to the detailed fieldwork that has already been carried out.
In November 2016, Jenni, Katie and Anna attended Cities on Volcanoes 9, which was held in beautiful Puerto Varas, Chile. The biannual Cities on Volcanoes conference aims to provide a link between volcanologists and emergency managers, enabling them to exchange ideas and promote multi-disciplinary applied research involving physical and social scientists and city officials. Katie presented two posters about her Ascension research, one on the island’s eruptive history and one about 40Ar/39Ar geochronology of young eruptions. During the conference, the team enjoyed a field trip to visit deposits from the 2016 Calbuco eruption and appreciated hearing from villagers sharing their experiences of the eruption.
Picturesque views from near the conference centre: snow-capped Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes
On 16th – 28th October, Katie Rich and Charlotte (with little Sebastian and baby bump Arianna) were on island for the 3rd field season of the project. The aim of the field season was to put into place the remaining pieces of the geology jigsaw, mainly focussing on the rocks in the centre and east of the island, formed during past explosive eruptions. We explored remote nooks and crannies on the island (including a scramble down the infamous Spire Beach track and an acrophobia-inducing walk out to Boatswain Bird View!) and found evidence for even more eruptions than we previously knew about! We were also happy to be able to correlate some volcanic deposits to eruptions that we have documented in previous field seasons. We took even more rock samples to do further 40Ar/39Ar dating, particularly focused on better resolving the timings of young explosive eruptions. The team also had several meetings with decision makers on the island to discuss how our scientific data will be useful to islanders. We’d like to say a big thank you to everyone on Ascension Island for your amazing hospitality and for making our visit run smoothly and enjoyable as always!
Rich contemplating a beautiful ignimbrite underlying a lava flow near the Ariane site on the NE coast
Katie ‘sampling’ the spectacular Little White Hill, her new favourite lava dome
Happy to have made it to the Spire Beach Letterbox and discover some new eruptions along the way…now just to walk back up again…
Spectacular views on the Letterbox peninsula, looking out over the Devil’s Inkpot lava flow and Little White Hill
The dust has settled, and Katie, Katy, Rich and Charlotte are now all safely back in the UK and getting back into ‘normality’ following a very successful field campaign in April/May, which saw Katie and Katy spend more than a month on the island carrying out detailed volcanological field work and collecting the final few samples for dating and chemical analysis.
The main aims of our field work this season were:
- To correlate eruptions identified in different parts of the island, across the whole island
- To develop an eruptive stratigraphy for all the explosive eruptions on the island, so that we know how each eruption relates in time relative to others
- To describe in detail, sample and trace out any zoned eruptive units
- To sample olivine-rich lavas for geochemical analysis from multiple localities
Aside from undertaking our fieldwork we were also able to hold a public meeting at the Saints Club to share some our understanding of the volcanic history of Ascension and to describe our research, thanks to all who attended. Meetings with decision makers on island were also an important outcome of this visit, so that we can understand how our data will be most useful to the community. As well as the more formal meetings,
Katie and Katy also very much enjoyed taking the cubs out for a small field trip one evening!
Thank you to everyone on the island who made our time on Ascension so successful and enjoyable. We hope to be able to come back and deliver the results of our research next year at the conclusion to this project.
Fissure on the North East coast – the vent for the zoned fall deposits
Compositionally zoned fall at Upper Valley Crater
Looking down on one of the youngest lava flows from Sisters Peak