Ephemeral Splendor

Fly Geyser spouts boiling water fountains into the back light of the morning sun in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada. But the almost unreal beauty of the geyser is ephemeral. It changes its appearance continuously. Such seemingly extraterrestrial landscapes are rare on earth today. The seething breath of the earth may illustrate what the earth may have looked like at the beginning.
Unlike the geyser cones in Yellowstone that fall dry in between eruptions, Fly Geyser is the only of its type that constantly discharges boiling water out of three vents heated by an active magma chamber at shallow depth. Heat resistant bacteria nourish on nutrients in the hot water. The red zonation results from thermophile bacteria that thrive in 80°C (176°F) hot water while the yellow and green areas of the geyser are home to different bacteria species that successively accept water temperatures down to 50°C (122°F). The geyser is located in the Black Rock Desert in the middle of a huge dried-up lake that covered 22000 km² (8500 mi2) at the end of the last ice age. Basaltic lava builds up the bedrock below the sediments of the former lake. The corresponding lava eruptions occurred during the ice age. The magma chamber is still active and feeds Fly Geyser’s groundwater system with heat. Although the appearance of this landscape changed many times during the last 10.000 years it is probably most exceptional and beautiful today.

August 2006
Canon 20D, Canon EF-S 10-22 mm, f/22, 1/4 second, ISO 100, tripod
Basin and Range Gallery » Ephemeral Splendor