The Stretch: Over 50 Years in the Field

The May 1984 issue of Dartmouth Alumni Magazine detailed a weekend symposium organized by the College’s earth sciences alumni. “A Gathering to Celebrate the Excellence of John B. Lyons and Richard E. Stoiber” had drawn 140 graduates to Hanover the month before. Drawn back by a “love for Dartmouth and geology,” the alumni represented more than 50 classes.

For many, the shared experience included participation in the Stretch, a term-long off-campus field study program for undergraduates. Many had accompanied Stoiber ’32, Professor John Lyons, and a lengthy list of other Dartmouth faculty to conduct research in locales near and far, including Occom Pond, the Catskills, Arizona’s Lake Powell, and Guatemala’s Pacaya volcano.

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1967 Central America Earth Sciences trip
1967 | An early Stretch trip to Central America. Pictured, left to right, facing the camera are Charlie Pineo ’69, Professor Noye Johnson, and Michael Carr ’69.

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Dartmouth Stretch 1968
1968 | Professor Richard Stoiber and Jack Bauer ’69 collecting condensed gas from an active fumarole on the new lava flow at Cerro Negro Bolcano, Nicaragua.
A volcanologist, Stoiber began organizing Stretch trips, in 1965, to Guatemala and El Salvador to conduct volcanic research. Charlie Pineo ’69 and Michael Carr ’69 traveled to Central America during the fall of 1967 and were two of five seniors who settled in Guatemala City for a term in 1969 to spearhead a three-month honors thesis field geologic mapping program. They traveled with classmates Bob Cox ’69, Jason Knapp ’69, and Jim Ross ’69.

Pineo has fond memories of both trips—highlights of which included “exploring Guatemala City on foot, negotiating in the central market, riding for hours through the countryside in the back of a government deuce-and-a-half truck in tropical sun and nighttime darkness, climbing active and recently active volcanoes, and collecting geological data.”

“The physical beauty was and remains beyond compare, and the athletic challenge suited me and gave me satisfaction for work well done,” says Carr. The impact of the program on his life was “pretty much total,” says the recently retired professor, who earned a PhD, focusing on volcanology, after graduating from Dartmouth.

The Stretch’s original goal—to teach students geology by bringing them directly into the field with practicing teacher-scholars—remains at its core. “Studying comes alive for students when they can work with faculty members on the sites where we actually are ‘doing our thing,’” said Stoiber in an article from Dartmouth Alumni Magazine’s June 1973 issue. “In that way, our students learn not only what we’re doing but how to engage in scientific inquiry by helping us do it.”

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Central America, 1975
1975 | Betty Strook ‘77, left, and Rocky Geyer ’77 collect gas samples on Cerro Negro in Nicaragua.
Evolving over the years to include itineraries in step with current faculty and graduate student research, the Stretch of today begins in Alberta and winds south to Arizona, with many stops in between. The nine-week adventure is organized into a series of segments, each taught by Dartmouth faculty members, on topics such as field techniques, glacial processes, and the chemical analysis of rivers and lakes. The Department of Earth Sciences refers to the program as a “moveable geologic fest through the American West.”

One of the College’s most popular off-campus programs, the Stretch continues a tradition of enabling scholar research and student mentorship in its development of the next generation of geologists.

Photos are courtesy of the Department of Earth Science and are taken from larger collages hanging up in Fairchild Hall

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Central America, 1969
1969 | Students cram onto a truck for a group photo, Central America.

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Central America, 1972
1972 | Keith Kronmiller, Chuck Doll ’72, Ray Wood ’73, Jim Pocalyko ’73, and Professor Stoiber measure sulfur dioxide output from Pacaya.

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Stretch 1974
1974 | Dave Dobson ’76, Elise Erler ’76, and Murray Hitman ’76 visit the Grand Canyon.

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The Stretch, 1980. Lake Powell
1980 | Stretchies take a dip while conducting research on a chemistry sampling houseboat on Lake Powell. The Lake Powell Research Project began in 1971 with Dartmouth professors and students, along with other participating institutions, conducting research sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

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The Stretch, 1984
1984 | A group shot of Stretchies, several sporting “Rox” hats reflective of their chosen major, at Dead Horse Point Park in Utah.

On the Road With the Stretch

In the fall of 2018, Stretchies, as participants are known, logged almost 3,000 miles as they traveled to field research sites that included Alberta’s Athabasca Glacier, Wyoming’s Bighorn Basin, Utah’s Dinosaur National Monument, and the south rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona.

Experience the Stretch