I have been out the last couple of days undertaking fieldwork for a building stones project, but today I was treated to a glimpse of a gem of a little geological section being prepared. Those of us who work in geoconservation talk a lot about geodiversity but this must be the most geodiverse section I have come across. It is a trench, only about 100m long but displays rocks from the Precambrian, Cambrian, Silurian, Carboniferous and Triassic.

The trench runs across the crest of the ‘Malvern Axis’, a major monoclinal fold trending north-south through central England that brings up Precambrian (~677 Ma; Cryogenian) to the surface. The Malvern line separates the two Precambrian terranes of the Midlands Microcraton, Wrekin Terrane to the west and Charnian Terrane to the east, that forms the solid basement of England. These Precambrian igneous rocks are unconformably overlain by Middle Cambrian Malvern Quartzite, and then Upper Silurian (Pridoli) Raglan Mudstone, and Upper Carboniferous (Moscovian) Halesowen Fm. This sequence was folded and thrust during the Variscan Orogeny at the end of the Carboniferous into the north-south Malvern Axis. Extension during the Triassic produced normal faulting along the Malvern Line and deposition of Middle Triassic (Anisian) Bromsgrove Sandstone to the east in the Worcester Graben. All this is being exposed in just one 100m trench, albeit somewhat tectonically shortened.

Standing on the axis, this is the view to the east. In the trench, the light coloured material in the foreground is Precambrian Malvern Complex, succeeded by grey/green and grey Carboniferous, red Silurian muds and Triassic sands towards the car.

To the west, the white is Cambrian followed by Carboniferous and Silurian on the other side of the axis. Note that many of the lithological identifications are still tentative.

The section is still in the process of being created and is on private land, but should be stunning when finished.

Accretionary Wedge #36 Stuff Left Behind

I am already late for this month’s accretionary wedge which has already appeared at geosciblog. Anyway, in the spirit of better late than never, here is my contribution to the topic of “things left behind”.

Garnet Hornblende Garbenschiefer from Lukmanier, Switzerland.

Almost thirty years ago I was fortunate enough to undertake my undergraduate geological mapping work for my degree dissertation in the Passo del Lucomagno / Lukmanier Pass region of Ticino, Switzerland. I have already talked about some of this in Accretionary Wedge #27 “Important Geological Experiences” and Accretionary Wedge #11 “Field camp”.

Google Earth view of my undergraduate mapping area at Lukmanierpass.

The topography, quite naturally for the Alps, was fairly severe, the campsite where I was staying at Acquacalda was at 1800m, the top of the ridge to the south was 2600m, and I had to descend 100m from the campsite before starting to climb up the other side. When working on the southern ridge it would take a couple of hours to walk up to the base of the ridge. I would then eat my lunch early, leave my rucksack and, travelling light, start to work my way up the side of the ridge carrying just my mapcase, notebook and compass-clinometer. I would spend the rest of the day working upwards until about four in the afternoon and then rapidly descend back to the campsite, collecting my rucksack along the way.

The south ridge of my mapping area from the campsite at Acquacalda

After about three weeks, about halfway through my stay there, I was working up to the south ridge. I had already ditched the rucksack but collected a fair sized sample of high-grade gneiss. I was crossing a boulder field and noticed an interesting looking exposure up a steep face to my right. I put my notebook down on a rock, placed my map case on top of it, and my gneiss sample on that to stop it blowing away. I then headed up to the steep outcrop with my compass-clinometer thinking I could easily remember a couple of readings and rock details and return to record the information in my notebook. At the exposure I took a couple of structural readings and then noticed that the rock structure looked even more interesting up and to my left. I traversed across and took another three readings, committing all five to memory.

I then turn round to return to my notebook. To my horror all I could see was a large boulder field. Although I had a luminous yellow field notebook, I had placed a grey map case on that, and then a large rock on top of that. They were perfectly camouflaged. I descended to where I thought I had left them and still couldn’t see them. I started to hunt for them. After an hour a mild panic started to set in. Had I just lost three weeks work down to my own stupidity? Since I knew that they had to be in the boulder field somewhere, I decided that the only solution was to criss-cross the boulder field in a grid search.

After another two hours without success, time was beginning to run out. As I was mapping alone, I had an agreement with the two others I was camping with and who were mapping adjacent areas, to meet up at 5pm. In the case of one of us not being there at that time, the other two would go out to look for them in case something had happened to them. I was going to have to give up soon to make the rendezvous deadline. My map and notebook could be ruined by weather if I left them out, even if I returned to find them the following day.

