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Field trip to the northern Negev desert, Israel

The Negev Desert is a unique landscape with fascinating geology. While trying to see as much as possible within a single day, we will focus on two main highlights. The first is the impressive erosive craters developed at the heart of Syrian Arc anticlines. This is a unique Israeli phenomenon called Makhtesh (a Hebrew term for a crater). The second trip highlight is remnants of a trans-Jordanian fluvial system that transported siliciclastic sediments from Arabia to the Mediterranean before being cut off by the Dead Sea Valley. This fluvial system may be particularly important for potential hydrocarbon reservoirs. 

We will leave Caesarea in the early morning driving southwards along the Judea foothills. We will talk about the history of inland uplift that had formed the Mountainous Backbone of Israel. The first stop will be over an impressively flat hill (like a giant football yard), which is a relic of a 150-km-long abrasion surface running along the western slopes of the Judea and Samaria mountains. This surface is capped by shallow marine middle Miocene limestone. Looking westwards and downwards we will identify another abrasion surface overlain by middle Miocene to Pliocene marine sediments. Looking eastwards and upwards we will observe the flat Judea mountain plateau. Considering the present elevations of these surfaces and their age, we will set constraints of the rate of uplift and discuss the pulsic nature of the uplifting process. 

While heading southward we will cross the "Be'er Sheva channel", a deep (200m) subsurface canyon that entrenched across the Negev in the Middle Miocene and later filled by Late Miocene to Pliocene marine sediments. Continuing southwards the road will cross several Syrian Arc anticlines with their typical asymmetric structure composed of steep southeast flanks. Following lateral thickness variations, we will discuss the age of folding. 

One of the famous morphological features that are associated with the Syrian Arc Fold Belt in the Negev are the erosion craters (Makhtesh: pl. Makhteshim), a deep valleys, surrounded by 200-400 m high cliffs and drained by a single stream,  that developed in the core of the greatest folds: Hazera, Hatira and Ramon.
We will visit the Hatira crater, have a look at the exposed Jurassic to Turonian sequence, and discuss the peculiar geological and morphological conditions that led to the formation of these unique valleys. 

Crossing the Hatira Makhtesh southeastward, we will arrive to the Oron synclinal valley, where early Miocene fluvial sediments are still preserved. This sandy sequence is a remnant of a more than 1000 m thick fluvial-lacustrine sequence of the Hazeva Formation. During the Early Miocene the entire Negev as well as eastern Sinai and the western Jordanian Plateau were buried under fluvial sediments, which were originated south east of the Dead Sea Rift and transported to the Mediterranean by a regional fluvial system. This thick regional accumulation of sediments reflects a subsidence of the northwestern margins of the Arabian Plate. We will take a close look at the upper part of the Hazeva Formation in a sand quarry near the city of Arad. 

If time allows, we will stop in a fantastic view point overlooking the Dead Sea Rift valley with the special afternoon sun illumination. We will particularly observe the white lacustrine Lisan Formation, deposited during the last glacial period in a 200 km long and more than 200 m deep lake that extended along the Dead Sea Valley.  

General timetable:
06:30 – Departure from the Dan Caesarea Hotel's lobby
~08:30 – Breakfast en route (light breakfast box)
~13:30 – Lunch en route 
18:00 – Estimated finish time and heading back north
19:00 – Dinner on participant expense
21:00 – Stop at Ben Gurion airport
22:00 – Back at the Dan Caesarea Hotel

Please note that the plan is subject to weather and other unexpected limitations.

Pre-registration to this trip is required. On site registration to the trip will not be possible.