The 100 Geosites film quiz – the ANSWERS

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

Sooo, Earth Science Week is coming to a close and it’s time to announce the answers to our film quiz! Thanks to all that took part, the winner of the coveted USB stick is Helen!

  1. So, the answer to number one was of course….. GAME OF THRONES! They filmed all over Northern Ireland and you can even to tours of the film sites!

    Game_of_Thrones_title_card

    Image Credit – Wikipedia.

  2. Lyme Regis was used by the film makers of Persuasion, Jane Austen’s last completed novel.
  3. Number 3 was none other than Nanny Mc Phee.
  4. Glencoe – it was more about what hasn’t been filmed there! This epic location has been home to James Bond in the recent ‘Skyfall‘, the cast of Prometheus AND Harry Potter and the prisoner of Azkaban

    Bond

    Image taken from film-travel.com

  5. Harry Potter turns up again in Malham Cove, only this time he’s with Hermione and they’re filming The Deathly Hallows!
  6. Durdle Door was home for a short time to Stephen Fry’s interpretation of Oscar Wilde in ‘Wilde‘.
  7. The moody Storr was also used by the makers of Prometheus.
  8. Marloes Beach was briefly home to former Twilight star Kirsten Stewart during filming of Snow White and the Huntsman.
  9. Who could forget the beautiful Stanage Edge in the recent film version of Pride and Prejudice?
  10. Hartland Quay was used to film 1950’s Treasure Island
  11. The Mourne Mountains formed the backdrop to some of the filming for the critically acclaimed Philomena, with Steve Coogan and Judi Dench.
  12. Arthur’s Seat was visted by none other than temporary yorkshirewoman Anne Hathaway during the filming of weepie ‘One Day
  13. Aaaaaaaaad last but not least, there was much bow-and-arrow combat between men in tights on Hadrian’s Wall during the filming of Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
021

Image taken from old.qi.com

And with that, I am going to leave you with this…. (I know, I’m cruel!)

Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

The 100geosites film quiz!

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a geosite’*

We have finally unleashed the 100 Great Geosites list on the world this week, which has gained some considerable attention!

The geosite nominations, which are famous for their excellent geology or spectacular scenery, have also caught the eye of many a film maker over the years, who have used the scenery in the UK as a backdrop to films and TV series.

So, welcome to the Geosites film quiz! Your challenge: using the rather generous descriptions below, work out which movies were filmed at the following geosites. All the sites below were nominated for inclusion in the final list – those with logos beside them made it in.

Check back tomorrow for the answers!

1. Carrick-a-rede

The rope bridge. Image Credit - Shiraz Chakera, Wikipedia.

The rope bridge. Image Credit – Shiraz Chakera, Wikipedia.

The dramatic landscape of the Causeway coast was chosen as the backdrop to this VERY popular tv series. Fans might better recognise this location as ‘Storm’s End’……

 

 

 

 

2. Lyme Regis100GG Badge CMYK-white-background

800px-070329jad_ukdor_01

Lyme Bay, Dorset. Image Credit – Steinsky, Wikipedia.

The varied landscapes and geology of the UK have long been a muse for the literary greats over the centuries but which 90s film of a classic book was filmed in Lyme Regis?

 

3. Purbeck, Dorset

800px-View_west_from_above_fishermans_ledge_purbeck

Fishermans Ledge, Purbeck. Image Credit – Jim Champion, Wikipedia.

The rocks on Purbeck have functioned as building stones for many a famous building (ourselves included!) but which famous British movie star was it home to for the production of this film where she was charged with looking after seven ne’er-do-well children! ?

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background4. Glencoe

Glencoe caldera

Glencoe. Image Credit – Gil Cavalcanti, Wikipedia.

Wouldn’t be surprised if Hollywood had this winning geosite on speed dial given the number of blockbusters that have been filmed here, we’re looking for 3 big movies that have been filmed here (clue, one was mentioned in an earlier geosites blogpost….)

 

 

 100GG Badge CMYK-white-background5. Malham Cove

Limestone pavement at Malham Cove. Image Credit - Lupin, Wikipedia.

Limestone pavement at Malham Cove. Image Credit – Lupin, Wikipedia.

If Glencoe is the daddy, this one is a close second in film location-geosites match ups! This epic 8-part film series filmed one of its  scenes where two of the characters set up camp on Malham Cove’s limestone pavement. But who was it and it which of the 8-parts did it feature?

