I knew studying abroad in Scotland would be an adventure that I would never forget. What I didn’t know was that it would give me a whole new appreciation for those under-rated things we walk on every single day: rocks.
I chose to study abroad in Scotland because I have family heritage here, they speak English, and I’m studying at one of the best schools in the world. Valid reasons, yes, but not very thought-provoking ones. Now that I’m here, I am realizing that there’s so much more to this country.
During the first few lectures of my geology class here, called Earth Dynamics, I nearly fell asleep listening to how rocks form and separate and do other rock-things. I figured the mandatory field trip would be a free visit to see the Scottish countryside. What the trip really did was bring my lecture notes to life and bring Scotland’s profound geological features to my attention. The field trip was to Pease Bay, Siccar Point, and Eyemouth, all about an hour out of Edinburgh and known as distinctive geological sites that present unique rock formations. It’s still hard to wrap my head around the fact that most rocks have been here for more than 200 million years. Earth has not always looked the way it does now, and when you stop to think about how pieces of Earth arrived where they are today, it can actually be fascinating.
This is a piece of sandstone at Pease Bay. Note the erosion in front of where the people are standing- while there are many indicators of how old a rock is, from sedimentation to orogeny (mountain formation), erosion erases these indications.
Siccar Point (pictured above) is one of the most famous geological sites in the world today. It is the place that James Hutton, a Scottish geologist, discovered the evidence for his theory of uniformitarianism, which is the basis of science and geology today. Uniformitarianism has to do with processes occurring over long periods of time, and how observing the present can give us hints to what the past was like. It was through Siccar Point that Hutton also came to realize the Earth was aeons old. At the spot where we were, there are vertical Silurian rocks which date back to 450 million years ago, as well as Devonian rocks, formed around 420 million years ago. We got the chance to trek down and sit on the rocks, observing their unique vertical features and unconformity of Red Sandstone and Greywacke. To get back up to the road we had to scale a cliff (pictured below). It was exhilarating as we only had clumps of grass and a thin fence rope to support us.
While all of the rock technicalities and theories I learned about were intriguing in their own way, what I really learned from my trip was that every day we walk upon something that has a story. I’d like to think I’ll live to be a hundred, but even then my life will hardly be a blip on the radar of the geological time scale and history of Earth. For now, I can only appreciate the processes that formed the land I live on and enjoy the beautiful rock formations. I never thought that I’d be studying in a place with such remarkable geological history while taking a class on geology. Now I couldn’t be more grateful.
1. Bromiley, Geoff, Dr, Linda Kirstein, Dr, Ian Main, Prof, and Fitton Godfrey, Prof. “Earth Dynamics Field Trip.” Pease Bay, Siccar Point, Eyemouth. Scotland, Edinburgh. 28 Sept. 2013. Lecture.