The Final Field Trip

Last week marked the end of my final field trip with my university.  Like all field trips, it was as usual, enormous fun, with a lot of hard work thrown in.  Typically, we were working between 09:00-18:00 every day, with a one hour talk at 19:30, but in true student fashion, we partied at night too.


We were staying in a small town called Carboneras about an hour or two south of Murcia, to the east of Almería, right on the coast of the Mediterranean.  The weather all week was in the mid 20s and sunny, which was a huge change to the normal conditions in Britain! Unfortunately my very pale complexion took a bit of a beating from the sun, but I tried to cover myself completely everyday, so only the side of my face and my hands got burned.  Yes that’s right, you can have sunburned hands…


Anyway, the geology was great, and there was a huge variety, with everything from metamorphic petrology (which was my favourite), to palæontology.

Oooo!  Pretty!  Metamorphic petrology in action.  This is a crystal of kyanite.

Oooo! Pretty! Metamorphic petrology in action. This is a crystal of kyanite.

On the met pet front, in addition to the kyanite we found (see photo above), on the last day, we went to visit an unusual volcano.  Due to some peculiarities about its formation, it erupted a large number of garnet crystals, which were now just lying around on the inside of the crater.  (I’m a massive garnet fan, especially as my master’s research project was all about garnet).

Garnets just lying around

Garnets just lying around

Something cool that was pointed out to us was that a lot of the third Indiana Jones film was filmed around where we were, such as this beach scene to name but one.

On the final night, our lecturers took us out to a local restaurant for a traditional paella.  It was amazing!!  Pretty much every type of seafood you could possibly imagine was thrown in, along with various meats like chicken/rabbit/etc.



Overall, it was a lovely way to finish my university geological field career.  It’s been pretty good for field trips (this was the ninth one), and they’ll be sorely missed after I graduate.


The End of Term

Well, that’s it.  My final lecture ever has been and gone, and now it’s the end of term, and I return home on Sunday afternoon.  Only one more term remains, most of which will be taken up with revision (AJ, you know you miss the UL times we had, don’t deny it)!  In other news, various things have been going on!

Yesterday was the Sedgwick Club conference, which is a new thing this year, I guess inspired by the Imperial one that was on in February. It was a lot of fun, and we had a lot of interesting talks, as well as being able to catch up with the Oxford geologists (some of whom I met when they came down for the annual Geology varsity football match a couple of weeks ago), as well as meeting some Imperial geologists.

Job hunting still isn’t going especially well.  A graduate geologist job with a company in Cambridge that I was really hopeful for rejected me this morning which was a bit of a pain, but on the upside, I’ve got a phone interview early next week for a job in Woking, so hopefully that’ll go well!  It’d be so handy to have an interesting job already lined up before I graduate, and I’d be able to have a delightfully smooth transition to the real world (where the fun of council tax, mortgages, utility bills and TV licences awaits).  This job looks really interesting too, so fingers crossed that I’m lucky!

I’m off to Spain next week for the ninth and final geology field trip of my degree which should be a lot of fun.  The rocks are pretty diverse, with everything from metamorphic petrology to palæontology being represented.  I’ll bung up some photos of it when I’m back.

The Grind Continues

Another weekend bites the dust, and nothing especially eventful has really happened.  Just another weekend in Cambridge.  I had some fun with the geologists last night.  As there was money left over from the Magical Mystery Tour we had at the beginning of January, the Sedgwick Club rather delightfully decided to splash out and spend it on a free keg (72 pints) for us all, and host a beer/pizza/film night in the department.

This week is another standard week, with lectures, practicals, and the ever present job hunt to look forward to.

I’m very excited about the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics that started on Friday, not only because the Olympics are awesome, but also because my good friend Guy (Kanes) Sucharitakul is competing in it.  He carried the flag for Thailand in the opening ceremony, and will be racing in the slalom and giant slalom events on the 19th and 22nd, so I wish him the best of luck for that!  I’ll definitely be cheering him on!

Shake Shake Shake

As you are no doubt aware, I’ve not been sleeping too well lately, owing to the altitude.  Last night, I had the best night sleep since I’ve got to the desert, or rather, I would have, had I not been rudely surprised at half past four this morning.  I’d woken at 4 am, just randomly, and was just about to go back to sleep around half an hour later, when it happened.  My bed started to move of its own accord. Evidently, there was only one explanation, namely that there’d been an earthquake.

Obviously as a geologist, I HAD to know more about it, and so, in spite of only having about 4 hours of sleep this point, I went immediately to my USGS earthquake application on my phone to get the details (and decided to ignore the requirement for sleep).

Screenshot of the USGS earthquake Android application.  Data from the USGS

Screenshot of the USGS earthquake Android application. Image data: USGS

After a quick look at Google Earth later on in the morning, it turned out that the epicentre was 48 miles from the camp, which explained why it was easily felt, and was quite deep, showing that it is associated with the subduction of the Nazca Plate under South America.  Anyway, it’s another thing on my to do list that I can tick off.  The past 24 hours seems to have been quite good for getting those sorted, what with the astronomy last night, and now the earthquake this morning!

