12 October 2010

Remains of a mud puddle

Posted by Callan Bentley

Last Wednesday, I took a field trip to the North Anatolian Fault in Turkey, but I got distracted by this fine looking display of sedimentary structures in  a dried-up mud puddle in an old quarry.


The coin, a Turkish lira, is about the same size as a U.S. quarter. What you’re seeing here are dessication cracks (“mud cracks”), and accompanying them are exquisite little raindrop impressions, the minute craters excavated by a light sprinkle of rain after the mud has already started to dry out and “gel.” (If the water which deposited the mud were still there when the rain fell, the standing water would have dissipated the energy of the drops’ impacts, and no craters would have been excavated.)



Here’s a slightly more oblique perspective, to give a sense of how the individual mud flakes are internally laminated, and curl along the edges, producing a concave-up shape.


Note too that the cracks bisect some of the rain drop impressions, and therefore the raindrops fell first, and then the dessication cracks propagated on through them, a nice example of cross-cutting relationships. In some cases, the propagating crack used the “crater rim” of the drops as a mechanical zone of weakness, fracturing there preferentially. Here, let’s zoom in on a couple of nice examples (one from photo #1, a second from photo #2):



If anyone wants a full-sized copy of any of these images for teaching purposes, let me know via e-mail, and I’ll send you one.