 

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background6. Durdle Door (part of Lulworth)

800px-Durdle_Door_Overview

Durdle Door. Image Credit – W. Lloyd MacKenzie, Wikipedia.

Durdle Door was just one of the backdrops for this biographical film about a famous British author (whose birthday it is today!). It featured a whole host of national-treasure British actors including one ‘quite important’ one!

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background7. The Storr, Isle of Skye (part of Trotternish)

800px-The_Storr_Isle_of_Skye_2003

The Storr – Isle of Skye. Image Credit – George Widman, Wikipedia.

The epic, otherworldly landscapes of the Isle of Skye were recently used as part of this big budget science fiction film. It was used as a location where two scientists find ancient cave paintings which lead them on a journey into deep space, but what film is it?

(May or may not be famed for this quote…. Look, I’m just a geologist. I like rocks. I LOVE… rocks. Though it’s clear you two don’t give a shit about rocks but what you do seem to care about is gigantic dead bodies. And though I don’t really have anything to contribute in the gigantic DEAD BODY ARENA… I’m gonna go back to the ship. If you don’t mind.)

8. Marloes Beach

800px-Swath_marloes3

Marloes Beach during shooting for the mystery film! Image Credit – Martin McDowell, Wikipedia.

Marloes Beach was used in the recent dark re-telling of this Brothers Grimm fairytale, but which story was it?

 

 

 

 

9. Stanage Edge

Stanage Edge

Stanage Edge. Image Credit – Rob Bendall, Wikipedia.

This beautiful lookout in the heart of the Peak District was famously used in which British film of a literary classic starring a certain Keira Knightley….

 

 

 

10. Hartland Quay

Hartland Quay

Hartland Quay. Image Credit – Humphrey Bolton, Geograph.

The crazy folded formations found along the coast at Hartland Quay were used for the filming of which 50’s era film of a childhood classic tale?

 

 

 

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background11. Mourne Mountains

Mourne_mountains

Mountains of Mourne. Image Credit – Marksie531, Wikipedia.

The beautiful landscape of the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland is home to not only filming of the answer to the first question but also a recent heart wrenching tale about a mother who had lost contact with her child several decades earlier, but which films it it?

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background12. Arthur’s Seat & the Salisbury Crags

800px-Arthur's_Seat,_Edinburgh

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh. Image Credit – Kim Traynor, Wikipedia.

The beautiful vista seen from the top of Arthur’s Seat and the Salisbury Crags was used as a romantic spot for ‘a day’ for a couple in which popular British film?

 

 

100GG Badge CMYK-white-background

Hadrian's Wall. Image Credit - Michael Hanselmann, Wikipedia.

Hadrian’s Wall. Image Credit – Michael Hanselmann, Wikipedia.

13. Hadrian’s Wall/Great Whin Sill

Hadrian’s Wall, and the Great Whin Sill it is built upon was used in the filming in this 90’s blockbuster about a Nottingham hero…..

 

 

 

 

  • as you’ve probably figured out by now, we totally do give a geosite.
Posted in 100 Great Geosites | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Earth Science Week: Ask a Geologist Live!

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

 

Day three of Earth Science Week is nearly over, and geowalks, events and talks have been going on across the country! Visit our website for what’s still coming up.

Online, we’ve been holding Ask a Geologist sessions daily, and have already had some great questions!

On Monday, Bethan Davies of Royal Holloway answered queries about glaciers, Antarctica and climate change.

Questions ranged from how to get a career in glaciology underway, to the colours of glaciers, sea level change and what the effects of climate change will be on Antarctic species.  

Yesterday it was the turn of University of Manchester’s Phil Manning, for a barrage of questions about dinosaurs! We had lots of favourites, including this from @ChrisPBrough

 

And today Matt Genge from Imperial College took over, answering questions about meteorites, cosmic dust, geology in space, and his dream field trip location!  

We also learned about Tunguska, Pluto, and what would be Matt’s most surprising find on Comet 67P

There’s still two more Ask a Geologist sessions to go, so make sure you get your questions in!

Tomorrow, David Pyle from the University of Oxford will be answering your questions about volcanoes, and how we predict them, and on Friday Victoria Herridge  (@toriherridge) from the Natural History Museum is taking over, for questions about fossils, dwarf elephants, evolution and Trowel Blazing female geologists in history! All you need to do is tweet using the #AskaGeologist hashtag, or leave a comment below.

