Shiprock, or “winged rock” in the Nava­jo lan­guage, is a mono­lith com­posed of resis­tant vol­canic rock. The rock ris­es to an enor­mous height of almost 500 meters, dom­i­nat­ing the desert of the Nava­jo Coun­try in San Juan Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co. Mono­lith is the rem­nant of an ancient vol­cano that died out approx­i­mate­ly 27 mil­lion years ago and left behind only scars on the sur­face.

shiprock rock

Entry relat­ed to loca­tion: USA

Shiprock Rock rep­re­sents the neck of the vol­cano, the cen­tral mag­ma out­let through which mag­ma erupt­ed into the sur­round­ing areas. This neck was 750 to 1000 meters below the earth­’s sur­face at the time of its for­ma­tion, but has since been giv­en its cur­rent shape by ero­sion of the earth­’s rocks.

A strik­ing fea­ture of Shiprock is the so-called dams, or wall-like sheets of lava, even­ly extend­ing away from the cen­tral rock. They formed as mag­ma filled cracks in the earth dur­ing peri­ods of erup­tion. Cool­ing and crys­tal­liz­ing in cracks, the moun­tain struc­ture formed a kind of dam. Like the neck itself, these dams are also rel­a­tive­ly resis­tant to ero­sion. There are at least six huge lava dams stretch­ing long dis­tances from Shiprock.

The rock is com­posed of an unusu­al high-strength “minette” mag­ma com­po­si­tion formed by the grad­ual melt­ing of the rock man­tle. This mate­r­i­al is com­posed of small­er rock frag­ments fused togeth­er like a con­glom­er­ate, but with a high­er amount of irreg­u­lar par­ti­cles. The jagged frag­ments hint at the explo­sive nature of the erup­tion that cre­at­ed Shiprock.

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