PD Smith

Masters of rock

07 October 2007 | pop science, Reviewing, Science & literature | Post a comment

I've just reviewed a great popularization of geology - Supercontinent: Ten Billion Years in the Life of Our Planet by Ted Nield. Here's the first paragraph:

"Charles Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) grew up in Ripon, a part of Yorkshire blessed with a unique but rather alarming geology. Deep vertical pits are liable to appear without warning in the ground, swallowing up homes and gardens in seconds. It is quite possible that the memory of these holes inspired Alice's fictional fall 'down, down, down' the seemingly bottomless rabbit hole. After all, as Ted Nield points out, Carroll's fantasy was originally titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground. But Nield's real interest lies in geology, not literature. Why, he asks, are the rocks of Ripon so prone to sudden collapse? To answer this, you have to drive out of Ripon and head west to the Pennines, the backbone of England. Gradually the fertile fields with their oak trees and hedgerows give way to moorland from where you can look down across the lowlands to Ripon. If you take a walk up the heathery slopes and stand on a rough lump of millstone grit, says Nield, 'you are climbing the exhumed topography of Pangaea'."

It's a fascinating book and well worth reading. My review was in Saturday's Guardian and you can read it online here.

Leave a Reply

Name (required)
Mail (will not be published) (required)