[Students Ben Bogue, Ryan McMahon, Allie Kovaleski, Kelsey Duffy, and Alex Muntz take time out from their field research atop the whale-back anticline at the Bear Valley Strip Mine]
As part of his continuing research into the structural geologic history of the Valley and Ridge province of central Pennsylvania, Dr. Mark Evans took five students on a five-day field trip to the Anthracite Belt. They packed up the huge Ford Expedition on Sunday morning and drove to just east of Wikes-Barre, PA where they started their field work. The work involved collecting structural data from fractures and faults in the rocks and mineral samples form the fractures. It took a while for everyone to recall how to use a Brunton compass from Field Methods class, but by the second day, they were all pros. They then spent the next several days driving across backroads in an area that was once the largest coal mining region on earth.
A special type of coal called anthracite (hard coal) was mined here since the early 1800s and is still being mined. The evidence for the mining is everywhere in the form of mine tailing piles hundreds of feet high, extending for miles and miles. Unfortunately, outcrops that were safe to stop at were relatively uncommon, and they only had 42 stops to collect samples and data. Most of the good outcrops were along narrow highways with a constant stream of coal trucks. The highlight of the trip was a stop at the world-class geologic locality known as the Bear Valley Strip Mine. The mine was stripped of its coal and the miners left behind huge perfectly-exposed anticlines (check it out on Google and GoogleEarth). The students will now choose research projects to analyze the samples collected to determine the pressure and temperature conditions of the rock deformation. Hopefully everyone will have a poster at the next NE GSA in Portland, ME.