Friday, July 18, 2014

Tipping the Clown: Changing Density in the Deer Isle Granite

When I was young I had an inflatable clown with weights on the bottom, so you could administer whatever childhood battering you cared to, and the clown would bob back upright.  I recently read about a feature of the Deer Isle Granite that got me thinking about that clown.
Deer Isle Granite: Naskeag Point

The granite that underlies Deer Isle is long.  It extends from Flye Point on the Blue Hill Peninsula to the southern tip of Stonington in the south.  While the rock is all clearly Deer Isle Granite, it is not homogenous.  Going to Naskeag Point on the mainland presents a deep pink, while a visit to Stonington displays a much wanner stone.  The middle ground of Oak point shows something in between.  The source of the redness may lie in oxidized (rusty) iron that replaces aluminum ions typically present in a mineral called feldspar.

Deer Isle Granite: Oak Point
Liquid rock under the surface cools to form solid granite.  As a result of 4.6 billion years of sorting by density, most granite bodies tends to have fairly uniform consistency.  Deer Isle Granite is different.  For some reason, during its formation, two types of magma were mixed together.  Imagine a nice Italian dressing, shaken before being added to salad. The vigorous mixing swirled everything together, but before it could harden there was time to settle.  Less dense materials, high in silicon content drifted to the top, while the more dense, high aluminum content stuff sank to the bottom.  The aluminum portion took on its iron and its rusty hue.

Deer Isle Granite: Stonington
Under normal conditions the weighted bottom of the clown would remain pointed downward.  The Acadian mountain building event was not normal conditions.  A small continent, and the tectonic plate it rode upon, glided across the fluid mantle toward the prehistoric Maine coast and rammed the landmass.  The collision was not a child's smack, but a match full of heavyweight boxer's jabs.  This impact was enough to permanently tip the clown on its side, revealing the changing color.

Dietrich, Richard Vincent, and Brian J. Skinner. Rocks and Rock Minerals. New York: Wiley, 1979. Print.

Hooke, Roger Leb.. "A Geologic History of Deer Isle, Maine." College of the Atlantic, Serpentine Ecology Conference. July 2007. Web. 14 Oct. 2013. <