Posted in Education, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earth Science Week: Geobingo and the 100 geosites nominations

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

Day 2 of Earth Science Week saw events happening across the country, from Fort William to Northern Ireland, as well continued coverage of our #100geosites project.

Don’t forget, as well as the 100 sites on the final list, there’s over 400 nominated geosites in the UK & Ireland you can visit! The full list of nominations is on our flickr pages, with some great inspiration for days out – let us know if you visit any.

Some of the nominations feature on our #geobingo cards – so if you do visit an area which features a large number of geosites, check to see if we have a card! Take a picture of yourself at the sites and send it to us to enter our prize draw.

So far, the Peak District, London, Scarborough, the Hebrides, Bristol and Snowdonia have their very own geobingo cards – and there are more to come!

geobingo screen shot

Posted in 100 Great Geosites, Out in the field, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Earth Science Week: Launch of the 100 Great Geosites list!

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

Happy Earth Science Week! We’re thrilled to launch our list of 100 Great UK and Ireland Geosites, to mark this year’s Earth Science Week.

It’s the culmination of a seven month project, which saw over 400 public nominations for your favourite geosites. Split into 10 categories, the list reflects the incredible geodiversity of the UK & Ireland, and how it links to our wider history.

Events are taking place all week to celebrate Earth Science Week, and there’s lots of ways to join in. Join a geowalk, attend a talk, visit your local museum or some of the 100 Great Geosite nominations near you, with our geobingo challenge!

We’d love to hear from you during the week – get in touch with us on twitter using #ESW14, share your photos or videos, and let us know how you’re celebrating.

Visit the Interactive Map

map screen shot

Posted in 100 Great Geosites, Events | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ask a Geologist LIVE!

ESW-WEB-ONLY-RGB

 

 

 

 

Earth Science Week is nearly upon us, and there’s a huge range of activities going on across the UK & Ireland!

There’s also lots going on online, including a brand new project we’re really excited about….

Ask a Geologist Live!

On Monday – Friday of Earth Science Week, five brilliant scientists have agreed to field questions about their research – all you have to do is tweet using the #askageologist hashtag, or get in touch with us in advance with your question and we’ll ask it for you.

The Ask a Geologist schedule:

c. Bethan Davies

c. Bethan Davies

Monday 13th, 12pm – 1pm: Bethan Davies, Centre for Quarternary Research, Royal Holloway

Bethan is a glaciologist, interested in glacier response to climate change and sea level rise in Antarctica, and the last glaciation of Britain. Read more about her research on her Antarctic Glaciers website.

 

c. Phil Manning

c. Phil Manning

Tuesday 14th, 1pm – 2pm: Phil Manning, School of Earth, Atmospheric and Enviromental Sciences, University of Manchester

Phil is a Professor of Natural History and STFC Science in Society Fellow, whose research includes the National Geographic Dinosaur Mummy project, and the Fumanya Dinosaur Trackway LiDAR Project.

 

Matt Genge

c. Matt Genge

Wednesday 15th, 1pm – 2pm: Matt Genge, Department of Earth Science and Engineering, Imperial College London

Matt studies meteorites, cosmic dust and planetary science. He also runs the Imperial College Rock Library on petrology and researches igneous rocks and volcanoes. Matt recently wrote a regular “Ask the Scientist” column for the magazine “Science Uncovered”.

 

c. David Pyle

c. David Pyle

Thursday 16th, 4pm – 5pm: David Pyle, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford

David is a volcanologist, who has worked on young and active volcanoes around the world. Currently, his main research interests focus on reconstructing what happened during past eruptions, and using this information to help to prepare for future activity.
His recent or ongoing projects include LondonVolcano.com, volcanoestoptrumps.org and Streva.ac.uk

 

Victoria Herridge

c. Victoria Herridge

Friday 17th, 1pm – 2pm: Victoria Herridge, The Natural History Museum

Victoria is an expert in fossil elephants, especially dwarf elephants that once lived on Mediterranean islands. She also studies evolution and the Ice Age, and is a founder of TrowelBlazers – a site devoted to cool women from history who made amazing geological and palaeontological discoveries.

