The Phoenix Nest

La Conner, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour

La Conner, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour

With a Story about Earth's Ancestory

By Jim Fulton

 

About This Page

A Message from the Phoenix

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Abstract

I chose to stay at the La Conner RV Park for two main reasons: My children and grandchildren were coming to visit, and the park was well situated for family activities. And, when I returned after a week near Monroe, it provided a convenient staging point, close to the ferry to Victoria, BC, from which to launch my Grand Fossil Tour. The story for this episode is 'Gaia's Parentage'; it looks at where the Earth, and its life, came from.

Page Prerequisites
Table of Contents
Page Specifications
Id Flights_GFT_2017_0630
Title La Conner, Washington, on the Grand Fossil Tour
Subtitle With a Story about Earth's Ancestory
Keywords La Conner RV Park, ThousandTrails
Author Jim Fulton
Author's URL http://fenixnest/Phoenix/
Copyright 2017
Status Published: 2018/2/19
Last Revised 2018-05-06
Stop La Conner, Washington
Stop 1 Stop 2 Journey from Nisqually
Arrived 2017/6/30 2017/7/23
Day of Tour before tour 1
Departed 2017/7/14 2017/7/25
Nights Stayed 14 2
Map miles from last stop 123 62
Mileage on arrival 18,517 19,464
Actual miles from last stop 1612 478
Accumulated miles for trip 1612 2559

I chose to stay at the La Conner RV Park for two main reasons: First, La Conner is a popular tourist destination for residents of western Washington, and for global travelers as well, well situated for family activities. It seemed the perfect place to arrange a visit with my kids and grandkids, who were coming to visit. And, when I returned after a week near Monroe, it provided a convenient staging point, close to the ferry to Victoria, BC, from which to launch my Grand Fossil Tour.

I bought an annual pass to the Thousand Trails campgrounds association that covered not only my stay in La Conner but also a later stay in Florida. Sadly for my budget, I can't use the pass on most of my trip.

The story for this stop will tell not just of Theia and Tellus, the two protoplanets that collided to form the Earth and Moon, Terra and Luna, but of their own ancestory, where they come from and how they came to be.

Page Contents

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La Conner RV Park and La Conner, Washington

La Conner is a popular tourist destination for residents of western Washington, and for global travelers as well. It seemed the perfect place to arrange a visit with my kids and grandkids.

The town of La Conner is located on the mainland coast in Skagit County, Washington. The Swinomish Channel separates the mainland from Fidalgo Island, just to the west. The campground is on the west side of island on the Rosario Strait, which connects southward to the Puget Sound, westward to the Straits of Juan de Fuca and the the San Juan Islands, and northward to the Georgian Straits, the latter two straits flanking Vancouver Island. Also on the island is the city of Anacortes, from which sails the ferry to the San Juans and Victoria.

When I lived in the Seattle suburb of Woodinville, Skagit County was a frequent target of our roaming. Only an easy 70 miles north of Seattle, the county as a whole is agricultural; large farms with huge farmhouses nestled between the Cascade Mountains and the coastline. My aunt and uncle lived there when we first moved to Washington, and they told us that the county was one of the world's largest suppliers of vegetable seeds. The Tulip Festival draws huge crowd every spring, with broad fields of red and yellow and purple.

La Conner itself is about four miles east of the RV park on the east banks of the the Swinomish Channel. The Swinomish Tribe has a reservation on the other side of the channel, and maintains a thriving fishing trade. However, La Conner's economy seems mostly driven by tourists these days, with boutiques and antique shops and cafes lining the main street.

Photo Gallery for La Conner, Washington

La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
I bet there's an interesting story behind this road name!
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington
La Conner, Washington

La Conner RV Park

The campground where I stayed is huge, sprawling, and very popular. I came in on 4th of July weekend, and it was full to the brim. I understand its popularity: It has a lovely, well-wooded situation overlooking Rosario Strait. it has all the amenities that today's family campers expect, except a swimming pool. And it provides easy access to attractions for a day's excursion: La Conner, Deception Pass, the Skagit County Tulip Festival every spring, whale watching and other activities out of Anacortes. It was a good place for my family to meet for a few days.

