Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Shiprock, or Shiprock Peak (Dine: TsÚ Bit' A'Ý, " winged rock") is a rock formation rising nearly 1,800 feet (540 meters) above the high-desert plain on the Navajo reservation, near the northern New Mexico town of Shiprock. The name derives from its resemblance to an enormous 19th-century Clipper ship.
Shiprock is composed of fractured volcanic breccia, and is the remnant of a solidified lava core which probably was originally formed 2,500-3000 feet (750-1,000 meters) below the earth's surface, but was revealed by millions of years of erosion. Wall-like sheets of lava, known as dikes, radiate away from the central formation.
The Navajo have a number of legends associated with Shiprock, and consider it sacred. So although the sheer walls would seem to invite serious mountain climbers (it was first scaled in 1939, by a Sierra Club party including David R. Brower), climbing it is currently illegal.
Tony Hillerman's mystery novel The Fallen Man centers on the discovery of a long-dead climber found atop Shiprock.
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