As one of our colleagues commented, "For every one day of work there are three days of arrangements. It's bad that way in Russia because we have many chiefs" Another result is that every carefully laid plan gets revised again and again right up to the moment it is happening; another colleague explained, as we asked about the timing of our car and when we were meeting another scientist, "It is not known. It cannot be known." Nevertheless we have made it from permission limbo to actual science, and we are so grateful! (I even got a look at the critical, elusive, final permission today: Just another single page of text with signature and stamp.)
So, rocks at last, and what gorgeous rocks they were! We went to a local beauty spot near Talnakh called Krasni Kamini (Red Rocks). It's famous for its lovely waterfalls and precipitous gorge built of red-weathering lava flows, one on top of the other all the way up the mountain. Its beauty gains several new dimensions of depth and interest because it is also a site where we can see the contact between the very first lava of the flood basalt eruption in this region, the bottom flow of the Ivakinsky formation, and the underlying sediments and coals of the Tunguska formation.
This contact is almost literally where the rubber hit the road: The release of hydrocarbons from the basin is visible as pieces of bitumin in the lava (see photo), and the lavas also interacted with coals, and they even burnt up trees (see photo). Though we suspect -- we do not yet know -- that the tuffs from the south and east, like those from Tura, erupted before these lavas and thus change of atmospheric chemistry was well underway by the time the Ivakinsky erupted, this contact is still a critically important and very exciting marker.
We walked up the gorge, looking at lava flows as we went, until we reached another contact exciting to devotees of the Siberian flood basalts everywhere: The contact between the last lava of the Ivakinsky formation and the first of the Syverminsky formation. OK, it's nomenclature and it just marks a subtle change in chemistry and eruptive style, but to those of us who have been studying this event for years these names have the power of incantations. The layers of lavas went up and up from there, farther than we needed to go today. (And yes, that is snow.)
From that Ivakinsky-Syverminsky contact we could look back down the gorge, out over the long, long plains of the Arctic shield, and all the way back to the streaming stacks of the Noril'sk smelters, blue on the horizon. Up in the hills where we were, though, the water runs clear, the trees and moss and wildflowers are growing.
Tomorrow, a full day of fantastic geology, plus meetings at Noril'sk Nickel and the Arctic Geologists' office. Can't wait!