If you have never heard of pillow basalts before, don’t worry. For over 5 years I didn’t realize that I worked a mere two hours away from a pretty famous geological site. If you want to know more about pillow basalts and how to see famous ones in Oman, keep reading.
What are pillow basalts?
Pillow basalts (also known as pillow lavas) occur when lava erupts in the ocean. The lava cools rapidly due to the cold ocean water and pillow-shaped structures are created. They are typically composed of basalt, which is an igneous rock.
Want to know more? Check out this post on pillow basalts from the United States National Park Service.
Where can I find them?
First, let’s discuss ophiolites.
Ophiolites are parts of the oceanic crust that have been shoved up onto the continental crust. Ophiolites are not very common and their creation is not typical tectonic activity.
For more on ophiolite creation, check out this blog post by Chuck Bailey from The William & Mary Blogs.
While ophiolites are not common, Oman is home to one of the best exposed ophiolites in the world. This formation is known as the Semail Ophiolite.
Check out this blog post on the importance of the Semail Ophiolite by Chris Spencer on the website The Traveling Geologist. (yes, the name of this blog is AWESOME as well as the blog itself!)
So what’s the connection between ophiolites and finding pillow basalts?
Pillow basalts usually occur underwater at mid-ocean ridges (really hard to get to). Ophiolites bring mid-ocean ridges to the land areas, thus, pillow basalts can be accessed on land.
How do I get to the famous Wadi Jizzi pillow basalts?
The Wadi Jizzi pillow basalts have been featured in a number of geology textbooks and on the 1975 cover of Geotimes magazine (now EARTH Magazine). These famous pillow basalts are easily accessible by car.
Wadi Jizzi is located in northern Oman and the pillow basalts are right off of a newly paved road. Here is a map and coordinates:
Pillow Basalts: 24.28451, 56.39173
You will find the famous pillow basalts here. Keep in mind that if the wadi is full, then you might not be able to get up close to the formations.
Turn-off for Parking: 24.28384, 56.39076
This is the road you should turn into to view the pillow basalts. DO NOT stop your car on the main paved road to take distant pictures of the basalts. That’s dangerous. Instead, turn off onto the dirt road indicated on the map, park your car, and walk over.
‘Parking’: 24.28452, 56.39119
The Wadi Jizzi pillow basalts are an excellent example of such structures. You can definitely find pillow basalts elsewhere in Oman, but these ones are particularly spectacular and accessible. If you’re planning a trip to see them, I hope this post helps.