Interviews: Volcanologist Dennis
In the Main Lab, Denny explains the topography of the area we are about to cover during our sonar surveying.
How did you end up studying the Galápagos?
|Dennis pointing out interesting minerals in one of the samples to Josh Curtice in the Main Lab.
I particularly like to convince others to go
on obscure expeditions to ridiculous places and sleep outside in monsoons
with monitor lizards. So far its worked out pretty well. Ive
been studying the volcanic geology of the Galápagos Islands
since 1982 and collaborating with the other expedition scientists
on Galápagos geology for the last 10 years. When Im not
on expeditions collecting Galápagos lavas, Im analyzing
the samples back in my lab at the University of Idaho.
What is it like doing field research in the
Research around the Galápagos has not always been as high tech
as we have on this cruise. On one expedition we used a retired Ecuadorian
fishing vessel to conduct our research. The boat had to rely on a
hand-crank generator for power, because the batteries were dead. We
were offshore of one of the more desolate of the Galápagos
Islands when no one seemed to notice that the generator crank fell
overboard. It was two days before they managed to contact another
ship using a small jury-rigged solar panel connected to a radio. On
the brighter side, we had two extra field days and we now have a great
deal of geologic information pertaining to that particular coastline.
Field work in the Galápagos is tough - the conditions are brutal.
Its hot and dry and theres no water and little shade. Walking across
lava flows is dangerous. On the other hand, theres a beauty and
remoteness to the area. I feel like the luckiest person in the world
to have the opportunity to work here. Ive been fortunate to have
some of the best students and scientist friends working with me in
and Alberto Saal have a discussion of the geology of Isabela
on Revelle's fore-deck, with Volcán Equador in
What do you do outside of your work?
My work takes me away from home a lot and teaching keeps me busy when
Im in town, so I mainly spend my free time with my wife Leslie Manning
and daughter Beryl.
My wife spent part of her college years in Kenya and Uganda. Part of the
origin of our daughters name is from Beryl Markham, an adventurous woman
in Africa during the early 20th century and the first person to fly solo from Europe
to North America. Also, Beryl is a mineral, so we thought it was a great name
I used to do a lot of mountain climbing. I still fly-fish and enjoy
general outdoor recreation. Im a big Seattle Mariners fan. I also
watch the Simpsons. Matt Groening, the creator of the Simpsons, and
I grew up in Portland, Or. Matt's sister, Lisa, and I were in the
same homeroom class in high school.
So were you the inspiration for any of the other cartoon characters?
I dont know, some people think I might be Milhous.
| Denny never tires of looking at volcanoes in the Galápagos.
What are you looking for on this expedition?
Id like to understand how the Galápagos volcanoes grow above sea level. Im a rock guy, so Im interested in the different volcanic mechanisms and styles of eruptions. Studying the rocks tells me where the magmas come from and how the magmas change as they rise out of the water. Im looking to find out how the magmas are different at different volcanoes or if they are related to each other. For example, are the magmas at Volcán Ecuador similar to Wolf and if so in what ways? If they are different, why? These are the puzzles Im trying to solve.