19 May 2011
Landslides in art part 11: John K. Nakata
Posted by Dave Petley
This is part 11 of the occasional series on landslides in art. Part 10 is here.
For a change, this time I thought I’d feature a photographic print. The subject is a photograph by John K. Nakata entitled landslide. The artist runs a photographic business in California that makes best use of the opportunities provided by the landscape of that part of the world. Unfortunately, no description or notes are associated with the picture, which can be found (and purchased) from Barewalls:
This is a classic example of a sandpile landslide, but the picture actually illustrates a number of really interesting aspects of such landslides. First, it is impossible to judge the scale – is this a metre or 30 metres long? The problem with judging scale illustrates that in a granular material the features associated with such a process are essentially scale-invariant. Second, even though sand is a granular material, the deposit has still developed clear discontinuities. Third, it is quite easy to pick out a small, post-landslide failure on each side of the main scar, and the small deposit that this has created in each case. Finally, the toe of the landslide on the left side has started to be sculpted, presumably by the wind.
Comments, and suggestions for further editions, welcome.
The ATV tracks give me some sense of scale. I find it fascinating that some tracks are preserved on the slide itself.
I’ve left a comment on Mr Nekata’s page for the print, so hopefully he might get back to you. I was wondering whether the tracks are by an animal such as a lizard or a beetle, rather than ATV tracks. That would give an altogether different scale to the slide! I’ve seen similar tracks in dunes in Jordan and the Rhub al-Khali in Oman, and seen the beasties that made them, but the tracks were only about 5cm wide all told!
Yeah — I thought they were beetle or scorpion tracks…
Yes, pretty sure these are beetle tracks. So, the slide might be maybe 50cm or so…
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The photograph was taken at the Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve. It’s about 40 miles SE of Baker, CA. The length of the sand slide is about 1 meter and the tracks are from a beetle. There was a whole set of similar slides along the lee side of this dune. The lee side of the dune, called the slip face, maintains a ~34° angle of repose. When the angle gets higher there is always a chance for these features to form. The best time to photograph is early morning when the nightly activity of critters are still visible. Late afternoon is also good time for dune features enhance by shadows.