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Ubiquitous Coastal-Tar Residues on Santa Rosa Island, Offshore Southern California

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tar-residue sample locations on Santa Rosa island
Locations of tar-residue samples collected during a joint USGS/NPS field trip in September 2000.

  tar-lined blowhole
Tar-lined blowhole at Carrington Point.
A cooperative field trip with personnel from Coastal and Marine Geology (CMG) and the National Park Service (NPS) was undertaken in September on Santa Rosa Island, one of the jewels of the Channel Islands National Park off Southern California. The purpose was to assess presence of tar residues on all accessible coastlines of the island, collect floating tar residues on beaches as well as residues fixed to rocky shores near high-tide lines, fingerprint collected samples geochemically, and determine tar sources. CMG participants were Tom Lorenson, Keith Kvenvolden, Bob Rosenbauer, and Fran Hostettler (WRC/CMG). NPS participants were Dan Richards and Sarah Chaney.

Sixty-eight samples of tar residues were collected during the six-day field trip (see map). Although tar was expected and was found on the north-facing shorelines, residues were also common on the south-facing shorelines adjacent to the Santa Barbara channel where natural oil seeps and oil-production platforms are prolific. A most interesting tar occurrence was found at Carrington Point, the northernmost site on the island, where a blowhole concentrates floating tar that forms a massive mat on the marine terrace. The blowhole is lined with tar and is thus protected from rapid erosion by incoming tidal waters that pass through the pipe-like conduits as geysers (see photo). Preliminary geochemical analyses indicate several sources for the tar residues, most of which appear to be from natural oil seeps.

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in this issue: Fieldwork Santa Rosa Island

Research cover story:
MRIB: Ocean Geo-Library

Outreach Nat'l Geography Awareness Week


Lake Tahoe: "Wonders of the Universe" Calendar

Plymouth County Detention Center

African Dust

Bill Normark Interview

Rock Course for Teachers

Meetings Geologic Framework of U.S. Coastal & Marine Regions

Coastal Marsh Die-Back

Southwest Washington Coastal Erosion

Southeatern U.S. Benthic Habitat

Southern California Benthic Habitat

9th International Coral Reef Symposium

Gulf of Maine

Long Island Sound


Awards Distinguished Lecturer

Earthquake Hazards Video

Hapke Honored by CSBPA

Staff & Center News Senior Leadership Visit

Director's Office & NOAA Visitors

Suspension Modeling

Publications Dec./Jan. Publications List

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