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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hoodoo You Think Did This? (A Lesson In Geography)


1: a natural column of rock in western North America often in a fantastic form.
2: to cast a spell on.
The red pillars of the Bryce Canyon certainly leave one spellbound by their queer forms and incredible numbers - each one painstakingly chipped into an unique intricate shape.

So how are hoodoos created? And how did the Bryce Canyon come about?

Actually Bryce isn't really a canyon because canyons are primary carved by flowing water - a stream or a river. But water still is the main agent in carving out this amazing red rock landscape - but not in its flowing form.

Bryce - not your usual canyon.

So walk with us into the Bryce amphitheatre - a stunning gallery of hoodoo formations - to find out more about these strange creatures.

Take a walk onto the dark side of hoodoo.

At the Colour Country Motel which we were staying at in Panguitch, a town about 21 miles from Bryce, we were wondering how come our room was ice-cold when we walked into it on a sunny afternoon. That night, it got even colder but the next morning turned out to an incredibly warm and sunny day.

Well, it turned out that the temperatures in Bryce can fluctuate above and below zero degrees Celcius about two hundred times a year! On any day of the year, the temperature can fall 27 deg Celcius between late afternoon and dawn. That creates alot of opportunity for water to fall, melt or freeze in various forms of rainwater, snow and ice. (It also means that we could have ended up witnessing yet another snowfall!) Apparently, these weather fluctuations are nothing surprising for a plateau at 8,000 to 9,000 ft above sea level.

Look closely at the picture below. See the white stuff near the rocky summits?

The Bryce amphitheatre as seen from Inspiration Point.

Well the white stuff is basically frozen water - which is 110% its original liquidy volume. So... remember your geography now? The expanding water in its very hard state exerts enormous pressure on the rocks, forcing them apart from inside the cracks.

The innocent fluffy white stuff that can tear rocks apart.

So after lots of cracking up and the debris is removed by rain, what's left behind is a sheet of rock called a 'fin'. Yups, pointy and triangular like a shark's.

Fin-ished with that photo, dear?

Then comes step two - the frost continues to wedge bigger cracks in the fin, making holes called 'windows'.

They say that the eyes are the windows to the soul.

Then as the windows collapse, what's left are pinnacles called 'hoodoos'.

Sun rays streaming in through the pinnacles.

Some hoodoos take on really different shapes, making you stop in your tracks...

Hoodoo you think is out there?

... such as this one wielding the hammer of mighty Thor!

Thor's Hammer

Hoodoos are really huge - giving you the feeling of walking amongst the giants.

Feeling small?

But when they stretch out as far as the eye can see, they look like many really really tiny pinky fingers in a distance.

Guess how many fingers I'm showing you now!

It's nice to gaze far out over a massive army of hoodoos standing in formation before you. But when you take a look at them up close, you will realise too that they have very pretty peachy complexions.

Wearing the latest spring palette.

Anyway, all that thawing and melting and freezing can be rather taxing on Bryce Canyon's other residents.

Getting twisted up just trying to keep up with the weather.

But it's amazing how nature has a way of letting the young ones survive amidst the harsh times.

I will grow, I will grow, I will grow...

And it's amazing that all after the chaos that water wrecks in these rocks, they still turn out so uniform and neat.

See how neatly the clouds are lined up too. Strange!

Hoodoos are really thought-provoking things aren't they? There's so much to learn about the ancient processes that shaped our land millions of years ago and it's amazing that the very same processes are still taking place today. I feel privileged to have learnt more about our world just by spending a day at the park.

Knowledge is power.

The world is a living museum.

"...to promote and regulate the use of the...national parks...which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations."

National Park Service Organic Act, 16 U.S.C.1.

For the enjoyment of future generations.


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