Ramblings about what I encounter within the realm of the geosciences, as well as the occasional rant about nonsense.

30 September 2008

Ouse-ing over York

As I previously mentioned, it was a very wet month of August over in England and Scotland. This was illustrated by the river Ouse (pronounced "Ooze") overflowing its banks and flooding the little (well not so little) burg of York. Needless to say, FEMA was nowhere on scene (rimshot). Following are some of the pictures I snapped while we were passing on through the town.

This is a picture taken from the bridge which crosses the river in central York: This is a walkway that leads down to the canal, now it literally leads down to the canal:
Here is a local park, and some ducks (the ducks don't seem to mind... self centered ducks...):
One of the many roads that lead on down to the river:
I assume (though I could be wrong) that this measures how high over flood stage the river is. Here it is ~9ft over flood stage, though it was several feet higher before we got there:
Also taken from the bridge in the middle of town, the building in the center of the shot is furiously pumping water out of its mail slot.
An underground parking structure. Notice the high water mark. I am curious just how many cars were ruined do to the river Ouse:
Another shot of the river over-flowing:

29 September 2008

Siccar Point

One of the things I was most excited about for this trip was a chance to visit Siccar Point. When we were in the area, the weather couldn't have been better. Unfortunately, it was one of the wettest Augusts on record, so it was very wet and muddy. I hiked down to within about 30 m of actually standing on Hutton's Unconformity before (after slipping twice in the mud) I thought better of going the whole way.

After I hiked back to the top, I had a newfound respect for just how tough Hutton was. I figured he must have hiked down this near vertical slope in the gentlemanly garb of the day (in his 60s as well), and here I was slipping and sliding in jeans and hiking boots. Then my dad informed me that Hutton used a boat. Now I just think that Hutton was better prepared (and.... probably tougher than me).

Anyway, I guess now is the part where I show the pictures I took:

Our first hint that it was going to be a bit sloppy out in the field. The creek was flowing over the little bridge, though the prescence of a raised foot bridge suggests this is a common event:

This is taken from Pease Bay, where we stopped off before visiting Siccar Point. We decided it would probably be easier to look closely at the Devonian Sandstone here:
A closeup shot of the Devonian Sandstone. This has been interpreted to be deposits from a large river flowing into a standing body of water:This was taken on the way to Siccar Point. It is looking back towards Pease Bay. I just thought it was a nice scenic shot: This was my first look at Siccar Point:

This is Siccar Point. I crawled down a bit further than I was when I took the photo. See where you can't see the fence line anymore, that is where I stopped. It got a lot steeper, but it was just as muddy (about 20-30m above those friendly rocks).This is a zoomed in shot of the angular unconformity. The gently dipping red sandstone (middle left) is overlying the near vertical gray graywacke (which is everywhere else in the shot really):
Well that is all for my first trip to Siccar Point.

28 September 2008

Edinburgh, Geology's Ancestral Homestead

One of the things that I have noticed about UK cities is that they all seem to have, at their heart, some neat geological feature. In Edinburgh's case, it is a volcano. Edinburgh castle is built atop a batholith that cooled during the Mississippian (~340 Ma old).

Features of this volcano are present throughout the landscape. This includes Salisbury Crags (or Craigs, I have seen it both ways). The crags are columnar basalts which are interpreted to be a sill associated with the Mississippian volcanism. Anyway, following are some of the pictures I took within the city of Edinburgh. If our major cities incorporated more geology, I think I wouldn't avoid them.

Below is a complete picture of Edinburgh Castle, including the batholith peeking out beneath the castle:Below is a close-up of the castle. The basalt is a bit clearer in this photo:
The Salisbury Crags (taken from a tour bus). At some point, I would like to come back and go for a hike on the trail around the Crags:A close up of the columnar basalt at the Crags (also taken from a bus):

23 September 2008

The inevitable sequel

A quick departure from my Europe stuff. I have returned to Bozeman, even though my blog has me currently somewhere between Nottingham and Madrid. And after this bit of news, I will resume posting pictures of my trip shortly (as soon as I unpack my camera). But I thought I would throw this on the net anyway

My thesis draft has returned. Only now it is covered with some markings from its incredible journey. It appears that it has gone through as exciting a trip as my own.

Back to my descent into madness

This sums it up nicely:
Though I can't be sure, in my case, that it didn't make my adviser vomit.

17 September 2008

Lo Siento! means I don't want to cause an international incident.

I have been here in Spain for a few days now (attending the EuroEnGeo 2008 conference). So this post is a little ahead of where I left off my previous line. I have a couple of photos from York that I will post, as well as a summary of my trip to Siccar Point, but I forgot my SD card back in my room, so I will just wait on those two.

I will comment that Spain is very beautiful, though very dry (it would fit in well with Colorado). And I have fortunately not caused an international incident yet, which I was a bit concerned about since I didn't know how to say "I'm sorry" until just a few minutes ago.

