Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tuesday, July 29th, Hotel Zum Kaiser, Swakopmund, Namibia


First, let me apologize for not providing some commentary on an important wildlife sighting on Friday.  You might have noticed a few shots of two cheetahs walking near some trees in the distance.  We saw some trucks parked ahead of us, and as we approached were told that they had seen some cheetahs on the ridge line across the valley to our right.  Backing up quickly, and looking out the windows to our far right, we saw three oryx running full speed with a large trail of dust behind them.  Not far behind in the dust, we saw the cheetah chasing them.  Grabbing our cameras, and readying them for shots, we saw the second cheetah, and a small jackal trailing behind.

Soon, as usual, the cheetahs slowed, and the oryx opened up a big distance between them and the cheetahs.  By then, we had stopped the truck, and were aiming our cameras in the right place.  Thus, the shots you see are of them sauntering over to some trees (to mark them) on the far side of the grassland.  The whole thing took probably two minutes, but was very exciting.

Today, we made a long drive up the west coast of Namibia to the coastal town of Swakopmund, and to the Hotel Zum Kaiser.  On the way, we saw some of the most exotic and amazing geology there exists.  The Nambian desert, and the geology around it, illustrates the last half billion years very well.  And tells the story of the last 20 million years in exact detail in full color.

Here is a photo of the landscape we encountered in Western Namibia today.  For many miles east of the great sand dunes, between them and the Great Escarpment, there are rows of large pieces of the once ocean floor which are tilted upward on their seaward side. I’ve read all the geology I can find on the subject, including the excellent book by Nicole Grunert, Namibia – Fascination of Geology.  Here is my take on this amazing geological phenomenon. 

First, Namibia was the western leading edge of an ocean which formed a belt between two frozen land masses (Congo and Kalahari) in Gondwanna, that super-continent that formed down at the South Pole about 540 million years ago.  Half-covered in glaciers, it moved northward over 400 million years, and then was split apart by the mid-Atlantic Ridge. 

Second, during the separation of Africa and South America in the last one hundred and thirty million years, exposed volcanic magma dove under the leading edge of Southern Africa and lifted up the land to form the Great Escarpment, a huge plateau almost a mile above the sea.  At the same time, a new ice age lowered the sea almost 200 hundred feet.

What resulted was the largest, most powerful waterfall in the history of the planet pounding down on a seafloor which was still being carried toward the Escarpment by the magma.  Weighted down by the water, and tilted up like waves in a shallow surfline, these pieces of the ocean floor formed the strange lines of seabed tiles we saw today the Kuisep River valley.

And where did all that erosion end up.  Well, most of it is far out to sea.  But the millions of tons of sand dunes stretching for 75 miles south of here is some of it.

That's my theory.  It's consistent with all of the science I've read.  Hope it helps you see this land a little clearer.

To see the photos we took today,  click on: Tuesday, July 29th, Hotel Zum Kaiser, Swakopmund, Namibia.

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