Archive for June, 2008

Heights and flats

6 June 2008

oakland heights

In the East Bay, the Hayward fault separates high ground and low, with a few exceptions. Oakland is an exception (so is San Leandro, Berkeley and points north). From Oakland’s southeastern extreme at Lake Chabot up to the Panoramic neighborhood, the fault generally has a few hills on its Bay side. If you ride BART and look up at the hills, the fault is almost entirely hidden. The hill Piedmont sits on is the largest body of rock west of the fault. So Oakland is not like Hayward or Union City, where the fault is quite stark.

But here on upper Dwight Way, at Oakland’s far north end, is a spot where the height/flats dichotomy is laid right out plain. (Click the photo for a 900×750 version.) This little canyon is the one just north of Claremont Canyon, and I don’t know if it has a name. Behind me is little Dwight Canyon and just to its north is Strawberry Canyon, where the Cal stadium sits. High rock hills lie above the fault, and a plain of deep sediment lies below, an area where seismic shaking is liable to cause ground liquefaction. Of course landslides could happen where I stand; the brown patch below looks like a landslide scar . . . pick your poison.

The big set of knockers, Mountain View Cemetery

4 June 2008

biggest knocker

Just below the highest hill in the cemetery, across a flat space south of the utility yard, is the best bedrock outcrop in the whole Mountain View property. This shot is from the south end looking toward the utility yard; red chert is in the foreground and other Franciscan rocks lie behind. I suspect that it was once a free-standing ridge that has been filled in on the east (uphill) side. The west side is a wall of trees, some of them growing right out of the rock, that hides everything pretty well.

Rocks of the Franciscan Complex, to remind everyone, include red chert, light-gray coarse-grained sandstone, dark shale, and dark volcanic rocks with various degrees of metamorphism. The volcanic rocks came first, formed at a deep-sea spreading ridge. Deep-sea ooze made of siliceous microfossils settled on the volcanics and became the chert. As the whole seafloor assemblage approached North America, sediment from the continent cascaded down submarine canyons and later turned to sandstone and shale.

All of these entered a tectonic subduction zone, marked by a deep-sea trench like those off Japan today, and the whole assemblage was squeezed, heat-treated, crumpled and plastered against the prow of the North American continent. The different rock types, ranging in age between about 150 million and 60 million years (Jurassic to Paleogene), were churned into an intricate mixture called mélange. Chunks of the harder rocks float in a scaly matrix of soft shale and tend to emerge above ground as the rocks erode into soil. Those chunks, not quite bedrock and not quite boulders, are what generations of California geologists have called “knockers.”

Later, sideways movements along the wide San Andreas fault complex tore up and rearranged this complex of rocks even further. Today Franciscan mélange is found in the Coast Range from south of San Luis Obispo all the way up to Cape Mendocino.


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