Of high cliffs and shaky legs…

Sooo…on Saturday we had our first Earth Dynamics field trip! If you study Ecological and Environmental Sciences, you will have field trips in the end of each year, but depending on which courses you take, you might be lucky enough to go on some during the semester.

Our first stop was Pease Bay. It’s about an hour’s drive from Edinburgh (so you can sleep a bit on the way :P). We were absolutely lucky that day, the sun was shining and the beach looked beautiful. Pease Bay is a good place to observe sedimentary structures such as cross bedding and you can really see how different layers of rock evolved over time.

We split up in smaller groups and explored the area. Of course we didn’t come here just to look at the rocks, no, we also had to practice describing them and writing our field books. Actually, in the moment I am writing this blog, I’m really starting to realise how important it is to have a good field book, because I had to hand mine in for examination on Monday and it would be much easier to remember details about the trip if I had it here now!

After examining the rocks in detail, sketching them, and finding analogies to the rock structures in the sand around us, we can finally say that these rocks are the sediments of a river system , in which the rivers changed their direction over time.

We had a quick lunch and some hot tea on the camp site that is right on the beach and then the more adventurous part of our trip began! The other place we wanted to visit is called Siccar Point and is also known as Hutton’s unconformity. You can see younger, horizontal layers of rock on top of older, nearly vertical layers. My description probably doesn’t sound that exciting, but this is a place visited by geologists from all over the world and it does look quite cool!

We had been told before that the path to the rocks at Siccar Point would be “quite steep”. This turned out to be an understatement, as we literally found ourselves on top of a cliff, while the rocks were down at the shore. A problem? Not for us! There was indeed a (very slippery) path and we all made it down alive, although some of us on our bums!

And it was worth it! It’s great to find yourself totally surrounded by nature, just an hour from the city. Here it was that James Hutton, who was a farmer around here, realised that the Earth must be much older than 6000 years (that was the common belief at that time, in accordance to the bible) and that the same processes that formed the Earth are still working the same way today.

With wobbly legs and many more sketches in our field books, we made our way up again. And it was even harder! There was a point when I was just holding on to the grass in front of me, hoping I wouldn’t lose balance and fall over backwards!

This field trip was just perfect! It was so much fun and it is just amazing how much you can learn in a day when you’re out there and actually looking at stuff you would normally read about in the library! Our demonstrator was super nice and helpful and ready to explain things over and over again if we didn’t understand them the first time. I’m definitely looking forward to many more field trips in the future and am very happy to have chosen a degree that allows me to learn things in such a practical way.

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  1. I remember going on this exact same trip three years ago! The thing about geoscience professors, never underestimate them when they say its going to be “quite steep” 😀

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