Forests and Lakes – For People – Forever ®

Faults and Volcanoes in the Pine Tree State

June 30, 2014

The Downeast Lakes Land Trust was delighted to welcome Professor William Menke from the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University for a talk about Maine’s geological legacy . Professor Menke offered a unique view of Maine’s  ancient landscape.  Currently dominated by beautiful lakes, forests and seashore, Professor Menke dispelled commonly held myths about Maine’s prehistory.  “Most people think Maine 20,000 years ago was full of moose and lakes. The truth is, there was nothing here then that looked even remotely like Maine does now.” said Professor Menke as he showed a slide of a vast glacier. However, Professor Menke pointed out that the extreme changes brought on by the most recent glaciation pale in comparison to Maine’s more remote past.

Jumping backward 400 million years ago, Professor Menke, discussed the geography of ancient Maine.  At that time, it sat over a subduction zone, as Africa ground into it, raising mountains, and setting off seawater-powered volcanoes. “Mount Katahdin, for instance, was once an underground magma vault. Over time, the softer material around it eroded away, and the land rose to create what we see now.” Professor Menke explained.

Returning to the present day, Professor Menke discussed geological conundrums being investigated now. “One of the most interesting things about this region,” said Menke, “Is that there are no active faults on the East Coast of the US anymore, yet we still have earthquakes.  A big part of my research is trying to understand why they happen.”

In conclusion, Professor Menke opened the conversation to the audience and wrapped up the evening discussing everything from the sand cliffs of California to the rhyolite deposits which make up Jasper Beach near Machiasport.

“He was just fascinating!” said one participant who had traveled an hour to attend the lecture, “I’m so glad we came!”

The Downeast Lakes Land Trust regularly hosts speakers, sponsors workshops, and leads outdoor adventures that highlight the natural and cultural history of the Maine woods and waters.  These programs support the DLLT’s commitment to protecting both the environmental and economic health of the Downeast Lakes region. Visit their website to discover what is happening next.