Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau

One of the late-night movies that impressed me as a kid was the 1936 "Invisible Ray" in which Boris Karloff builds a machine capable of reaching out into space to capture light waves that left Earth millions of years ago. With this amazing device, he watched as if in high orbit, as a meteor of rare composition struck western Africa in the distant geologic past.

As I became a geologist, I occasionally thought how wonderful it would be to have Karloff's machine so I could watch the entire geologic evolution of the Earth from above and fill in all the gaps in our knowledge.

Now, Ron Blakey and Wayne Ranney have essentially built their own time machine to examine the geologic history of the Colorado Plateau, just as if you were capturing Karloff's invisible rays from the last billion plus years.

"Ancient Landscapes of the Colorado Plateau" just published by the Grand Canyon Association, contains more than 70 paleogeographic maps of the Colorado Plateau (and sometimes half the globe) that give the reader the sense that you are seeing images captured throughout geologic history by some paleo-astronauts.

Ron and Wayne have compiled a wealth of detailed stratigraphic and other data to provide a substantial technical basis for their recreations. What makes this book unique and so spectacular, is the authors application of modern geologic analogs to the limited information in the geologic record to create plausible and striking images of the ancient landscapes of the region.

It seems that every geologic formation on the Plateau has it's own map. There are more than another 100 illustrations and photos that tie the maps to the outcrop. I have never seen paleogeographic maps that are this exciting and thought-provoking. The artistic quality is superb and I especially like that all the modern political boundaries are subdued enough that you can easily ignore them to better view the geology. When you want to put it back in perspective I found it only takes a second or two to refocus and see where you are.

This is a bold interpretation of the history of the Colorado Plateau and one that will fascinate the casual reader and dazzle even the most experienced Plateau expert.

1 comment:

  1. This is an incredible book and every bookstore should start carrying it. Simply beautiful!