Looking West and North
Moving west from the Funeral Range allows one to see where it grades into the Grapevine Range (the northwestern boundary of Death Valley). The Panamint Range now appears more clearly in the background, and Telescope Peak (~11,000 feet) stands out, but is easily confused with the clouds to its left and right:
The next photo simply backs away from the above view:
Turning further to the west brings Bare Mountain into view. It is a limestone mountain, about 500 or 600 million year old rock, with many of its sections turned nearly on their sides because of ground motion over at least the last 10 million years. For about 10 million years, the Basin and Range has been spreading apart. There is now twice the distance between the Sierra Nevada Range in California and the Wasatch Range in Utah! With the jerky motions attending this spreading, whole chunks of mountain have been separated and turned a little at a time. So, limestone originally laid down horizontally in shallow seas are now tilted and folded:
In the above two photos, there are craters. These are remnants of million year old volcanos in Crater Flat. Hot spots with molten rock under pressure find their way to the surface along a multitude of channels, and when one opens wider it relieves pressure on the others, so the typical structure of these volcanos is a basaltic apron and a cinder cone where the pressure was finally relieved.
At one point, toward the south end of Bare Mountain, there is a little notch through which, if the weather permits, one can see ~130 miles to Mt. Whitney, part of the Sierra Nevada and the highest mountain in the lower 48 states! It was barely visible on this day:
The town of Beatty lies on the other side of Bare Mountain. The Amargosa River runs along the other side of Bare Mountain. Through Beatty, the limestone basement comes near the surface and the river flows. After Beatty it all goes underground. For more on the Amargosa River, the little river that fills Death Valley with a deep lake during ice ages, see this page.
Two final views from the crest of Yucca Mountain are again toward the calderas, where we began. This time we looking to the east of Timber Mountain and see Pahute Mesa, where a small number of deep underground nuclear tests have been performed:
The next photo points just a bit more to the east and shows mountains (and mesas) to the right of Pahute Mesa. Not visible behind the mountain in the foreground is Rainier Mesa, where many underground tests have been conducted.
These mesas are part of the volcanic rock terrane that Yucca Mountain is also a part of. Note that the layers of volcanic rock, tuff, are near- horizontal even though Basin and Range spreading has faulted and dropped and tilted some these rocks to make them into the valleys and mountains we see here. It shows these are young formations, between 16 and 10 million years old:
A large tunnel boring machine, or TBM, this one made in Seattle, Washington, was used to construct a tunnel into Yucca Mountain. This TBM is the same size as those used for the Chunnel between England and France, and the machines used to drill three tunnels of this size into Lake Mead, part of the Colorado River, to bring water into Las Vegas:
The TBM grips the rock on its sides, above, and below and then extends a large rotating shaft forward, pushing this face into the wall ahead, crushing the rock and scooping it upward onto a conveyor belt to remove it. It is very efficient and can turn amazing corners.
To get it started, these types of machines require a "starter tunnel" in which the machine is assembled. This was Yucca Mountain's starter tunnel. The concrete pad on the left (and an identical one on the right) provided the gripping surface needed to allow the machine to move forward. There is "shotcrete" and rockbolts in the starter tunnel to hold back rockfalls. At the beginning of the actual tunnel, steel was set in place for the same purpose. Further into the tunnel, very little support was needed.
A little way into the tunnel, small alcoves were built to allow experimental work to be done while the mining of the main tunnel proceeded. This is one of those alcoves, now being used to explain to visitors what scientific work has been and continues to be done inside the mountain (sorry about the fuzzy photo):
So, now you have a had a 'virtual' tour of Yucca Mountain. Time for dinner and a drink.
If you want to take another look to the north and south, go back to PAGE ONE.
Links to other Yucca Mountain views on this site:
The Yuccas of Yucca Mountain (on a page about my work)
Yucca Mountain from the air (pictures from a commercial flight)
2009 Yearbook Page
Places page for Nevada
Thoughts and Places Home Page