From my perspective, however, newly launched as I am into a life of living in and towing a fairly large (38') trailer, there were aspects of the park that disturbed me:

  • The park does not provide for mail service. They tell you to send to La Conner general deliver. For campers out for a week or two, this is no problem, but for full-time travelers like me, it was inconvenient.
  • It's hard to get details about local facilities. The park is understaffed, and might not return phone calls.
  • Although the park accommodates big rigs like mine, it is not well suited to them.
    • They do not closely manage who parks where. It's first-come-first-served. Although such a policy seems easy-going, it has the consequence that many of the sites suitable for big rigs are filled with small rigs taking advantage of larger spaces. Of course the policy allows a camper to move into a better site when it opens up, and I did, but moving my trailer to a site with a sewer hookup was a half-day affair (remember: I'm a newby) that I would have preferred to avoid.
    • The sewer situation was another annoyance. Only about a third of the sites have sewers, and many of those are taken up by permanent residents. That, together with the first-come-first-served policy, means that finding a site with full hookup on a popular weekend is unlikely, even if you reserve in advance. Reservations don't guarantee full hookups.
    • Another consequence of the first-come-first-served policy is that many big-rigs are tucked into sites a little too small for them, and whatever towed or towing vehicle they use for local driving sticks out into already narrow lanes, making navigation of big rigs even more difficult difficult.
    • This is especially a problem for new arrivals. Since the office doesn't know for sure what sites are available, I had to wander through a maze of narrow lanes, looking around for a site I could fit into.

All in all, although I enjoyed my family time at La Conner RV Park, I will probably not return. At least I will spend a lot more time exploring alternatives before I do.

Photo Gallery for La Conner RV Park

La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Moby Richard and the Phoenix Nest at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Moby Richard and the Phoenix Nest at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Moby Richard and the Phoenix Nest at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Moby Richard and the Phoenix Nest at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
The Lone Tree at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
The Lone Tree at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
The Lone Tree at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Robin and Trystan at La Conner RV Park
Robin and Trystan at La Conner RV Park
La Conner RV Park
Address 16362 Snee Oosh Rd
La Conner, Washington 98257
Home Page https://www.thousandtrails.com/ washington/la-conner-rv-camping-resort/
Phone
Reservations (Member):
1-800-388-7788
Reservations (Non-member):
1-877-570-2267
Associations
Rate
(with discounts & taxes)
Included with $500 annual Zone Pass
Pros
  • Beautiful location
  • Very large, very popular
  • Well-shaded
  • Lots to do, both in park and in vicinity
Cons
  • Narrow lanes made tighter by vehicles parked on edge of sites.
  • RV sites are plunked down, helter-skelter, wherever they can be made to fit.
  • Sitestend to be undersized and difficult to back into.
  • Only a third of the sites have sewer hookups; many of those are taken by long-term residents.
  • First-come, first-served policy can make it challenging to find a suitable site for a big rig.
  • No mail service at park.
  • Difficult to contact local management; phone messages go unanswered.
Reviews (as of 2018/1/27)
Reviewer Rating Out of
RV Park Reviews 7.7 (Good) 10
Good Sam 9 10
KOA 4.5 5
Tripadvisor 4 5
Phoenix 7 10
  Site Type pull-through  
  Site Size 7 10
  Ease of Access 7 10
  WiFiNotes 8 10

Watching the Whales

My kids Greg and Robin, and their kids, Keala and Trystan, spent some time with me while I stayed in La Conner. We arranged a whale-watching tour with Island Adventures. It was very well organized and managed, and a lot of fun. We followed a pod or two of orcas for a couple hours, and wandered through the eastern San Juan Islands looking for other critters.

I've included the best of the photos I took. I don't have a professional high-magnification telephoto lens, and regulations kept us from getting too close to the whales, and prudence from the other animals on the islands. So the original photos were too distant to include here. What I have included have been cropped to show the animals to best advantage.

All the photos on this page have been reduced in size so that the page can load in a reasonable time. In this gallery the photos are linked to higher resolution versions, so if you have a good, high-speed connection, click on them to see greater detail.

