Members of the Group visited the Oxford University Museum of Natural History. It was founded in 1860 and holds an internationally renowned collection of natural history specimens representing billions of years of earth’s history and evolution.
A special exhibition, First Animals, showed the ‘Cambrian Explosion’, 540 million years ago when life on earth started evolving to the rich diversity we have today. The strange creatures that lived beneath the sea then had the beginnings of the body plans of all the creatures on earth today. The exhibition included rare fossils from China, Greenland and Canada on their first visit to Britain! Elsewhere were dinosaurs, plesiosaurs, rocks of all descriptions and a meteorite as old as earth itself.
We were also able to visit the adjoining Pitt Rivers Museum which is crammed with archaeological and anthropological artefacts including dried human heads! All this is displayed in a grand neo-Gothic building. Thanks to Heather and Jon for organising a very successful day.
Image courtesy of the Oxford Museum of Natural History
Excursion to Canary Wharf
John Wilkinson writes: Many thanks to Heather and Jon who scouted the area in preparation for this excursion, guided by an excellent and informative itinerary prepared by Ruth Siddall of UCL. Ruth leads 3-4 guided walks each year which are open to the public and organised through bodies such as the Geological Society, the Geologists’ Association and London Walks. Upcoming walks are also advertised on her Twitter account @R_Siddall.
We met at Bank Station and on arrival at West India Quay, Jon, Heather, Sue, Luke, Mike and I, braced ourselves (it was fine but quite nippy) and started on a journey, even a “georney”, waymarked by rocks from Germany, Italy, Finland, Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, the Lake District, South and North America not forgetting India, with a bewildering display of descriptors (My favourites include: “This rock has a long and complicated history; a migmatitic orthogneiss formed from 3 billion year old protoliths, it is an ‘opdalite’, an orthopyroxene-bearing granodiorite, which belongs to the suite of rocks known as charnockites. It is composed of quartz, plagioclase, biotite and rutile, with the green colour imparted by hypersthene (orthopyroxene), epidote and chlorite” and – for its brevity – ” Good examples of the bryozoan-rich calcarenites are visible in these surfaces”). Jon recommends a good earth sciences handbook and I found A Dictionary of Geology and Earth Sciences at a reasonable price.
The variety of claddings was astonishing and speaks of an exuberant period of conspicuous consumption in the service industry. That kind of ostentation seems very reprehensible in an age where climate change is dominating debate, but it’s done and we get to savour these mineral delights on our doorstep, rather than travelling over the globe. For me the highlight was 1 Canada Square. Despite being two thirds through a dry January, I felt that cirrhosis of the liver (I’m not sure that sclerosis of the liver is a thing at all….) was a great way of describing the Rosso Rubino Marble cladding the lift shafts. And the Verde Guatemala was opulence itself. For those who were not able to make the walk on Monday, go and visit 1 Canada Square, but keep cameras under wraps in sensitive locations. We were checked out at least three times by very polite security. The Belemnites and Ammonites at 1 Cabot Square presented irresistible photo opportunities and prompted one of the security interventions. We worked our way through Ruth’s guide and stopped when we’d seen 16-19 Canada Square. The Waitrose branch here was huge and our fingers were turning to ice so we decided to have warming drinks and food to help us face the journey home. Already talking of a second visit to complete the “georney” we boarded the DLR and returned to Crouch End.
A near death experience! On a sunny, crisp autumn morning the CE U3A Geology Group visited the City of London Cemetery in Aldersbrook, NE London E12 … The reason for our visit was that it provided an opportunity to study at close quarters and compare different types of rocks which have been used in the construction of memorials, headstones, sculptures etc.
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A geological adventure in Highgate & Queen’s Woods
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Photographs © Jim Cohen