Goldschmidt 2016 Yokohama: the field trips (part II)

By Michael

Previous post: Goldschmidt 2016 Yokohama: the conference (part I)

I was fortunate to attend two field trips during my visit to Japan, both before and after the conference itself.

Fuji-Hakone: Spring, forest, cave, and volcanoes around the area

We left Yokohama to the village of Oshino, northeast of Mt Fuji, the location of Oshino Hakkai: the eight springs. This area used to be a lake, lava flows from Mt Fuji covered the lake completely and it dried up. However, groundwater coming from Mt Fuji are still feeding some ponds and springs in the village.

Oshino Hakkai springs

The village itself was a classical “village made out of souvenir shops” place, and it was our first introduction to some of the unusual products Japan has to offer. Having had no breakfast that morning, I bought about 250 grams of dried squid and nibbled on it until we had lunch. This was also our first experience with the Japanese nature. I don’t know if it’s the season or just the way it is, but everything seemed greener in Japan. The grass, the trees and all other vegetation just seemed to be a brighter shinier green than I’m used to in Australia or my home country of Israel. Magical.

A typical Oshino scene (excl. souvenir shops)

Our next stop was lunch. We were served traditional Japanese food, meaning things that you don’t know what they are and there is no point in asking. You just eat it, no questions asked, and it’s delicious. Following that, we arrived at a CO₂ monitoring station: the Fuji Hokuroku Flux Observation Site. Hidden deep within a forest on the foothills of Mt Fuji (which we did not see by the way because of fog and clouds), this station is monitoring the CO₂ emissions from decomposing soil beneath the trees using boxes that trap the emitted CO₂ for several minutes and then analyse it:

Our local guide explaining the CO₂ gadget

There was also a tower equipped with all kinds of measurement instruments:

A 30-metre wobbly aluminium tower which we climbed all the way to the top

My Fuji is famous for the abundance of caves around it. Most of these are lava caves, formed as the top layer of a lava flow solidifies while the interior was still flowing. You can see familiar lava flow textures such as pahoehoe, but inside a cave:

Pahoehoe. In a cave.

What’s neat about lava flows, is that they occasionally flow over fallen trees. Once the trees decompose you end up with lava tubes, sometime large enough that you can crawl in them.

Lava tree mould in a lava cave with a mandatory (lava) shrine

We also visited an ice cave. While it wasn’t a cave made out ice but rather a cave that people used to hold ice because it’s so cold inside, it was still impressive. The special lighting in the cave only added to the dramatic effect.

Ice held in yet another lava cave

The next morning we had our first glimpse of Mt Fuji! It cleared up for about 10 minutes so we could see it from our hotel room.

Mount Fuji in all of its glory, and a rather impressive lenticular cloud above it

We started the long climb (by bus) to the mountain, to a place called the 5th station which is situated about 2400 metres high. It has a souvenir shop (obviously) and some other things to cater to people who starting climbing (by foot) from this position. From this spot you could clearly see why it was not possible to see Fuji from anywhere.

Clouds below. If you can’t see them, they can’t see you!

Looking up didn’t help either, as we couldn’t see the top because of clouds.

The top ~500 metres of the mountain obscured by clouds

On the one hand, we were slightly disappointed because the view wasn’t what we expected for. On the other hand, having clouds above and below gave this “floating island mountain” feeling which was still quite inspirational. We were scheduled to go and visit the Hoei crater, a crater that formed during Fuji’s last eruption about 300 years ago. Unfortunately, the winds were too strong and this bit of the excursion was cancelled (but see below).

We then took a short cruise on a pirate ship on Lake Ashi – one of the larger lakes in the area of Fuji.

Pirate ships. Japan, right?

We then visited the Onshi Hakone park, which promises magnificent views of Mount Fuji, as you can see in the following photograph:

Myself pointing to where Mount Fuji would be, if you could see it

Hakone Volcano and Hoei Crater trekking in Mt. Fuji

The second field trip was actually to the same area as before, the mountains of Fuji and Hakone, but the itinerary was slightly different. Our first stop was the Kanagawa Prefectural Museum of Natural History. I’ve been to several natural history museums in the past, and this one is definitely in the top of the list.

