Friday, 22 February 2013

Into the Parrots Nest

At least 3 lava flows are evident from the different 'steps'
I had the opportunity a few weeks back to visit a quarry near the locality called Canaiba situated mid way between Casino and Lismore. The quarry is an operating variable quality rock quarry probably excavating Miocene aged basalt lavas from the geological unit known as the Lismore Basalt or possibly the earlier Eocene aged Alstonville Basalt. It was a site I'd wanted to visit for quite a while because the quarry is located at the lower side of a long ridge with an old abandoned quarry located at the top of the ridge on the way to a locality called Parrots Nest. In my mind having two quarries could give an interesting perspective on the any variations in lava flows.  But even before I visited the old quarry, while I was driving along the road to visit the operating one I noticed an interesting feature in the shape of a spur from the main ridge. Visible were several 'steps' in the spur. These steps create what is referred to, unsurprisingly, a stepped topography.

The steps are caused by the erosion of different lava flows. The flows are up to 20 metres of so thick which according to Duggan and Mason (1978) is a bit uncharacteristic for the Lismore Basalt (thin 2-3 thick flows). Looking back along the ridge it is pretty evident that the flows are of consistent thickness through the whole area.  They are probably from the Lismore Basalt that are related to the formation of the Tweed Volcano which was centered around present day Mount Warning. I wonder if there were closer vents that could be the source of the lavas but there is little evidence of any in the immediate vicinity. Indeed authors such as Cotter (1998) feel that the pre-existing topography was such that the area through Blakebrook Quarry (another site north of the quarry I was visiting) through to places like Parrots Nest may have been a valley. The swift flowing basaltic lavas flowed down these valleys filling them and creating thick sequences of rock.

The red layer overlain by another basalt lava flow
indicates the presence of a fossil soil horizon
The operating quarry cuts several of the lava flows that make up the ridge, the boundaries of the lava flows were very easy to make out because of the weathered zones especially the presence of palaeosols, that is, fossil soil horizons. The palaeosol gives an idea of the nature of the eruptions of lava too. Obviously enough time needs to have passed for the formation of a soil profile to occur on the earlier lava flow before the next lava flows over the top of it. Depending on the climatic conditions this could be many decades between flows or even thousands of years.

Anyway, a good trip even if it was just for the palaeosol or the stepped topography alone. But I'd like to do another blog on some of the macro scale igneous textures that are present in the lava including dykes, vesicles, voids and veins and I've still not got to the top abandoned quarry but when time allows I'll get there. I took some samples at the operating quarry to examine under the microscope to see if there were any microscopic textures that are of interest too, but once again, time does not seem to be on my side... though I will get to these tasks sometime!


*Cotter, S. 1998. A Geochemical, Palaeomagnetic and Geomorphological Investigation of the Tertiary Volcanic Sequence of North Eastern New South Wales. Masters Thesis, Southern Cross University.
*Duggan, P.B., Mason, D.R. 1978. Stratigraphy of the Lamington Volcanics in Far Northeastern New South Wales. Australian Journal of Earth Sciences V25.

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