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Newsletter - June 2015

The full, illustrated newsletter is available as a pdf for download. Text extracts are given below.


Welcome to the June Newsletter. There are several interesting field trips coming up this summer which I hope you will enjoy. While you are out and about I expect that you will take lots of photos of interesting bits of geology; please send some to me so that they can be shared by all our members.

I would like to hear from anyone who has anything which is geologically related. It could be a rock or fossil that you need help identifying, an interesting web site, a lecture that you have been to or seen advertised, or anything else that comes to mind which other members may find interesting.

When sending items for inclusion in the newsletter please send text as a Word document and photos separately (not embedded in a Word document or pdf). These, and internet pictures, do not print well and make it difficult to produce a good layout; one without gaps. Please also make sure that you own the copyright, or have permission to use, any material you submit.

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Geology Books on Show

The John Rylands Library on Deansgate, Manchester has at present, in their general exhibition in the Gallery, a small selection of interesting books and manuscripts about geology.

The earliest item on display is the De Re Metallica (On the nature of metals) by Georgius Agricola, 1494-1555. It was published posthumously in 1556. It was the most important book on the mining and smelting of metals for more than 150 years. It was not until 1912 that an English translation was published privately by Herbert Hoover, the U.S. President. It was translated by Hoover and his wife, who was a Latin scholar and geologist.

Another early item is Elementorum Myologiae Specimen, 1667 by the Danish scientist Nicolaus Steno, 1638-1686. The illustration on display shows the open-mouthed head of a shark compared with a fossil tooth.

Abraham Gottlob Werner, 1748-1817, is represented by Von der Ausserlichen Kennzeichen der Fossilien, 1774. Werner's theory that the earth had been covered by a large all-encompassing ocean which had since receded led to its being known as Neptunism. His student Robert Jameson, later Professor at Edinburgh, founded in 1808 the Wernerian Society in his honour.

John Playfair, 1748-1819, was professor of Natural Philosophy at Edinburgh. He is best known for his book Illustrations of the Huttonian theory on uniformitanism; which is on display. This theory was later initially taken up by Charles Lyell, 1797-1875. Lyell's Principles of Geology is displayed in a later edition.

William Buckland, F.R.S. 1784-1856, was the Dean of Westminster but is better known today as a geologist and palaeontologist. Reliquiae diluvianae: or observations on the organic remains contained in caves...attesting the action of a universal flood, 1823. For his work on the remains in Kirkdale he was awarded the Royal Society's Copley Medal.

Alexander Johnston's Physical atlas of natural phenomena, 1850, shows an interesting geological map of the British Isles.

Among the original manuscripts is George Cumberland's fossil notebook. Cumberland, 1754-1848 was a friend of William Blake, the poet. When the manuscript was prepared for display a small fossil was discovered preserved in the notebook.

An original letter from Mr Gurley to Sir William Boyd Dawkins dated 29 September 1887 is written from "the Engineers Department". It makes reference to the United States, and it is probable that the correspondent was a member of the firm "Gurley Precision Instruments", which was established in 1845. Sir William Boyd Dawkins, 1837-1929 was Curator of the Manchester Museum and Professor of Geology. One of his particular research fields was fossils but he was also involved in tunnel excavations, including the embryo Channel Tunnel. In 1882 he was able to prove the existence of coal deposits in Kent. This is especially interesting as also displayed is a letter from F.W. Brady to Sir Edward Watkin, First Baronet, 1819-1901 about coal boring. Also reproduced is a coal boring stratagraphical section in Kent.

Of particular interest to members of the Manchester Geological Association is a notebook by Edward Binney described as Field Geology in Manchester. Edward William Binney, 1812-1882, was, in 1838, one of the founding members of the Manchester Geological Association. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1856 and was best known for his work on the coal measures. His extensive collection of fossils is now in the Manchester Museum.

It is not possible to say how long these books will be on display so it would be advisable to telephone before making a visit. It is hoped that these notes will be of interest to those unable to see the books.

Brenda Scragg

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Book Review

A Text-Book of Ore and Stone Mining, Second Edition, 1897, by Clement le Neve Foster
Charles Griffin and Company Limited, London

A Text-Book of Ore and Stone Mining was first published in 1894, and was written by Clement le Neve Foster, whose mining career began around 1865. His work had included being Inspector of Mines for the Southwest and North Wales regions, as well as much international experience. His early education was in France; he also studied at the Freiberg mining college in Germany. The book covers mining technology and techniques from the 1860s to 1890s, a time when mining was in a period of major technological and structural change, with the development of a recognisably modern industry. The period covers the introduction of high explosives, rock drills, underground power transmission by compressed air and later electricity and diamond core drilling. It also covers the time when many of the great international mining districts were developed. However, the transitional nature of the period also means that there is detailed coverage of earlier mining techniques, including many UK deposits, with a particular emphasis on the west of the UK; as would be expected from the author's position as Mines Inspector. His education also gave him access to the continental mining literature; many European and Russian examples are given.

The book includes a nice summary of late 19th century ore geology and detailed well illustrated sections about exploration, boring for exploration and brine/oil production shaft sinking, excavation, support, working different deposit morphologies, haulage, hoisting, drainage, ventilation and thoughts on miner's welfare. Earlier technologies mentioned include late uses of firesetting both in 19th century Norway, and also for tackling frozen ground in Siberian gold placers. There is little discussion of coal mining, except where coal mining technologies are relevant to stone or ore mining, for example in shaft sinking. The book is well illustrated with photographs, line drawings and diagrams, though the pdf version reviewed does contain some minor compression artefacts in the photographic images. The text is easily readable, and was aimed at a broad mining related audience.

