Day One – St. Louis to Nassau

Sunshine, excited travelers, caves, the beach, and Chinese food. Day One was a win.

The field trip officially began at Lambert International Airport in St. Louis, MO, at 5:30am (CST). After a quick changeover in Charlotte, NC, the students of Bahamian Carbonate Geology touched down in Nassau, The Bahamas.

Joining Dr. Wronk and Co. on this year’s San Salvador excursion are Dr. Emitt Witt (professor of Geology at Missouri S&T and resident field safety expert), his wife Nan Witt, and S&T alumna Cherie Telker (M.S. Geology and Geophysics), senior geologist at Occidental Oil and Gas in Houston, TX.

The van ride from Nassau (Lynden Pindling International) Airport to Orange Hill Inn. Some excited folks here!

The level of travel experience among the class was as mixed as their levels of study – freshman through graduate level students ranged from seasoned veterans to first-time fliers. All went smoothly as the planes landed and customs were cleared. The group dropped off bags at Orange Hill Inn in Nassau and, thanks to Dr. Wronk’s knowledge of the island, immediately commenced with a little geology before dinner.

A roadside cave (literally roadside; cars whizzed by a few feet away as the lesson began) introduced the first up-close at look at the Bahamian carbonate geology. Caves are the research interest of senior Jessica Tygett-Self, both back home and here in The Bahamas. Numerous caves in The Bahamas are formed like the ones back home, as well.  Simply put, water dissolves limestone, forming large holes. In the case of the roadside cave, evidence of rising sea level (rock is dissolved) and falling sea level (remaining rock is exposed) suggests its formation around 75000 to 125000 years ago, during the Pleistocene epoch of our current Quaternary period (resulting from the Sangamon Interglacial, for those taking notes at home). Tygett-Self and the rest of the party will have the opportunity to visit at least three caves on San Salvador Island.

Headed out for dinner…after some cave geology, of course.

A hungry crew emerged from the cave to head to Golden House Chinese Restaurant, a favorite of locals and of Dr. Wronk (again with island knowledge). In the fashion of one of Rolla’s own local favorites, there existed a menu to be accessed only by those who can read Chinese. Graduate student Tong Wang graciously ordered for the group of twenty.  Ten fantastic entrees later, Wang’s ordering skills rendered him a celebrity as the troops left full and happy.

On the way back to the Inn, a quick walk on the beach revealed some beautiful beach rock. Beach rock, the research interest of freshman Kasey Buckley, is a the result of sediment turning into rock through a process called cementation. This particular brand of cementation takes place just below the surface, where groundwater from the land reaches the sea. There, the sun heats up the beach as the tide falls. The water evaporates, and calcium carbonate left behind from the evaporation is deposited around the grains of sand. Under the high temps, the grains of sand cement very quickly, and resulting in rapid formation of beach rock.

(Remember that “mysterious” stuff about the origins of the Bahamian Platform? Helpful hint: This will not be the last time you’ll read the phrase “rapid formation” in the Field Trip Blog.)

As a day of travel, food, geology, and fun caught up to them, the class and guests finally called it a night. Check out the pics below for a more of Day One, then check back for the adventures of Day Two. Up next: Touchdown in San Sal, the first look at Gerace Research Centre, and snorkeling in Graham’s Harbor!


Made it through security – let’s hit it!


The roadside cave.


“We’re hungry, but we love caves, so we’ll listen to you, Dr. Wronk.”


Junior Luke Willebrink gets into the karst.
(photo credit: Jessica Tygett-Self)


Ready to eat. Note the similarity between the formation around the conference table in 124 McNutt and the one here at Golden House.


Grad student Tong Wang is our ordering hero!


Geologic beauty in the foreground; Nassau flair in the background.


Banana tree at Orange Hill Inn.


Thanks for the view and sleep, Nassau. Until we meet again.
On to San Salvador!