Overview of the Kanagawa Prefectural Natural History Museum

For a regional museum far away from any major city, it was impressive. It is not large and going though everything can take about one or two hours, but the exhibits were breath-taking. Usually in such museums, there are many “ok” specimens and several “amazing” specimens. In here, every single specimen was in a class of its own. They had huge dinosaur skeletons (replicas, btw), huge iron meteorite, a metre-wide single crystal of beryl, entire outcrops of geologically interesting localities put on display, and more.

A huge chunk of the Mundrabilla meteorite
This is just amazing

We left the museum, heading in the direction of a viewpoint which promised some of the best view of the Hakone volcano caldera with Mount Fuji in the background. However, the visibility was even worse than anything we had before and we got this instead:

Hakone caldera on the right, Mount Fuji on the right. At least that’s what they told us

Following this breathtaking view, we proceeded to the Hakone Sekisho, a historical checkpoint between Kyoto and Edo (aka Tokyo) which was used to control the movement of women and guns between the two cities.

Terrible visibility, but the fog makes everything seems magical

We had no idea because we couldn’t see it, but we were on the shore of Laki Ashi. We only realised it when we actually got to the water itself (by hearing it, not because we could see it). Once we got there we observed this scene, which made me chuckle and think “ah right, I know this place lol”

Pirate ships + fog = epic win

Back to geology now. Mount Fuji is probably the more spectacular volcanic feature of this area, but the nearby Hakone is bigger.

Mount Fuji and Hakone caldera (with Lake Ashi in it), 2x vertical exaggeration

We started our tour of the caldera by examining volcanic deposits on the caldera’s wall:

Interbedded ash fall deposits, lava flows and paleosoils. Added fog for dramatic effect

Hakone is rather an old volcano, in Japanese standards. The large eruptions that formed the caldera occurred tens to hundreds of thousands of years ago, and magmatic activity ceased almost 3000 years ago. Since then there were several minor phreatic eruptions, but nothing of interest for several hundres of years. Since then, the only activity was hydrothermal activity. The water were exploited for hot springs in the area and the famous Owakudani black eggs were produced and sold on site. All of this changed in 2015 when another phreatic eruption occurred, forcing the closure of the tourist and visitor centre located just above the hydrothermal vent field. We were granted special authorisation to enter the site and given personal protection equipment and monitors.

Our guide with H₂S and SO₂ monitors, and the author with helmet and respirator

To our surprise, we discovered that the black eggs were actually produced on site by workers who had no protection equipment!

We couldn’t actually see the hydrothermal vent field because of the fog, so in the meanwhile we had a stroll around the area, seeing some surreal sights.

A stream sourced from the hydrothermal water
Sulfur! Sulfur for everyone!

We could definitely hear and smell the hydrothermal vents, but we could only see them for very brief periods when the fog cleared a bit. Here’s one:

Eventually, the fog cleared enough to allow us to see the main hydrothermal vent. The video doesn’t do justice to it, but here it is anyway:

The trend of clearing fog continued throughout the trip. The visit to Hoei crater on Fuji was cancelled in the first field trip, but we sure got to see it now. The Hoei eruption was the last eruption on Fuji, starting late 1707 to early 1708. The eruption occurred on the flanks of Fuji, creating a huge crater.

Myself with the Hoei crater in the back. The eruption exposed some of the feeder dykes to the fissure vents that formed the flows that make Mount Fuji. Some of them are clearly visible above my right hand

We were also fortunate to observe rocks falling from the crater walls (and fortunate to stand elsewhere):

Leaving the mountain, we travelled to the extensive lava flows produced by the 864 Jogan eruption. The lava started flowing from a fissure vent on the flanks of Mount Fuji, as seen by this 3D model…

Lava flow highlighted in white

…which was then placed in a wider context provided by a geological map:

3D geological map of Mount Fuji, located in Fujisan museum

The lava flows reached one of the lakes surrounding Mount Fuji, splitting into two separate (but hydrologically connected) lakes. The location provides spectacular views of Mount Fuji, which we could actually see this time!

No fog and special thanks to whoever put that chair in there

The lava flow is covered by the Aokigahara forest, notorious for the unusually high number of suicides in it and legends of ghosts and spirits that haunt it. We had a brief stroll through the forest, but we were not looking for any supernatural activity. Instead, we entered a very impressive lava cave, one of the many that exist below the forest (this is a lava flow formation after all).

Our guide discussing lava flow textures on the cave walls
Guess the flow direction
On the way out of the cave

Our last stop (of scientific interest) for the field trip was a cross section of the Jogan lava flow, which features like the following are visible.