Of most interest to MGA members will probably be the descriptions of North/central Wales and western and northern English metalliferous mines, as well as some classic international deposits. These include tin mines in Cornwall, haematite in Cumbria, Minera lead-zinc, Cleveland ironstone, Cae Coch pyrites, Ffestiniog slate, wide vein stoping at Van Mine, Foxdale on the Isle of Man, Forest of Dean haematite and, very locally, Dunbar and Ruston steam navvies constructing the ship canal. International deposits include Michigan copper, Rio Tinto massive sulphides, Sicilian sulphur, and California gold placers.

In summary, the book offers an excellent snapshot of metalliferous and industrial mineral mining in the latter half of the nineteenth century both in the UK and abroad, and is of particular value in covering the now abandoned metalliferous mining districts of northern and western England, Wales, and the Isle of Man.

Dr Stephen Edwards, Visiting Researcher, Isotope Group, SAEAS, University of Manchester

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Force Crag Mine

We visited Force Crag Mine, a National Trust property, on their Open Day in April. On a beautiful sunny day the NT vehicles picked up the people who had gathered in Noble Knott car park, on Whinlatter Pass, and ferried them down to the mine. The mine produced lead, zinc and barytes until 1991.

The setting, at the head of the Coledale Valley, was magnificent. Our NT volunteer guide had worked in mining all over the world and was very knowledgeable about all aspects of the geology on the site, and the processing which used to take place at the mine. The disused mine buildings are nearly derelict; it is lucky that they have been preserved for us to visit.

There is no underground aspect to this tour but we still found it fascinating. An additional interesting feature is a passive water treatment scheme, which is being piloted there, to remove heavy metals from the mine outflow water, with the aim of improving the water quality in Coledale Beck.

This site is well worth a visit if you are in the area on the right date.

Details of further Open Days can be found on the Other Events page of the MGA website, and on the NT website.

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Report on the Excursion to Todmorden Moor

Saturday 30 May 2015 Thirty two people from six different geological societies met at Tower Causeway on a sunny Saturday morning. These were MGA, GeoLancashire, Liverpool GS, Yorkshire GS, Craven & Pendle GS and the Open University GS.

The excursion was organised jointly by Manchester Geological Association, GeoLancashire and the Yorkshire Geological Society as part of Yorkshire Geology Month. It was led by John Knight, President of the Yorkshire Geological Society and an expert on the Coal Measures.

The first part of the excursion followed the itinerary of the Todmorden Moor Geology and Heritage Trail. See also the Todmorden Moor website

Two features of the excursion have been selected for this report.

The lowermost part of the Coal Measures (Langsettian) was seen in a clough where there is a good exposure of the Six Inch Mine coal seam. We examined the coal seam, its seat earth with rootlets and the Gastrioceras subcrenatum Marine Band, which marks the base of the Westphalian. The exposure is rich in goniatities and Dunbarella.

The seat earth was of greater economic value than the coal, it was extracted for use in the manufacture of bricks and clay pipes, in the days before the use of concrete. The coal was a convenient source of energy, but because it is such a thin seam, would hardly have been worth mining unless it could be used very locally.

We also visited a former sandstone quarry with spectacular sedimentary structures, including channel cross bedding indicative of a braided river depositional environment. In loose blocks and some of the beds fossil tree fragments and plant remains could be seen.

Abandoned coal tips were examined for coal balls and "bullions"; these are carbonate concretions encasing well preserved goniatites. Although we found bullions we did not find any coal balls. On previous visits coal balls have been found, some of which preserve fossil plant matter in astonishing detail (Fig 2).

Everyone enjoyed the day and it was a great opportunity to establish links with members of other societies. Thanks were expressed to John Knight, who had clearly done a lot of preparation for this excursion.

Jennifer Rhodes

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Geo Web Watch


My attention was drawn to this blog via Down to Earth, so some of you may already know about it. Metageologist is hosted by a geologist called Chris Wellings. He doesn't tell us much about himself although he defines what he means by 'meta': changed as in, to quote from his blog, 'metagabbro'. His Facebook page tells us no more either. However he covers a wide range of topics - the latest one I have looked at is entitled "Scars, acne and others: circles on the ground".

He talks about Volcanic Cones, Impact Craters (or Bullet Holes, as he refers to them); Fakes and an enigmatic title 'Into the Anthropocene' which turns out to relate to craters as the result of atomic testing. He uses examples from all round the world with images from Google. The language is straightforward and simple explanations are given.

His February posting was entitled "Great Geology in Google Maps: mapping from above", a very entertaining description of arm-chair geology by using Google Maps. As a start in map interpretation for geological (or geomorphological processes though he ignores them) purposes it is thought provoking. I must say that I might well take some time to do this when I can't do much other than sit during the summer.

Apart from the blog (which is the home page), he has also set up pages on Earth and Space, Eclogites, Metamorphism and the Geology of Mountains. These have links to his blog entries. Don't forget to keep your eyes on the USGS Earthquake site; they had the information about the second Nepalese Earthquake before the BBC reported it (I happened to be online and saw the Beeb's post come up).

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