Holey Square

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By John Wiley

Some time ago Ed published pix I sent of this unusual square boulder with a hole in it.  I've called it SpongeBob Rock since first noticing it on a flight many more years ago, but maybe Holey Square better fits this pic. The bigger cave next to it looks interesting too, as the "startled" boulder face and visiting vulture agreed.

There are several anthropomorphic rocks in the small outcrop, but maybe only game trails there. It's at 34.488065, -120.156849 on gMaps and just West across the canyon and waterfall from a trail at about 1080' elevation.

"Terrapin Flyer" commented on the fascinating geology of Ed's 3/5 "Green Before..." post with my aerial views of that region, and got me pondering how the horizontal holes were formed in what looks like sandstone. Is it on private property? Maybe with the same access rules as the nearby trail? Have any hikers visited it and maybe snapped closeup pix to send Ed? Can you spot the distant outcrop in the 3/5 aerial from Gaviota?

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a-1646777970 Mar 08, 2022 02:19 PM
Holey Square

I love your nicknames for these, "SpongeBob" and "startled boulder", ha! Regarding the horizontal holes, it's very possible these stones were not deposited in this direction. I'm no geologist and boy will you know it by my next statement, but weren't mountains formed via plates pushing together and the pressure causing uplift at weak points? So the "direction" of the rock and soil deposits changed when the mountain was formed. Hopefully a geologist will join us here and set me straight, I'm working off 8th grade science class here!

John Wiley Mar 09, 2022 12:24 PM
Holey Square

Are our brains wired to recognize patterns in random natural phenomena? As for faces, even newborns will look for people's eyes to engage and that presumably increases survival. I can attest that it can create an unbreakable lifelong bond with parents. Could this relate to how much I enjoy "seeing" sculpted patterns in nature? Do many (all?) Native American tribes find spiritual significance in some natural features, or are places like Bear's Ears more often significant to European cultures?

biguglystick Mar 09, 2022 01:08 PM
Holey Square

I love all of this, John! Thank you.

macpuzl Mar 09, 2022 03:42 PM
Holey Square

It's called pareidolia - a tendency to find familiar patterns in random images.

taz Mar 09, 2022 12:11 AM
Holey Square

I enjoy how much you add to your photos by seeing unique artistic connections and naming things such that it draws our eyes to see with new freshness. I like the color & texture on these too. Very inviting. Thanks a lot :)

John Wiley Mar 09, 2022 01:11 PM
Holey Square

Those outcrops in particular seem to have an unique texture that's fascinating to me. Maybe the rippled and dimpled South-facing surfaces have weathered in that pattern due to uplift? If the strata were deposited in a plane that's about 90 degrees from the current orientation, what was horizontal is now vertical. As such, might erosion be more uneven than if rain were falling on it in the original horizontal orientation? Any geologists (Terrapin?) care to comment?

Terrapin Flyer Mar 09, 2022 08:52 AM
Holey Square

Our local mountains are a product of tectonic activity, but not from subduction (“plates pushing together doesn’t quite happen, but rather one “subducts” under the other). Subduction did happen between the Pacific and North American plates, responsible for the creation of the Sierra mountains. That plate eventually subducted completely and the San Andreas fault formed 25-30 million years ago. It is a right-lateral strike slip fault with the pacific slipping roughly north. There is some compression along the fault pushing up and folding the terrain. A good way to visualize this is to lay a thick blanket on the ground and place your hands on it and push them together. As the mountain erodes it leaves behind the dramatic cliffs you I see now. The local mountains are only about five million years old, a blink of an eye in geologic time. As a side note, the Channel Islands are a product of the San Andreas fault tearing off a large chunk of the Pacific plate and rotating it roughly 90º clockwise. There are rocks on some of the islands (the Poway clasts) that started out down around the Mexican border.

A real geologist would probably make lots of corrections here, but hopefully I got it more or less right. If you want to learn more just Google “Tanya Atwater”. (Professor emeritus UCSB). She was a big part of figuring out plate tectonic theory.

Terrapin Flyer Mar 09, 2022 02:51 PM
Holey Square

John, depositional and tectonic processes occur over millions of years while erosion occurs over thousands or even hundreds of years. While individual strata (ie Coldwater sandstone) are generally consistent, they are often interbedded with shale or other compositions. Furthermore while the material is being deposited, whether sand or finer or even coarser particles, a lot is going on during that lengthy process. Sea levels rise and fall, the source rocks change, chemical processes alter it, etc. This creates a variety of sorts in the final rock, which weathers accordingly and gives us those sometimes fascinating formations.

John Wiley Mar 09, 2022 05:26 PM
Holey Square

Great info! Thanks for this Terrapin. I'm wondering if the sandstone had some harder river rocks and boulder inclusions. When the sandstone tilted up, some of those inclusions protruded from the broken edges of sandstone boulders, probably more prone to breaking there due to the discontinuity created by the inclusion. The inclusions gradually eroded loose from the exposed sandstone edges, and eventually fell out leaving holes that then further eroded. The result could be "eye" holes in the wizened "face" of the "surprised" boulder, and the giant "belly button" in "SpongeBob." Might a big boulder that slid out of the vulture's cave, be found downslope nearby?

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