The Birth of the Old Man: A Geologic Tale of the Mountains, Volcanoes, and Oceans

Presented as part of our 2023 An Enduring Presence: The Old Man of the Mountain Series. This event is supported by a grant from New Hampshire Humanities Community Project Grants.

Twenty years ago this spring, the iconic 200 million year old “Old Man of the Mountain” fell from Franconia Notch.  The Old Man of the Mountain was made of White Mountain Granite, a representative of one of the three major granite-forming events in the history of New Hampshire that gives the state its well-deserved title as The Granite State.  In this lecture I will describe the unique confluence of tectonic events that set the stage for the birth of the Old Man and the other granites that dot the region.  I will track the geological development of New Hampshire from the closure of an ancient ocean basin and the formation of the supercontinent Pangea, through a giant super-eruption of magma and major global mass extinction, and ultimately to the opening of the Atlantic Ocean we see today.

Dr. VanTongeren was born and raised in Michigan and fell in love with geology while completing her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.  During her PhD at Columbia University, she focused her studies on the formation of magmas at mid-ocean ridges and the geochemical evolution of a (now solidified) large magma chamber beneath an ancient ‘supervolcano’ in South Africa.  Following a postdoctoral fellowship at Yale, she was a professor of geology at Rutgers University for 7 years prior to moving to Tufts University in 2020, where she is now Chair of the Department of Earth and Climate Sciences.  Her work has taken her to all seven continents, and she maintains active research projects in Antarctica, South Africa, Oman, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  She spends her free time skiing, hiking, climbing, and gardening in the White Mountains with her husband and their four children.

This is a hybrid event. Registration for Zoom is required. Please register here.

Event Details


Thursday, August 31, 2023 7:00pm


Museum of the White Mountains
34 Highland Street
Plymouth NH 03264

Hosted By:

Museum of the White Mountains

Contact Info:

Museum of the White Mountains,