The stones of Stonehenge

The bird struts across the henge as if its owns the place. It is quite a sight itself: large, confident, and long extinct. It was re-introduced here a decade ago but is rarely seen. Great bustards are shy, befitting the fact that they look very edible. This one, for a strange reason, had lost its…

Sahara, Scotland

The conifers stand tall, straight. They look old but there are patches where trees have been cut, and there is replanting elsewhere, evidence of tree harvesting. The evergreen forest is popular with tourists. This is in spite of the latitude: there are more northerly places in Scotland, but not many. The climate is not as…

Time for komatiite

People mellow with age. At least, most of us do. The emotions of youth become less all-important and less demanding of our attention. Young people feel that every perceived slight needs addressing. The heat goes to the head and mistakes are made. The Earth, too, went through that phase, before it settled down in middle-age…

Hawaii and the story of the Pacific Ocean

The expanse of water seems to go on forever. The Pacific ocean covers a third of the Earth surface, more than all the continents combined. The east-west width between Indonesia and Colombia is almost 20,000 km. There is 700 million cubic kilometer of water down there! 45 different countries own part of it. The averaged…

Fossils of Mount Everest

The summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, is a sea floor. That may come as a surprise; after all, a sea should be at sea level. In practice, there is some flexibility on this. Three seas are below sea level: the Dead Sea, the Salton Sea and the Caspian Sea. All are…

Sands of time: walking the Grand Canyon

The Earth is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get. A long time ago, the local council put in new sewage pipes in the town where I grew up. The smell was overwhelming. Normally, a smell of coffee would permeate the town whenever the wind went northwest: the main…

Jokulhlaup in the English Channel

Christmas is a time of hope. The days may be dark and dismal but the corner has finally been turned. The sun is beginning its journey back to the north, and from here on the days will get lighter and longer. The new year has started. In Christianity, it is the birth of a baby…

Saving the Earth with asteroids

The dinosaurs would disagree. After owning the Earth, they were now in a bit of a bother. A major re-arrangement of the Earth had taken place. Pangea had split; Gondwana was broken up. The Indian ocean had formed but not in a clean way: a number of parallel rifts were running through Africa, and the…

An Iceland Enigma – The Thórsmörk Ignimbrite

Today we welcome a guest post by volcanologist Dave McGarvie. Dave is a senior lecturer at the Open University and studies volcanoes in Iceland and Chile. He can be found on Twitter under the username @subglacial. One of the wonderful aspects of working as a volcanologist is Iceland is that fascinating new puzzles and their…

The Drakensberg and the storm that ended Gondwana

Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrika Nkosi sikelela, thina lusapho lwayo Setshaba sa, South Afrika Imagine. Around you is a sea of sand, stretching out far beyond the horizon. Mirages reflect the cloudless sky, and suggest water where only sand rules. But strangely, a mile ahead a river pushes through the mirages, flowing slowly, a blue ribbon amidst…