Photo Gallery for Whale Watching

Whale Watching
Orca seen during whale watching excursion
Orca seen during whale watching excursion
Bald Eagle seen during whale watching excursion
Bald Eagle seen during whale watching excursion
Seal seen during whale watching excursion
Seal seen during whale watching excursion
Turkey vulture seen during whale watching excursion
Turkey vulture seen during whale watching excursion

Story Time.

In the last episode of our story, I raised some questions about what it means for a person to do something, to make something happen, and to be responsible. These stories will eventually return to that topic, but first we'll turn to something entirely (well, not quite entirely) different.

I have billed this blog as a search for evidence of the evolution of the soul, or at least of mind, of consciousness. Today's story will provide some historical, well "geo-historical", context for that evolution.

Genesis I: Gaia's Parentage

My grandkids, and many of their generation, could tell you that the Earth and the Moon were born in a massive collision of the proto-earth (Tellus?) and a Mars-sized planet commonly called Theia. That event marks the beginning of the Hadean Eon, and the end of what is unofficially called the Chaotian Eon.

“Verily at the first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Gaea [Earth]. From Chaos came forth Erebus [darkness] and black Nyx [Night]; but of Nyx were born Aether [the bright upper atmosphere] and Hermera [Day]. . . ”
Hesiod, Theogony 116-, quoted in Goldblatt, et al, 2009.

Life in some form emerged on Earth during the Hadean Eon, despite the Hellish environment of a constant rain of rock, first from the gravitationally bound fragments of Tellus and Theia, then from asteroids pushed into Earth's orbit as Jupiter and Saturn repositioned themselves. But that is a story for another day. Today we will talk of the Chaotian Eon, of the unformed Chaos from which Gaia was born.

Parents of Power

Earth had some powerful parents. At least one, and possibly more, was a supernova, the only force in nature capable of creating the heavier elements that make up the Earth, except possibly for kilonovae, something even rarer and more powerful. The nitrogen and oxygen in the air you breath, the carbon in your diamond and in the chemicals that make up your body, the aluminum in the airplanes you fly, the silicon in the rocks you stand on, the iron in your car's engine — all these can be made in the later stages of life of ordinary stars. But not the gold in your rings, the silver on your dining table, the cadmium in your paints, the zinc in your trumpet, not even the copper in your wires — none of these can be made by any known natural process other than the death throes of a massive star in the final few minutes before it destroys itself in a supernova.

Imagine it: you spend millions of years in that supergiant star as a hydrogen nucleus, a simple proton, in a dance too fast to hang onto your fickle electron partner. At some point the current of the dance takes you deep into the star, where, in the heat and pressure of the core you meet and, in a complex courtship, marry another proton, plus a couple of neutrons, fusing together into a helium nucleus (an alpha-particle), nature's strong force binding you tightly together, despite the positive charges that would normally keep you protons apart. Every whole it seems, whether it be nucleus, atom, molecule, organism, marriage, family, community, nation, or globe, suffers from real forces driving its pieces apart, and only manages to maintain itself by exerting real effort to hold itself together.

As a newly fused element, your gravity keeps you deeper in the star, where you reside with like helium nuclei. In the perpetual turbulence of the convection of the star, you occasionally swing out to the garrets of your younger days, rubbing elbows with as yet unattached protons. But the rarefied pressures of the outer regions do not allow you to bond, and you soon return to your new neighborhood, where you remain, except for occasional forays outward.

Until so much helium has been made that you and your neighbors all together are too massive to be supported by the energy released by new fusions of hydrogen into helium. Your neighborhood collapses, squeezing you all tighter and tighter together until suddenly some of your neighbors begin to fuse into carbon, and eventually you do too. The process repeats, over and over again, producing heavier and heavier elements.

The process changes when you reach iron. Until then every time you fused into something heavier, you produced energy in the process, and that energy could be used to trigger your neighbors in doing the same. Iron is different. It is the most stable element there is. Fusing into something heavier requires more energy than is produced. For most stars, when they reach the point that they are full of iron in their cores, they die in an ordinary nova, shed their outer layers, and collapse into a white dwarf.

This video illustrates the brief flare of a supernova. Note how bright it becomes compared to the stars surrounding it. Remember: the supernova occurred a "long time ago, in a galaxy far far away". The surrounding stars are from our own Milky Way!

