BGS Make-a-map
BGS Make-a-map

Well, it’s about time. The British Geological Survey has been lagging behind its US cousin for some time now. Like the USGS, the BGS is funded by the taxpayer but unlike the American version the data has always been hard to get hold of and expensive. Bits of data have become available slowly as the BGS has gone digital. The 1:625000 scale digital geology map was released through geoindex and the OneGeology global geological mapping portal and this year I’ve been making a lot of use of their on-line rock lexicon, but up until now the 1:50000 digital geology maps have only been available via a paywall to universities or in paper form for the great unwashed.

Today, the BGS released their OpenGeoscience portal, a free service for non-commercial private study, research and educational activities for viewing geological maps, downloading photographs and other information.

There are six OpenGeoscience sections. The Data section covers parts that we’ve had access to previously like the geoindex graphical front end to the BGS’s data holdings such as maps, boreholes, earthquakes and the like, the lexicon of terms used on BGS maps, their rock classification scheme and their database of mineral and rock samples. The education section also links to stuff we have had before – notably ‘Make-A-Map’ for creating basic geological maps of the British Isles. They also (somewhat bravely) provide a link to their new climate change poster which shows that climate change is nothing new and puts into context the current fluctuations with respect to those over geological time.

The maps section provides three ‘views’. The first, a ‘simple’ view allows a zoomable view down to street level with the 1:50000 geological map (where available – not Northern Ireland yet) as an overlay. The geology layer, the transparency of which is variable with a slider control, is a vast improvement on what was previously available to the general public. However, the street map is several years out of date and the satellite view is quite poor resolution. Their ‘intermediate’ view is actually the 1:625000 geology kml layer for Google Earth that has been available through OneGeology for some time and which I blogged about previously here back in August last year. The ‘advanced’ data allows users to down load the 1:625000 data in in ESRI© and MapInfo© formats and also view the 1:50000 data using their Web Map Service.

As an educator, however, the best part for me is GeoScenic, the browsable collection of the BGS’s photographs. I can see this being really useful for examples in lectures.

Finally, and really something quite interesting, is a downloadable version of BGS·SIGMAmobile, the BGS ‘digital field data capture system’ (geological field notebook connected to a database) designed to run on a rugged tablet PC with integrated GPS units. Effectively this is a heavily customised versions of ArcMap 9.2 and MS Access 2003 and is something I’m going to be trying out in the near future.

All in all, it is good to have everything together in one portal, but much is not new and still lags behind what is accessible for the US.

Mis:tique II : Fault Propagation Fold, Broadhaven

broadhaven fault propagation fold

I’ve blogged briefly about this structure before here in my list of places that all geologists should visit in the UK. It is the quite spectacular Variscan fault propagation fold and Broadhaven, Pembrokeshire, Wales.

As the thrust in the middle of the section propagates up through this sequence of Upper Carboniferous sandstones and mudstones it folds them ahead of the thrust tip. Eventually, the thrust cuts through the fold, separating the hangingwall anticline from the footwall syncline.

I’ve already previewed our MIS:TIQUE project, attempting to use gigapan technology to help provide alternative geological learning experiences for mobility impaired students. I am giving a presentation on this topic at Keele University’s annual teaching innovation day on Friday so I’ve been working on the data that was collected over the Easter vacation.

One of the main reasons in getting my own domain and hosting this blog myself was the previous inability to insert gigapans and the like into blog posts when using – with a hosted version of wordpress this is now possible.
A full screen version can be found here.

This is one of the two gigapans than I have shot of this structure. This was shot hand held with my Canon 5D and stitched using Canon stitching software. I was experimenting a bit with this one just to see what it would turn out like with automatic focus and exposure. I think it turns out quite well and is sharper than the one I took with the Canon G10 on fixed focus and exposure and using the gigapan robotic mount which you can find here.

I also experimented by uploading all of the images from both cameras into photosynth, and again I’m quite pleased with the results which can be seen below.

The full photosynth can be found here.

