San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913

The Daily Aztec

Professor brings world experience to SDSU

For some, traveling the world and seeing some of our planet’s most spectacular geologic features can be a dream. For San Diego State geology professor Vic Camp, traveling is the part of a career that fuels the passion behind

his teaching.

His office is a shrunken space filled with books about Earth’s history and geologic processes. Maps from the places he’s worked adorn the walls.

Camp’s travels and occupation have taken him to regions some of us will only ever see in the movies. From the glistening sands of Saudi Arabia to harsh African deserts, Camp has studied geologic formations in hopes of learning more about how the planet works.

He has been to New Zealand, Africa, the Middle East and many other locations and says he  enjoyed every one.

“Every place has its own geologic culture,” Camp said. “I don’t think there’s anywhere I’ve been that I didn’t actually like on its own level.”

Many times, the reason for Camp’s travels is to work on various research projects. He spent six years in Saudi Arabia studying Pre-cambrian rocks and constructing geologic maps of
the area.

“We worked on the last (volcanic) eruption in Saudi Arabia, which was in 1256 A.D.,” Camp said. “It was a neat area because it was really close to the holy city of Medina, and nobody ever worked on it before so it was a really nice project.”

After his six years there, he returned to the U.S. to pursue a teaching career.

“What I always wanted to do was to take that experience from working overseas and then teach,” Camp said. “That’s why I’m here.”

Camp also spent time geologically mapping parts of Eastern Iran near the Afghanistan border in 1978 and 1979. He spent a total of 18 months there and said he enjoyed the time spent.

But for two weeks, Camp and his fellow geologists were trapped in Iran because of the revolutions happening at the time. Iran was ruled by a pro-American Shah, and the Iranian people were tired of his rule.

“There was an uprising that came from the south of the city and worked its way up,” Camp said. “They went into banks and places that sold liquor and movie houses or anything that had to do with American interests and destroyed everything.”

Camp and his team kept their money in one of the banks targeted by the revolutionists.

“There were fires and tear gas all over the place,” Camp said. “So what we decided to do in the aftermath is we waited until the next morning to go out and investigate. We wanted to see if our bank was still there. As we were investigating, we found that the bank had been burned to
the ground.”

The team decided to go back to the place they were staying, but the Shah had declared martial law to restore order,
Camp explained.

“He blocked off the entire city in half,” Camp said. “He wouldn’t allow anybody to go north, which was where we lived. When we were trying to get back, we tried different ways and there were tanks blocking the roads. And then we went in this one alley and we heard gunfire, and from another alley there were three or four people that started to run toward us and behind them were people with machine guns and we started running with gunfire at our backs.”

Nobody was injured or killed during this brief moment of chaos, Camp said. He and his team stayed in Iran for the two weeks following the incident until the airports were opened for a short period of time, and they were able to escape to Canada.

Adjusting to new cultures is just one of the challenges that comes with traveling around the world. His first bit of work overseas took place in Africa, which was initially a hard transition, Camp said.

“There’s a lot of disease and a lot of things you have to do without,” Camp said. “You get cravings for food that you don’t have access to. But it was a really exciting and adventurous thing to do.”

But with all of the different cultures Camp has adjusted to, the most difficult transition was returning to the U.S.

“This was after spending six years in Saudi Arabia,” Camp said. “What you notice is that things like the desert are subtle, the sand is a subtle color and there’s a lot of rural areas. But when you come back to the U.S. everything is bold; there’s bright colors. It was all a big culture shock.”

Interestingly enough, Camp didn’t think he would become a geologist when beginning his studies at the university level. Initially, he wanted to become a musician.

“When I was a kid, I collected rocks but I didn’t want to be a geologist,” Camp said. “When I went to the university, I went in as a music major. Drums were my thing. And then I got in and realized I had to be able to read music and that was a major issue because I couldn’t read music very well.”

But then something happened that, according to Camp, is typical within the geology major. He took a geology class and fell in love with it.

“I always thought, ‘I don’t really want to be behind a desk. I like the outdoors,’ so it all fit together,” Camp said. “It was exciting. After all these years I love geology still.”

Currently, Camp is studying a 17-million-year-old mantle plume in Yellowstone National Park, which is an upwelling of abnormally hot rock within the Earth’s mantle.

“There were what we call super eruptions in Yellowstone, and one of these took place 17 million years ago,” Camp said. “When it first came up, it was over the Washington-Oregon border. What we’re working on is the volcanism associated with that mantle plume.”

Camp says he will continue his work in the Pacific Northwest, but has no plans for any future geological endeavors.

“I still see geology as a hobby,” Camp said. “I love to teach, and I also love to go out and do
the geology.”

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San Diego State University’s Independent Student Newspaper Since 1913
Professor brings world experience to SDSU