|Siccar Point is in the far distance on the left|
An issue has crossed my desk that ought to be upsetting to anyone who has followed geology as a career or has any passing interest in the history of geology. Siccar Point in southern Scotland is under serious threat of "development". Not development as in hotels and parking lots, but as in "being turned into a pile of sewage". An agricultural company is proposing to cut a pipeline through the point, to be used to transport rotting vegetables and agricultural wastes, untreated, into the sea a very short distance offshore. Information about this desecration and efforts being made to stop it can be found here: http://www.savesiccarpoint.co.uk/. The response time is very short, so I hope that as many geologists as possible will be heard from.
|Geotripper lends scale to an outcrop of the crossbedded Old Red Sandstone|
|Although we couldn't stand on the Siccar Point unconformity, a lesser exposure was visible along the shoreline cliffs.|
"The ridge of the Lammermuir Hills in the south of Scotland, consists ofprimary micaceous schistus, and extends from St. Abb's head westward, till itjoins the metalliferous mountains above the source of the Clyde. Thesea-coast affords a transverse section of this alpine tract at its easternextremity, and exhibits the change from the primary to the secondary strata,both on the south and on the north. Dr. Hutton wished particularly to examinethe latter of these, and on this occasion Sir James Hall and I had thepleasure to accompany him. We sailed in a boat from Dunglass, on a day whenthe fineness of the weather permitted us to keep close to the foot of therocks which line the shore in that quarter, directing our course southwards,in search of the termination of the secondary strata. We made a high rockypoint or headland, the Siccar, near which, from our observations on theshore, we knew that the object we were in search of was likely to bediscovered. On landing at this point, we found that we actually trod on theprimeval rock, which forms alternately the base and the summit of the presentland. It is here a micaceous schistus, in beds nearly vertical, highlyindurated, and stretching from south-east to north-west. The surface of thisrock runs with a moderate ascent from the level of low-water, at which welanded, nearly to that of high-water, where the schistus has a thin coveringof red horizontal sandstone laid over it; and this sandstone, at the distanceof a few yards farther back, rises into a very high perpendicular cliff.Here, therefore, the immediate contact of the two rocks is not only visible,but is curiously dissected and laid open by the action of waves. The ruggedtops of the schistus are seen penetrating into the horizontal beds ofsandstone, and the lowest of these last form a breccia containing fragmentsof schistus, some round and others angular, united by an arenaceous cement.Dr. Hutton was highly pleased with appearances that set in so clear a lightthe different formations of the parts which compose the exterior crust of theearth, and where all the circumstances were combined that could render theobservation satisfactory and precise. On us who saw these phenomena for thefirst time, the impression made will not easily be forgotten. The palpableevidence presented to us, of one of the most extraordinary and importantfacts in the natural history of the earth, gave a reality and substance tothose theoretical speculations, which, however probable, had never till nowbeen directly authenticated by the testimony of the senses. We often said toourselves, What clearer evidence could we have had of the different formationof these rocks, and of the long interval which separated their formation, hadwe actually seen them emerging from the bosom the deep? We felt ourselvesnecessarily carried back to the time when the schistus on which we stood wasyet at the bottom of the sea, and when the sandstone before us was onlybeginning to be deposited in the shape of sand or mud, from the waters of asuperincumbent ocean. An epocha still more remote presented itself, when eventhe most ancient of these rocks instead of standing upright in vertical beds,lay in horizontal planes at the bottom of the sea, and was not yet disturbedby that immeasurable force which has burst asunder the solid pavement of theglobe. Revolutions still more remote appeared in the distance of thisextraordinary perspective. The mind seemed to grow giddy by looking so farinto the abyss of time; and while we listened with earnestness and admirationto the philosopher who was now unfolding to us the order and series of thesewonderful events, we became sensible how much farther reason may sometimes gothan imagination can venture to follow. As for the rest, we were trulyfortunate in the course we had pursued in this excursion; a great number ofother curious and important facts presented themselves, and we returned,having collected, in one day, more ample materials for future speculation,than have sometimes resulted from years of diligent and laborious research."
|A nice exposure of the Old Red Sandstone near Pease Bay.|