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Digging the patterned ground

where are we today?

We spent all day today about 200 meters (656 feet) from camp, working on a patio-sized patch of chunky ‘a‘a lava (see yesterday for a crash course in lava). Fair skies continued to smile on us, but a fresh south wind blew all day, making it chilly any time we weren’t working.

Fortunately, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution scientists Mark Kurz and Adam Soule had plans to keep us busy. They wanted to dig a trench in the lava to study a curious phenomenon called “patterned ground,” in which nearly regular cracks spider across the ground. That’s right: dig a trench into the lava. Fortunately we were well prepared, and the first part of the afternoon involved learning the subtle art of jackhammering. At the bottom of the pit, Kurz and Soule found an unexpected ingredient, forcing them to re-imagine the lava flow we stood upon.

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »

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