 

How to get involved

To ask questions of any of our experts in advance, leave a comment below or drop us an email at ESWUK@geolsoc.org.uk

Or join in live on twitter during the timeslots above, and tag your question #askageologist!

 

Posted in Events, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Geological Society signs Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

sciencecouncil_logo_rgbLARGEThe Geological Society has today made a commitment to improving diversity within the geosciences by signing the Science Council’s Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion.

The Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion brings together the Geological Society with other learned and professional bodies from across the sciences to work towards increased diversity and inclusion in science education and careers. The Declaration states that:

“By promoting equality, diversity and inclusion the Science Council and its member bodies will create greater opportunity for any individual to fulfil their scientific potential, irrespective of their background or circumstances. In so doing it will also help science to better serve society by attracting the widest possible talent to the science workforce and fostering a greater diversity of scientific ideas, research and technology.”

Science Council diversity

GSL Executive Secretary Edmund Nickless and Council member Natalyn Ala signing the declaration

Global health needs, an ageing population, food and water security and achieving low carbon economies are all driving up demand for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills. Despites this, there is an estimated annual shortfall in domestic supply of around 40,000 new STEM skilled workers². Improving diversity at all levels of the science workforce is key to meeting this challenge.

It remains the case that women, disabled people, those from ethnic minorities and from socially disadvantaged groups are consistently underrepresented in STEM, particularly at senior levels². Black and minority ethnic (BME) men are 28% less likely to work in STEM than their white counterparts², disabled students 57% less likely to take up postgraduate STEM study than non-disabled students², and there is a gap of 26% between women and men in science, engineering and technology employment³.

“The influence and potential leadership of professional bodies means they are critical effectors of change within the science community,” said Tom Blundell, President of the Science Council. “By signing the Declaration they are showing that they will use that influence to ensure the science workforce is open to everyone.”

To read the Science Council Declaration on Diversity, Equality and Inclusion in full and find out more about this initiative, go to http://www.sciencecouncil.org/content/diversity-equality-and-inclusion

References

  1. Current and Future UK science workforce, Science Council, 2011
  2. Improving Diversity in STEM, CaSE, 2014
  3. Women and men in science, engineering and technology: the UK statistics guide 2010, UKRC, 2010

 

Posted in News | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Communicating Contested Geoscience

contested geoscience 460x280

We all know that volcanoes and earthquakes are geological phenomena, and many of us know of plate tectonics as the force behind many such natural hazards. But in a geologically quiet place such as the UK, most of us know little about, say, the faulting or water flows in the rock beneath our feet.

And yet geology is inherent to some of the most pressing questions that communities across the UK face as they seek to meet resource needs, understand technical risks and their social impacts, and ensure that the regulation and governance of technology protect public and environmental health and wellbeing. On issues such as shale gas, geothermal power and the storage of carbon and radioactive waste, real public engagement in informed debate and decision-making is essential from both a practical and an ethical point of view.

In the search for suitable sites for the disposal of radioactive waste, for instance, the government now recognises that communication of the relevant geology is essential. It must be part of the toolkit for effective public engagement, to support site selection and community partnership in the development of a repository.

IMG_6477

Professor Iain Stewart from the University of Plymouth opens the meeting.

Professional geoscientists working in such areas, then, must understand the public’s knowledge and concerns, and must develop strategies to communicate what they know and do. A Geological Society conference in June brought together geoscientists from academia, industry and government, as well as science communication practitioners and social scientists, to explore these challenges, focusing on three areas related to the UK’s energy supply: radioactive waste disposal, shale gas and fracking, and carbon capture and storage.

Some of the fundamental ideas that geologists bring to these issues are disconcertingly alien. To most people, 100,000 years seems a very long time to rely on the geosphere to contain radioactive waste. In geological terms it is the blink of an eye, and geologists may see their appreciation of deep time as giving them a privileged understanding of our planet and the processes that have shaped it. But unless geologists work hard to understand public perspectives and concerns, these different world views may undermine public confidence in the judgment of the people providing advice about radioactive
waste disposal.

Similarly, geologists are comfortable dealing with uncertainty and incomplete data, and may view their ability to work in this way as a core element of their job. Communicating openly and effectively about how they work with incomplete data, seek to constrain uncertainty and make probabilistic assessments – for example of hydrocarbon resources or risk from natural hazards – is essential if these are to be recognised as attributes with value, rather than expressions of ignorance.

