I was leading a Geology Hull first year fieldtrip to Filey on Thursday, in the teeth of a gale, barely able to be heard above the wind, barely able to see the cliffs through the clouds, barely able to get to the rocks because the waves were too high, the students struggling gainfully to begin collecting geological data, wondering what it was we were hoping to achieve. And then the wind dropped, and the clouds broke, and the sun came out, and the geology began to reveal itself – Ice Age tills full of exotic erratics; karst pavements on the wave-cut platform; giant storm-tilted boulders of sub-tropical Jurassic limestones, each latticed by a fabric of cemented lobster tunnels – and I suddenly paused, and wondered. The geology of the Yorkshire Coast is amazing, astonishing, stupendous: why isn’t it a UNESCO World Heritage site?
Just look at the burrows on that! Dr Richard Callow admires the amazing Thalassinoides trace fossils of Filey Brigg.
The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site of Devon and Dorset is fantastic; this is not a competition. But the Yorkshire Coast is easily its equal. The geological, geographical and biological treasures it contains are just as diverse and significant, yet are offered up so much less easily, or obviously. Northerly, east-facing, precipitous, cool, dark, crumbling, brooding: this coast seems to reflect much of the local character. Yet at the same time it has uniqueness and richness, quirks and complexity; great warmth and wonder for those who choose to embrace it. There can be few more picturesque coastal villages in Britain than Staithes, there can be few grander panoramas in the country than Scarborough’s South Bay, there can be few finer coastal cliffs than those of Flamborough Head.
Come on, UNESCO! Get your act together!
One way or another, 1988 was a momentous year for geology collections in the city of Hull. In March of that year, it was announced that – after a contentious government review – the Geology degree programmes at the University of Hull would cease. Most of the university’s rock and fossil specimens would move to other universities.
Based on this map from the UGC Earth Sciences Review, it’s easy to see how the Hull fossils ended up lost.
Then, in October 1988, workmen digging a drain in a central Hull car park stumbled upon some mysterious artefacts, including dinosaur bones. These turned out to be the remains of the basement of the city’s old Municipal Museum, destroyed in a World War Two air raid some 45 years earlier, and a project to reclaim the specimens took place the following year.
Thirty years on, now that geology degrees are back on the menu at the University of Hull, I have helped us reacquire thousands of our old specimens from the University of Oxford Natural History Museum. Now, my project “Back From The Dead: Uncovering the Hidden Histories of Hull’s Lost Fossils“, funded by the Ferens Education Trust, aims to begin telling the stories of the specimens, their collectors, and the places they came from. Something rather similar happened at the Museum of Somerset a few years ago.
I’m also hopeful that we might use our university collections work to help find out more about the old Hull Municipal Museum collections too. So, watch this space, or this one, or this one, to see how we get on…
As the chief organizer of the 2018 Yorkshire Fossil Festival, I ought to have been doing a lot more promotion of the event, which is now less than 3 weeks away. Still, better late than never.
I’m delighted to confirm that the following organizations will be taking part, and bringing their finest fossiliferous activities along:
The Palaeontological Association will be 1) letting you make your own salt dough fossil; 2) taking you swimming* through a Jurassic sea; 3) playing the fossilization board game; and 4) having the brilliant palaeo-artist James McKay bring your fantastical fossil creatures to life!
University of Hull Geology group will be ‘Uncovering the Hidden Histories of Hull’s Lost Fossils’ (supported by the Ferens Education Trust) and also panning for gold!
Jordan Bestwick and colleagues from the University of Leicester will be showing how fossil microwear can tell us about palaeo-diets, possibly with a sandpit too.
The Palaeo@Leeds team from the University of Leeds will be playing mass extinction darts!
The Yorkshire Museum science team will be exploring Yorkshire’s Jurassic World.
Hidden Horizons and the Scarborough Museums Trust will be taking you hunting Dinosaurs At Dusk.
Hull Geological Society will be unveiling some of the Ice Age fossil treasures unearthed in East Yorkshire
Oxford University Museum of Natural History will show off the amazing fossil insect discoveries of East Yorkshire’s Hugh Edwin Strickland.
Yorkshire Geological Society will be bringing their rock saw, so if you’ve any rocks or fossils that you’d like to have cut and polished by the YGS teams, bring them along!
The Dinosaur Isle Museum and the University of Sheffield will also be taking part, but I can’t reveal their activities yet. Watch this space (and book your place to attend the Fossil Festival here)!
Update: Click here for the 2018 Yorkshire Fossil Festival website!
For the last four years, the Yorkshire Fossil Festival has been held in the splendid environs of the Rotunda Museum, Scarborough. Each September, thousands of visitors have come and sampled a wide array of fossily and rocky delights, made possible through the Palaeontological Association‘s kind sponsorship of the festival.