A mystery!

It wasn’t clear what this one. The local Japanese geologists suggested that these were tree moulds, but some of the American geologists who were participating in the trip as well insisted those are gas escape conduits which fragment the partly solidified lava flow (forgive me for forgetting what the term for that is).

That is all. I would like to thank again my supervisor John Mavrogenes and the Vice-Chancellor’s HDR Travel Grant for making all of this possible.

Goldschmidt 2016 Yokohama: the conference (part I)

By Michael

Goldschmidt is the largest annual geochemistry conference, held this year in Yokohama, Japan. I am not a newcomer to Goldschmidt. I attended Goldschmidt in Montreal, Canada back in 2012. That was when I was a first year M.Sc. student, presenting something I did as a side project during my final year of undergraduate studies (and special thanks to my supervisor at that time, Yaron Katzir, for sending me to Canada for such an unimportant research project).

Attending conferences, like any other academic activity, is an acquired skill. My experience in 2012 can be summed up by this quote:

…Some scientist was talking about something, then another scientist goes “hmmm… interesting…” and nods the head. Really? But I don’t understand a thing! How can this be interesting??

Taken from one of my previous posts: One year over, two (and a half) to go

Continue reading “Goldschmidt 2016 Yokohama: the conference (part I)”

2016 Geoscience Australia Open Day!

The annual Geoscience Australia Open day is coming up so be sure to add it to your calendar! One time when I visited the GA open day there was a dinosaur just casually walking around roaring at people so keep an eye out for that! (Unless it went extinct…which is possible, dinosaurs tend to do that.)

Geoscience Australia Open Day – Sunday 21 August 2016

Continue reading “2016 Geoscience Australia Open Day!”

10 ways your PhD is like a puzzle

-by Louise Schoneveld

1. You are sold the final product

The Picture you are sold

You are sold the final image before you start your PhD. Lovely isn’t it. You’ll spend up to 4 years of your life sorting this out.

Continue reading “10 ways your PhD is like a puzzle”

Black Cake Day

Pat Carr & Bethany Ellis

*In memory of M.J. Jollands (2011-2015)

Cake Friday is an ancient and rich tradition carried out weekly at RSES but every year we come to together to remember the day Cake Friday was forgotten. For the unlearned I present you with an extract of the original constitution, dated at the turn of the 12th year of the 21st century (it is rumored that the only remaining copy of the constitution will soon be put on display in the RSES foyer in place of the William Smith Geology map):

“Whilst the exact origins of cake Friday [sic] remain unknown, recent research has suggested that it was initiated some time in early 2012. What is clear, however, is that it rapidly grew until it became the most widely talked about event of any given week in the RSES, surpassing even ‘surprise chocolate Wednesday’s’ and ‘Friday football’ after a matter of weeks. It appears appears to have been designed as an event which would not discriminate against people based on their race, religion or gender, using the omnipotent power of cake to bring down any stereotypes…”

Continue reading “Black Cake Day”

Field Trip around SE Australia #OCGontour

Some snapshots of a recent field trip looking at past environments of South East Australia

Continue reading “Field Trip around SE Australia #OCGontour”

Slices of Time: Geoarchaeology Research Group Launch

By Kelsie

On the 26th May 2016 I attended the launch of the Geoarchaeology Research Group (GRG) which is headed by Associate Professor Tim Denham (ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences). The launch consisted of a series of short talks presenting the range of topics the group has been working on as well as some input from geoarchaeological researchers from the University of Wollongong. I am definitely not an expert in geoarchaeology and so I encourage anyone who wants to know more about it to check out the GRG website. I just think that the stuff they do is really cool and interesting. It’s also quite important.

Continue reading “Slices of Time: Geoarchaeology Research Group Launch”

Just Not Cricket

by Patrick Goodarzi

True to academic stereotypes, it seems whenever sport is mentioned in these pages it is often followed by some combination of the words failure, embarrassment, or disgrace. This occasion is to be no different. Our opponents this time were the fully fledged academics and staff of RSES – ostensibly further down the line of sporting ineptitude. The day was mid April and the game was cricket. In hindsight, a poor choice of sport and one that played directly into the staffs’ hands – a predominantly matured group from Commonwealth nations for whom the idea of standing idly in a field for half a day was an exhilarating prospect. In contrast, our ragamuffin bunch was cobbled together with students from diverse backgrounds, to many of whom cricket was a foreign curiosity. All, however, were delightfully keen. Perhaps they sensed the magnitude of the occasion. Or more likely some cultural fulfilment to be had. Continue reading “Just Not Cricket”

Ocean Acidification – good news for people who love bad news*

By Sarah Andrew

*yes that is a Modest Mouse reference.

