13
Dec
10

Ya gotta take the long view to put today in perspective

A press release from Ohio State today drew attention to te findings by a couple of researchers (Julie Ditkof and Michael Barton) that led them to conclude that underneath the Hawaiian Island chain is one massive magma chamber that is only 1.9 to 2.5 miles down. That’s pretty thin skin!

It reminded my why I like geology: it puts today’s seemingly urgent events in perspective by showing that, in geologic time, today is less that a blink of an eye. There is a very, very long past and there will be and equally long future. As my mother used to say: “This too shall pass.”

Last year about this time my wife and I vacationed on our favorite island, Kauai. Since the island is at the northern end of the chain I googled the history of the islands and learned that Kauai is about 6.1 million years old. Actually, the whole chain has been burping up islands for over 65 million years as the Earth’s crust moves over a hot-spot at a few centimeters per year. Many of the earlier islands have subsided back under the Pacific and are just called seamounts.

At the southern end of the chain is the Big Island (a.k.a., Hawaii) that still has active volcanoes like Kiluea. Off the southern shore is yet another volcano, Loihi, that hasn’t even broken the surface yet. I hear that there is some sort of gimmick where somebody is already selling land on the island that will eventually reach the surface. Yeah, get your beach-front property now; it’ll be ready for condos in about a half-million years.

Be that as it may, I find it reassuring that no matter what I’m fretting about today (e.g., the economy, politics, climate change, etc., etc.) there will be another beautiful piece of paradise out there in the Pacific long, long after whatever we do today– or fail to do–fades into time.

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