Fossils For Everyone!
In 2018, Scarborough is unable to host the festival, so rather than have a year without a festival, I have decided to take the festival (or a slightly scaled-down version of it) on the road. It is therefore a great pleasure to be able to confirm that the 2018 Yorkshire Fossil Festival will be coming to Hull, on Saturday 15th and Sunday 16th of September! This is the weekend of the Hull Science Festival, so the Yorkshire Fossil Festival 2018 will be a special, limited edition, possibly one-off spin-out!
One Hull of a place to study!
At present, I am the sole organizer, although Mark Lorch and the Hull Science Festival team have offered support, and the Palaeontological Association have indicated they are willing to assist too. I am also hopeful to get the Geology Hull team to assist me. So, if you are interested in running a stand, or giving a talk, or presenting some kind of show, please drop me a line and I’ll be happy to chat.
In 2019, the Festival will then return to Scarborough, over the weekend of Friday September 13th to Sunday September 15th. I expect the main Yorkshire Fossil Festival website to come back to life before then, but in the meantime, watch this space!
Permian magnesian limestones in the York city walls.
The slides from my Lifelong Learning class on the Geology of York can be downloaded as a PowerPoint file (Geology_of_York) or a PDF (Geology_of_York).
The paper by Hall et al. (2010) on the glacial and post-glacial geology of the Vale of York can be downloaded here.
The History of York website gives a brief summary of the prehistory of the city.
Sources of Building Material in Roman York (Gaunt & Buckland 2002) can be downloaded here.
The London Pavement Geology website, run by Dr Ruth Siddall, which includes York building stone sites, can be found here.
A biography of Martin Lister on the Yorkshire Philosophical Society website can be read here.
3D Geology of York – the British Geological Survey has produced a 3D model of the geology beneath York, which can be downloaded here.
Should you wish to consult the literature referred to in my Aspidella poster at the ISECT 2017 conference, it is as follows:
Billings, E. 1872: On some fossils from the Primordial rocks of Newfoundland. Naturaliste Canadien, 6, p. 465-479.
Boyce & Reynolds (2008): http://bit.ly/2sV42NX
Gehling et al. (2000): http://bit.ly/2suzZ1X
Menon et al. (2013): http://bit.ly/2suORO4
The Iapetus Suture on the Isle of Man.
My lecture slides for the 2017 Lifelong Learning class ‘A Geological History of Britain’ can be found (as PDFs) here:
- Introduction: 2017_GHB_Part1_Intro
- Precambrian: 2017_GHB_Part2_Precambrian
- Palaeozoic: 2017_GHB_Part3_Palaeozoic
- Mesozoic: 2017_GHB_Part4_Mesozoic
- Cainozoic: 2017_GHB_Part5_Cainozoic
Other useful resources:
Geology of Britain (British Geological Survey) – see also the Geology of Britain viewer
Geological History of Britain and Ireland (Woodcock & Strachan 2012)
Geology of Britain (Toghill 2003)
The Geological Formation of Britain (In Our Time, Radio 4)
Utica Shale, New York State (Photo by Michael C. Rygel, from Wikimedia Commons: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Joints_1.jpg)
The lecture slides for my York Lifelong Learning class on Shales & Fracking can be downloaded here: 2016_intro_shalesfracking_sml
Most of the references I discussed can be found on the website for the 2015 version of this site, here.
The new British Geological Survey appraisal of the shale gas/shale oil potential of the Wessex Basin (Oct 2016) can be found here.
The new ReFINE study (Dec 2016) on how much methane is escaping through natural fault zones in the UK can be read here.
Last but not least, a new study I have been involved with, trying to understand how climate change in the Jurassic led to the formation of organic-rich shales, can be read here. A less technical article on the study can be found here.
Pen-y-Ghent (image from Wikimedia Commons)
The PowerPoint slides for my University of York Centre for Lifelong Learning day class on the ‘Geology of the Yorkshire Dales’ can be downloaded here:
Part 1 (Intro/Early Palaeozoic): 2016GYD_1Intro_SML
Part 2 (Early Carboniferous): 2016GYD_2LowerCarb_SML
Part 3 (Late Carboniferous): 2016GYD_3UpperCarb_SML
Part 4 (Quaternary): 2016GYD_4Glacial_SML
Geology of the Yorkshire Dales National Park (Yorkshire Dales National Park guide)
Geology of the Yorkshire Dales (Out of Oblivion project)
The Geology of the Yorkshire Dales (brief intro)
Yorkshire Dales: Landscape & Geology (Tony Waltham book)
Carboniferous geology of the southern UK (BGS Earthwise)
Yoredale Group, Northern England (BGS Earthwise)