As discourse about the communication of climate science shows, perceptions of ignorance and uncertainty may undermine public confidence in knowledge and expert judgments. They may also create the conditions for those arguing for a particular point of view on a contested matter such as fracking to play fast and loose with the evidence. If it appears that nothing is certain, unsubstantiated claims are more likely to get traction, and evidence to get cherry-picked. Professional scientists are not above such guerrilla tactics.

Researchers and institutions that advocate looking more holistically and dispassionately at a range of relevant evidence, and recognising uncertainties, can appear guarded and conditional by contrast. In this asymmetric warfare of science communication, simple but false certainties can have an appeal that more complex and nuanced explanations and assessments lack.

12

Kirsty Anderson, Public Engagement Manager, Global CCS Institute discusses some of the complex language around contested geoscience.

Speakers at our conference highlighted some practical ways to improve geoscience communication: producing images that show clearly what is going on under the ground (paying attention to vital details such as scale), finding the right words and narratives, using social media and making data open and discoverable. But it is equally important for geologists to work in an interdisciplinary way with other natural scientists, engineers, social scientists and professional practitioners with expertise in communication and public engagement.

Behind these issues is a major problem in how researchers are trained. Secondary school gives pupils the impression that science is made up of three branches – physics, chemistry and biology – that have little to do with each other. Instead, we should highlight the overlaps and interfaces between specialisms, raise awareness of other disciplines, and stimulate genuine interdisciplinary thinking and working.

Careers information and guidance, reflecting the diversity of what different kinds of scientist actually do, should also be at the heart of science teaching. Reforming how we teach science in schools is vital to training the next generation of scientists and ensuring they have the skills they need, and to enabling the wider public to be discerning in their approach to scientific claims about politically contested matters.

This piece was first published in Research Fortnight on 3 September 2014, under the title ‘Rocky relationship with the public’.

Posted in Science communication | Leave a comment

British Science Festival 2014: Operation Stonehenge

Part of the LBI ArchPro survey team at Stonehenge (from left: Nico Neubauer, Thomas Zitz, Wolfgang Neubauer, Klaus Löcker, Erich Nau, Immo Trinks).© LBI ArchPro, Geert Verhoeven

Part of the LBI ArchPro survey team at Stonehenge (from left: Nico Neubauer, Thomas Zitz, Wolfgang Neubauer, Klaus Löcker, Erich Nau, Immo Trinks).© LBI ArchPro, Geert Verhoeven

One of our nominated 100geosites took centre stage yesterday at the British Science Festival, as Professor Vincent Gaffney and colleagues unveiled the latest from the Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project, led by the University of Birmingham in conjunction with the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Archaeological Prospection and Virtual Archaeology.

Precise positioning using a GPS system during the Stonehenge survey.© LBI ArchPro, Geert Verhoeven

Precise positioning using a GPS system during the Stonehenge survey.© LBI ArchPro, Geert Verhoeven

The digital mapping project, which has been using remote sensing and geophysical surveys to map the hidden landscape of the site, has revealed hundreds of new features, including seventeen previously unknown ritual monuments, dozens of burial mounds, and more information about the world’s largest ‘super henge’, Durrington Walls.

‘This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology’ said Professor Gaffney, ‘and that the appreciation of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.’

All of the new information forms part of the most detailed archaeological digital map of the Stonehenge landscape ever produced.

One of the unexpected results of the survey is new information about Durrington Walls – a so called ‘super henge’ a short distance from Stonehenge, which has a circumference of more than 1.5 km. The survey reveals that, in its early phase, the monument was flanked with massive posts or stones, which could have been up to three metres high, and may still survive beneath the surface.

3D-reconstruction and visualization of the long barrow southwest of Durrington Walls (view towards the entrance from the northeast) just before the wooden mortuary building was completely covered by material excavated from ditches dug along the long sides of the construction.© LBI ArchPro, Joachim Brandtner

3D-reconstruction and visualization of the long barrow southwest of Durrington Walls (view towards the entrance from the northeast) just before the wooden mortuary building was completely covered by material excavated from ditches dug along the long sides of the construction.© LBI ArchPro, Joachim Brandtner

The project has also revealed a massive timber building which was probably used for ritual preparation of the dead, which was later covered by an earthen mound.