But for really massive stars, stars twenty or more times the size of our Sun, their gravity is too great to shed those outer layers. You and your neighbors are pulled ever more tightly together. You fuse into heavier elements, but that sucks more energy out of the star than the fusion produces, rendering the force of gravity even more overwhelming. In a sudden catastrophic crescendo, you collapse "all the way", producing every natural element there is, and then rebound in the most spectacular event in nature: a supernova.

The Stellar Nursery

After the pressures of the supernova, things are calmer now. You're still hot, hot enough to glow of your own radiance, and you will for thousands of years, first as a distinct supernova remnant, then, as you diffuse outward, an atomic droplet in a vast molecular cloud, 65 light-years across (= 20 parsecs = 3.82 x 1013 miles = 382,000,000,000,000 miles = 615,000,000,000,000 km), the largest object smaller than a galaxy.

As you cool, you and your neighbors gain structure; you begin to organize your communities. First you use your electric charge to capture stray electrons, transforming from raw nuclei into whole atoms. You are still hot enough to be bouncing off one another in random Brownian motion, but as you cool, occasionally and then frequently you collide with other atoms. Some you find attractive, share electrons and bond into stable molecules: hydrogen and oxygen into water, carbon and oxygen into carbon-dioxide, and so on. Simple organic molecules, the basic stuff of life begin to form.

As the cooling continues, gravity combines with chemistry, bringing nearby molecules together in ever larger clumps. Clump strikes clump, sometimes smashing into fragments, sometimes regrouping into larger clumps. The molecular bonding and the gravitational clumping are random. Chance alone determines what atoms will strike which, what clumps of what composition will hold together. Of course, as the clumps get larger, they strike with greater energy, enough to melt the clumps into a fluid which pulls the heavier elements and molecule into a central core.

After tens of thousands of years of this cooling and bonding and clumping, the molecular cloud itself fragments into separate chunks, separated gravitationally and in every other way from each other. You find yourself in the chunk that will eventually become our Solar System. That chunk rotates about a central axis, a net consequence of the angular momentum of all the atoms that happened to join with you in this new, stellar community. Of course, not all the clumps have the same spin. They go different directions. But like cars driving in the wrong lane on a freeway, they don't last long (unless they happen to be the hero in a chase movie). They crash into one another, and more and more of the clumps end up moving in the preferred direction. As on the freeway, that doesn't eliminate the collisions. Clumps are still moving at different speeds, and getting in each others' way.

Under the pull of gravity the fragment slowly shrinks in size into a rotating disk, spinning faster as it shrinks, like an ice skater pulling in her arms. Most of its mass finds its way to the central hub, which sucks all local matter together in a gravitational embrace, pulling it tighter together until hydrogen fuses with hydrogen again, the proto-star blazes into the Sun, and the cycle repeats.

Around the central hub/proto-star/Sun orbit larger clumps, too distant to join in the fusing glory of the Sun. Gradually those clumps clear out their orbits, sweeping up the remaining debris at their particular distance from the Sun. They are large enough and molten enough that gravity rounds them into globes, into planetoids.

Among the last of the major collisions, two such planetoids, Tellus and Theia, strike with such force that they are complete torn apart. Their fragments reform into the Earth and Moon. Except that most of the heavier elements, the iron and the nickel, find their way into the core of the larger, heavier Earth, the two share a common composition of the respective crusts, a composition unique to themselves and different from all the other planets.

What might it have looked like, this mighty last cosmic battle of gods? What might you have seen had you been a spectator, safe in distant orbit around them, but close enough to look on? From our standpoint 4.5 billion years in the future, it is hard to know. The last image in the gallery below shows one artist's conception. But that is speculation. For one thing, we don't know exactly when the sun began to shine, when it began fusing hydrogen at a rate sufficient to illuminate its planetary attendants. Did Tellus and Theia collide in the dark of a perpetual night, with the a glim glow of a proto-star in the distance? Or did the blazing Sun shine on their mutual annihilation and recombination? If that tale is told, it was not to my ears.

