(Masada Part 2) Hoodoos – Who Knew?

You knew what that huge free-standing mesa was out in the Sea of Salt, right?

(Elijah and Nathan stared when they came to the intersection to Arad.)

They didn’t know what to call it, but you knew it was Masada.

“Well, where did Masada Dam go?” I asked my engineer cousin, Donald Ingram.

“I presume the dam broke and became the Gulf of Aqaba, perhaps as a function of plate tectonics. The proof would be if one could identify earth in the Gulf of Aqaba as having originated on the strata level at the top of Masada.”

Gulf of Aqaba – NASA photo

“When earth is saturated with water, it can easily become a mud slide, as experienced after a lot of rain in China a few years ago, and also illustrated by the many similar mudslides from volcanic pools, Mount St. Helens being a recent example. Once saturated earth begins moving, it behaves similarly to present day observable glacial action, only much more powerfully, because it is about 2.5 times more dense than ice.”

I pushed a little: “How would the composition of the Masada mesa differ from the earth around it?”

Mesa composition

The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument’s famous hoodoos, seen at sunset. Photo by

“I venture that the top of the Masada mesa has a different composition than that below the top, which tends to explain why it has not eroded like the dirt it caps. Consequently, if we were to discover that the type of material that caps the Masada is found in the basin of the Gulf of Aqaba, we might conclude that it had originally come from a continuous plain, a plain whereupon the Masada was just a few acres.”

“I just returned from the Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon,” continued the engineer.  “Each Hoodoo has a cap. The cap is rather impervious to ‘sludding.’ However, the sides of the Hoodoos are like sandstone:  absorbent.”

Hoodoos – Photo by Bryan C. Roanhorse

I really wanted to ask about the proper plural of hoodoo — Hoodim? Hoodea? Hoodoora? — but I could hear the slide rule clicking and knew the engineer was on a roll.

“I imagine that with every rainstorm or melting snow, the Hoodoo sides absorb water. When the temperature falls below freezing, the water ices and expands, loosening a layer of sandstone. When the temperature rises, the sides slud down and a slud stream quickly carries it away, actually lengthening the skirt of the Hoodoo.”

Caps of clay

“I think the caps must have clay in them.”

“My guess —  and I welcome anyone’s correction — is that Masada is like one giant Hoodoo. My conjecture is that the cap of Masada is rather impervious to weathering, whereas its sides are not. The cap of Masada, I am sure, is the same material as caps of the same strata on the other side of the valley.”

“To corroborate my theory, what I should expect to find in the Gulf of Aqaba as delta material from the valley is material identical to the cap of Masada and the material under the cap.”

Gulf of Aqaba Tour

Engineer Ingram seemed to appreciate my suggestion that he work with Blossoming Rose  to conduct a tour in search of the Gulf of Aqaba for the remains of Masada Dam. But I couldn’t get him to call the tour guide I suggested in Holland.

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