17 July 2011

Left behind: Accretionary Wedge #36

Posted by Jessica Ball

In July’s Accretionary Wedge at geosciblog, we’re asked what we’ve regretted leaving behind in the field. There have always been outcrops where I’ve wished I had picked up one more sample, taken one more photo, made one more measurement – that’s probably true of any geologist. But the thing that I regret leaving behind the most is small, easily replaceable, and has only sentimental value: My first hand lens.

The author (and her first hand lens) at the Grand Canyon.

I have a hard time remembering exactly where I lost it, but given that I was in college at the time, it was probably in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Many of our field trips were to the Blue Ridge, to look at Cambrian and preCambrian stratigraphy, petrology and structures. I think the trip where I probably lost the lens was one to Sugar Hollow, where I and my fellow structural geology students were working on a mapping project for our lab. The scenery was lovely – Virginia in the spring is a great place for field work – but sometimes the foliage was a bit of a hassle. Often getting to a useful outcrop required some serious bushwhacking, a lot of scrambling, and fording the occasional creek, and I’m betting that the hand lens came off my lanyard somewhere in the brambles above Sugar Hollow Reservoir.

Getting to a good outcrop in the Blue Ridge takes dedication...

It wasn’t that the hand lens was particularly expensive, or really powerful, or came in 18-carat gold with engraving and diamonds. It was a little bigger than most, and had a tendancy to flop open with too much jostling; the lens was a little loose and I invariably forgot to clean it after a trip. But there is a bit of a sentimental attachment that develops when you get your first set of field gear –  I still regret not having kept my first pair of hiking boots, the ones with soles that I melted on Kilauea’s lava flow field. I’ve since replaced the hand lens several times, but like Ron, I found that there’s always some regret associated with losing one of your first tools.