Life in the Chaotian Eon

As the collision of Tellus and Theia brings to an end the Chaotian Eon and usher in the Hadean, what can we say of life on this new Earth? Different stories are told, and all are speculations, legends, myths. At least it is reasonable to say that simple organic chemicals were already present in our parent planetoids, as well as in the smaller bodies that struck earth in the millions of years to follow. For by the end of the Hadean, life was ready to blossom. But that is a story for another time.

Through the Lens

The images in the following gallery illustrate the cosmological brightness cycle: very large stars blossom into extremely bright supernovas, leaving behind them supernova remants that glow from their own energy. Over time that energy dissipates and degenerates into a molecular cloud, which fragments into rocky, spinning pre-solar disks, whose central core collapses into an ordinary, hydrogen-fusing star, illuminating its planets.

All the photos are of a size that allows the page to load in a reasonable time. Each photo is linked to its original source, which provides additional information, and may offer higher-resolution versions.

What did our ancestory look like? Was our supernova remnant bright and glorious as the Rosette Nebula, or eerie and shadowy like the Bubble. Was our molecular cloud a dense stellar nursery like the Eagle Nebula? Or was it a solitary, dusty cloud like the Veil. Whatever our heritage might have been, I find it amazing, awesome even, how often scientific facts are visually sublime!

Photo Gallery for the Story of the Chaotian Eon

the Story of the Chaotian Eon
Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
Supernova 1994D and the Unexpected Universe
[APOD]
M95 with Supernova
M95 with Supernova
[APOD]
NGC 1365: Majestic Spiral with Supernova
NGC 1365: Majestic Spiral with Supernova
[APOD]
Bright Supernova in M82
Bright Supernova in M82
[APOD]
A Supernova through Galaxy Dust
A Supernova through Galaxy Dust
[APOD]
Star Cluster, Spiral Galaxy, Supernova
Star Cluster, Spiral Galaxy, Supernova
[APOD]
SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
SN 1006 Supernova Remnant
[APOD]
X-rays from Supernova Remnant SN 1006
X-rays from Supernova Remnant SN 1006
[APOD]
Cosmic Crab Nebula
Cosmic Crab Nebula
[APOD]
M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble
M1: The Crab Nebula from Hubble
[APOD]
The red circle visible in the upper left part of this WISE image is the remnant of SN 1572.
The red circle visible in the upper left part of this WISE image is the remnant of SN 1572.
[Wikipedia]
Tycho's Supernova Remnant
Tycho's Supernova Remnant
[Wikipedia]
The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
The Mysterious Rings of Supernova 1987A
[APOD]
Cooling Neutron Star
Cooling Neutron Star
[APOD]
IC 443: Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
IC 443: Supernova Remnant and Neutron Star
[APOD]
The Elusive Jellyfish Nebula
The Elusive Jellyfish Nebula
[APOD]
Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula
Sharpless 249 and the Jellyfish Nebula
[APOD]
Kepler's Supernova Remnant in X-Rays
Kepler's Supernova Remnant in X-Rays
[APOD]
Supernova Remnant Puppis A
Supernova Remnant Puppis A
[APOD]
Puppis A Supernova Remnant
Puppis A Supernova Remnant
[APOD]
Supernova Remnant Simeis 147: The Spaghetti Nebula
Supernova Remnant Simeis 147: The Spaghetti Nebula
[APOD]
Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
Simeis 147: Supernova Remnant
[APOD]
Veil Nebula: Wisps of an Exploded Star
Veil Nebula: Wisps of an Exploded Star
[APOD]
NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula
NGC 6960: The Witch's Broom Nebula
[APOD]
Along the Western Veil
Along the Western Veil
[APOD]
Pickering's Triangle in the Veil
Pickering's Triangle in the Veil
[APOD]
Filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant
Filaments of the Vela Supernova Remnant
[APOD]
Vela Supernova Remnant
Vela Supernova Remnant
[APOD]
IC 1795: The Fishhead Nebula
IC 1795: The Fishhead Nebula
[APOD]
Messier 43
Messier 43
[APOD]
NGC 2170: Still Life with Reflecting Dust
NGC 2170: Still Life with Reflecting Dust
[APOD]
NGC 6188 and NGC 6164
NGC 6188 and NGC 6164
[APOD]
The Bubble Nebula
The Bubble Nebula
[APOD]
Close-up of the Bubble Nebula
Close-up of the Bubble Nebula
[APOD]
NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula
NGC 7635: The Bubble Nebula
[APOD]
NGC 7822 in Cepheus
NGC 7822 in Cepheus
[APOD]
The Great Orion Nebula M42
The Great Orion Nebula M42
[APOD]
Orion: Belt, Flame, and Horsehead
Orion: Belt, Flame, and Horsehead
[APOD]
Dust, Gas, and Stars in the Orion Nebula
Dust, Gas, and Stars in the Orion Nebula
[APOD]
The Pelican Nebula in Gas, Dust, and Stars
The Pelican Nebula in Gas, Dust, and Stars
[APOD]
The Rosette Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen
The Rosette Nebula in Hydrogen and Oxygen
[APOD]
SH2-155: The Cave Nebula
SH2-155: The Cave Nebula
[APOD]
The Horsehead Nebula in Infrared from Hubble
The Horsehead Nebula in Infrared from Hubble
[APOD]
The Horsehead Nebula
The Horsehead Nebula
[Wikipedia]
The Horsehead Nebula
The Horsehead Nebula
[Wikipedia]
The Eagle and The Swan
The Eagle and The Swan
[APOD]
The Pillars of Eagle Castle
The Pillars of Eagle Castle
[APOD]
The Fairy of Eagle Nebul
The Fairy of Eagle Nebul
[APOD]
Inside the Eagle Nebula
Inside the Eagle Nebula
[APOD]
M16 and the Eagle Nebula
M16 and the Eagle Nebula
[APOD]
M16 and the Eagle Nebula
M16 and the Eagle Nebula
[APOD]
Hubble 25th Anniversary: Pillars of Creation
Hubble 25th Anniversary: Pillars of Creation
[APOD]
Young Stars and Dusty Nebulae in Taurus
Young Stars and Dusty Nebulae in Taurus
[APOD]
Stardust in Perseus
Stardust in Perseus
[APOD]
Stardust in the Perseus Molecular Cloud
Stardust in the Perseus Molecular Cloud
[APOD]
Hubble image of protoplanetary discs in the Orion Nebula
Hubble image of protoplanetary discs in the Orion Nebula, a light-years-wide "stellar nursery" probably very similar to the primordial nebula from which the Sun formed
[Wikipedia]
ALMA image of the protoplanetary disc around HL Tauri
ALMA image of the protoplanetary disc around HL Tauri
[ESO]
Planetary Smash-Up (Artist's Conception)
Planetary Smash-Up (Artist's Conception)
[NASA]