The time zone change is very odd though, I am west of England, but I am an hour ahead of them. I imagine it is even more dramatic in Portugal and western Spain. So I have been getting up well before the sun rises, and am usually gearing down to go to bed as the sun is setting (though that is when dinner usually starts). Culture shock aside, I have enjoyed the trip and have only a short time before I must return to the crashing economy of the States. Hopefully, the airline I am on will hold out (I don't know if people State-side have heard about the 3 commercial airlines going under (at least one was considered quite sizabe, I haven't heard commentary on the size of the others) in the short time I have been here). Soon I will leave behind the stories of Gordon Brown's troubles as PM, and I will experience my own troubles regarding the terrifying possibility that Palin could be one heartbeat away from the presidency (why the polls still show the Reps doing okay is an absolute mystery).

To sum up this ramble:
  • posts about the flooding in York and my trip to Siccar Point are forthcoming.
  • I will sum up what I have gathered (and my impressions) from the euroengeo conference (keep in mind I am just a humble sed/strat guy. not an engineering geologist)
  • I might talk about some of the things I did around Madrid (unfortunately no cameras allowed at the art museums so pictures will be sparse).
  • And then I will probably go back to my sporadic posting schedule (especially since I just checked through ~100 emails in my inbox, mostly junk but I did come across a rather important message regarding paperwork for graduation).

08 September 2008

The BGS and the GSI3D conference

Even though we were staying in Nottingham my dad and I had business down in Keyworth. Particularly with the British Geological Survey. While there we attended the GSI3D conference where issues regarding 3D models were discussed. To summarize what I picked up at the conference (3D models and remote sensing are far from my area of expertise):

  • Geologists need to be able to effectively convey their information to non-geologists (something like 0.5% of people can actually read a geologic map)

  • We need to standardize data sets, so workers can share data easily. One individual explained that 5 contractors were working on the same problem for the government, but none of them could share any data because they all had different file formats.

  • Programmers need to design software with geologists in mind: this would get around the bottle neck of only a handful of geologists being able to input data and generate models (think about how often geologists need a GIS technician, now think how often the tech is a geologist themselves). If the workflow is what geologists already do, it is simpler.

  • Need to collect more subsurface data and centralize it (at least for government purposes).

  • There was also a lively discussion about how to display the uncertainties inherent in a model. Ideas ranged from making colors more transparent the less confident a geologist is of the model, to making the computer emit screaming sounds when the mouse moves over portions of the model where the model is likely wrong.

While at the BGS, I also got the chance to visit the library. The BGS started in 1835, and shortly thereafter the library started. I did some poking around there stacks (they have COMPLETE sets of something like 20 journals). But the thing I was most fascinated by was the first edition of Lyell's Principles of Geology. I suspected they would have a copy (I mean it is the BGS), I was surprised they actually let me handle them and read through them (the quote from "For the Love of Lyell" BTW is at the bottom of the first page of the first chapter (second paragraph) so the placement I guessed at is more or less correct). I even cleared up a small mystery for the librarian.

She said the first volume claimed to be of a two volume set, but there were three volumes. I told her the three volumes were correct, and found where the change happened (the preface to the second volume explains there is so much good stuff to talk about Lyell has to expand it to three volumes). I also found a coincidence (that I find neat, though everyone else will probably not find it near as interesting) the third volume was purchased on my birthdate (well 149 years early, but month and day are correct).

We also got the opportunity to experience a "holodeck". The BGS has near complete coverage of Great Britain in 3D (Scotland and Ireland have consistently been cloudy and they can't get pictures of high enough quality). But flying around the middle of England was a lot of fun, especially when we would dive underground to take a look at the geology. I recommend everyone should buy one for their livingrooms.

07 September 2008

Rob from the rich and give to me please

We made it to Nottingham, and despite my best efforts, I have been unsuccesful in finding an officer willing to take a photo with a tourist. There was a pair of them who were about to, but there supervisor came around a corner and told me it was against regulations while they were on duty (she seemed a bit stern, I hope I didn't get the two officers in trouble). I just wanted a photo of me with a "sheriff" of Nottingham (rimshot goes here).

While in Nottingham, we visited the Castle (of which the legend of Robin Hood used as a setting). Speaking of Hood, they have erected a statue of him, as well as his merry men (and several plaques retelling some of his exploits).

However, the most stunning feature of this castle is its location. While walking around the castle, we stumbled upon outcrops of Nottingham sandstone, complete with channel deposits. Theon sandstone was deposited during the Triassic when a large river was flowing through this portion of pangaea. (or as I joked some builder decided to cover beautiful fluvial deposits with some castle). On the other hand it is a very nice real world example of super-position, cross-cutting relationships, and unconformities, what with the castle resting uncomformably atop the Nottingham sandstone and some tunnels being dug through the fluvial deposits.

unconformity and superposition:

cross-cutting the fluvial deposits:

The important fluvial deposits (the door (not counting the archway) is about 5 ft tall, for scale):

a close up of the center of the above image (a nice channel):

06 September 2008

A bit overdone

We stayed at an out of the way B&B in Wales. Near a town called Penrhyndeudraeth (pronounced “???”). While there I went for a quick stroll before dinner. Along the way a couple of things occurred to me. There were plenty of Sheep (a sheep port would have been great to build a settlement on [bit of Catan humor]), and there was plenty of slate. So much slate, in fact, that it was used for everything. Building fences, houses, shingles, roads, placemats, etc.

