Field Work in the North Qaidam, western China

During August and September 2009, Chris Mattinson and new graduate student Ben Christensen travelled to western China to conduct collaborative field work in the North Qaidam terrane, western China. The goals of this National Science Foundation supported research are to constrain exhumation rates and processes of ultrahigh-pressure (UHP) rocks and associated granulites in order to better understand the processes of continental subduction and collision at convergent margins. Following the field work, the International Eclogite Conference (and field trips) was held in western China.

The 2009 field party. From left to right, Xiao Yu (PhD student at the Chinese Academy of Geological Sciences [CAGS]), Dr. Zhang Jianxin (professor at CAGS), Ben Christensen (CWU MS student), Xiao Ker (PhD student at Tainan, Taiwan), Dr. Carrie Menold (professor at Albion College), Xiao Li (MS student at CAGS), Wang Shifu (driver), Dr. Emily Walsh (professor at Cornell College), Dr. Chris Mattinson, and Han Shifu (driver). In the background is Riyueting, the ancient gateway between China and Tibet.

Our three drivers, Wang Shifu (left), Han Shifu (middle) and Liu Shifu (right).

Passing the Yellow River on our way from Lanzhou to our field area.

Qinghai Lake.

Road construction near Qinghai Lake.

~12,500' pass over the Qinghai Nanshan, east of Qinghai Lake.

Dulan, base of operations for the first stage of field work.

First day in the field - road washout alters our plans.

Ben labels a sample; Drs. Menold and Walsh in the background.

A good day in the field.

Dr. Zhang, Xiao Li, and Xiao Ker inspect a mafic layer within marble and paragneiss.

Dulan at night.

Coal smoke = hot water for a shower.

Ben collects a sample.

Horses on their way to a waterhole for a drink.

Lunch time.

Wang Shifu hikes a little ways into the field with us.

This valley marks the inferred fault separating the UHP rocks on the right from metavolcanics, metasediments, and granitic rocks on the left.

Back to the vehicles at the end of the day.

On our way to Golmud (341 km away!) for the next stage of field work.

Blowing sand on the highway as we approach Golmud.

Crossing the salt flats of the Qaidam basin between Golmud and Da Qaidam.

Ben and Liu Shifu get out lunch supplies, southern Luliang Shan.

Road construction in Golmud.

Ben in the southern Luliang Shan.

Shipping rock samples from the train station in Golmud before our return to Dulan for the last stage of field work.

"Eagles" with us in the field!

A more of the huge birds appear, we realize these are vultures, not eagles. They are attracted by the remains of a goat carcass near where we had stopped.

The herdsman camped nearby releases his dog (at right) to chase off the vultures.

Fresh snow on the mountains.

Crossing the Shaliu River to try to reach the other end of the washed-out road we encountered the first day in the field.

Some damage to the road was minor...

...but other washouts were larger and we used rocks to build ramps up the cutbanks. Eventually we were unable to continue, but were able to access some important outcrops, although not all the ones we had hoped to reach.

Xiao Li, Ben, Xiao Ker, and Dr. Zhang inspect a boudin of fresh, phengite-rich eclogite at ~13,500' elevation.

Laden with rock samples, Xiao Yu and Xiao Ker discuss the day's findings on the way back to the vehicles.

Due to the road washouts, we decide to hike over the ~13,000' pass (on the skyline) to reach the final area of important outcrops.

We successfully reach the outcrops on the other side of the pass.

Ben, Dr. Walsh, Xiao Ker, and Dr. Zhang with an outcrop of eclogite.

After completing our fieldwork, we return to Xining (Qinghai province capital) for the International Eclogite Conference (IEC) and field trips.

Many switchbacks on the highway north from Xining, leading up to the Dabanshan tunnel at ~12,000', IEC pre-conference field trip.

Open air market in a small town west of Zhangye, IEC pre-conference field trip.

Nicely exposed Mesozoic sedimentary rocks between Zhangye and Sunan, IEC pre-conference field trip.

The road towards the 4120 m Dachadaban Pass, Qilian Mountains, IEC pre-conference field trip.

The 4120 m Dachadaban Pass, view to the west, IEC pre-conference field trip.

The road towards Qilian, where we stayed for the night, IEC pre-conference field trip.

Sheep and yaks on the road, south of Qilian, IEC pre-conference field trip.

Lunch at the last stop before returning to Xining, IEC pre-conference field trip.

Camels near Chaka, on our way to the first field trip stop of the IEC post-conference field trip.

Drs. J.J. Yang, Menold, Walsh, and Spengler pose as Dr. Song (field trip leader) takes a photo, Luliang Shan garnet peridotite locality, IEC post-conference field trip.

Camels near the Yuka River, northern Luliang Shan, last stop of the post-conference field trip. Due to the bad road conditions, we had a 6.5 hour drive to reach Dunhuang where the trip ended.

Due to road construction on the highway between Da Qaidam and Dunhuang, we are shunted off onto a dusty dirt road for an hour or two.

Sand dunes behind Dunhuang, end of the IEC post-conference field trip.