Afterword

Such is the Phoenix's story of Gaia's parentage and birth. Earth's heritage was thus a hodgepodge of chemicals: elements formed in the cores of stars or in the collapse and explosion of supernovae, all bound into molecules stable enough to survive the Brownian collisions of ever larger particles in the molecular cloud that collapsed into the nebula that became our Solar System. Among those molecules were the organic chemicals that would become the foundation of life.

Where did this story come from? It's certainly not original; I'm not a scientist doing my own research. The bits and pieces of the story come from many sources, mostly available on the internet, most seemingly scientifically reputable. Any conclusions or morals I have drawn are my own speculations, and you may certainly refrain from embracing them.

By the way, I apologize for any offense I may have given in treating you as an elementary nucleus. Throughout these stories I will be using various analogies and metaphors to make some complex ideas more accessible. Why should you want analogies and metaphors when you can get "real science" from Wikipedia and other popular and academic sources? Because most of those sources are written with a technical jargon that experts can use to communicate with each other, but that obscures ideas for lay people like myself. And all too often, not only are facts obscured, but interpretations and philosophies are masqueraded as facts.

Scientific Evidence, Theories, and Hypotheses

How viable is this story? Well, you can search your own sources and come to your own conclusions, but here is some of the evidence I have accumulated in the course of my studies. Since most of this evidence concerns what happened when, I have listed the items by age, both in GYA, i.e. "giga-years ago", i.e., billions of years ago), and with the standard (and not so standard) names (and colors) for the geological ages of the Earth. Where there is consensus (or good argument), I list the events that mark the end of one age and the beginning of the next.