Here it is incorporated into the houses

And here it is in situ (GSA scale card for... well scale obviously).

And the sheep (well rams):

We also visited a slate mine in the area. It is still active, but they have set aside some of the chambers for tourism purposes. Most of my pictures did not turn out (a bit dark, so I had to increase the exposure time. Without a tripod, that makes my shots a tad shakey). This shot was taken in one of the chambers that had been opened to the surface. Each chamber would be worked for ~14 years before it was finished and the miners would (if I recall correctly) make 6p a week. Black lung disease was also a problem for these individuals, and would often be unable to continue working beyond the age of 40. They were also required to go to church several times during the week and THREE times on their one day off (sunday).

05 September 2008

They seem to appreciate him far more than US public schools

While traveling over to Wales, we made a quick stop to Shrewsbury. This is notable because it is where Charles Darwin went to school. Here is his statue in front of the Shrewsbury library (surprisingly, they do not have an early edition of Origin of Species (so I provided my own), but they do have a small gift shop).

Here is a picture of the oldest portion of the library itself (built in the 1600s I think). It now houses the computers(all very busy when I stopped by)

Not only does Darwin get a statue, but he also appears on two symbols of the local economy. He is on the 10 pound note (scientists? On money?!?!? That’s dangerous thinking!!!) And he is also the namesake of the local mall!!! Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a copy of Origin of Species on sale in the mall either (probably a good thing, I have a few copies already).

04 September 2008


I feel it is important to note some of the differences I have noted about UK and USA. First, and most importantly, Beer. It is very good here, but all I know about beer types doesn’t translate from English to English. First night here I tried to explain that I liked medium dark beers (and gave general examples: a Belgian Black Ale, Scottish Ale, etc.) The bar tender nodded and gave me what she thought I was getting at (she called it Lager, which it was, but I thought it could be different as my brother ordered a 7-up and the bartender gave him a “lemonade”). It looked and tasted like PBR from lines that hadn’t been cleaned. I can’t remember the name right now.

When I next tried my luck, there were more people with drinks around so I could simply point instead of describing. It turns out, what I consider to be (in my admitedly imprciese terminology) Ale (which may be synonymous with gerneral "beer" in UK) is actually considered Bitter.

Once I found out what I meant by a dark ale, or an amber ale, or any other type of ale is called “bitter” over here, things went considerably easier. Tetley's and Worthington's are very tasty examples of bitter, I think they are bitter anyway.

03 September 2008


Well we landed safely in London and got through customs by around 8:00 am local time (god knows when my internal clock felt it was). After getting no sleep on the airplane (for various reasons, 1. I can’t sleep sitting up, 2. I try not to sleep on transcontinental flights to help get over jet lag quickly, and 3. there were a decent selection of movies to watch ( I highly recommend the new in-flight entertainment system, it lets you choose from a wide array of movies: I watched “Smilers” (from Japan, an awesome movie: think mighty ducks meets.... a movie about a tap-dancer?) and “Slam!” (from China, a good movie about basketball) as well as most of “Iron-man”)) I looked out over a beautiful sunny summer morning outside London

When we stopped for breakfast (late night snack?) the waitress told us she hoped the weather would stay this nice for us for our visit.

We then took one of the local Motorways (M6 I think correction: M40, see comments) and it was sheer terror! Little sleep, cars zipping by (30-40 in residential areas), and the most confusing road signage ever (plus roundabouts with no dividing lines are petrifying) probably added to the sense that we were all gonna die, but we survived and made it to Telford for the first night. Along the way we got a glimpse of some local geology. Here are some Cretaceous chalks outside of Oxfordshire. Sorry for the blurriness, we were traveling with the flow of traffic (~90 mph).

We also happened to see one of the first bridges constructed using a newfangled construction material (metal). Ironbridge was made in 1779 and it is still kicking. (not geological, but my brother is an engineer so he insisted).

Well that is all for this post. Later.

From Across the Pond

Sorry about being away from the internets (it isn't for a lack of trying). Some of the places we have visited have been out in the countryside (no internet), others insist on charging me exhorbinant sums of money for their use. So, while I have been keeping up with my posts (on the smallest laptop I have ever seen), I am only just now uploading them to the site. I have scheduled them to appear on a semi-regular basis, but this means that the events as they happen on the blog don't correspond with what I have been up to (not sure that it matters, but I figured it should be said anyway). So I will be putting up my first post that I made over here shortly. Thanks.

(The worlds smallest laptop! As my hand (singular) is bigger than the keyboard, I apologize for any typos that appear)


All the Latin on this page is from my vague recollections from High School. There are mistakes in the text. I just was trying to get the point across

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM

Between Los Alamos,NM and White Rock, NM
The photo of the travertine spring was taken in the small opening in the center of the image.

Lectio Liber