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The area near the Utah-Arizona line is a place of strange and delightful rock formations. In the Paria Canyon-Vermillion Cliffs Wilderness, the renowned Wave formation is made of Jurassic-age Navajo sandstone -- 190-million-year-old sand dunes turned to rock. Stacked one atop another, the dunes calcified in vertical and horizontal layers.
Iron oxides bled through to give the sandstone a salmon color. Hematite and goethite added yellows, oranges, browns and purples. It was all underground until water seeped through a huge vertical crack in a ridge above. The water cut a channel that was then scoured over thousands of years by wind-blown sand, carving out smooth curves and swells that look like cresting ocean waves.
Columnar jointed basalt in Turkey
During the cooling of a thick lava flow, contractional joints or fractures form. If a flow cools relatively rapidly, significant contraction forces build up. While a flow can shrink in the vertical dimension without fracturing, it cannot easily accommodate shrinking in the horizontal direction unless cracks form; the extensive fracture network that develops results in the formation of columns. The topology of the lateral shapes of these columns can broadly be classed as a random cellular network. These structures are often erroneously described as being predominantly hexagonal. In reality, the mean number of sides of all the columns in such a structure is indeed six (by geometrical definition), but polygons with three to twelve or more sides can be observed. Note that the size of the columns depends loosely on the rate of cooling; very rapid cooling may result in very small (