As always I list the events in temporal order, oldest things first, to make telling the story natural. Other sources often follow inverse temporal, with latest things first. This does have the advantage that the top-down order of the list corresponds to the top-down sequence of the geological strata that contain the rocks and fossils that were laid down in various ages, but it does complicate telling a story that spans ages.

GYA Eon / Era / Period [GSSP / Goldblatt] Event Source
Defining the Ages of the Solar System
The present (2009) International Commission on Stratigraphy timescale (http://www.stratigraphy.org/upload/ ISChart2009.pdf) is rather sparse in its description of the earliest Earth, only noting the Hadean as an “informal” eon. Conversely, the description of this time proceeds rapidly, with increasing geochemical and theoretical study. The lack of a timescale leads to repeated and the unsatisfactory use of descriptive timing, e.g. “the time after the Moon-forming impact” and comparison of rocks and events based on imprecise radiometric dates. Subdivision of the Hadean will allow these to be described in their proper relative order....
Eon Era Period Age (Ga)
Hadean Neohadean Promethean ?3.9
Acastan 4.0
Mesohadean Procrustean 4.1
Canadian 4.2
Palaeohadean Jacobian 4.3
Hephaestean 4.4
Chaotian Neochaotian Titanomachean ~4.5
Hyperitian  
Eochaotian Erebrean  
Nephelean  
Fig. 1. Proposed time scale for the Solar System formation and the early Earth.

The Eochaotian begins when the Solar Nebula became a closed system with respect to the rest of the giant molecular cloud and encompasses the agglomeration of the Solar System constituents from the nebula....

Events and material from before the nebula are Prenephelean.

Goldblatt, et al, 2009

ICS

? Prenephelean Parent Supernovae
The heavy elements in Solar System are created by one or more supernovae. Wikipedia
Kilonovae and Heavy Elements

Most chemical elements heavier than helium were born in the death throes of stars; the explosive energy of a supernova is responsible for generating most of the contents of the periodic table. Now, a new observation hints that another type of explosion—caused by the collision of two neutron stars—could be responsible for the production of many heavy nuclei, including gold.

Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics identified a red point of light at the same location as a powerful explosion known as a short duration gamma-ray burst. This is the first identification of an optical counterpart to this type of gamma-ray burst, and it could be the signature of new neutron-rich elements being produced in the aftermath of the explosion. If that conclusion is correct, then this observation is powerful support for the idea that colliding neutron stars are responsible for many gamma-ray bursts and the origin of some heavy elements.

ars Technica, 2013
Supernova Shocks Molecular Cloud into Collapse
The "Solar System formed as a result of a shock wave from an exploding star—a supernova—that triggered the collapse of a dense, dusty gas cloud that contracted to form the Sun and the planets." Boss, 2008
Fuzzy 4.6 (?) Chaotian Pre-solar nebula
  Eochaotian

The nebular hypothesis says that the Solar System formed from the gravitational collapse of a fragment of a giant molecular cloud. The cloud was about 20 parsec (65 light years) across, while the fragments were roughly 1 parsec (three and a quarter light-years) across. The further collapse of the fragments led to the formation of dense cores 0.01–0.1 pc (2,000–20,000 AU) in size. One of these collapsing fragments (known as the pre-solar nebula) formed what became the Solar System. The composition of this region with a mass just over that of the Sun (M) was about the same as that of the Sun today, with hydrogen, along with helium and trace amounts of lithium produced by Big Bang nucleosynthesis, forming about 98% of its mass. The remaining 2% of the mass consisted of heavier elements that were created by nucleosynthesis in earlier generations of stars. Late in the life of these stars, they ejected heavier elements into the interstellar medium.