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend the 4th International Symposium on the Ocean in a High CO2 World (AKA Ocean Acidification Conference) in Hobart, where over 300 scientists from around the world came together to discuss the implications of changing ocean chemistry and where our research needs to go next. A recurring theme in this conference was the realisation that scientists need to make a huge leap with experimental design (a bit more about this later) in order to start truly understanding the complicated aspects of such a dynamic environment.

Continue reading “Ocean Acidification – good news for people who love bad news*”

5 ways to get your thesis to write itself

-by Louise Schoneveld

There are many ways to get your thesis to write itself. Technology now-a-days is so advanced there is no need for you to be spending time editing and organizing your thesis, get the computer to do it for you. These tips are mainly for those who use microsoft word.

Continue reading “5 ways to get your thesis to write itself”

A Flying Visit to the Berkeley Synchrotron

By Rachel

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to get to go over to California for a few days all in the name of science.  We stayed up in the hills behind Berkeley, a short walk away from the instrument we were using.  The view from our hotel room was pretty amazing with views across San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.

Continue reading “A Flying Visit to the Berkeley Synchrotron”

One year over, two (and a half) to go

-By Michael

I arrived in Canberra a little bit more than a year ago, in February 2015.

I had to wait a bit to actually start doing academic related stuff, because thanks to someone at the Bangkok airport I had the most terrible flu I ever had and I couldn’t do much for about a week.


Once we got this obstacle out of the way, I started to go to RSES, seeing the place, and meeting people. I had no supervisor: my supervisor to be, Daniela Rubatto, was moving to Europe.

Continue reading “One year over, two (and a half) to go”

Gaming for science!

By Kelsie

I spent all this week writing my thesis…ok so I spent some time writing my thesis and the rest of the time was spent playing video games or as I like to think of it, “research”! Hear me out!

Continue reading “Gaming for science!”

Scientists reviewing media: a way forward for climate science communication?

By Jess

Could there be anything more frustrating to a climate scientist than an educated, seemingly reasonable person declare they don’t believe in climate change?

To me it feels a bit like this:cartoon

The science is now overwhelmingly clear on climate change; it is happening and humans are responsible. Yet, in 2013 60% of Australians thought that ‘there are too many conflicting opinions for the public to be sure about climate change’ (The Climate Institute, 2013).

It seems like we are back to the good old science communication problem.

Continue reading “Scientists reviewing media: a way forward for climate science communication?”

How to write a scientific journal article

-by Louise Schoneveld

Last week I snuck into the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science’s scientific paper writing workshop, held here at the ANU. I thought I would share a few of the nuggets of wisdom I learnt during my 3 days at the workshop. I am not a climate scientist but was lucky enough to score a place in this workshop.

Continue reading “How to write a scientific journal article”

PhDinner – A Fancy Occasion

By Pat

Last Friday, the 1st of April, nearly 60 PhD students, postdocs and their guests descended on the suitably named Old Canberra Inn for a night of eating, drinking and informal awards. The dinner was instigated and organised by RSES student Paddy (not Pat) and partially funded from student efforts at the AUGEN conference. Its purpose: 1) community building and 2) a night where stories are born (e.g. “that time N was kicked out of Mooseheads” or “that sychronised chair dance by Laura and Kate”). Continue reading “PhDinner – A Fancy Occasion”

Why I love experimental petrology

By Michael A

I make rocks. They do sometimes look like galaxies, molecular clouds and stars (see above), but they are most definitely rocks.

Someone thought it’s a good idea to pay me a generous scholarship just so I can make rocks, as if there are not enough rocks around already.

Continue reading “Why I love experimental petrology”

Outside my research comfort zone

By Kelsie

A few weeks ago I attended a conference that was a little out of my research comfort zone. The title of the conference was ‘Gender, science and wonder’ and it was run by the Department of Gender, Media and Cultural Studies. I decided to attend for two reasons: 1) a friend of mine was giving a talk, and 2) there would be free food. Plus the conference was only for two days and was just a short walk away. Little did I know how valuable this experience would be.

Continue reading “Outside my research comfort zone”

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