Silurian Patch Reefs

farley quarry
Visited Wenlock and Ludlow, Shropshire with our first year geology students at the weekend. Both classic sites of British geology. Dusted of the gigapan robotic mount too.
Here is a gigapan of Silurian patch reefs. [Wordpress won’t let me embed gigapans directly into the blog]


The above image is I believe Ketophyllum subturbinatum, a rugose coral. [Hey, I’m a seismologist OK, and I was just there as a driver].

Note that Farley Quarry is private land and access permission should be sought from the owner.

I need a new laptop

I’m suffering sticky key syndrome after spilling a glass of the red stuff over my keyboard. I came across this little beauty by way of The Inquisitr. Would make a fine replacement lappy and very useful for the field. I want!


Some specs for the General Dynamics Itronix GD6000 from their website…

# FULLY-RUGGED NOTEBOOK RELIABILITY — This vehicle-rugged notebook meets the fully-rugged MIL-STD 810F standards for temperature range, vibration resistance, dust ingress protection and humidity. It can also survive punishing 30” drops and comes standard with a spill-resistant keyboard (with a published 400 ml 10-minute soak spill test ) and a shock mounted display.
# ULTRA-VIEWABLE TOUCHSCREEN DISPLAY with DYNAVUE® — The GD6000 has the industry’s best 13.3” outdoor viewable touchscreen display featuring our award winning, innovative DynaVue® touchscreen display technology that dramatically increases outdoor viewability in all ambient conditions including direct sunlight.
# POWERFUL PERFORMANCE TO MEET TODAY’S PROCESSING INTENSIVE NEEDS — The GD6000 with the latest Intel® 2.53 GHz T9400 Core™2 Duo processor, an 1066 MHz Front Side Bus, 6MB L2 cache, up to 4GB DDR3 memory and the Intel GM45 Express Chipset is designed to keep field-deployed, mission-critical workers productive and online throughout your deployment life cycle.
# ULTIMATE IN WIRELESS CONNECTIVITY — With up to four integrated wireless devices—WI-FI (“WLAN”), Cellular Data (“WWAN”), Embedded GPS, and Bluetooth in the same device the GD6000 is designed to provide highly reliable connectivity across the spectrum of wireless networks; optimized for expansive radio frequency coverage, it features internal antennas, a magnesium case for RF shielding, and extensive RF noise filtering.
# GD6000 NotebookERGONOMIC — Designed to be the easiest vehicle notebook to carry and use; the GD6000 with its fresh industrial ergonomic design is the thinnest and lightest in its class with this level of durability. Adjustable front keyboard lighting and an optional white keyboard provide efficiency and security for working at night.

Doesn’t mention if the spill test was rioja though.

Accretionary Wedge #15: Favourite Field Work Places

What is your favourite place to do field work?” is the question Dave Schumaker at Geology News is asking as last this month’s Accretionary Wedge.

I am extremely lucky having a job that allows me out into the field occasionally, even if at the minute it is just down the road. In my top five I would have to include the Atacama Desert of Chile, Iceland, Colorado and the Alps but at number one has to be the Spanish Pyrenees.

I’ve been many times, as a postgraduate demonstrator and lecturer on undergraduate field courses and twice as a field assistant to a Ph.D. student. However, I’ve not been back in a long time, so apologies in advance for the scans of twenty year old slides.

The Spanish Pyrenees is a classic place to teach geology. The Spanish side (unlike the French side) is arid so there is excellent exposure, and, unlike the Alps, they are not too high and much of the geology is accessible from the roadside (with a suitable loose definition of road).

The geology shows a superb interrelationship of sedimentation and tectonics with the sediments eroded from the high Pyrenees being progressively deformed as the mountain front advances.


Riglos 2


The variety of geology is also stunning from vertical bedding to trace fossils.

Vertical bedding

trace fossils

The local cuisine is excellent with chorizo, pyrenean mountain cheese and local wild boar washed down vino tinto. The only exception to this is breakfast (sweet cake is not my favourite at the best of times) but we did manage to train a cafe owner in Jaca in the art of bacon and egg butty making.

Of all the places in the Spanish Pyrenees I think my favourite has to be the Ordesa National Park. From the olistostromes at Torla to the climb up to Monte Perdido is the most spectacular walk I have ever done. The views from the top are absolutely breathtaking.



One day I shall return.