If you want more information about this earthquake, then there is a lot of information available from the United States Geological Survey website (including fault plane solutions).  The link is here.

Special Edition: Chalk, Snow, and Roman Numismatics (or How Geology Can Shape a People)

It’s the weekend, so why not have a new Special Edition?  (I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually write this today, I wrote it several days ago, as I’m revising practical papers this weekend).  Anyway, the title of this post is of three things that seem pretty unrelated at first, so why a special edition about them?  Well, one day, while procrastinating, I noticed something interesting, a correlation between them.  Also, it’s a little taste of home, which is nice to remember in the midst of all these dastardly exams.

First of all, we need a geological map of Britain.  The area with the box is what we’re looking at today.  Look at the arrow.  You see there is a horseshoe shape of greens and blues in that region?  Good!  Make sure you remember that shape:

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

The Geology of Southern England: British Geological Survey/Natural Environment Research Council

Right, now that we’ve got the geological basis of the post laid down, I’d better get on with the snow (appalling pun intended)! (I know it’s hard to imagine snow in June, with its (occasional) warm sunny days, but give it a go).  Earlier this year, there was a lot of snow across our verdant isle, and a satellite picture was taken by those chaps over at NASA:

Satallite photo of Great Britain: NASA

Satellite photo of Great Britain: NASA

What do we see?  That same horseshoe shape.  Why is it there?  It’s fairly straightforward.  There was a large fold present originally, but now the centre part has eroded away.  As a result, there are now two series of hills that meet in the west (the North Downs – known to me as “home”, and the South Downs).  Snow settles more easily on higher ground, because it’s colder, so it stays on these hills for longer.

Now, let’s move onto where the Romans come into this. “What have they got to do with this geology?” I hear you ask.  Well, let’s have a look.  The Romans were a busy bunch, first invading properly in 43, and not withdrawing until around 410 or so.  As a result, there is a lot of Roman archæology knocking about.  A while ago, I came across a map of where Roman coins had been found over the past 20 years or so, and noticed an interesting pattern.  Yes readers, that horseshoe is back once more (highlighted below).

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Locations where Roman coins were found between 1997 and 2010: Portable Antiquities Scheme

Not being a Roman expert, I can’t really make any solid argument as to why more coins may have been found here relative to the centre of the area.  Maybe my sister (if she’s reading this) could elaborate, as Classics is her thing.  Perhaps the Romans preferred the hills for their strategic value?  Either way, it’s an interesting example of how geology can shape a civilisation.

Shaken, Not Stirred

Time for some geological news.  On Friday morning, there was quite a large earthquake of the western coast of Kamchatka (in the Sea of Okhotsk), with a magnitude of 8.3. Luckily there have been no reports of damage or injuries.  Anyway, we are all accustomed to hearing about earthquakes with a magnitude of x, but what does this actually mean?  In essence, it can be considered as a measure of the energy released during an earthquake.

Modern earthquakes are not really measured by the Richter scale any more, as there are various issues it has with recording earthquakes with large magnitudes.  Instead, a different scale is used, which is called the moment magnitude scale (which does not have these problems).

The magnitude of the seismic moment is what is often reported in the news, but where does this number come from, and what does it mean? Essentially it is defined by the logarithm of the “seismic moment” (what this is will be explained later), with a few constants thrown in (so it is similar to the Richter scale, as that is what people are used to).  For those of you who are interested, the magnitude (Mw) is defined as being:


The seismic moment (M0) is defined by the following equation:


“A” represents the area of the fault that slipped in the earthquake, with “d” being the distance it moved.  “μ” is the “rigidity modulus”, which, for an earthquake, describes how the rock changes shape when one of its faces is subjected to a shear force, while the other is subjected to frictional resistance.  You can see this for yourself.  Put your hand on a wooden table, and try to slide it forwards.  You’ll be able to feel your skin resist the movement, and see it change shape slightly (look at the tips of your fingers).  It is this resistance and shape changing that the rigidity modulus describes.

Plugging in the numbers for this particular event, the seismic moment comes out as being around 3 billion trillion Newton metres. (3×10^21 Nm).  Put another way, the amount of energy this represents is enough to provide electricity for the whole of the United Kingdom for the next 250 years (or, enough energy to make about 30,000 trillion cups of tea).  For comparison, the largest earthquake ever recorded on Earth had a magnitude of 9.5, which took place in Chile in 1960, and is equivalent to releasing 15 times as much energy as the magnitude 8.3 earthquake yesterday in Kamchatka.

There Is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch

Well well well, here we are again.  Another day in the ‘bridge, but this time, more fun things than essays happened!  Yes dear readers, you read that right, it wasn’t a typo.

Well, I did write an essay in the UL this morning, but then there was the annual Sedgwick Club photo which is always an entertaining event. After that, it was off to the Red Brick Café for lunch.  I was ordering something to drink when I was offered free cake.  Never a man to turn down a bargain I readily accepted said food for lunch (unorthodox perhaps, but it was free so I’m not complaining).  Anyway, I’m now back in the library writing another essay, however, the sun has come out, and the view is lovely, so it could be much worse (picture attached)!  Anyway, I’ll go back and finish this essay now, and then it’s the end of lectures party in college this evening.