January 1, 2011

A New Year’s Day Rock: Travertine Icings and Scums

Posted by Evelyn Mervine

Happy New Year!

To celebrate the new year, here are some photos of some very new rocks. These travertines in Oman are some of the youngest rocks I’ve encountered in my geological wanderings.

These “icings” and “scums”  are travertines (mostly the mineral calcite) that are precipitating from highly alkaline (pH ~11-12) springs that form when rainwater circulates through mantle peridotite. Thin layers of newly-formed travertine (icings) often float on the surfaces of the alkaline pools. The first year I was in Oman (2009), there was a rare desert rainstorm that pushed the travertine icings to the bottom of the pools. The icings grew back with a few days, so we know that these travertines are very young indeed! Travertine scums often coat the bottoms of the pools, giving the pools a stunning bright turquoise color. 

I am studying the formation of these young travertines- and other types of carbonates- in the Samail Ophiolite in Oman. You can learn more about my thesis research here, and I’ll surely blog more about this research in the future. For now, enjoy these pictures of beautiful, newly-formed, desert travertine icings and scums.

Travertine ice 1, Oman, January 2010.
Travertine ice 2, Oman, January 2010.

Alkaline pool 1, Oman, January 2009.
Alkaline pool 2, Oman, January 2009.
Travertine-coated bottle, Oman, January 2009.

Fish swimming in alkaline water, Oman, January 2009.
Travertine cascade, Oman, January 2009.
Alkaline pool 3, Oman, January 2009.
Alkaline pool 4, Oman, January 2009.
Alkaline pool 5, Oman, January 2009.
Alkaline pool 6, Oman, January 2009.

Travertine ice with travertine terraces, Oman, January 2010.
Submerged travertine terraces, Oman, January 2010.