by Leo Pure
For those that don’t know me, I’m a third year RSES Geology kid currently on exchange to the University of Leeds. Each year Leeds runs a 2-week field class to Cyprus during the Easter break to check out the cool geology there. For the unaware, Cyprus is a small island in the eastern Mediterranean, nestled between Syria and Lebanon to the East and Turkey to the North. But what’s so special about Cyprus? The answer to that is ophiolites. The Troodos ophiolite in Cyprus is one of the best exposed and preserved in the world. Ophiolites are complete slices of oceanic crust, from lithospheric mantle through to pillow lavas and surface sediment that have been tectonically emplaced above other crust.
The purpose of our trip was to study the structure of the Troodos ophiolite and compare our observations to existing ophiolite models (eg. Penrose model), and the structure of the oceanic crust, as inferred by other more incomplete data sets (largely based on geophysical measurements). Interestingly enough (but not that surprising), there are some discrepancies between the geophysically-inferred oceanic crust structure and the observed ophiolite structure. To build our model of the ophiolite’s structure we worked our way through the Troodos mountains and all its forgotten villages in our mini-bus, playing “Who am I?” (see Inglorious Basterds) on our helmets with marker pens.
Most days we lived off olive/haloumi bread, pumpkin pie, baklava etc, though unfortunately Cypriot tap-water is exceptionally less spectacular than their baked goodies. This dilemma was solved by cutting up lemons we’d picked and stuffing them into our drink bottles!
As for the geology we saw, the igneous and sedimentary Troodos units both offer plenty features to entertain the visiting geologist, whether you are petrologist, structural geologist, or a sed-head. The igneous units contain some awesome contacts between pillow lavas and lower sheeted basaltic dykes (photo at Klirou Bridge below).
Further down the ophiolite structure we saw mafic and ultra-mafic units containing dunites, harzburgites, olivine gabbros and basalts (we saw olivine basalt with near-1cm sized olivine crystals!), wehrlites, and this really cool contact between serpentinised harzburgite and altered (prehnite-rich) gabbro!
Getting towards the sedimentary part of the ophiolite we saw blacksmoker/sulfide systems (pyrite rich), manganesic umbers, hyaloclastites, and hydrothermally altered igneous units [sheets dykes altered to epidosite (qtz + epidote)].
The sedimentary units contain radiolarian cherts, lots of limestone full sweet fossils (gastropods, nautiloids, forams beyond counting, echinoids, and trace fossils to name just a few), and evaporites relating to the Messinian salinity crisis – you can see gastropods in this one!
On our final day we visited the ancient Greek-Roman ruins at Kourion – a must see for any archaeologists!
Anyone with a chance to see Cyprus do so. Hopefully I’ve convinced you it was a worthwhile way to spend 11 days. Though if you are fortunate enough to visit Cyprus, I recommend going at a time without protests and pending economic collapse.