Wikipedia
  Nephelean
4.567 Solids Form in Molecular Cloud
New solar systems form from the dusty residue of older stars. Most of the dust that was the raw material for the formation of our solar system was heavily processed in the early solar nebula. A few grains escaped heavy processing, and retain the isotopic, chemical, and structural record of their presolar origin. Stroud, 2005
Solids Form in Presolar Nebula
Cosmochemists date the origin of the Solar System by the age of the oldest, most refractory solids found in meteorites: calcium-aluminium rich inclusions t0 = 4.56745+/−0.00035 billion years ago, “Ga” (Amelin et al 2009). Lineweaver and Norman, 2009
? Erebrean Protosun Emerges
Central core of Solar Nebula collapses into proto-sun. Goldblatt, et al, 2009
Complex Chemicals Form
? [The protosun] played a major role in chemically shaping the solar system by emitting enough ultraviolet energy to catalyze the formation of organic compounds, water and other compounds necessary for the evolution of life on Earth. Thiemens, et al, 2005
~4.5 Neochaotian Solar Fusion Begins
First light from Sun as it begins to fuse hydrogen into helium. Goldblatt, et al, 2009
4.480 Hadean Collision of Theia and Tellus

For the proto-planets which became the Earth and the Moon, the last major collision was an oblique impact between a Mars-size body and the Venus-size proto-Earth, which ejected mantle material to form the Moon and left the planet molten (Canup, 2004). This cataclysm was the true birth of Earth. It separates our proposed solar system wide Chaotian Eon from the subsequent stratigraphic evolution of each inner planet....

The Moon-forming impactor has been named Theia (Halliday, 2000) after the Titan mother of the Moon goddess Selene. The proto-Earth remains unnamed. We suggest Tellus, for the Roman Earth goddess....

We propose the Hadean Eon (Cloud, 1976) began after Theia and Tellus collided to form the Earth-Moon system. The Hadean is restricted to Earth’s geology, in contrast to the solar system wide Chaotian.

Goldblatt, et al, 2009
Primordial heat

Primordial heat is the heat lost by the Earth as it continues to cool from its original formation, and this is in contrast to its still actively-produced radiogenic heat. The Earth core's heat flow—heat leaving the core and flowing into the overlying mantle—is thought to be due to primordial heat, and is estimated at 5–15 TW. Estimates of mantle primordial heat loss range between 7 and 15 TW.

The early formation of the Earth's dense core could have caused superheating and rapid heat loss, and the heat loss rate would slow once the mantle solidified. Heat flow from the core is necessary for maintaining the convecting outer core and the geodynamo and Earth's magnetic field, therefore primordial heat from the core enabled Earth's atmosphere and thus helped retain Earth's liquid water.

Wikipedia
4.1 - 3.8 Late Heavy Bombardment

During this interval, a disproportionately large number of asteroids are theorized to have collided with the early terrestrial planets in the inner Solar System, including Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars.

[But see Lineweaver and Norman, 2009 for doubts.]

Wikipedia
3.8 (?) Archean End of the Hadean

The Hadean-Archean boundary is undefined. Nisbet (1982, 1991) suggested the origin of life but the timing of this is as yet unknown. The Late Heavy Bombardment seems intrinsically Hadean and the final impact of this would be the logical choice to terminate the Hadean (Zahnle et al., 2007), being a clearly identifiable event and heralding the start of the continually habitable period. However, this is unresolved in the terrestrial record and the 3.85 Ga rocks of Isua are commonly seen as Archean. A date of 3.9 Ga could be used provisionally, but risks splitting the Late Heavy Bombardment across two eons.

Goldblatt, et al, 2009

For Further Reading

If you want more than this thumbnail sketch, here are some suggestions for further reading. Some the items in this list provide the content of the popups you saw if you clicked on anything in the Sources column. Others are there because they seemed interesting and accessible to non-specialists (though Wikipedia is despairingly uneven in that last attribute!)

Because my stories overlap in their topics, so these lists of sources will overlap. It is my plan to build a comprehensive Bibliography for the Phoenix Nest, but since the Nest is constantly growing, that has turned out to be a much more difficult task than I had anticipated. My web skills need to grow.

Next Stop

My next stop after leaving La Conner the first time was the Thunderbird Resort, another Thousand Trails park, near Monroe, WA. After my brief return, I headed to Victoria, British Columbia.

Comments and Conversation

What follows are comments and conversations I have had with people about this page of The Phoenix Nest.

Dialog 1

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