More recent activity has also been uncovered – including practise trenches dug around Stonehenge to prepare troops for battle on the western front during the First World War.

Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project – Stonehenge Smiley face (yes folks that really is a prehistoric ring ditch with internal or earlier features)© LBI ArchPro

Stonehenge Hidden Landscapes Project – Stonehenge Smiley face (yes folks that really is a prehistoric ring ditch with internal or earlier features)© LBI ArchPro

‘Despite stonehenge being the most iconic of all prehistoric monuments and occupying one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world, much of this landscape in effect remains terra incognita‘ says Professor Gaffney. ‘This project has revealed that the area around Stonehenge is teeming with previously unseen archaeology and that the application of new technology can transform how archaeologists and the wider public understand one of the best-studied landscapes on Earth.’

  • Stonehenge forms part of the nominations for our ‘100 Great Geosites’ project, included in ‘human habitation’ category. Voting for the final list is open until 22 September – visit www.geolsoc.org.uk/100geosites to find out more about the project and cast your vote!
  • Operation Stonehenge: What Lies Beneath is due to be broadcast on BBC Two at 8pm BST on Thursday 11 September.
Posted in 100 Great Geosites, Events, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

British Science Festival 2014: ‘We are all catastrophists now’

Sanjeev Gupta introducing his talk at the British Science Festival, 'Megafloods: Myth and Reality'

Sanjeev Gupta introducing his talk at the British Science Festival, ‘Megafloods: Myth and Reality’

The theory that the dramatic landscapes of the Columbia River Plateau were caused by massive flooding in the distant past might not sound too controversial. But, as Sanjeev Gupta told us in our British Science Festival event yesterday, the theory, first proposed in 1923 by American geologist J Harlen Bretz, was so controversial it sparked a debate that lasted more than three decades.

 

J Harlen Bretz in 1949

J Harlen Bretz in 1949

By the time his ideas were finally accepted, Bretz was in his eighties. The story goes that he received a telegraph from researchers in the 1963 which ended with, ‘we are all now catastrophists.’

Back in 1923, making reference to ‘megafloods’ was loaded with controversy. Geology, by then, had left the days of biblical flood theories behind. Uniformitarianism – Lyell’s famous ‘the present is the key to the past’ – was the unifying theory, first proposed as an antidote to catastrophism.

Catastrophism, popularised in the early nineteenth century, argued that the Earth has been shaped by sudden, violent events in its past. Not only floods, but volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and rapid mountain building have all left their mark, in ways we can’t imagine by looking at today’s world.

Lyell’s arguments for more slow, incremental changes over geological time prevailed, and by the time Bretz suggested in 1923 that the unusual erosion features in the Columbia River Plateau could be explained by a cataclysmic flooding event, such a theory suggested a regression to the catastrophist theories of old. The geological establishment was resistant, and Bretz continued his research for another thirty years before he was vindicated.

Imaging of the landscape beneath the English Channel

Imaging of the landscape beneath the English Channel

Now, geologists recognise evidence for past ‘megafloods’ all over the world. Sanjeev showed us some amazing images of the landscape beneath the English channel, produced by high resolution sonar waves, showing deep scour marks and valleys.

The landscape is thought to have been produced by torrents of water, released when a lake, fed by the Rhine and the Thames, bounded to the north by glaciers and the south by the Weild Artois chalk ridge, overspilled. The resultant flooding, taking place between 200,000 and 450,000 years ago, would have displaced an estimated one million cubic metres of water per second, lasting potentially several months.

We also saw evidence that megafloods might have happened on other planets, too – with a flythrough of a Martian landscape which showed deep, meandering valleys carved by water flowing billions of years ago.

The topography of Mars

The topography of Mars

On Mars, the situation is more complicated – water frozen deep beneath the surface is thought to have burst, volcano like, through fissures and ruptures, producing flooding events many times the size of those we have seen on Earth. Though initially this was thought to be the main cause of Martian flooding, high elevation flood channels suggest surface water was shaping the landscape too, in the same way, though on a bigger scale, to Earth’s megaflooding.

All of which, for Sanjeev, suggests we have to be careful with Lyell’s uniformitarianism. Yes, present processes can tell us a lot about what happened in the past. But it’s becoming increasingly clear that events also occurred in our geological past that we’d find unimaginable today.

 

Posted in Events, Science communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment