Friday, June 29, 2007

La Brea Tar Pits

I used to go to the La Brea Tar Pits a lot as a kid, and I always that really tar?

Los Angeles Magazine's Ask Chris by Chris Nichols answered that in May's Issue. It's actually asphalt, the lowest grade of petroleum, and dates back to more than 5 million years ago. Early settlers mistook it for tree sap and applied the name "tar" instead.

"According to Chris Shaw, collections manager and project coordinator at the Page Museum's Pit 91, asphalt will keep bubbling through any cracks and fissures it finds because osmotic pressure, methane, and sulphur dioxide push it upward. There is less pressure now than a century ago, when residents from Hancock Park to downtown complained of escaping gas that hissed loudly out of the earth. When the liquid asphalt reaches the open air, it oxidizes and congeals into pools of black ooze. Shaw says the staff at the pits to through cases of Lemon Gojo cleaner to remove the sludge from skin and shoes. Removing it from fabric, he says, is a lost cause."

I was fascinated by that, as I was at the thought of strange hissing sounds throughout Los Angeles. And the sludge...ewww. I don't envy the cleaning crew.

In any event, this is a great place to take kids, especially if they're into dinosaurs. Oh, the joys!