Haloed be thy vein

See this piece of core? Imagine you have to describe it to someone.

With most listeners, you’d probably get away with “dull, colourless, a bit broken in the middle”.

But for geologists, that just won’t cut it. This is what one of our core-describers might say:

“A pervasively altered volcanic rock, strongly bleached and replaced by secondary mineral phases (predominantly clay minerals), containing strongly resolved clasts, finely disseminated pyrite, a cross-cutting haloed pyrite/anhydrite vein and aligned vesicles. There are primary plagioclase phenocrysts, pseudomorphed to gypsum and anhydrite.”

And that’s the short version.

Core describers record every detail of what they can see, micro and macro, entering it all into a spreadsheet as they go. And I mean every detail: they’ve got 83 adjectives just to describe grain boundaries, and a whopping 550 distinct terms for microstructure. Depending on what they are describing, the spreadsheet might have up to one hundred columns!

Given our scientists have such a method with words and a such a broad range to choose from, we challenged them to write us poetry which featured their own extensive vocabulary!

The results? Anything but dull, colourless, and broken in the middle!


Blooming cone

By Nisselfrim (pseudonym) –  Petrophysicist

There is an insistent virulence to the cone.

It playfully bubbles up yellow sulfur globules,

Smears rock fractures with butter yellow sulfur.

Rocks come up from the depths with warnings.

The cores reek of sourness

Skeleton white fractures on black rock shout out:

“All you cations abandon all hope.”

But the sea is old and heavy with elements.

Minerals come out as the sea smothers the cone:

Barite, anhydrite, alunite, kaolinite, pyrophyllite, illite, pyrite and other ites

Quartz and gypsum

Do skeletal remnants of rock ever form under the sea?

Viral existential crisis

By JLV1 (pseudonym) – Microbiologist

In this massive ocean,

I want to be disseminated.

I need to find my rounded,


Or well-rounded

Colloform. Or is it, coliform?

I want to sharply eject my DNA

With my stinger

And take control.

I want to pseudomorphosize!

Only then will I fracture

Its haloed cell wall

With generations of mine being diffusive,

Filling the void of my existence,

In this massive ocean.

Ode to the 3am Baker aboard the JOIDES Resolution.

By: Dom – Igneous Petrologist

(Lecturer at the University of Wollongong who is also

passionate about baking and all types of food.)

An irregular hour for morning tea, but core-describers descend on

                        seven freshly-baked treats laid out en echelon.

(Un)controlled, we eat:

            warm banana cake studded with coarse choc-chips;

            cinnamon swirls laced by icing stringers;

            crunchy cookies crusted in granular sugar;   

            velvety poundcake with jam-filling fractures;

            patchy, juicy blueberries amongst delicate sponge;

            hot croissants laminated from crisp butter pastry;

            a massive pile of cupcakes: plain, chocolate and banana.

Void-filled stomachs, we return to the core-lab.


“10 things I (don’t) hate about you”

By: Aida – Petrophysicist

To Brothers Volcano,

I hate the way you talk to me,

And the way you “fragment” your “core”s.

I hate the way you are “vuggy”,

I hate it when you are “recrystalized”.

I hate your big dumb “upper cone site”

And the way you are “subangular”.

I hate you so much it makes me “sea-sick”,

It even makes me rhyme (or not!).

I hate the way you’re always “unaltered”,

I hate it when you are “brecciated”.

I hate it when you send “core on deck”,

Even worse when it’s empty barrel.

I hate it when you’re not “consolidated”,

And the fact that you don’t give enough core.

But mostly I hate the way I don’t hate you,

Not even close

Not even a little bit,

Not even at all 🙂

Reference: Julia Stiles (1999), “10 things I hate about you”


JR in Vein

By: Jeremy – Structural Geologist

When we arrived on the massive ship, it was clear we had a patchy crew

Our faces were rounded, full of hope and excitement.

We all came to hear the siren’s call of “core on deck” anastomose through the hallowed halls

As time went on, we became sharp and angular with anticipation.

We needed core, we required nourishment or we would wither and recrystallize

Finally, the day came and “core on deck” was heard, reverberated in our lungs, filling our void.

We were no longer fractured, we had become whole, pseudomorphed with core.

After two months aboard, our thoughts were brecciated, concentration vuggy.

We left the ship and returned to our dendritic lives.

Until next time, JR, we will return, your corona will envelop us once more.

An ode to Corona

By: Karen – Volcanologist

Oh Corona, how I miss you!

Your vuggy texture and

the way you diffuse into my body,

disseminate my worries,

fill every vein with happiness

and every void with reason.

My heart brecciates at the thought

that we will be fractured for so long.

But – at the end of this anastomosing expedition –

our uncontrolled reunion

shall pseudomorph the separation,

and recrystallise our friendship for it to last forever.

E ngā iwi o te ao, tēnā koutou katoa. I work as a Tour Guide and an Educator between the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa and Te Māra ā Tāne ZEALANDIA EcoSanctuary in Wellington, New Zealand. Much of my work involves telling stories, of land, of life, of people and beyond. To me, science represents a source for storytelling on the grandest of scales: a chronicle of the humble origins of life, the mass-movement of mountains, the birth and death of the stars. Key to it all are the people who dedicate their lives to broadening our perspective, pushing the boundaries of what we know. I am humbled to be presented this amazing opportunity to tell such stories as I sail on IODP Expedition 376 as Aotearoa New Zealand's Education & Outreach Officer.
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