I decided to do just another couple of passes. And there they were, right in front of me, I practically walked into them. I was so relieved. I realised I was only 10m from where I thought I left them in the first place. I went back to that point and yes, I could see them from that point once I knew where they were, but the camouflage had been excellent. It was time to go back. But not before I had recorded the details of the outcrop including the five structural readings that had been burnt into my memory over the past three hours.

So, I haven’t ultimately left stuff behind on this occasion, but there is a follow up to the story. After my degree, I went to Cardiff to do a Ph.D. and I told the metamorphic petrology lecturer about the wonderful metamorphic rocks at Lukmanierpass, including hornblende garbenschiefer and kyanite schists that were so shiny you couldn’t look at them in the sun without sunglasses. I showed him the box of my rock samples that I had collected there. He asked if he could hang on to them for a while and I agreed. With the passing of my Ph.D. I completely forgot that I had lent him the rock samples. I moved on to Keele, and he moved on from Cardiff. I don’t know what happened to those rocks, but I do wish I hadn’t left them behind.

Accretionary Wedge #32- Favourite Geological Picture: West Angle Bay

Ann, at Ann’s Musings on Geology is asking for one’s favourite geological picture (only in American) for this month’s Accretionary Wedge.

I’m late for this one and most of my geology photo archive isn’t on this laptop, so I’m going to go with something that I have to hand. This image is one of my gigapans (in this case a matrix of 16 x 6 photographs stitched together). It shows the foreshore at West Angle Bay, Pembrokeshire, Wales. The view looks westwards towards Milford Haven and shows the Lower Carboniferous Limestone contorted by a series of Variscan thrust related folds. One of the thrust planes is seen in the left of the image, over-steepened by the folding. To the centre of the image are a pair of whaleback periclinal anticlines. The beds then steepen again to vertical on the right via a tight syncline.

But the beauty of a gigapan image is that one can dive in and view the detail like the slickenside lineations on the thrust plane or the writing on the buoy.

Accretionary Wedge 28 : Deskcrop & Rock365 #300

October’s Accretionary Wedge is being hosted by Matt Kuchta at Research at a Snail’s Pace on the topic of deskcrops. The deadline for the wedge is fortuitous as I can get it to coincide with my three hundredth deskcrop this year!

Back at last New Year’s Eve I was sitting with a group of fellow travellers around a camp fire at a Bedouin encampment on the edge of the Sahara Desert in Morocco exchanging new year’s resolutions. I rashly suggested that I would take a photograph of a rock every day in 2010 and Project Rock365 was born. How long ago that seems. It has been a long slog since but I have now made it to day / rock 300.

I have saved today’s rock for day 300 and the accretionary wedge as it is one of my favourite samples which has pride of place in my home collection. It is a pegmatite sample from the Narestø Feldspar Quarry, Flosta Island, Arendal, Aust-Agder, Norway. The rock contains some really large feldspar and biotite crystals. Unfortunately, I can’t remember but else about the rock and google is not providing me with much help.

The pegmatite was collected on the Keele Geology foreign fieldcourse to Norway in 1991 (in fact my field guide tells me it was on Friday July 12). The Norway fieldcourse was a long tradition at Keele, now sadly superseded. To keep costs down, the geology department (as it was in those days) had its own tents, folding tables and chairs, cooking equipment and gas stoves. We took the ferry to Bergen and traversed Norway twice, out to Oslo and then back to Stavanger, staying at camp sites along the way. I actually did this fieldcourse twice, once in 1989 and again in 1991. We even took enough tinned food to last a fortnight to keep the cost low as Norway can be expensive, but the same logic didn’t quite work the following year when we went across the Alps and actually took tinned Italian tomatoes back into Italy!

The fieldcourse mainly covered high-grade metamorphic and igneous rocks so I was not that much use of the teaching side apart from the structural mapping at Slemmestad and some of the Caledonian nappe structures at Röldal, my role was much more that of van driver. I did however learn a huge amount from our former mineralogist, George Rowbotham.

Matt asks if we could include a scary dimension to the post. I can’t really think of anything scary except I’ve a sneaking feeling that the sample might be a bit ‘hot’.

All three hundred deskcrop images can be found on my companion posterous blog and at my flickr site.

A google map with links to the geotagged images is embedded below.

View Rock365 in a larger map

Columnar Jointing Meme : Iceland

Coat of Arms of Iceland - source Wikipedia
Since there is a current meme in the geoblogosphere on columnar jointing I’m going to have to join in and add an image from a country that actually has a piece of columnar jointing incorporated in its coat of arms – Iceland. In case you are wondering, it is the plate that the shield rests on.

This columnar jointing is from the Jökulsárgljúfur National Park, part of the larger Vatnajökull National Park in the north of Iceland. It shows that columns do not have to be parallel, just perpendicular to the cooling surfaces, in this case lava tubes.