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Little Whaleboat Island Geology Field Trip 10/1 - 10/2/22

Joseph Berkovitz

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I couldn't believe it when I saw geologist Dyk Eusden's Zoom presentation last year for MITA. A geologist who investigates sites by... sea kayaking? Too good to be true! I immediately knew there was a future NSPN trip in the making, assuming Dyk was willing to come on board.

Fortunately Dyk agreed readily to do the trip with NSPN, and it just took place this last Saturday and Sunday. Besides Dyk (who is a retired geology professor from Bates College and an expert on Maine coastal geology) we had myself, co-organizer Janet Lorang, Beth Sangree, Cath Kimball, Dana Siegall, Shari Galant, Bob Levine, Ricardo Caivano, and Steph Golmon. The goal was to do some hands-on learning by making geological maps of the NE tip of the island, preceded and followed by some explanation from Dyk.

The original trip plan called for Dyk and the entire group to camp over Saturday night on Little Whaleboat and E. Gosling, with geology activities Saturday daytime and Sunday morning followed by some pleasure paddling on Sunday afternoon, with some returning home Saturday, others camping out on Sunday night too. This plan had to be curtailed when Sunday morning's forecast called for the sudden onset 20+ kt NNE winds gusting to over 30 kt. We would have to get Dyk and a few others back to the launch by the end of Saturday, so our session was shorter than called for. However, it worked out great anyway.

Saturday's weather was perfect as we paddled east from Cousins towards our destination. Dyk is the smiling guy in the yellow kayak nearest the camera:


Arriving at Little Whaleboat, we were initiated by Dyk into the geologic history of the area. I won't go into all the science here... but... let's just say that hundreds of millions of years ago there were some ancient volcanoes (ash fell and collected) and some silty rivers (mud collected). All these layers of ash and silt wound up deep underground where they got cooked and melted and deformed. They also got squished (by the same plate collision that created the Appalachians) and stretched and distorted by a fault called the Norumbega, not too dissimilar from the West Coast's modern-day San Andreas Fault. Cracks opened up from time to time and filled up with other kinds of molten rocks that then solidified. Finally millions of years of erosion eventually exposed this underground stuff in what is now Casco Bay.

Below Dyk is pointing out the boundary between some gniess (cooked/melted ash falls) and a basalt dike (where Ricardo is standing):


Dyk showed us how to measure the angles where rock boundaries come together:



People asked LOTS of amazing questions and Dyk did a tremendous job of answering them all in language we could mostly understand. The sun was out a lot of the time and it was calm and pretty warm. Good times and good science!

At the end of the day our brains were pretty tired. Dyk and 4 paddlers went back to Cousins (unfortunately Janet was one of them). 5 paddlers including yours truly, Ricardo, Dana, Beth and Cath headed off to East Gosling. Gary York was also camping on the south side of the island and he came by to say hello. That night the wind ramped up just as predicted, howling through the early hours. It cooled off radically and we spent the morning in camp eating and drinking hot food and thinking about paddling, looking out at the weather. Eventually by the afternoon we decided to beat north into the wind and explore the upper reaches of Casco including a visit to the Helen and Walter Norton Preserve on Birch Island, expecting a nice downwind run back to camp before sunset. Only, the wind cheated us and died down once we reached the turnaround point. Oh well! It was nice to get out on the water after all! The camping finished with a near-perfect campfire on the south side of the island where we were completely sheltered from the breeze and could revel in the moonlight and the flames:


Monday morning was lovely, sunny and mostly calm as we broke camp and made our way back to Cousins Island at low water, threading through the sandbars near the bridge. A great trip!!!

Thanks to everyone for making this happen, especially Dyk. It was great to have a paddle that allowed us to learn from an expert about the environment we journey in, and appreciate the planet more.






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Thank you so much for sharing this detailed, informative and entertaining trip report Joe.  What a wonderful idea and opportunity to have a kayaking geology educator, Dyke, come to explain how these incredible "petrified wood appearing" and other formations, came to be! Fascinating!  And, a challenging adventure too boot! 

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